I, Phila Mbanjwa, am one of the craziest people I know!
I am a young black lesbian woman and pride myself in knowing whom I love and who I want to share my life, soul and body with.
Yes I love women and they love me. I believe I have a voice to speak for the coming generation. I’m here to make my mark and believe me I will. I want people to know me as this person who conquered and carried on conquering. I love to believe that I got spunk, a lot of it.
I capture people’s hearts, eyes, and smiles. I’m a very humble and understanding person but when push comes to shove I lose control but I cover that with that mischievous grin and humble smile that has become my facade.
I was born in Dambuza, an informal settlement just outside Pietermaritzburg,
and I was born at home, early hours of the 15th of July in 1990, yes I am a freedom baby. I live in Edendale, a few kilometres from Dambuza with my 4 sisters, 8 cousins, and 1 brother. My father passed away in 1997 and ten years laterI lost my mother. It was a devastating decade for my family, but we carried on living.
I’m currently working as my informal adoptive father’s Personal Assistant and learning the ropes at a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). I am university drop out. I was studying Public Relations and I got bored. The course didn’t challenge me the way I wanted it to. I’m now thinking of doing Electrical Engineering or I will maybe become a doctor.
I love writing poetry, compiling scripts, short stories, reading, going out and window shopping… not just clothes window shopping! I am talking about window shopping for women…(laughs). I love women. I especially love mature women, women who know what they want in life, love and relationships.
I’m a female – that’s my gender, I’m a lesbian – that’s my sexuality, the fact that I’m a lesbian does not make me less of a woman or trying to be male. Yes, I am a lesbian but I am not my sexuality.
Every time I introduce myself to someone I don’t have to say “Hi I’m Phila I’m a lesbian”. No! that does not define me. Ja ngistabane (yes I am gay) I love women but at the end of the day I’m a woman. I’m a femme lesbian that does not make me bisexual,
I love butch, trans, and femme lesbians with a butch personality. I usually take the female part of the relationships, I don’t mind, I love being pampered and I’m very sensitive and most females I go out with I call them amadoda ami (my lesbian men), then people get confused. I leave them like that because they wouldn’t understand I always say for one to understand homo- sexuality, they first need to understand sexuality and a whole before categorising it to these different aspects then one can understand sexuality as a whole, just as I don’t understand the whole thing when it comes to straight people. And just as lesbian relationships freak them out, I’m also freaked out by theirs.
It’s 50/50, understand me, I will understand you too.
My family knows about my sexual orientation, I first came out to myself in 1998. I was 8 then and it was rather confusing. I didn’t identify my self as a female at that time though. My family has been very understanding towards my sexual orientation and they supported me as I changed from butch to femme. I don’t think, however, that they will support me when I start talking about marriage and kids, but will cross that bridge when I get to it.
I’m currently single and loving it. I’m not really ready for a relationship. Commitment and I are two distant things at the moment. I’ve been through hell and back in my previous relationship so I’m definitely not ready for one now, let alone marriage. I was in an abusive relationship for two years, and it took me two years to get out of that relationship. I got a scar just under my left eye, which was my Christmas present.
I believed she would change but she didn’t, instead it got worse. I was told to- leave her but I couldn’t, I love her even now, but I would never date her again. She was a monster one minute, and the sweetest an- gel the next. I received counselling, advice
from people but I did not want to leave. I had expected to see her grow and mature. I was willing to put my success on hold for her, that is how much I loved her. She alienated me from my family and friends, but when we were living together she started cheating, and the beatings got worse. Her family knew but they turned a blind eye.
When I finally got her arrested, all the people I thought were my friends took her side, but I did not care it was time I stood up for myself even if it meant standing alone. Even though people say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it doesn’t. It first kills you, then you rise from the ashes and be human again. It takes time.
“I’m a female- that’s my gender, I’m a lesbian – that’s my sexuality, the fact that I’m a lesbian does not make me less of a woman.”
Although I am a victim of domestic violence, I have never experienced any homophobic attacks or name calling, but SA statistics are crazy!
‘Correctional rape’ and homophobic attacks, angers me a lot and the justice system is screwing us over.
Why would a person rape someone while thinking they correcting something??
How many lesbians have to be raped and killed so the government can see that the justice system needs intervention? This is one of the main reasons I hate about living in South Africa. Even though I have never faced any problems in my township about being a lesbian, I’m always cautious to whom I hang out with, you might never know what people are plotting behind your back. Even though I come from a respected and feared home in Edendale, being a lesbian does not mean I’m not a target.
Given a chance to be a one day leader I would promote sexuality education in schools, churches, prisons and our communities, because if we understand the root of sexuality we can understand the other branches of sexuality such as, asexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. I would also focus on tightening the laws against murder and rape, because it does not only start with ‘corrective rape’ or murder of lesbians but its starts with just rape and murders. I will stand for my people even if I have to stand alone in parliament. I would challenge them until I get the constitution and justice system intervened.
So far, in living my life with the mistakes I have made and all the challenges I am facing, I wouldn’t change anything. I have lived and loved and I’m still young, everything happens for a reason and it tests us and makes us stronger.
Here in South Africa the only time you see a lesbian in a magazine or front-page of a newspaper, is when they are raped, killed/murdered. Why should newspapers and magazines portray homosexuality with misery, violence and brutality?
I want to see a lesbian on the cover of True Love magazine talking about love, sex and relationships in a same sex relationship, portrayed with beauty, serenity and glamour.
If not me, then someone else.
Is that too much to ask for from our society?
First published in Afrikadaa (2012)
The article was part of Zanele Muholi’s interview in which it was articulated clearly that all the participants in the Visual Activist photography have own lives and talent.