What I hate most about being gay

2012-05-12 09:08

Before everyone gets their knickers in a knot, I am perfectly happy with being a gay man.

If someone were to come up with a “cure for my condition”, I’d be very pissed off.

I enjoy every swoosh I make as I model my way through my beloved city, my Johannesburg.

If the people with beleaguered looks could feel what I feel as I gaily go about my business, they’d surely also want to be gay.

The headgear (doek), the lip gloss and the tight-fitting outfits that don’t always flatter my body shape make me smile. I don’t go out of my way to look feminine, it just happens.

In South Africa, we gays are fortunate in that we have laws that protect our dignity. We can swoosh and be merry without the prospect of going to jail.

The community at large is working towards accepting us and our sexuality. Our families have no choice but to embrace us in varying degrees.

It is difficult, I know, for our families and communities to accept us. I understand this because we had to accept ourselves in the beginning.

I am often shocked when I hear people discuss homosexuality negatively.

I am puzzled when I hear people express their horror and dismay at the sight of gay men and women. Is it not obvious that gay people are everywhere, especially in this city?

They swoosh about their business in every sphere of society. One cannot be so bewildered at the sight of them unless one comes from outer space or out of town.

I am aware that many of my fellow gay brothers and sisters in South Africa and elsewhere face many challenges.

There are sections of our communities that have not embraced us. It’s a great pity that their actions often turn violent and cause death.

I almost feel like I am being petty when I mention this thing I hate about being gay. But we have to keep talking and raising these issues so we can effect change.

What I hate most is not overt. It’s in the eyes and actions of members of our communities. It is their look of disapproval as I walk past.

It is their refusal to engage with me when I am around. The only reason is my sexuality. I feel a sting when this happens.

When they turn away from me, they enforce the idea that there is something wrong with me.

This is particularly difficult because the first thing I had to overcome when accepting my sexuality is that there was nothing wrong with me.

Their actions take me back to the pain and angst of when my environment did not validate my whole being and expected me to change.

Because the pressure is great, you try very hard to change. I tried but was not very successful. I know for sure that it’s much easier to be a swoosher.

Disregarding a person’s humanity goes against our African nature. I feel because you feel. What are you if you don’t accept what I am? This irks me deeply.

I can hear the chorus saying: “Ignore him! He doesn’t understand. Let him be.”

I accept the chorus is right. But I reserve the right to say I feel the pain. I have come a long way in this journey of self-acceptance and the chorus is taking me back.

To survive, I withdraw. I engage only when I have to because my heart is soft and would not survive this perpetual beating.

I wonder whether having people feel like this is conducive to a thriving community.

Thank God for my mother. Our relationship is getting stronger. I know she is still coming to terms with my sexuality and the reality of me being gay. She was honest and admitted that it was a loss for her.

There will be no makoti, no grandchildren – unless I adopt. Even though it’s in vogue these days, she is concerned that I will not have a traditional partner to help me.

But I know it is possible to have a meaningful gay relationship, it’s just that it hasn’t happened for
me yet.

When I disclosed my sexuality, she confessed that she had known a long time, as mothers always do.

She was waiting for me to come forward and tell her. The conversation is still going on.

The best part is that we are walking together, navigating this terrain. She is working through her emotions with me at her side. I am fortunate that she has embraced me.

With my community, I keep my distance. I know how the community can turn against someone just for being different.

One learns to keep a distance to avoid the pain. In this city, you can disappear. Everybody is concerned with themselves. This is a respite from people who scrutinise you and judge you.

The culture in the newly refurbished apartments is to mind your own business. I rarely see people, so I am not perturbed by any comments.

In my church, I swoosh to accept communion and keep my focus on my creator. It helps that it’s rare to hear anti-gay sentiments voiced in the Anglican church.

But my relations with the congregation are distant. I am largely self-employed, so should there be any discomfort I can go home and forget those people.

This is how I shield myself from the community, which is so important to us Africans. This is how I shield myself from the community that shapes our identity.

My question still remains: how successful is the community when there are people who are not embraced because they are different?

Perhaps I should focus on the strides the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement has made and be thankful that I can blissfully swoosh through my part of the world.

I am thankful. I really am. But we should be vigilant and raise these issues to affect change.

Therefore, your majesty Phathekile Holomisa, your utterances are unfortunate. They take us back to the dark ages.

I am fortunate that I live in South Africa today. My humanity is protected by the Constitution as my community comes to terms with who I am.

I know it is not ideal that people have to come to terms with who I am, but it is better than what you’re proposing.

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