LGBTQ people gathered in Johannesburg recently for the city’s first official black queer ball.
Organizers say the event was to create a safe space for people in their community.
“How this ball came about essentially was we found that there was really no space in Johannesburg for queer, black, femme, gender non confirming , trans bodies to just go out and have fun and feel safe. Without having toilet issues, without having bouncer issues, without having are you a man, are you a woman issues? Just a space where we come and just be I think queer”, said Co-founder and mother of House of Diamonds, Treyon Moosa.
The ball was themed ‘ The Winter Fantasy’‘. Participants of four houses comprising of four members and a house mother, competed in different categories like ‘’ African Royalty’‘, and ‘‘Skothanas’‘, a South African take on street style in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
“The importance of the ball for me is that we’re giving visibility to queer people and specifically people who don’t respond or specifically assign themselves to any specific gender or expression of gender. Which is I think such a beautiful part of what this is all doing. So that’s why I love this”, said Jesse Khoi, a performer.
For Lerato Mbangeni, queer black culture must be held as a sacred thing.
“Any space that celebrates queer black culture must be held as a sacred thing. Everybody must try to get as involved as possible, to support where they can, to be a part of where they can, because this community in South Africa especially is put through so much”, Mbangeni said.
South Africa’s constitution outlaws bias based on sexual orientation. It was the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage.
But, members of the LGBTQ community face challenges such as homophobic violence and high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.