Heather Adonis has worked as an administrator and coordinator at CBD-based LGBTI human rights organisation Triangle Project for the past 23 years.
Heather says homophobia is not as rife as when she started out, but it still happens daily.
“We still get cases of children who are kicked out of homes, and hate crimes, such as lesbian women being murdered, and it’s not right.”
Heather grew up in Retreat, where she was an only child.
“I finished matric, but couldn’t get a tertiary education because my late father fell ill and could no longer work. He was the breadwinner, so I had to take over to support the family. My late mom looked after the household.”
She then found work at a department store in Claremont, where she was employed as a saleswoman for five years. She then went to work at a retail store in the CBD and during this time she married her
first boyfriend. “We were introduced to each other by mutual friends. He worked for Metrorail as a ticket collector. Next year we will be married 40 years.
After a move to Grassy Park and 16 years later, the retail store in the CBD closed down, so Heather stayed home for the next 18 months.
“My eldest daughter was just starting high school, so it worked out perfectly. I wanted to be with my children in the important milestones in their lives.” She then applied to work at a retail store in Claremont, and there she climbed the ranks and ended up becoming a manager of three departments. “In retail, you have to work over weekends, and longer hours over the holidays and I missed being with my family. I was offered a job at a gallery and antiques shop, also in Claremont, doing administration.”
After the business was sold, she then worked in Lansdowne at a jersey factory. “Gavin Andler, the person I worked with at the gallery, became the director of Triangle Project at the time and they needed an administrator, and I joined Triangle project in 1995.”
At the time, Triangle Project was based in Observatory, but they soon moved to Little Mowbray, and settled in the city centre on Greenmarket Square three years ago.
The Triangle group offers services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter sex, (LGBTI) community
such as a clinic and food for homeless and indigent people; counselling for LGBTI people and their families; and a 24-hour helpline.
“The helpline is like a lifeline for LGBTI people and their families who need someone to speak to. We have a number of teenagers who also come for counselling, but the legal age is 18, so anyone under that age needs a consenting adult with them.”
She said over the years, the Triangle Project has changed from a predominantly white facility dealing with men who have HIV/Aids, to a facility that is used by all people from the community, including transgender and homeless people.
“We get a lot more homeless people, probably because it is more accessible in the city centre. We are also seeing a lot more women – lesbians and transgender people, and a lot more walk-ins.
“The city is very accessible to people who come from all over. Even if they are coming from other areas, it’s one bus or taxi to the city. Parking is just a schlep, but otherwise, it’s better than detouring with a taxi to Mowbray to Obs.”
She said there are also lots more advocacy groups.
“Many more people are standing up for themselves. They are becoming more aware of their rights, which is good to see.”
Although Heather does not identify as queer, she said she’s always been happy working at the Triangle Project. “I’ve always been treated with dignity. I don’t think it’s about sexuality, but rather professionalism. The people here are friendly and professional and I love that about my workplace.”
Having worked in the city centre years back, Heather feels that crime took a turn for the worst.
“You always hear of people getting mugged and pick-pocketed around town, but I think Greenmarket Square is quite safe. The City Central Improvement District guards are around.”
The city is also a lot busier, she said. However, Greenmarket Square can do with more bins, as people tend to litter.