There is this misperception that the Feather Awards are only about fun. But we do a lot of other work people might not know of. About four or five years ago, we started running these dialogues. We started off doing just one or two here in Gauteng, talking about the issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face.
But this year, we decided to travel the rest of the country and had dialogues in the other eight provinces. What I got from them was that, really, our struggles are the same, no matter where you go.
After we had our dialogue in Mpumalanga, I got a Facebook message from Sibongeleni. He said he was a gay teenager who had started an LGBTI organisation in Mbombela, where he lives. In that message he asked me for my assistance in making sure he could successfully run programmes that support LGBTI teens there.
That message really touched me. It inspired me because it meant there was a younger me out there. I launched my foundation, the Thami Dish Foundation, this year – at the age of 31. But here is this young man, only about 15 years old, thinking of starting up an organisation. When we were that age we never really thought we had a platform to voice our opinions and concerns.
Today’s generation of LGBTI youth are opinionated and are already talking about things. They are creating platforms where they continue to engage with issues of sexuality. It’s encouraging to see the younger generation – the younger us – taking on activism.
So I definitely intend to support Sibongeleni, because these are the kids we should be supporting; the ones we need to mentor. We need to walk the road with them because, from here on, it is all in their hands. – Thami Kotlolo, chief executive and cofounder of the Feather Awards and Thami Dish Foundation, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian