by Tapuwa Moore
Edited by Fikile Mazambani
Tsohang tu yerr man!
Personally I do not advocate for my freedom, I only have an urgent need for human rights based society. Maybe being a marginalized person; a lesbian, a black woman and a mother, has taught me to be a survivor. I have been raped and survived it. It has taught me that we must all move on and transform. In order for one to have that 360° change, a paradigm shift has to happen to society en masse. Thus, a new ethos of the amicable freedoms we deserve will step forth and present itself.
Close attention has to be paid to the language used at the higher echelons of human rights institutions.
What language is being used?
Language articulates cultural systems and is a window to the psychology of how society thinks and acts. Whether that mindset is of committing violent crimes or that of systemic injustices which keep us at the helm of non-equality, we find that there is institutional language that protects these acts somehow.
I have seen many lesbians passionately picket issues around advocacy for LBGTI rights and they become momentary pop stars. I have protested too and I became despondent with protesting. I remember in my youth after Grade 12, I was in need of education and no one stepped up to help attain it. The boys on the other hand moved on to higher education. It informed me that it was a privilege to be a man I surmised. I had to stay at home and look after my siblings and grandfather. The cultural institution that I found myself in did not articulate education for girl children. Thankfully, in this day and age, all that has taken a turn for the better as every child now has a right to education, regardless of gender.
I took it upon myself to get a university education. I worked hard to make it to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
I enrolled as an International Relations major but politics and geography did not peak my interest and the following year I switched my major to drama. Sadly I did not get any support from those nearest and dearest – my family. My grandfather opposed my leaving for Wits and vowed never to support me. He died with no knowing of what I had attained. In his view I was breaking culture, whereby a boy is always the heir no matter the ranking.
He said something to the tune of I wanted to be better than my brother.
Truth be told, I was only trying to better my own life and not competing with my brother. My brother chose a different route and settled for not attending university. He has his career.
I was the first person from our lineage to attend university. Even though I had already had a child, I was determined to make it all the way. I had full knowledge of who I wanted to be and I did not like to be boxed. While away on campus I began playing soccer, something I wasn’t allowed to do at home because of the dangers that came with it. When I was a teen I wanted to play but the impeding danger of being raped caused me not to play. I started playing at home, away from campus, as well and they even got soccer cleats for me because I enjoyed it that much. My mum would even get worried if I was not playing!
In economics you learn that everything works in cycles. Nothing stays the same. Economies change, governments change and we can look at our own history to see just how twenty years ago were not featured in the world and now we are right at the top. Just like anything, trends come and go. South Africa right now is the trendy shiny toy and all the vultures zone in and get their agendas in motion, NGO’s being one of those vultures.
Are you a fad or a trend?
If not, then why allow yourself to be used in this manner?
What am I talking about and why am I outraged?
I am outraged at all of you who picket and shout the loudest for a free t-shirt or beer.
What do you get in turn?
Do you get some sort of life insurance from these agencies?
You see I was raped. I tell you this not to shock you, but to say take your power back.
Why are you dwelling in a state of victimhood?
Black lesbians being raped and murdered is a very real crisis, one that should never be minimized but also one that should not be used as political dice. I am saying you are being placed in a subtle box of constant strife. I commend NGO’s for bringing social injustices to the forefront but I am saying how about empowering the people?
My challenge to you and the concerned NGO’s is to empower the black LGBTI community with real solutions. Free beers, t-shirts and KFC are fleeting things, dangled in front of you to distract you from the real issues.
After you finish picketing do you feel accomplished?
Are you more educated, your future more secure and your neighbourhood much safer?
I am all for freebies but I am also for education. Education changes communities. Education helps end hunger and brings down crime. Education exposes you to endless possibilities. The greatest outrage right now is to help blacks get out of poverty.
On top of polluting your body with these unhealthy foods, have you wondered why you have never been invited to come and get help writing your Curriculum Vitae (CV) to earn employment, how to start a small business etc?
Would you put on your CV that “I have protested and toyitoye-d for 10years with so and so organisation”?
That is just time well wasted – for who is up for debate. When you are done you are still a statistic.
You will still be a victim of a non-equal society you are protesting. What I am saying is learn to see beyond the agenda. You are protesting your right to able to walk hand in hand you’re your partner down the road, but have you protested the lack of education, shelter, food, amenities, health – all which are basic human rights. Protest for your right to walk around with your girlfriend or partner without prejudice or being subjected to homophobic attacks but also have you basic human rights covered. After the protest what are you going to eat, will you drink brown and tea and bread or you are going to have a healthy filling breakfast?
Remember that most black lesbians emulate cultural systems that are in place that, for example, if you wear expensive apparel it shows how wealthy one is. What flawed thinking this is.
Material things have a shelf life.
Are we investing in education that has no expiry date?
Education is in many different forms, one just has to choose what works best for them – formal or vocational training. Some people work better sitting at a desk and others work better using their hands. One can be an engineer, artisan, nurse, educator, pilot, the sky is the limit. That is the legacy that we should be investing in, and one that will eventually afford you the creature comforts that you yearn. All is inauthentic living.
I am sad because we would rather be known as the best partiers and champion sex machines but are too lazy to attain and create a legacy for ourselves.
Who are we without a legacy?
We are extinct. Some say they are too butch to work and others say they are too femme to spend time on a diploma or degree. Some drop out of high school with no prospects for the future. It is never too late. We need more Sipho Mabuse’s of this world, who go back to high school to finish their Grade 12.
There is already a stereotype out there about us that we are alcoholics and promote debauchery, as per one heterosexual man I once listened to on radio. He vociferously took a stance and his perception on black lesbians. I wanted to call in and challenge his assumptions around what he deemed a morally sound heteronormative system whereby he assumed that everyone anything besides that norm will not do. I also wanted to defend my fellow compatriots.
Is there truth to stereotypes?
I wanted to ask him if he knew of Simon Nkoli and Phumi Mtetwa, amongst others, who were at the forefront of changing the ANC stance around human rights focusing on LGBTI issues. I wished I could pull up literal works that supported my stance and I just wanted to come out guns blazing and school his ignorant mind. Obviously I could not. I personally work hard and I give back using my talents, to the community at large. I had a performance where I managed to collect tampons that were distributed to girl children irrespective of their sexuality or sexual preference. It was just a response to a need. I say that to say, I am an educated self-respecting, philanthropic citizen of the world. I am none of those ill labels that the hetero world slaps on us collectively.
Some of you sure give them the ammunition.
Freebies are euphoric – albeit momentarily – but let’s be real, they will not contrite towards buying you a house in the suburbs neither will keep you safe from the township monsters who are prowling our streets and taverns who are waiting to pounce then someone becomes a statistic. After you help an NGO fly their flag high, you get that taxi and face the same homophobic people and institutions that get away with blue murder! They never get caught because they are part of the system that says we are good for nothing except sex and alcohol.
Perpetual ignorance in our society is kept going by the assumptions and stereotypes heaped on homosexual individuals. There are lesbians out there who chose to be vocal social champions but also emancipating themselves from mental slavery.
Dulcy Stapler Rakumakoe was a protester who also stayed in school until she earned her right to practice as a medical doctor. There are many who have chosen freedom by attaining an education. They are safe in their homes tucked away in the suburbs, they drive themselves around and they feel secure. That is true freedom.
Do you not want that kind of freedom?
For every freedom there are sacrifices. You can choose to party until the cows come home, or you can study. We should strive to be better than our parents. We should look at working at better jobs and not a supermarket cashier as a career. I am not trying to look down on those that do these jobs, I respect hard working women. I am just saying, let us have a burning desire to reach the glass ceiling and break it while at it. Parents are old and out of options on how to feed grown women who come home empty handed besides a few t-shirts.
There is nothing holding a black lesbian from becoming who they want to be in this country. We may live amongst hateful and hurtful people but we are not victims. Come on black lesbians if we can party as hard as heterosexual people, we can study like them too; be part of the economy, and pay tax like normal people. Education is not for the selected few, it is your constitutional right as well as a basic human right. There are many sources of financial help that you may access including bursary schemes, government student loans (NSFAS) to name some.
FET colleges do not charge any tuition fees, they are FREE. All you need to do is to fill in your application form and if you cannot, you can always ask someone to help you. It is as good as it sounds!!
If you can find time to be on social media all the time then you can make time to fill in the form and secure your future. You may google and submit their online application or you may do it physically. You need to pay an admin fee when submitting your application and that will be all the money you will spend. If you can dress in expensive attire, then you can afford admin fees.
Everything comes with time. Time to party will come. When you are educated, you protest with a cause. You learn to read between the lines and place yourself strategically. With time you will be able to align yourself with those same NGOs with whom you share a common cause, only this time you will be paid to do what you believe in. You will be driving to work, living in the suburbs, with a medical aid and afford to vacation.
Vuka emacandeni tsoha itsose no one will wake you up if you don’t. Change yourself and watch a paradigm shift of your mind happen.
About the author
Birth Identity Seipone More
Tapuwa Moore, a performing artist, creative writer, playwright, director and prose performer began her career by performing Heineken in Melrose Arch in 2003. She published a poem called coca cola with Behind the Mask (a defunct LGBTI online magazine) in 2006.
She has been a performing resident at the Wits Writing Center for many years.
Her life with The Writing Center includes many events such as the Jozi Spoken word, the E’skia Mphahlele colloquium, and the Wits Arts Literature Experience (WALE).
Tapuwa has graced the stage with renowned poets Mak Manaka and Natalia “The Shelter” Molebatsi for Media Park tours in Soweto commemorating June 1976 in 2006.
Her performances have always been about resistance, and articulating the struggles of black women and injustices faced by being black as well as lesbian.
Her movement has been encapsulated in human rights advocacy organizations, such as the New Life Center an advocacy organization that worked to rehabilitate sex workers and advocated on issues of HIV prevention in the inner city.
New Life Center provided shelters for abused women, children and sex workers and performed in their events in 2007-2008.
She has further pursued her activism as a performer on stage collaborating with FEW, including the Soweto Pride.
She has coached both men and women’s soccer teams.
However the significant coaching moments were spent as a head coach of the Chosen FEW lesbian soccer team in 2009.
At FEW, she learned of the advocacy rhetoric and human rights violations faced by many black lesbian women.
She later become a member of the 1 in 9 campaign and served in their Steering Committee as a deputy chairperson. However her need to pursue social change performances took precedence when she became part of The Vagina Monologues in 2010.
Her writing focused on changing attitudes against gender based violence, HIV, atrocities faced by black lesbian women and human rights abuses. She has been in solidarity with movements such as Gender Links and POWA, as a performing artist and activist.
She has performed pieces like “lesbian, what would I do with myself if I stopped drinking?” in order to address rape and patriarchal violence, featured in the Jozi Spoken word at Wits Theater in 2009 and the Wits substation in conjunction with the Writing Center. What would I do with myself has become her mantra as she performed it in various spaces, putting the highlight and advocating on rape, sex, sexuality and HIV. Some of her works like Before Funny Things Started were published by The Global Game in commemoration of the World Cup in 2010.
She directed The Vagina Monologues in conjunction with WALE in 2012 where she worked with Ntsiki Mazwai, a renowned poetess.
She is currently producing and directing The Vagina Monologues to be staged in various spaces in the inner city including Soweto.
She has also been featured in the Mail & Guardian book of South African Women 2013 as a playwright, director, performing artist and a rape survivor.