It's time someone pushes Feather Awards out of the nest

Sjava at the 10th Feather Awards.
Sjava at the 10th Feather Awards.
Image: Oupa Bopape / Gallo Images

There are many fantasies we keep in this world, one of them is peer respect, especially when a trophy is expected. Whether it's a Pulitzer, an Oscar or even a trophy at a ball, there is such rush about peer respect that confirms you are the bomb diggity.

But of all the crowns, medals and trophies to bag I have never been fascinated by the Feather Awards. The annual fuster cluck is the queer community's celebration of pop culture and its heroes. Among its big winners are Bonang Matheba, a heterosexual woman, Sjava, a heterosexual man, an abstract set of rocks and, well, I think you get the point.

The queer experience is far from glamourous. Even in a country like SA, whose constitution protects queer rights, being part of the LGBTI+ community is a daily struggle. Intentional or not, being out and proud is often political activism of its own.

So when the Feathers fusses over celebrating an industry that lacks representation it plays out like Mmusi Maimane at an all-white party. I'm not referring to the dress code.

With the change of tides that see more queer people wax and wane against the many prejudices that can be damaging, are LGBTI+ folk too woke for the Feathers or are the Feathers too sleepy to realise that there is more to queerness than diamonds and heterosexual women?

When I shared my disinterest in being awarded a Feather, a colleague was quick to explain how in a recent interview a previous winner had exalted the award.

It was the kind of peer recognition that proved that she was accepted and making great strides.

While this may be monumental for the individual, it does not expel the many stereotypes which plague the LGBTI+ community.

There are a speckle of awards that are specifically for queer celebrities and actual queer activists categories are not common place, which leaves queer commentary to the heterosexuals who always walk away winners.

Has Queen B ever used her influence to address transphobia, has Sjava advocated for awareness in medical care for queer patients and what the hell are AKA's imaginary rocks going to do if they aren't a full set of Dragon Balls?

Better yet, what are all these heterosexual winners doing for the same LGBTI+ community that ensures that their stars shine bright at an event they shouldn't even top the list for?

It would be a great injustice not to note how much work the Thami Dish Foundation has done in educating different communities of the LGBTI+ folk. Through dialogues and colloquiums hosted throughout the country, the foundation has even been brave enough to approach key role players who ensure the safety and care of the LGBTI+ community.

With the promise of a festival set to accompany this year's award show, perhaps it is time the Feathers came to an end.

The award ceremony has made no valuable contribution to the queer community other than supplying trophies to friends of its organisers. Where was Matheba's nomination in the year which she was not flocking with Thami Dish's BFF, Somizi Mhlongo? How can an award show with a tongue firmly in its cheek not nominate Zodwa Wabantu after an apology was submitted?

Was this decision a reflection of the senseless existence of festivities too self-involved to laugh when it's the butt of the homophobic joke?

With all the work done outside of the glitz and glam, is there a point in celebrating the Feathers other than being reminded just how much a heteronormative society enjoys celebrating the LGBTI+ community when they are performing a stereotype? Times fly when you are having fun but it also brings about a lot of changes.

They may be young but maybe it's time someone pushed the Feather Awards out of the nest.

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