Friend of murdered SA dancer Kirvan Fortuin pens open-letter: ‘Negative attitudes against the queer community persist’

Kirvan Fortuin and Kerwin Jacobs. (Photo: Supplied)
Kirvan Fortuin and Kerwin Jacobs. (Photo: Supplied)

*Trigger Warning: gender-based violence, queer slurs, sexual Abuse, violence

Following the tragic murder of South African dancer and choreographer Kirvan Fortuin this past weekend, fans and followers were left shell-shocked and in an uproar.

According to News24, a 14-year-old girl was arrested in connection with the murder of local LGBTQI+ activist.

Kirvan was a prominent figure in the queer community having hosted Cape Town’s very first Vogue Ball in observance of World Aids Day and as a trailblazer who founded House of Le Cap, South Africa’s first ballroom house.

Following his death during Pride month, many mourned the legendary icon on social media.

Kerwin Jacobs, who is a brand manager, creative and gay non-binary activist, penned a piece to highlight and create a positively disruptive solution to the social issues faced following Kirvan’s murder.

Read the full piece below.

Comprehensive sexuality education needs reassignment to combat gender-based violence

Stabani, faggot, skeef, double-adapter, he-she, ladyboy, shemale, sissy, bunny, moffie – slurs the majority of LGBTQI+ people are insulted with at some stage in their life. According to a study by the OUT Love Not Hate campaign, this verbal abuse is highly prevalent in the school environment, where nearly 70% of the male respondents experienced verbal insults.

Negative attitudes against the queer community persist and translate into more extreme forms of violence such as damage to property, and physical as well as sexual abuse toward them. Despite South Africa being the first country in the world to protect against discrimination based on gender and sexuality, we have a well-documented history of hate crimes against the LGBTIQ+ community, in particular against lesbian and trans womxn of colour.

Why does a 14-year old decide to murder an openly gay gender non-conforming person 25 years into democracy?

Let's look at formal education. The department of basic education (DBE) claims "comprehensive sexuality education" has been part of our curriculum since 2000. I think any reasonable person reading the title, would assume the content would centre on the concepts of self, gender and sexual identity – and while ONE lesson is dedicated to it – it is by no means comprehensive, and the focus is not on sexuality.

The political heads found sexuality education was a smart way to get around using the term "sexual education" which had caused widespread public debate. This scapegoating of sexuality isn’t surprising though – it is often what happens to minorities in society. Reading the content of the scripted lesson plans, the department only seems to deal with a same-sex relationship in the context of a hate crime.

Furthermore, the lesson that deals with gender identity still looks at it as a binary, male or female world. Trans or non-conforming folk are invisible in these lessons. This invisibility is a meta attitude that our society still holds though – the idea that it's okay being gay or lesbian, but just not in public. If you don't fit traditional views on gender roles, either "pass" as male or female; but if you don't – you're somehow giving permission to being ridiculed and seen as less worthy of respect.

It is clear that the DBE by choice, or ignorance, doesn’t care to work at changing attitudes towards the queer community through the schooling system. I don't know which of those is worse, given numerous reports consistently showing that 35% of all hate crimes are committed against the LGBTQI+ community.

But kids don't primarily learn to hate at school. Within the field of psychology, it is widely accepted that values, beliefs, and attitudes form in our younger years. We learn from our parents, peers, various leaders and our social environment.

"Essentially, we have created a normal where it's not okay to call someone ladyboy, moffie, stabani, etc – but go ahead and beat them up!"
Kerwin Jacobs

In the Other Foundation's survey Progressive Prudes, 80% of South Africans said they haven't and wouldn't ever consider verbally or physically abusing someone who was gender non-conforming. Yet about half a million (450 000) South Africans have physically harmed women who dressed and behaved like men in public, and 240 000 have beaten up men who dressed and behaved like women.

On analysis, this survey highlights that womxn continue to be the target of gender-based violence, especially when not adhering to what's considered the traditional role assigned to them. Moreover, while South Africans can think morally, they act violently – particularly toward members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Essentially, we have created a normal where it's not okay to call someone ladyboy, moffie, stabani, etc – but go ahead and beat them up! After all, queer bodies are first, not performing their gender role as expected; and secondly, not remaining invisible. How dare they exist unashamed? How dare they embrace who they are? How dare they stand up for their rights?

These lessons are what our youth learn through our actions and it is merely reinforced by our education system, which doesn't know the difference between sex education and sexuality education. On Youth Day, we are reminded of the youth protests against the Bantu Education Act. Instead of looking at the protests against education as an issue of the past, there is a need to protest it now. Except, it's not a fight against the curriculum only, it's a fight against our collective mindset which allows gender-based violence, and violence at large, to flourish.

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