Gay Kiss Photo in South African Student Newspaper Sparks Anger, Praise

A front-page photo published in a South African student newspaper showing two male students liplocked in a passionate kiss has prompted an unprecedented reaction from readers, according to local media and the paper’s editor in chief.  In the EIC’s words: “This is the biggest reaction that I’ve had to any story ever.”

Die Matie, the bimonthly paper produced by students at the University of Stellenbosch, ran the photo as part of its coverage of “Kiss in the Avenue,” an annual kiss-in of sorts attempting to break a record for most people kissing simultaneously in one spot.  For the first time, Lesbigay, the university’s gay and lesbian organization, recruited its own members and additional supporters from nearby universities to join the fun.  The two young men pictured are actually University of Cape Town students transported to Stellenbosch specifically for the event.

One news report: “Some students have expressed their horror on Facebook and said the paper was seeking cheap publicity, while others are in favour of the bold statement.”  The EIC: “The most interesting thing was to watch people’s reaction as they picked up the newspaper. Some of them asked me, ‘What were you thinking?’ . . . Some people tore the picture out of the paper or crossed it out with a marker.”  A separate report: “Copies of the newspaper were ruined, defaced and slashed as students discussed the impropriety of the image and how it had made them ‘throw up.’

On the flip side, public praise for the front-and-center photo has poured in and Lesbigay’s membership has increased by 60 students as a direct result of its publication.  The organization’s chairman: “It seems to have sparked a big debate at the university, which is fantastic. . . . Stellenbosch is very conservative but there has been a lot of talk lately about diversity and change.”  And one of the kissers featured:”I know many people have a problem with seeing two guys kissing each other. . . . It was a nice kiss and worth travelling to Stellenbosch for.”

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5 Responses to “Gay Kiss Photo in South African Student Newspaper Sparks Anger, Praise”
  1. vsmeets says:

    We put it on our front page because it’s the first time, in their ten year existence, that the gay societies had the courage to participate…

    It has helped a lot of gay people to feel more comfortable and more willing to come out or, negatively, more intimidated. Lesbigay is planning a counselling centre for gay students.
    Vanessa Smeets, the photographer

  2. John Curtis says:

    The reaction to the kiss makes a much bigger statement than the kiss did. And what an indictment on our society that reaction is.

  3. Mark Dean Brown says:

    South Africa has a very liberal constitution that enshrines human rights. Included in this, of course, is queer rights. Civil marriage between same-sex partners is legal for example.

    South Africans, generally, and even more so outside of the Cape region that Stellenbosch is in, is quite conservative with regards to homosexuality.

    Hopefully seeing us as just humans, who have the capacity to love our same-sex partners as much as opposite-sex partners could/do will change perceptions or at the very least, get people thinking.

    BTW I’m the other guy in the pic.

  4. carlavdmerwe says:

    As a University of Stellenbosch student and former member of staff on Die Matie, I applaud the cover photo and am glad for the national and international coverage.

    Stellenbosch students need to learn that judging people is wrong and that everyone was made equal and deserve equal rights, regardless of race, religion, language or even sexual orientation.

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