A home of pride for all
Coming out is difficult. It’s painful, confusing, and for some, not even an option. When Keval Harie acknowledged his sexual orientation at the age of 21, his family stood by him. But he was worried about reactions from people at university. Incognito, Harie attended support events for queer people in search of safety and acceptance. Today, he leads the very same organisation that gave him a place to call home.
For over 20 years, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) has provided support to anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual or the gender they were assigned at birth. “For me it became a place where I always knew I would be accepted,” Harie says. “It was when I found GALA that I learnt for the first time what it meant to have pride for everything that you are.” After working as an attorney and later as a research manager at the University of Cape Town, Harie began serving as director of GALA at the beginning of 2017. He’s using the organisation to create a sense of community, and encourage members to find others they can call family. “We can’t choose what we look like or our sexuality, but we can choose the place that becomes our home,” Harie says.
While South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, Harie believes we still have a long way to go. LGBTQI concerns extend beyond just pride celebrations. Every day, lesbian women are harassed in townships, the experiences of queer people are ignored, and the involvement of trans people in political movements is erased. Harie is advocating for equality by emphasising that despite our differences, we as a nation are family. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. “People always have a problem with being different but I think that is what makes each of us special,” he says. “The people at GALA are my family, and these walls are my home.” With GALA, Harie is contributing to providing a space for South Africans where it does get better.