MambaOnline’s most-read LGBTIQ+ stories of 2023 offer a snapshot of the year’s significant events, challenges, and victories and reflect the diverse and impactful narratives that captured our readers’ attention.
They also touch on joyful celebrations like Cape Town Pride and emphasise the ongoing struggles against homophobia and discrimination, showcasing the resilience and progress within the LGBTIQ+ community.
1. Woolworths Faces Backlash For LGBTQIA+ Pride Campaign
South African retailer Woolworths faced an unprecedented national backlash against its LGBTIQ+ Pride campaign in June, making headlines in the mainstream media. This followed similar right-wing attacks against corporate allies in the US. Bigots called for a boycott of Woolworths, accusing the company of trying to be “woke” and meddling in political issues. There were concerns that the controversy would lead to brands and companies becoming fearful of publicly expressing their LGBTIQ+ allyship in the future.
2. Huge Victory for LGBTIQ+ Rights in Mauritius
One of the good news stories of 2023 was the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Mauritius. In October, the Indian Ocean island nation’s Supreme Court declared the ban on same-sex intimacy discriminatory, un-African, and unconstitutional. The court emphasised that Mauritius is a secular state, finding no justifiable reason for it to intrude into the private lives of LGBTIQ+ individuals.
The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Mauritius in October was a historic development (Photo: Herb Klein)
3. South African Transgender Pilot Fights to Return to the Skies
Transgender pilot Kailer Smit challenged the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s refusal to clear him for flight. Smit, a pilot since 2015, has been undergoing testosterone hormone replacement therapy since 2017, with the authority’s knowledge. However, the SACAA in January suddenly grounded Smit citing his history of Gender Affirmation Treatment. Smit is still fighting against the decision and is facing financial struggles due to his suspension.
4. Grindr Gang Attack: Victim Tells His Story
Grindr Gang attacks in South Africa persisted in 2023, leaving queer individuals seeking connections through dating apps vulnerable to violence, threats, and theft. Incidents included a 22-year-old Johannesburg man who endured a harrowing five-day kidnapping ordeal and an 18-year-old Johannesburg student who was subjected to severe physical beatings. A December report also revealed that Grindr Gang attacks in Durban led to the death of one man. Our March 2023 article recounted the harrowing experience of 24-year-old Jason.
5. Steve Hofmeyr Apologises to LGBTIQ+ Community
News that South African singer Steve Hofmeyr received his comeuppance for making hateful statements against the LGBTIQ+ community was among our most-read stories of the year. In April 2022, Hofmeyr told his hundreds of thousands of followers that the LGBTIQ+ acronym includes those who engage in bestiality and that the LGBTIQ+ community is in support of “grooming” children. OUT LGBT Well-being and the South African Human Rights Commission took Hofmeyr to the Equality Court, leading to an apology and a cash settlement in March 2023.
6. Ugandan President Signs Anti-Homosexuality Act
The already beleaguered LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda was devastated by President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in May. The enactment of the law led to widespread condemnation, including several protests in South Africa and a reduction in international funding and aid to Uganda. The law is now being challenged in the country’s Constitutional Court.
Images of the annual Cape Town Pride Parade captured the imagination of our readers in 2023 (Photo: Ziyanda Yono)
7. Cape Town Pride 2023 Gallery
Our collection of images of the annual 2023 Cape Town Pride Parade was our most-viewed gallery of the year (followed by those of Pretoria Pride and Soweto Pride). Under the theme of #OwnYourTruth, the parade kicked off in the De Waterkant district of Green Point on the 4th of March after a three-week-long Pride festival. For the first time since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, the parade once again included floats and vehicles.
8. Supreme Court of Namibia Recognises Same-Sex Marriages
2023 was a landmark year for the LGBTIQ+ community in Namibia, which saw activists challenge several discriminatory laws in the courts, including the continued criminalisation of homosexuality. In a historic decision in May, the Supreme Court of Namibia ruled that the state must recognise same-sex marriages registered in other countries where they are legal. While lauded by advocates, the decision triggered homophobic vitriol and protests from anti-LGBTIQ+ religious leaders and politicians.
9. Johannesburg Mayor Elected from Openly Queerphobic Party
In February, South Africans were faced with the in-council election of Thapelo Amad as the mayor of Johannesburg. Amad was a woefully inexperienced representative of the fervently queerphobic party, Al Jama-ah. He was put into power by a coalition including the EFF, ANC, and PA; parties that claim to be LGBTIQ+ allies. While Amad didn’t last long in the position, he was replaced by fellow Al Jama-ah councillor Kabelo Gwamanda, who remains the city’s mayor.
10. Homophobic Bullying: Gauteng Learner Takes Own Life
Bullying and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ learners in South African schools remained a high-profile topic in 2023. Most tragically, these incidents led to several suicides, including that of 12-year-old learner Sibusiso Mbatha in October. An investigation found evidence of emotional and homophobic abuse by the deputy principal at his school. The year also saw a landmark report released by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on gendered school uniforms.
OTHER HIGHLY-READ STORIES OF 2023