Inclusive Safe Spaces.
Ok… granted that’s not an actual ball category, it is however a very important topic for discussion. Probably more important for the folk who are sick and tired of being victimised in violent, rapey and femmephobic spaces. Lord knows this isn’t of much importance to cis folk who fit the so-called everyday norm of the gender binary or those who show acceptable levels of masculinity that afford them the privilege to move through such spaces with more ease.
Femme bodies have always been and continue to be targets of assault and violence by hateful energies that are fuelled by fear, self-hatred and a hunger for exerting an ignorant power this society has taught them they are entitled to. That’s just the thing with this kind of negative power – it feeds on those who have been identified as weak and unworthy. Trust and believe that femme energy is none of these lesser words the majority relentlessly associates with it. It is in fact the more positive power. This is something I’ve learned from my own experience.
To nurture this seemingly unpopular power a handful of femme, queer and trans identifying peeps in Jozi have gone ahead and created their own inclusive and safe spaces. Spaces where self-expression is encouraged. Where vulnerability, creativity and femininity is praised and tolerance of nonsense from the negative power is very low if any at all.
I still remember buying a tight white lace top and stashing it in the back of my cupboard for months before I eventually got the courage to wear it at my first Cunty Power last year. The courage wasn’t because I was wearing a lace top. The courage was deciding to present and express myself the way that I’d always wanted to. It was a understandably tough for me. Especially the moment we had to leave the safety of the space I was in to go to Great Dane. It was ‘Same Sex Saturdays’ but I had never dressed like that publicly, at least not outside of a costume party. As fierce as I looked, I couldn’t help but shrink and feel some type of way because of the space I was in. Which mind you was mostly gay men, but femmephobia is no joke. Some of it was my own internalised stuff for sure but the night took an magical turn to where this girl walked up to me, took my hand and told me how beautiful I looked. She then put on a red beaded bangle on my wrist and went on her way. That act of love and connection did something to me. I’ve never looked back since that day.
Embracing my femme energy and loving the versatility of wearing whatever I want regardless of what the store clerk or gendered shop signage says is the very reason I choose spaces that deliberately and explicitly protect people like me. Anyone who knows me will know that I religiously go to Pussy Party at KCB in Braam. The message of PP is very clear – protect, uplift, nurture and love of femme and queer bodies. Anything against that is refused. It is undoubtedly my second home where I get to dance my queer ass off until the early weekday morning with zero fear or apprehension. Maybe a teensy bit of fear of a violent hangover the following day, but that ain’t never hurt nobody.
Just a month back a spectacular event was born in Joburg called Vogue Nights. Ever since I watched ‘Paris Is Burning‘ (available on SA Netflix 😉 ) only a just few years back actually, I’ve been obsessed with ball culture, voguing, metamorphosis and the notion that you can choose your family. Vogue Nights surely gave me that hope and promise that sizoba grand. The voguing beasts from V.I.N.T.A.G.E Crew turned it out on the floor battling MrAllOfIt and other gorgeous divas dressed in beautiful silks, fishnets, shiny gowns and colourful hair. I myself played it down a little because I had a dinner in Rosebank before and wasn’t about to put myself in any kind of a situation with Uber drivers or bigoted patrons of Doppio. That of course is my own struggle and another reason I live for these events that tell me it’s OK to be you, to be extra and to do the most. I did however put my choppy black wig, called Yolanda, in my pocket which later came out to play downtown with all my other femme, butch, queer and trans brothers and sisters.
The M.I.A. concert, KOP JHB, Afropunk and other iconic events I’ve been to in the past year have been shameless at promoting and supporting the LGBT+ community and putting strict disclaimers that do not tolerate any sort of ill treatment of any human, period. Many will try and play ignorant or make excuses for the toxic spaces that turn a blind eye to what they know is true. Some will demand to be educated on this matter instead of taking their own initiative to learn from global standards institutions such as the Afropunks have set in their governing principles.
What I really do hope for is that the many and the some will do better in striving for inclusiveness and safety for the folk that attend their parties, events, homes, restaurants and bars. It’s time we connected on the real things and allow one another to have fun without compromising any bodies (femme or otherwise). It’s hella idealistic hope for sure, but It’s hope nonetheless. We’re pretty much nothing without it.