Lavender Hill opens up safe space

LILLIAN AMOS

A Lavender Hill organisation is setting a positive precedent by giving youngsters from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/ Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) community a space where they can be themselves.

Zain Nazier, 36, a former New World Foundation Youth Coordinator, started the Your True Colours NPO in Lavender Hill at the beginning of last year, as well as its LGBTI Safespace “one” programme.

The Safespace” One” programme runs from the Lavender Hill community centre and gives youngsters struggling with discrimination and lack of acceptance, a space where they can be themselves and talk about the issues that affect them daily.

The programme’s mission is to “Encourage acceptance”.

It also reads: “We are the future; our mission is to unite our community Greater Lavender Hill as “ONE”. We show the world who we really are as a community and LGBTIs. We are empowered, peaceful, opportunity driven and a loving group.”

The young people are also given an opportunity to learn skills as well as self development.

“Most LGBTI people, especially those coming from adverse communities such as Lavender Hill, are discriminated against and judged. Some have been kicked out of their homes and haven’t been accepted by their families and friends,” said Zain.

He mentions that many religious groups also heavily discriminate against the LGBTI commu- nity.

“People, especially those who classify themselves as homosexuals, are ostracised, belittled and kicked out of churches and mosques. This is just one of the things we speak about in the group as it is an issue that resurfaces over and over. We create a space where these youngsters can be free to be who they are and unafraid to speak about the issues they face. We share stories and that is how we learn from each other,” he said.

Zain speaks openly about his struggle growing up as a homosexual Muslim.

“I saw the need for a project like this. I didn’t have a group of people I could speak to about my feelings as a homosexual Muslim boy. In my community you are not allowed to be gay. That was my struggle. I was beaten at school, bullied and made fun of by not only peers but teachers as well,” he said.

“Society gave me a knock but I searched for self development and from there I found healing in sharing that self development. I dealt with rejection so I wanted to create a space where people like myself are welcomed and accepted. This is part of my purpose,” said Zain.

Sylvester Jantjies, 27, from Lavender Hill, has been openely gay and a cross-dresser for several years.

Asked about his life as an “out” male, Sylvester, originally from Harlem in George, said it came with its challenges.

“The community I grew up in is very small and I got my fair share of criticism but what got me through was my support from my family. There was a lot of negativity and bad comments from many people,” said Sylvester.

It wasn’t long before he became involved in LGBTI activities.

“The Safespace ‘One’ programme and others were fundamental in my development as a gay individual. That is why this programme and similar others are sure to change lives just like it has transformed my life,” he said.

Sylvester is currently finishing his business- management studies at False Bay College in Fish Hoek.

The Safespace “one” group hiked up Lion’s Head on Freedom Day which had a great significance for them. “The hike was basically to spread awareness that although people in South Africa celebrate the day, we are not all free. Some people are not free to be who they were meant to be and we are still enslaved mentally and physically with people. We need people to accept us for who we are,” said Zain.

“This is going to be a long struggle. It’s not going to happen overnight but we’re hoping we can spread the message of awareness to our people,” he said.

The group is open to anyone who wants to participate and learn more about the LGBTI community.

Contact Zain on 073 493 4114 or general.ytc@ gmail.com