An avid soccer player, Debora Dlamini prefers to be called Dee, a name she got while actively playing soccer.
She describes herself as “sweet, understanding, calm and focused” but is also an open book and a straight shooter – what you see, is what you get.
Born in Gauteng in 1989, she was raised by her mother and grandmother and lived with her siblings and cousins. She feels so indebted to their raising her that she muses that if she makes it big. She hope to change her mother’s life for the best and look out for her family as a whole. “I just feel she deserves much better, I would take her on the vacation for few weeks and rebuild her house.”
In 2008, she matriculated at Hulwazi Secondary School but failed to get a passing grade. She re-wrote it in 2009 and was successful.
In August 2012, she underwent training to work in a call centre. In December 2012 was offered employment at Discovery Health in Centurion.
She knew then that her life was changing for the better. After passing her Matric she could not go beyond grade 12 because of the money problems at home. While in her final year at school, she had been offered a bursary, but could not meet the requirements because of her failing grades. She now understands the missed opportunity but that will not stop her reaching higher. She would like to own her own business and would like to pursue Business Management as well as sitting for a Mathematics exams, which she did not do to well in before. She insists on doing it again and better this time because her current grade is “very poor for an upcoming business woman.”
Since landing her job, she moved to stay in Pretoria. Previously lived in Daveyton and was heavily involved in the community activities. She was the co-ordinator of UTHINGO – the rainbow. She was also the chairperson at the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) campaign for gays and lesbians in Etwatwa, Mina Nawe and Daveyton. She was educating the community around HIV and AIDS. She was also involved with LoveLife Youth program, which works at trying to end the stigma faced by gay and lesbian youth.
She reminisces about involvement in the community and wondered whether they missed her there. She intends to get back into working with community organisations that helps empower gays and lesbians. When she is not working hard, she enjoys coaching soccer, listening to music and organizing events.
Even after doing all this work and coming face to face with many issues faced by the LGBTQ community, she was not prepared for the realities of life as a lesbian in Olievenhoutbosch. She describes the area as backwards, and describes the male population as being very closed minded and homophobic. Dee lives with her girlfriend, and sees herself as “a woman who loves other women and whose identity and sexuality is being a masculine butch with a feminine side. I am still a woman who is responsible and liable for my actions. The best thing is I know what I want. I am not confused.”
She has been dating Ntokozo Mkhabela since October 2011. Her family is in Mpumalanga and although they have been dating and living with each other for so long, they were not aware until February 2013, when she decided to come out and tell them that she was a lesbian and that she had a girlfriend. Her family was not even aware of the term lesbian. It wasn’t easy for them to believe it or even comprehend. Her brother in Tembisa is the one who explained the technicalities. Dee’s family were resistant to her orientation at first but with time, they understood that she was not changing for anyone – whether they berated her or not.
Dee feels that love is precious and grows where it wants, regardless of gender.
She, however, knows that not all people share her ideology. She is saddened by the fact that in this day and age, when men see her and her girlfriend, they curse them out, call them names and blatantly tell them that they will rape and/or kill them. As a result they do not hold hands, kiss or cuddle in public.
Her feelings of being unsafe are even more real in the place where she currently lives. She describes attitudes of some people there as still being steeped in culture and the men do not believer in same sex marriage as they say women were made for men and men were made for women. “I really think they need more knowledge about lesbians and gays. They need to know about human rights and that everyone has a right to be what he or she wants.” She also believes the other problem is that of bisexual women who have sex with lesbians and these men. “I don’t say there is something wrong with bisexuals but I say they must be out and proud. The place where I live people needs knowledge.”
Dee knows that where she is there is a platform to make a change in the world.
She recalls a time when a man she thought was her friend tried to rape her at gunpoint because of her sexual orientation. She could not call the police, even though she had managed to get a window of opportunity, because she knew that the police were in his pockets. She would be the one to lose. There is no justice. She would also like to tackle issues plaguing the youth, e.g. teenage pregnancy, abortion, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, respecting the environment, their bodies and embracing and understanding the importance of going to school and getting an education.
She says of working with Muholi, “When I got the opportunity to work on a photo shoot with Zanele Muholi, I was very happy because I was about to experience and be part of something unique. I was already out of the closet and I was free. It was my first time doing a photo shoot for Zanele Muholi.
I knew that whatever we would be making would change a lot of people’s lives. Even thou I was scared of doing the photo shoot, I found myself enjoying the experience and having fun with Zanele and the crew.
I want to take this time to thank Zanele Muholi for the chance she has given me to tell my story to the world about challenges that we face as lesbians and gays.
I want to thank her for the effort she’s putting on her good work.”
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