#QueerPopUpHealingSessions: A Space For Queer Healing

A place among nature for queer people to be safe, happy and focus on healing. This is what the the Queer Pop Up Healing Sessions wants to create. In an interview with The Daily Vox, one of its founders, Lindiwe Dhlamini said spaces for queers to just be are few and far between. Queers either gather for protests, at Pride which continues to have race and class issues or at events with lots of alcohol. The Daily Vox spoke with Dhlamini about the sessions.

What are the Queer Healing Pop Up Sessions?
The idea is for queers to gather among nature to heal themselves, heal others and be happy, Dhlamini said. “We get all the queer people together and find out what it is that they do to get out of bed. We asked them to share those ideas with everybody else at the session. We all give tips to each other on how we survive daily violences as queer bodies. We encourage people to bring poems that they write when they’re feeling better or songs that motivate them to get out of bed, pick-me-up songs. We write positive affirmations. Heal us while we heal each other and have fun doing it,” they said.

However, attendants are asked to adhere to the rules which include intersectionality, security, consent, confidentiality, and trying to avoid triggering other people.

Who can attend the sessions?
The sessions are for people who identify as members of the LGBTQI+ community or as non-binary. “A few allies wanted to join us but we refused for the sake of the members” Dhlamini said. They said they are trying to avoid the ignorance and violence can bring to a space.

When did you get the idea to start it?
After the student protests in 2015 and 2016, Dhlamini suffered a lot of trauma. Their academics and social life suffered and anxiety and depression became a daily struggle. Counselling sessions were unaffordable. The University of Cape Town offers Student Wellness services however these aren’t readily accessible. Either there is a long waiting list or black therapists are resigning. “There’s always that problem when you have to speak to someone outside of your race and they don’t understand certain things. There’s always a disconnect because of the class issue, because of the race issue. Sometime it’s an issue of gender,” Dhlamini said.

At the beginning of the semester, Dhlamini and their friend Tandile Mbatsha started early morning hikes with the intention of healing themselves. “It started to become like second nature to wake up early in the morning and do these walks. We saw the change this was bringing into our life. We were feeling much more positive about things, feeling much lighter, we were able to self care much better than we used to,” Dhlamini said.

One day in their hike, the two decided to take a detour and wander into the forest and noticed some areas in their surroundings which would be perfect for people to just calm down. They had the idea to invite other queer people to heal each other in nature. Dhlamini and Mbatsha, along with Thembela Dick and Kyle Linde then started Queer Pop Up Healing Sessions.

Why are these spaces necessary for queers?
“I’m tired of the narrative around queerness, around gender non-binary people, around LGBTI people. It’s always sad. It’s about pain, violence, trauma, no one is ever normalising healing. I wanted to change the narrative,” Dhlamini said.

“I wanted to log in online and hear about queer people being happy, queer people healing not a lesbian has been raped, a gay man has been refused marriage, a transwoman has been murdered. All of those things are triggering. As queer bodies, we are going through our own anxieties and reading such things online – where you might go to escape – just re-triggers you. We want healing to be fashionable. We want people to have a healthy emotional state,” they added.

How did the first session go?
Chapter one or the first session of the healing session took place on July 21. Dhlamini said while the response was good, the turnout was less than expected as many people were still not back at campus from the holidays.

The reason they held it last week was because it was before the beginning of the second semester. “We wanted people to enter the second semester on a fresh, clear note,” Dhlamini said. “We know entering the university space is triggering. We’ve been shot at on those campuses. We still go there everyday to get education,” they added.

When will you host the sessions?
There isn’t a set schedule for the sessions. “The idea is that we make them pop up because anxiety and depression pops up on us. Anxiety and depression don’t call and say I’ll be popping up tomorrow. It comes unexpectedly. We want the sessions to pop up unexpectedly and normalise healing,” Dhlamini said.

Where will the sessions take place?
The sessions take place in a secret location. The meeting location is revealed on social media and then attendants are moved to a secret location. There are protective measures to ensure the safety of the people attending these sessions from the violence that they’re trying to get away from, Dhlamini said.

The next session is on Saturday, July 28. To attend, or just to be part of the healing join the group on Facebook or follow the hashtag #QueerPopUpHealingSessions on Twitter.

Pictures by Thembela Dick