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South African Student Graduates in Heels to Fight Homophobia


Letlhogonolo Masinga wanted to make a statement in a nation where homosexuality is legal but stigma remains. 

An out South African college student walked at his graduation in heels in an effort to fight homophobia.

Letlhogonolo Masinga, a graduate of Northern Cape Tvet College, told the Soloman Star he wanted to show his pride in the face of hate against LGBTQ individuals.

"People do not want to reveal their homosexuality because they fear being judged and ridiculed by society," Masinga told the publication.

"I believe that this is one of the major causes of depression in our communities. I still experience negativity from society regarding my homosexuality, but I believe that LGBTI people need to stand up, embrace who they are regardless of the societal standing on the lifestyle."

The Star said the post-apartheid constitution makes South Africa one of the most progressive governments in Africa as far as LGBTQ rights. The nation was the fifth in the world to legalize marriage equality, and it bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, even as many African nations continue to outlaw homosexuality.

That's made the national a bit of a travel magnet for LGBTQ individuals outside of the country looking for a safe place to see the continent.

But Masinga said social stigma still impacts the lives of those living in the nation. Knowing he was gay from a young age, he largely hid his own identity from those around him, he told the Star.

"I become an introverted child and didn't speak much," he said.

The Star said the South African LGBTQ population may enjoy legal protection, but practices like corrective rape remain common.

But Masinga said his public display at his graduation was intended as defiance in the face of hostility. It also made sure he would live openly as he entered the workforce. "In order to do that I had to be honest with myself and see if I can make it as a gay man in the world."

While his family turned out to be very accepting when he came out to them, he wanted to make a public statement about his sexuality in a public way.

Activists in the nation applauded the display.

"Letlhogonolo's motion is one of assertion because it clearly identifies him as a person. He is showing the world his defiance and courage, thus disrupting the normative," said Patsy Alley, an activist working with the Gayle Diamonds Organization.

Masinga now sits on the board for the LGBTQ group.

"Our organisation aims to bring awareness and tackle the structural impediments that prevent us from fully taking part in the economy as equal citizens," Alley said.

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