An official from the Transformation Unit at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) said the organisation is pleased with the student community’s response to a symbolic queer wedding held at UJ on Friday.
The reception of the symbolic ceremony dispelled the myth that same-sex marriage is unacceptable, according to the Unit’s manager, Lungile Ngubane.
“We saw today that people love and support same-sex marriages and we hope this creates an awareness about love, about being together and embracing who you are,” Ngubane said.
One of the students who participated in the wedding, Halala, said that the crowd’s reaction was the best part of the wedding.
“The crowd was amazing. I believe after this (queer wedding), most people in their minds now have an idea of what same-sex marriage is like and will understand what the LGBTQ community is about,” Halala said.
“Once their minds accept that there are such people around them, which will make it easy for them to treat us equally and respect us for who we are,” he added.
The same-sex wedding was staged at UJ’s Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus as part of Diversity Week to educate students about some of the challenges faced by the LGBTI community.
The initiative is one of a few inclusive projects that UJ has been working on. “We started with the gender-neutral toilets; this wedding and there are other things yet to follow,” said a Diversity Specialist at UJ, Anthony Brown.
Similar initiatives have been conducted at other universities and the Transformation Unit thought it would be a great idea to integrate the wedding into UJ’s Diversity Week.
“We also wanted to give them a place. You know, when we say we are about diversity and inclusion, it’s not many times that we include and consider the LGBTI community,” Ngubane said.
Advocating for the rights of the LGBTI community at UJ is more about inclusivity and less about special treatment. “We want people not to isolate us but treat us as one, we do not want anything special but unity as human beings and no division amongst us,” Brown said.
UJ has made the LGBTI community feel welcome at the institution according to Skhumbuzo Mayisela, a member of the LGBTI society at UJ’s Soweto Campus.
“UJ is ready for change, especially [in the] Soweto Campus [which is] now an inclusive environment,” Mayisela said. “I believe people just need to be educated about the LGBTQ (community) and let them know as we are all from different cultures and are not taught about such things.”
“UJ students are ready for transformation. This first step that UJ took will have a great impact on the awareness of queer people,” Mayisela said.
The symbolic wedding was included on a list of artistic performances at UJ’s International Festival which celebrates cultural diversity.