'The LGBTQ+ community still experiences antagonism' - queer Miss SA 2019 entrant tells Zozibini Tunzi

29 June 2020 - 09:50 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Sibabalwe Gcilitshana became the first openly queer woman to participate in the Miss South Africa contest.
Sibabalwe Gcilitshana became the first openly queer woman to participate in the Miss South Africa contest.
Image: Sibabalwe Gcilitshana/Miss SA

Sibabalwe Gcilitshana, a 2019 Miss SA contestant, told Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi on Sunday that the LGBTQ+ community has not been fully accepted into society, regardless of how much awareness has been raised over the years.

South Africans were introduced to Sibabalwe when she became the first openly queer contestant on the Miss SA competition.

Speaking to Zozi on Sunday to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Sibabalwe said while the fight of this generation gave her the freedom to live as an openly queer black woman, a lot more is yet to be addressed.

“It was a progressive wave that made it possible for me to be queer on a platform like Miss SA for instance,” she said.

“I think that there is a lot that people have had to endure over the years, but there have been strides that make it more important for us to realise that we can't dim ourselves down and that the work hasn't been completed yet, and that in some ways, we still do experience some antagonism.”

She said protests, as a form of activism and fight against any social injustices, are important as they help magnify the voices of the marginalised. However, the stigma about these can deter some people from fighting for their rights.

“Even in the moments where you don't know what to say or you're not sure about what to say and there is fear, it is important that you chip in, because we are an amalgamation of views of the people about us.”

On entering Miss SA and being openly queer, Sibabalwe said she wanted to encourage women to be open about who they are.

She said her decision was commended by some but was also met with scepticism by others who feared that she might be discriminated against.

“A lot of people asked whether I was met with a lot of homophobia and I never went in assuming that people would be homophobic, I didn't look for it. I had a positive mindset about what I was doing and the intention behind it. I felt like I was embraced by my community because it meant so much in a way that I never said it would.”

Zozi said society still has much to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and sexuality in general. She said there are people who say that they can guess a person's sexuality based on how they look.

She shared that during the pageant, some people had initially assumed that she was the queer contestant because she had short hair.

“When Siba came out as queer, some people didn't know who she was. I think they hadn't seen a photo of the contestants but people said I was queer because I had short hair. I was mind blown because sexuality doesn't look a certain way, it's how people identify as.”

She added “I said it's not me, but it's really funny that you would look at me and think it's me just because of my hair.”