Beyond borders: Christmas celebration unites LGBTQI refugees


Amidst the lush surroundings of Johannesburg’s Zoo Lake, a beautiful and heartwarming celebration unfolded on the 16th of December, a day that holds special significance as the Day of Reconciliation in South Africa.

The Fruit Basket (TFB), a trans-refugee-led organisation supporting LGBTQI+ refugees, in collaboration with Safe Place International, Rainbow Refuge Africa, and Holy Trinity Catholic Church LGBTQI+ Ministry hosted a joyous Christmas party at the park.

It saw LGBTQI refugees from various African countries, including Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe living in South Africa, come together to share in the spirit of unity, joy, and hope for a brighter 2024.

The atmosphere at Zoo Lake was vibrant and peaceful, with different groups gathered in their little spots, creating a lively and welcoming picnic setup. Our diverse group of LGBTQI refugees mingled and shared food. The air was filled with a sense of togetherness and joy, reflecting the rich tapestry of cultures and experiences that make up the community.

What made the event truly special was that everyone brought their unique stories and traditions to the gathering. The park provided the perfect backdrop for a celebration that transcended borders, language, and background, uniting everyone in a shared experience of happiness and connection.

An especially heartwarming moment occurred when a group of South African lesbian women came and set up very close to us, bringing an added layer of warmth and camaraderie to the gathering. In no time, our two groups blended, sharing laughter and food as we celebrated our shared humanity.

It was a powerful symbol of unity and solidarity, demonstrating the ability of people from different backgrounds to connect and celebrate together. Around Zoo Lake, people who did not know each other shared ice, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, cutlery, alcohol, and even food. Sexuality, Gender Identity, or nationality was not an issue on this day. We were all Africans, all human beings.

As the day progressed, the laughter and conversations flowed freely. The Christmas party marked a departure from the usual discussions of the challenges and hardships faced by the community. Instead, it served as a joyous occasion for LGBTQI refugees to celebrate our individual journeys, the progress we have made, and the promise of a brighter and lighter future on the horizon.

The festive gathering at Zoo Lake was a powerful affirmation of the resilience and hope that characterise the diverse LGBTQI refugee community. The joy and laughter that filled the air on that day serve as a poignant reminder of the strength that comes from coming together as one family, driven by the collective vision of a better tomorrow.

As the rain brought the festivities to a close, the memory of the vibrant celebration at Zoo Lake lingered on, leaving an indelible mark of hope and togetherness in the hearts of all who attended. The Christmas party was a testament to the unwavering spirit of a community that continues to shine brightly, despite the challenges they face.


Thomars Shamuyarira is a Zimbabwean LGBTQI migrant rights activist and the founder and executive director of The Fruit Basket.

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