IAM Staff Profile: Greyson V. Thela

In this monthly series, we hand over the blog platform to IAM’s staff to share their own journeys, stories and insights in their own words. Though our journeys are all unique and individual, many of us share common challenges and dilemmas as we simply attempt to lead our lives as people of faith while loving whom we love.

Greyson Vanguard Thela, Intersectional Process Coordinator at IAM, holds a BA in Governance and Political Transformation from the University of the Free State, recently completed his BA Hons research focused “Exploring transgender inclusivity in Higher Education”, and will be pursuing a Masters in Human Rights. Greyson is the previous Head of the Gender and Sexual Equity Office at the University of the Free State and the National Advocacy Officer at Gender Dynamix. He has represented various organisations on the National Task Team for LGBTIQ, the Western Cape Provincial Task Team, the Basic Education Social Inclusion Working Group, the Hate Crimes Working Group, as well as the Free State Provincial Task Team. Greyson joined IAM as the in December 2019. Here is Greyson’s story in his own words.

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As black transman, my journey with the system and current status quo of my environment has created a hunger for the pursuit for justice – not only for myself but for those who can’t advocate for themselves.  My particular energy for the issue was shaped by my upbringing – through culture, tradition and, of course, religion.  

When I was growing up I wanted to be many things – from doctor to being in the army to being lawyer. The thing that each of these careers choices that 10-year-old me was interested in had in common was that they were focused on the protection and defense of those that can’t do so for themselves. Years later I found myself advocating for the emancipation for of LGBTIQ+ people and attempting to uproot the culture, tradition, patriarchy embedded in society that leads to so many social ills amongst LGBTIQ+ people and their families.  With an academic background in Political Science and Africa Studies, coupled with a firm vested interest in gender equity, I was called to serve my fellow compatriots at the University of the Free State in the Gender and Sexual Equity office, I haven’t looked back since. As an activist one constantly goes through periods of learning and unlearn, which requires silence, an open mind, reconciliation and knowledge.  

My passion for justice aligns closely with the important work that IAM does. As a people we cannot connect the dots moving backwards, we can only make change by moving forward and not remaining stagnant.  To achieve true agency, freedom and gender equity, we need to unpack the roots of exclusion and discrimination. IAM has done a stellar job for the past 25 years by working with civil society, government and various religious denominations towards those goals. For this very reason I was drawn to the mission and vision of IAM.