Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another; Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and Others v Minister of Home Affairs  is the Constitutional Court case that signaled to South African society that Queer/Lesbian/Gay relationships were a legitimate and permanent part of the South African legal and social fabric. Juxtapose this victory with the fact that in 2014 a transgender student, Nare Mphela, a high school student in Limpopo province faced multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of her gender identity. On the 10 march a school principle in Mdatsane, Nomapondomise Kossani of Ulwazi High School forced 38 pupils to publicly reveal their sexual orientation in front of their peers and in Ventersdorp, lesbian women reported fears as result of being terrorized by gangs. Queer/Lesbian reality both affirmed the Rainbow Nation and provide a deviation from the promise of human rights/Constitutionally guaranteed freedom and liberation.
Displaced: Black and Queer, a collaborative documentary between BlaQueer and youtube content creator, Ich Bin Siv, provide a vocabulary which articulates the fragmented ways we exist within and sometimes beyond a disappearing promised Queer Freedom. The idea for Displaced is simple, get a group of differently identifying persons in front of a camera and get them to comment on various “trigger” words including “coming out”, “pronouns”, “gender identity”, “violence” and “men”. What emerges from their frank responses are truths gleaned from lived-realities which, for me, made it even clearer the need to have our experiences, history, present and future recorded. The documentary affirms what we have always known, that Black Queer/Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay/Trans* persons bring to the world a vocabulary of multiplicity and complexity. That through our experiences a new world, characterised by consent, mutual respect and equality and multiple gender identities and sexualities.
My thoughts are echoed by Thando, a collaborative participant who rejects the idea that Queer/Lesbian/Bisexual black persons have to “come out” – or reveal their sexuality/gender identity. Thando rather invites you to come in their existential closet. I laughed and clapped when Thando said this. I laughed because the narrative for a long time was that “coming out” was a liberatory act of reclamation. An act of staking a claim on ones’ own identity and a clear rejection of heteronormative rules. However, with the co-option of Queer/Lesbian/Gay identities by Capitalist Heteropatriarchy, “coming out” no longer serves the liberatory significance it used. Sometimes it can make you a target of enormous emotional and physical violence.
However as much as I would’ve loved to stay within the space Thando invited me into, Viwe another participant reminds me that there is a privilege in Queer visibility and its use as a tool of liberation and hope. This contradiction is not mutually exclusive, rather these contradictions are what make this documentary so important – it provides for the existence of these contradictions without seeking to undo and delegitimise the other. It says all our Queer experiences can exist in all their complicatedness and we can all be affirmed in this new world we are creating.
In short, Displaced provides for the beginning of the conversation South African Queer/Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay communities need to have in order to organically create and contest the dominant world views of the Rainbow Nation. Because for all its embrace of diversity and difference, Nelson Mandel’s Rainbow Nation remains fundamentally a violent space for Black and Queer Bodies. THIS is the displacement the documentary reveals.
The most powerful part of this documentary for me is its ability to emphasise new ways of being through casual normality, taking everyday rules of etiquette – i.e greetings and rituals of introduction – and opening up these spaces that have often presented violence and negation of our identities, to include us. In the beginning of the documentary each participant is asked what their gender identity is and their preferred pronouns. This simple act reminds me of the fractured and silenced struggles of Transgender persons in this country. It reminds me that the Lesbian and Gay equality project which we embarked on from 1994 until 2006 needs to account for the atrocious manner it dealt with transgender rights in its fight.
Earlier I wrote about the role of representation and images of Black Lesbians in South African Media. Displaced brings to life some of what I had hoped to see when I was younger – the spectrum of possibility within which black lesbians and Queer bodies can exist.
To get in on the action, please contact Siv Greyson or Ncumisa Mdlokolo through their respective twitter handles. There are plans to screen the documentary in various spaces in Cape Town. You should contact them if you’re a funder and want to support these local Queer documentaries. They’re for the culture, for the archives, for history.
For more updates follow:
@sivgreyson and @LordNcu