by Buli Vimbelela
As the New Year has dawned on us, for many it is a time to reflect. Just like a few weeks ago we got to reflect back on the great life lost in Tata Nelson Mandela. This period brought back a lot of emotions in many of us, sadness, relief and for some uncertainty, but mostly gratitude.
This time got me thinking a lot about where we come from as a country and as a people. Prior to Tata Mandela’s release, it was even more difficult than it is now, to express oneself as an Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) person/s in South Africa. Through all the reflection, thinking and mourning, I found myself consumed by thoughts of what it means for us to be LGBTI.
For me, being recognized in our constitution, means that we were seen and given a platform. We were given a platform to live freely. Now, one would ask how we can live freely in a society that struggles to accept us. I have found that people are frightened by what they don’t understand and don’t know. The teachings and all the fighting for recognition as the LGBTI community has been done over the years and as we know the persecutions, hate crimes and killings are still happening. Maybe this then calls for a different approach to tackling these issues.
My feeling is that we cannot fight to be recognized while living in hiding. We cannot advance with a spirit of apathy. We have to make ourselves visible in the communities we live in. So, ours is not only to carry flags and posters bearing slogans of whatever issues we are faced with or we are marching for, at the time.
In my view, our role is to be ‘active’ in the way we live our lives. It should be our responsibility to show people that we are no different from others, that we only differ on our sexual orientation/ preferences and that we are more than just our sexual orientation.
People need to know that we get faced with the same struggles that people in heterosexual relationships are faced with.
My partner and I are currently staying within a community where we both grew up. This community is dominated by an older generation and these are the people who struggle with change of all sorts.
Homosexuality being one of them.
With all that said, I am amazed by the welcome and embrace we’ve received from them, as a lesbian couple.
The thought of it used to scare me so much that I felt I needed to hide our relationship. Social norms weighed heavily on me as I was perceived as this noble, good independent single mom. Naturally, some people struggled to understand how this could be. They could not fathom why or how I could be in a relationship with another woman. As intimidating as this was, remained strong in our resolve to be together!
We chose to live our lives in the best way we knew how. It’s true what they say that ‘you teach people how to treat you’ by the way you live your life.
A friend of mine, Thandeka, grew up amongst gays and lesbians in her family, yet she didn’t understand their way of living.
We started hanging out with her, with our other circle of friends within the LGBTI community. She started warming up and realizing that there was actually nothing wrong or strange with being a lesbian or gay.
I remember how she would exclaim ‘Hawu kanti abantu laba, heyi kodwa ziyaphila izitabane’ – lol
[roughly translated: she didn’t realize that homosexuls are normal people and that she’s impressed with the lives they lead].
She has since developed a different perspective about homosexual people.
So my point here is, let’s live our lives with the aim of helping people understand us.
Let’s not only be activists when there is a protest or funeral of one of our own.
And to lesbian mothers, let us love our children; involve them to also help them have a better understanding about us.
(LOOK OUT FOR MY NEXT ARTICLE ON THIS TOPIC).
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