Monday, October 09, 2006

Chapter 5: Making new friends

After my break up, I spent a lot of time visiting my friend Ndu in Newcastle. We had a great time together, he was a brother to me who knew of my sexual orientation, my ups and downs with women and was very accepting and supportive. I could talk to him about everything, even the nitty-gritty details of my sex life.

When we met at technikon we were just friends and had gone through a lot together, we’d even cried together over women and would laugh at each other the next morning, ours was a friendship that was destined to last. Over the years we grew closer and our friendship took a different turn…he was more of a brother to me than just a friend.

When he moved to Newcastle, he met a young woman who was staying with her long time partner and he felt that we would get along if we met. So one weekend I decided to go down and visit him. He introduced me to this lesbian couple who had been together for years. Beautiful women, young, successful and fun to be around. We got on like a house on fire and were determined to continue this new found friendship.

Cat and Q were the friendliest, open people I’d ever met; Q has a strong personality and you could tell she preferred more orderly things and had strong leadership qualities but knew when to play, and on the other hand Cat was exactly that…like a cat…she was more playful, cuddly, naughty, loved to laugh, talkative and together they made a mean couple.

I looked at them and knew that I would have a relationship like that one day.

Around this time I had started working part-time for a gay media organisation. It is here that I began to meet a lot of influential people like Zan, she is a loud Zulu woman who speaks her mind and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. I liked that about her because as much as I believed that I knew what I wanted; I wasn’t as aggressive and truly didn’t know how to get it. Zan is a highly acclaimed photographer and an activist.

She told me about a group of women who wanted to start an organisation for black lesbian women, and that they were meeting once every month. It sounded like something I would be interested in as I was really proactive about such things. That’s how I got into this whole activism business. I felt that as a lesbian woman, I had to stand up and fight for myself instead of hiding away and letting other people fight my battles for me. Each time there was an insult hurled at homosexuals, I knew that even if I would stay in the closet forever; that insult is meant for me too. The more I got involved the more I realised that it was time for me to start thinking about coming out to my parents as this kind of work requires someone who is out there talking the talk and walking the walk.

While working for the media organisation, I met a whole community of gay and lesbian people; I had never met so many homosexuals in my life or even contemplated the existence of so many of them. They were the people you see everyday; Doctors, lawyers, business people, your next door neighbour and so forth. Most didn’t even conform to the stereotypes that people have of gay people; that a gay men would be dressed in tight clothing and swayed their hips from left to right like some ramp models and that lesbians are these scary women that dress in men’s clothing (though all of this is still part of the spectrum).

Each day I learnt something new from the people I met and realised that this is a worthy cause to fight for and even die for if it comes to that.

The Gay and Lesbian movement in South Africa is not as aggressive as I’d want it to be, I think we let people say and do as they please as far as we’re concerned. Politicians, Christians and other homophobic groups say things to us that we just take in and do nothing about.

Whenever I read about the anti-apartheid movement and see documentaries done, the passion that’s involved is so intense. When African students took to the streets of Soweto in 1976, you could see that their voices were in unison and that they knew what they were fighting for. A lot of them died on that day but the fruits of their death are visible today; young people today can do so much that they couldn’t in those days.

That’s the passion I wish for when it comes to the Gay and Lesbian Movement. Right now we’re pulling in different directions and some are concerned with their own issues and don’t feel that they have to be part of this movement. Unlike in the apartheid era, most LGBTI people sit back and let others speak for them. People like Bev Ditsie and Simon Nkoli started the movement for us and we have to continue with it and not lose focus on what we’re fighting for.

My first PRIDE march was when I came back from technikon. I was so excited and looking forward to marching for a cause for the first time in my life. I hadn’t even come out formally to my parents but I told myself that if I had to be seen on television, I’d have to deal with it then but I was going regardless of the consequences. What a colourful experience it was, I remember I was so excited and felt like a 2 year old eating candy for the very first time.

My life was taking a turn, I was growing into an adult, my whole outlook on life and my priorities had changed.

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