Queers rough it up in an all-fun rugby match

A GAY OLD TIME: The winning team, Wits All Stars, with members of the Wham! team clap at the end of the game to celebrate a game well played.                                                                                             Photo: Prelene Singh

A GAY OLD TIME: The winning team, Wits All Stars, with members of the Wham! team clap at the end of the game to celebrate a game well played. Photo: Prelene Singh

THE QUEERS of Wits Pride 2013 and members of Wits Sport went head-to-head in an entertaining game of rugby, on Wednesday night at the Wits Rugby Club.

Wham!, an amateur mixed-gender, queer social rugby club, and the Wits All Stars, a team put together by Wits Sport, played a fun and exuberant game with the Wits All Stars winning 26-24.

The game was part of the Wits Pride campaign which was held on campus this past week. The aim of the match was to tackle prejudices against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual (LGBTIA) people of the Wits community.

This epic square-off began weak as the Wham! team tried to get their footing. Wits All Stars came in strong with a leading score by half-time.

[pullquote align=”right”]“One of the aims of Wits Pride 2013 is to establish a safe campus community for all our students and staff. This is particularly important in light of the rising number of attacks on queer South Africans, especially lesbians and trans-women,”[/pullquote]

The second half saw the Wham! players score epic tries and some ambitious drop goals, which quickly made them fast and head-strong competitors.

The game was all in fun as it aimed to integrate people of queer identity with the rest of society. Wham! was created as an alternative space for queer, which includes LGBTIA, people to meet in a healthy social environment.

“Not only is Wham! comprised of members who identify as queer in some way, it is also comprised of players of all genders – none of whom are scared to go for the tackle,” said Transformation Office programme manager Ella Kotze.

The Wham! and Wits All Stars game took place amid the annual Wits Pride festivities, under the theme “Being Me”. Wits Pride is hosted by the Transformation Office.

“One of the aims of Wits Pride 2013 is to establish a safe campus community for all our students and staff. This is particularly important in light of the rising number of attacks on queer South Africans, especially lesbians and trans-women,” said Kotze.

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I am here, I am queer; get over it.

Prof Tommaso Milani. Photo: Prelene Singh

Prof Tommaso Milani. Photo: Prelene Singh

A TALK about the “Safe Zone” campaign launched by the transformation office was given today by Prof Tommaso Milani in Umthombo 11.

Milani who is a lecturer of linguistics and an associate professor in the School of Language and Literature Studies, spoke about the safe zones project, which is a Wits transformation project funded by the Carnegie Corporation in New York.

Milani said the safe zone project is an anti-homophobic practice which addresses issues around gender; sexuality and the making of a public space for the Wits community to be comfortable to speak out about their sexual preference.

Safe zone trains allies [allies are academics, staff and students of the university] on issues around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI) and the problems they face.

Safe Zones seeks to increase understanding and awareness of LGBTI on campus and alleviate rising rates of homophobia (from the Wits safe zones Proposal 2011:3.

“You should never be ashamed of your sexuality – never”, said Milani. He went on to explain that sexual behaviour and sexual harassment need to be addressed more often than in the university and in the country. “Sexual harassment happens because of silence” he said.

The “queer” in the title of the talk refers to “an act of defiance”, and “queer” supports the LGBTI theory, said Milani.

We need to think academically about the meaning of queer and critically understand how [sexual] identity categories are used and for what purpose.

Milani said, “I am a gay man and a queer scholar” and “Academics do research about who we are and what we are passionate about,” Milani said this was why he was passionate about the project. “Sexuality will never be an act of surrender” he added.

Milani also stressed the difference between homosexuality and being gay. “Gay is an identity and homosexuality is a practice”, said Milani.

Safe Zoneis a Wits initiative and Wits University is the only university which does not only host gay pride but also sponsors it.