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Tsietsi Thandekiso
(1948 - 1997) South Africa

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He inspired the members of a small Christian prayer group in Johannesburg to transform themselves into a fully fledged church, the Hope and Unit Metropolitn Community Church, which was establshed in 1994. The church met the needs of a growing community of young Africans who were gay or lesbian, and located itself on the top floor of the Harrison Reef Hotel in the inner-city suburb of Hillbrow, Johannesburg. It was seven floors above one of South Africa's oldest existing gay bars, the Skyline.

In 1995, during the period of negotiating a new constitution for a democratic South Africa. Thandekiso met with the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the conservative and homophobic Africa Christian Democratic Party, in order to challenge his party's opposition to lesbian and gay equality.

Reverend Thandekiso passed away after a bout with spinal meningitis. His funeral service took place in his former church, the Apostolic Faith Mission Church. The service included leading lesbian and gay activists - a fitting irony to the fact that he had been alienated from this homophobic church community and had established instead a church in which lesbian and gay identities were celebrated and affirmed - in his own words, "the small flock that God has given me".

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Source: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001

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