A new website that will allow African lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) youth to connect and share experiences has been launched in Johannesburg.

The site was launched on May 17, the 2013 International Day against Homophobia, by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

Labelled a ‘resource and creative space for African LGBTI Youth’, Hear Us Out! is a unique online platform on which LGBTI youth can connect with and support other young people from across the continent.

As well as bringing together up-to-date resources, Hear Us Out! will provide a space for LGBTI youth to share creative works, to discuss issues and ideas, and to inform and encourage each other, thus helping young people identify and respond to the problems that affect them.

According to GALA Director Anthony Manion, African LGBTI youth ヨ even those whose rights are nominally protected by law ヨ continue to face high rates of discrimination, social exclusion and physical violence.

“We know from both research and direct engagement that many young LGBTI people struggle with isolation and a lack of acceptance, as well as threats of and, at worst, actual physical violence,” said Manion.

“Our recent report on homophobia in South African secondary schools, which was researched and written by Professor Deevia Bhana from UKZN, uncovering disturbing levels of discrimination being perpetuated against LGBTI young people by other learners, teachers and even school management personnel.”

The idea for the Hear Us Out! project grew out of the youth discussion forum held weekly at GALA’s Braamfontein office, where young LGBTI people are able to meet up and speak openly about the many challenges they face.

“The vibrant discussions that we see happening here each week prove the crucial need for safe spaces ヨ whether online or physical ヨ for LGBTI youth. Currently, many young people don’t know where to go when they have a problem, or how to report discrimination,” explained Gabriel Khan, GALA’s Youth and Education Coordinator.

“Real social transformation requires more than just legislative change,” he added. “This website has been created to empower LGBTI youth: it is intended as a space in which young people themselves can have a voice on the issues facing them, form strong activist communities and, ultimately, work towards social justice and equality.”

A key component of the Hear Us Out! website will be its research database, which will make existing information on LGBTI youth, education rights and other related issues available to the public in an easily accessible and downloadable form.

“Hear Us Out! will serve as an important resource for a range of stakeholders,” said Manion. “For example, teachers will be able to download reports and lesson plans on issues affecting LGBTI youth, researchers will be able to easily share their findings and NGOs will be able to engage in direct discussions with LGBT youth through the online forum.”

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