My name is Abongile Matyila.
Abongile is a Xhosa name which means to be grateful. My uncle gave me that name.
I’m a 22 year old Bachelor of Arts (BA) student studying at the University of Fort Hare, East London in the Eastern Cape.
Born in Mdantsane, the second biggest township in South Africa, I was raised with three younger siblings and brought up by both my parents. Due to socio-economic pressures to find a good qualification, I entered my first year of university as an Accounting student, but subsequently developed an interest in the fields of Sociology and Philosophy which are his current courses of study. My love for these subjects offered me a platform to explore much of my own identity in relation to the world around me.
Growing up as a person with an ambiguous sexuality fuelled my interest towards understanding the complexities of sexuality, gender expression and the act of sex itself. I was afforded the opportunity to present on the topic of sexuality in a philosophy colloquium at the University of Fort Hare. I assisted in coordinating a student LGBTI group at the university in 2011 and proceeded to join the Eastern Cape Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex organisation, of which is currently appointed as the Provincial Organiser.
Apart from being politically active in the field of LGBTI rights in the Eastern Cape, I have always had a burning passion for the performing arts. I was considered a stellar jazz soloist in high school, and participated in various local theatre productions during my teen years. Later on danced in a performing group called Creative Pulse which offered a platform for LGBTI artists. It is where I found freedom to express myself as a performer whilst interacting with like-minded artists. As much as I loved performing, although my love for the arts has always defined the person I am.
I felt that need to ground and identify myself in my hometown where a change of perceptions towards LGBTI people – cultural and religious – was needed.
As an individual, my desire has always been to champion one’s sole expression, regardless of whom or where they are. Being a gender non-conforming black person meant I had to mediate between my gender expression, sexuality and cultural values, which might not have been aligned under ‘usual’ circumstances. Having to find a common ground between these components encouraged me to find myself, and thus live an assertive life full of expression and liberty.
I wish to see myself walking on the ramps of Paris Fashion week. I want to be in a big stage production or as a well-recognised activist, a proof that every individual is unique and has as much a right to a full life as any. Everyone should be treated with respect, as we are all human beings, and afforded the liberty to live their lives as they see fit; a life free from pressure to conform, inequality and prejudice.
Understanding and embracing one’s individuality is key to accepting who one is, which creates room to live your life to the fullest. The act of being yourself is indeed the best person you can ever be.
I found myself at 22
Seems like I’ve been walking aimlessly
Dodging bullets of hate and vile perceptions
What are you, where do you come from?
Am I not supposed to be here?
The life I had come to know
Did not recognise who I was
Not my love, nor my face
Nor my need to breathe the same air
The hard cold of its back offering thick clouds of judgment
I don’t know who I am anymore.
I lost the warmth of the sun in my sleep
The feel of the morning dew on my feet
I forgot the smell of the waking world at dawn
The mornings filled with joy,
days filled with happiness
But this is not my home
There is no place for me here.
I catch a glimpse of a photograph
A spot of distant hope in my eyes
A hope of dancing at the Theatre
And walking the streets of Paris close to midnight
The rain misty
against my smile, warmed by a content heart
This air is filled with crisp dreams
And a life full of worth for the living!
But where is this life?
If I this one is not mine to live,
In my own way?
How is it that you impose your thoughts about my body,
As if repainting an old wall worthless to the space it occupies?
Man, what has my love for another spoken to you
That encourages you to crush my dreams
and devalue my self worth?
I need to breath; a space to be visible
To be loved
I need a place I can call home.