THE Gay and Lesbian Network in Pietermaritzburg received a generous donation from American cyclist, Nate Freeman, who cycled 12 000 km from Cairo to Cape Town in an effort to raise funds and create awareness for LGBTI movements across the continent.
The bicycle ride, called the Out in Africa Ride, took four months to complete and has raised R100 000 of which R45 000 is going towards the growth of the Gay and Lesbian Network.
After becoming interested in human rights during his college years, Freeman changed his career path from science to law. He went on to graduate from Whitman College and Yale Law School in the United States.
Freeman worked as a law clerk in Utah for Judge Robert Shelby, who was the first federal judge to say that states had to recognise same-sex marriages in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v Windsor.
He came to South Africa in February 2014 to clerk for Justice Edwin Cameron at the Constitutional Court and was inspired by Simon Nkoli, an anti-apartheid activist and activist for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights.
“I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided to stop being a lawyer for a while and go on an adventure that will also help others,” said Freeman.
His project aims to raise awareness and to decriminalise same-sex relationships throughout Africa.
Freeman was one of 32 riders who set off from Cairo, Egypt in January. They rode through 10 countries on their way to Cape Town, including Sudan, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia.
In many of these countries, the rights of LGBTI people are not protected and homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, and even death.
Freeman travelled between 130 km and 150 km per day and on his rest days tried to meet up with other LGBTI activists in the areas.
One of the harder parts of the ride was in Tanzania, where they travelled inland on a dirt road for over 600 km. The long road became very tedious and they had to stop out of sheer boredom.
In Namibia, however, he and some of the other riders took their clothes off and cycled along a very quiet road for about 40 km with no clothes on. “I was completely naked expect for my pink feather boa!” said Freeman, who has raised funds for at least four organisations across Africa involved in LGBTI rights.
Freeman is optimistic about the future of the rights of LGBTI people in Africa and would like to see the money going towards community outreach though groups that are already doing good work at the ground level.
Anthony Waldhausen, director of the Gay and Lesbian Network, said that the funds will be used to open advice offices around KwaZulu-Natal to benefit the LGBTI community in as many areas as possible.
• For more information on Freeman’s ride go to http://outinafricaride.org/ — Arts Editor
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