Opinion | Help make inclusive LGBTQIA+ social spaces a reality

As an organiser of Gala’s upcoming Spring Ball, Anzio Jacobs calls for inclusion in our LGBTQIA+ social spaces, and urges us to contribute to making the event happen.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala) will host the first ever Spring Ball this year on the 2nd of September 2017 at club Simply Blue.

The Ball was inspired by the massive positive response to a screening of Paris is Burning held earlier this year at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The screening saw roughly 100 young queer people gather in a space which offered a glimpse of Harlem drag culture.

In a time of socio-political turmoil, where the LGBTQIA+ community is divided along racial, economic and political lines the Ball offers an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ youth who are still testing the waters to get a sense of what community felt like ahead of the dissolution of Joburg Pride in 2012.

We have been a divided community, many disengaging from difficult conversations which seek to address the major disparities of haves and have-nots, but the reality of South Africa in 2017 is one in which we are divided beyond the space of pride.

It is in the empty court rooms when a hate crime has taken place, and in the separation of people at the gates of pride based on economic access. It is in the social gatherings in the suburbs and the meetings of black lesbian womxn in parks due to a lack of space. It is in the shadows which the trans community is subjugated and oppressed and in the exploitation of performers who have paved the way for marriage equality. It is in the line for ARVs in a public hospital, and in the queue to clean bathe houses. There are few spaces left where these disparities are not visible, and it is time to do something about this.

As one of the organisers of the Ball, it has been extremely important to me to try through this work to create an inclusive setting in which this Ball can take place. A setting where we pause for a moment, take stock of who is in the room and to vogue of course.

But this isn’t as simple as calling for a patsy in the middle of Selby at Club Simply Blue– it means that we have to take stock of who can get to Selby – potentially the most neglected, but equally historically important spaces in Joburg. Who gets to perform, and if they do, do we pay them or not. Should there be an entrance fee, or should the event be open to all. This caused frequent arguments amongst many stakeholders, and has resulted in our team knit picking at every detail of this intricate puzzle.

So I chose to write to you, the LGBTQIA+ community. I hope this message finds ways of getting to you. Yes you the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and allied community, and all the others who share identities which too often get forgotten in an acronym, as if you are less. Yes you the queers and the gender non-conformists, the drag kings, butch queens, the lipstick lesbians, the polyamorous and sapiosexual, the able bodied, and those with disabilities. We would like this to be an open space to all, but to be honest, an event budget of R500.00 and a dream can only take us so far.

Think about your own youth, how you would’ve probably moved mountains for the opportunity to engage in an event like this – now think about this in 2017, this type of event is unheard of…we need to find a way to make this a reality. For too long have we had queer artists perform for free, for too long have we sat silent, and not acknowledged that for a drag performance to take place, people need resources, and for too long have we complained that entrance fees to these events are too high.

We need to consider the implications of not supporting LGBTQIA+ spaces. They are shutting down, becoming more exclusive and a commodity few have access to. This does not have to be the case.

On the 2nd of September 2017, Gala will host the first ever Ball at Club Simply Blue in Selby. But to honour the kings and queens who will entertain us for the evening and to show to those who create such spaces that it is indeed possible for us to have spaces of community – not always the same space – GIVE!

Gala is availing a SnapScan facility where we hope that you or someone you know would help make this event possible. The proceeds will be used to fund the performances in particular, and smaller expenses such as transporting the artists to the Ball. We cannot wait to see you there, and as said in previous endeavors of this nature – BLOODY GIVE!

The Gala Spring Ball takes place on Saturday 2 September from 7.30pm till late at Simply Blue (36 Rogers Street, Selby, Johannesburg). Entry is R50.

* The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala)


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