Exploring queerphobic geographies in Southern Africa

SOURCE: Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2020
TITLE AUTHOR(S): N.D.Ngidi, M.Ramphalile, Z.Essack, H.Van Rooyen
KEYWORDS: HOMOPHOBIA, VIOLENCE
DEPARTMENT: Human and Social Capabilities (HSC), Impact Centre (IC), Impact Centre (PRESS), Impact Centre (CC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11407
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15334

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Abstract

Space in Southern African countries is continuously constructed as heterosexual, putting queer individuals at risk of violence. This paper explores the experiences of queer men and transwomen in spaces that they have identified as queerphobic and violent in South Africa and Namibia. In an effort to locate geographies of queerphobic violence, the paper focuses on how queer men and transwomen are prone to both implicit and explicit violence in these spaces. It uses queer geographies as an analytical framework and analyses a subset of qualitative data with 109 partnered queer individuals and 27 queer couples. Our analysis revealed a plethora of spaces that were identified as queerphobic. The data is presented under three major themes: Intersectionality of queerphobia and space; queerphobic and unsafe spaces; and adjustment to self when navigating queerphobic spaces. Spaces identified included participants homes, immediate communities (mostly rural and township areas), public areas (such as police stations and healthcare centres), roads and local transport areas, shopping areas and places of worship. We found that in order to navigate these spaces, queer participants had to remould themselves both in dress and performance. While decriminalisation is a key agenda for Namibia, social attitude change and challenges to heterosexuality are necessary in both Namibia and South Africa. Further empirical work is needed to understand how queer people locate, use and express their identities in these violent and homophobic spaces.