by Amogelang Senokwane
My name is Amogelang Precious Senokwane, the only daughter of the late Dimakatso Senokoane and Ralebese Ruiter. I was born on the 3rd March, 1987 at Hoopstad Hospital in Free State (FS).
I was raised in Hertzogville by my mom and great grandmother.
I have memories of my father from around five years old. We went on to have six more incredibly close years before he passed on. I am forever grateful for those memories.
My earliest memories of being a lesbian perhaps go as far back as my toddler years.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a tomboy. I enjoyed playing soccer with the guys, building wired cars and playing house (mantlwane). I would always be the father and it was all normal to me.
Later in life, I saw a photo of myself when I was about 2 years old. I was wearing a two piece (skirt) suit and I was crying. I asked my mom why I was miserable in the photo and she gave me a hilarious answer. She said I was scared of white people. It was funny and silly but I took her word.
A year or so after my mom passed on, one of my aunts unintentionally let slip the real story behind my crying picture. She told me my mom always tried to dress me in cute dresses but I hated them and that gave her an inkling of who I really was. My dad treated me like a son in a way because he would always buy me boy`s clothing and take me to soccer and cricket games. It felt like as a parent, my mother could not come to terms with my sexual orientation. I have no doubt that she loved me regardless.
When it was time to face the world, I partially came out in 1999 to a friend of mine.
I told her I was having these weird feelings which I could not explain or understand.
I was attracted to girls. Her reaction surprised me. She was calm and reassuring and assured me that it was normal. It later made sense why she had reacted that way earlier – I found out later she was a lesbian! It gave me courage to somewhat come out to my mom, but I think she was in denial. She maybe thought I would outgrow that phase of my life. I would later find out that she had known all along and had even confided in my uncle.
I found out my uncle knew when I decided it was time for me to formally come out to my family, confirming who the real Amo was. I did not wish for anyone to get their hopes up, thinking I would be getting married to a man.
I, of course, had pondered the many ways to do this and finally the bright idea to send an sms hit me. I messaged everyone that mattered and then endured a laboured wait.
I had switched off my phone but the anticipation made me switch it back on again. The first sms was from my aunt – the one who explained the miserable photo from way back way. She told me that she accepted me and loved me. Most family members responded positively. Another wished she could ask me questions face to face.
My uncle had not responded by the next day and I was fretting. His response was particularly important because he was a stern man of few words. He finally responded late in the evening of the next day. He called me, said he loved me, would never stop and that he had known all along. He said my mom told him before she passed away.
The revelation left me with mixed feelings. I was angry because I wished that my mom could have told me in her own words of her acceptance for me. I also knew she loved me and did the best she could.
My aunt (mom’s sister) – has however not accepted me yet and it breaks my heart, because she’s my flesh and blood. I will always be who I am without feeling the need to apologise. In an ideal world both our wishes could be reality, but the reality is I am who I am, I did not choose. I just wish she would accept who I am and love me as she did before I came out. My partner also has a similar challenge as some family members are still not accepting who she is.
I feel blessed that I met my partner who is a God loving and most importantly a God fearing woman. I met Nozipho Jennifer Magagula in 2011.
In March 2012 she started living with me permanently. I proposed on her birthday which happens to be the 25th December, 2011.
We started out as friends, but our feelings grew. I wanted to take it slowly because I had just come out of a relationship. We were friends for the first six (6) months and then our relationship evolved. She’s originally from Soshanguve so we had a long distance relationship at first.
I sent her an sms telling her how I felt on the 11th of November 2011.
I asked to be my girlfriend and she did not say yes or no to my proposal, but I told myself that I am not giving up on this one. I would tell her that I love her and she would say “I know.”
She was probably wary of rushing too. I was persistent and never gave up.
On the 13th of December she said yes, a day after she came to visit me in Cape Town.
It was not really a formal proposal but I gave her a promise ring. It was a promise from me to her assuring her that I am going to make her my wife one day. Both our families are aware of our relationship. My family is very supportive and loving. We both still need to perform a formal ceremony where both our families come together and get to formally know each other. Both families have, however, accepted us. I feel blessed because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Like any couple, we face difficulties here and there but because our spirituality is so important to us, we entrust everything to God.
We are optimistic about our future and we discuss important issues like children. We have already established that we would like to have a family that will consist of two boys and two girls. We are already picking names for our four children. I would like to start my own business and perhaps buy another home with a big yard and pool. Although I already own a home in a beautiful surburb, I would like for us to buy a house as a married couple.
I am currently working at Eskom as an Instrument Technician. I completed engineering studies in 2007 and earned a National Diploma in Electrical Engineering from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town Campus), in 2008. Ultimately, I would like to obtain a B-Tech in Quality or Project Management. I started out as a Technician in Training at Eskom in 2008, and became permanent on the 1st of March 2010, having had a break in between because my 15 month contract had ended. A permanent job was a blessing for me. The gift of education had allowed me to start realising my dreams.
This is the reason that I feel education is the only way to a better life whichever form of education you chose always pays off. When I went into my third year, my mother and father had passed on and I lost the ideal of why I was trying so hard. When I went into third year I did not have money for registration. A friend of mine at tertiary scarified her needs and gave me her last money so that I could register for courses. It is rare for someone to do that for a complete stranger that they have only known for a few months. That changed the trajectory of my life drastically, because I would not be where I am supposed to be.
As I had mentioned earlier both my parents have passed away. My dad passed away in 1998 after a long illness, when I was still in primary school. I was left with my mom. She was unemployed, but she gave me her best and her all until I finished high school.
She supported me through tertiary school. She worked piece jobs and sacrificed every cent for me so that I could have a better future. Unfortunately she passed away in early 2006, when I was doing my second year. She passed away after a short illness. I felt like my life was over and I had no one else. I turned my back on my books and I did not study for my exams. I locked up how I felt, because I was telling myself that the person I was studying for was no longer here, so nothing mattered. By the grace of God, I passed six of the seven subjects that I was doing that semester. That’s when everything changed. I knew that God was there and that I would never walk alone and since then I have made Him my friend and confidant.
It is with this spirit that I would like to pay it forward. I would change other lesbian’s lives. If I had the opportunity, I would build or establish a safe house for lesbians who are kicked out of their homes for being who they are, rejected and disowned by their families. I want a place where they would be themselves, a place where they can express their talent, have a roof over their heads, a warm meal, some sense of peace and security in their lives. I want a place they can call home that will be filled with love, laughter, compassion, and empathy.
I miss my parents. I had a younger sister but she passed away in 2001 when she was 2 months old. I miss her dearly as well. She would have been 12 years old.
I have an older half-sister from my dad’s side who stays in Botshabelo in Free State.
Sadly, we are not as close as I would like for us to be. We communicate telephonically and I wish I could share some of my cares with her since my mom is no longer alive.
I do think though I am doing a decent job looking after myself in this current climate of hatred towards the LGBTI community in South Africa. I stay in a very quiet suburb where everybody is minding their own business so I feel pretty safe. I have not met people who have a problem with me or my sexuality. If they then they do a pretty good job at hiding it. I am a Butch lesbian, so I know that I am conspicuous. I feel more comfortable in male clothing, I feel whole. Although I look good in women`s clothing, I am not comfortable wearing it. The last time I wore a skirt was at my granddad’s brother’s funeral in 2006.
My sexual orientation is important to me because this is my core – it is me.
There will never be another Amogelang Precious Senokwane after this one has passed away. There’s a saying that goes “Always be you because everyone else is taken.” I understand that outwardly Amo is a woman and at the end of the day I am proud of the fact that I am a Black, Proud, Confident and Successful Lesbian.
That means I recognise my identities. I however want people to judge me by my substance not my sexual orientation. That is very minimising. I have a true sense of my identity and that is being true to myself and the people who love me and those whom I love. It is not being afraid to let Amo shine just because Amo is a lesbian.
At the end of the day self-acceptance comes first, no one else will be proud or accept your identity if you do not accept yourself. “Those who matter don’t mind, but those who mind don’t matter.”
Obviously other lesbians, especially us black lesbians, have met different realities from mine. It pains me a lot, looking back at where our country was many years ago and how much we have achieved and conquered yet we still have hateful heterosexists and homophobes who still feel that they need to prove a point. They say that God did not make Adam and Steve, but I also say God Himself said “I knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. All your day you were ordained even before your parents thought of having you.”
People should get educated and stop following other people. Listen more and talk less. They rape us to change us, if that does not work they kill us. You have taken a life, something only reserved for God. You are condemned.
Why can people not practice what the Bible says about loving one another?
For me love is accepting the other person for who they are and them doing the same thing. Love is when both of you are willing to sacrifice and compromise a lot for each other. Love is remembering the silly little things that you did together. Silly little thing that your partner is doing or was doing and being there for each other through thick and thin. The true meaning of love is written in the Bible 1 Corinthians 13: 4-9, God is Love and when He is part of your lives nothing can break you.
I am a fun, easy going person who enjoys playing soccer, watching movies, reading every now and then and just relaxing at home. I also love my community.
I believe in what we are doing to stay visible and never muted. This is why I became part of the Faces and Phases series.
At first I thought I was doing it for fun, because I wanted to be in front of the lens well as helping a friend out with materials for her project. I never thought that it would be something this huge.
Faces and Phases has helped me a lot, because when my family saw the book and saw me and other lesbian there, it made them more proud of me and made them understand that there are other lesbians out there and we are here to stay.
My photo was also used in the Sowetan newspaper for an article. It boosted my confidence to another level. A lot of people became curious and wanted to know more about my life and our lives as the black LGBTI community. A lot of lesbians especially in my home town became free and a couple of my friends saw my photo in the book and saw how proud I was of being me, it gave them the courage to come out and live their lives.
Two of them are being featured in the next edition of Faces and Phases (2006 – present), which is huge for us. We all come from a small town and yet we are conquering great mountains.
I hope this project will help a lot of other lesbians and gays to realize their inner strength and live their lives.
My final words would be that remember life may lead you where you least expected, but have faith.
You are exactly where you are supposed to be.