The happy couple
The recent groundbreaking gay traditional wedding of Tshepo “Cam” Modisane and Thoba Sithole in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Stanger has sent cultural and social shockwaves around the country. Delani Majola, a journalism student from the same town, shares his thoughts on the furore.
Before “that wedding,” as my community has come to refer to it, my hometown was a very small and conservative one; a place where I’ve lived most of my gay life. Before Thoba Sithole married Cam Modisane, the love of his life, and gave rise to ‘that wedding’, I remember feeling a sense of loneliness there.
I was nicknamed all sorts of derogatory names such as “boy-girl”, “shim” and “sis bhuti”. I remember how, on more than one occasion, my single mother had to come to my primary school, angrily demanding that the kids who labelled me with such names and interfered with my love for school be disciplined.
It wasn’t only primary school, because these comments grew with me; trailing like a bride’s train on a narrow aisle. I was not the only homosexual; there was also Thoba himself and a few others, closeted and out.
In high school I remember being ridiculed so badly I couldn’t help but cry and resented having to return to my history class. The guy who cracked that joke scored a few laughs, but he also made feel that I was blatantly abnormal.
The day after Thoba married his love, I got in a taxi and encountered a heated Sunday morning debate about the “filth that was the wedding of two men”. The argument lasted until the taxi reached its final destination, with the general consensus being that “young men now chose to be gay to avoid responsibilities”.
I also picked up that “kids should be beaten up” to remove them of their gayness. If that doesn’t work, “axe them!”
While I’m pretty sure that the latter was only said out of anger, I sat in my little seat and remembered the kind words of encouragement from the Dladla (Thoba’s maternal) family. A family who have grown to accept their son for who he is and hope that he is happy and that other people too will come to accept his homosexuality.
I found more comments on the issue in the queue at my local wholesaler, another from an angry passersby, and another at the bus stop (by now you realise the impact that this wedding had).
As small as Stanger is and as flamboyant as I tend to be, we gay people hide ourselves in public out of fear of such negative reactions. Fine, I sashay as I walk, and prance too sometimes, but I’m not really free and comfortable among other people.
I’m reminded of a practice in the West African Igbo culture where it was believed that having twins or multiple births was a bad omen. The one baby would be killed, leaving behind the other; proving that, like in the case of homosexuality, ignorance rules.
If being gay was a choice I would not willingly want to be compared to evil spirits when I know my intentions are good. I would not want to be detested by boys who avoid walking with me in public out of fear of being rumoured to be dating me. I certainly would not willingly want to have my siblings stripped of their innocence by frequently being asked “how I do it” or “do I really have two genitals”.
I looked forward to attending my first gay wedding. I was happy that such a step was being taken by my fellow homosexuals and I also hoped to catch a glimpse of a wedding fever that maybe someday would be mine.
Looking at the newlyweds, I was surprised that the wedding was not only a beautiful one but was, in essence, a real wedding. It was no circus or a “big fat buffoonery,” as the ladies in the taxi called it, but it was a union between two people who genuinely love each other, accompanied by others who enjoyed seeing them as happy.
As both sides of the families spoke fondly of acceptance and all forms of love, gay and straight, I remembered what my mother had said to me in her acceptance of my sexual orientation; “that no matter what people are saying, you are gay and you are still my son”.
These words guide me even in my darkest moments of homophobic attacks; that I am human before I am a homosexual. What Thoba and Cam did, and what we as homosexuals constantly do, is come out to the world on a daily basis.
If I could choose to be straight, would I then not want to spare myself that task?
I remember an old high school friend consoling me as I wept after being tormented yet again. He said that ignorance in our conservative African culture makes our people afraid of things we do not understand.
Let us look beyond ignorance. Homosexuals have always been there; they’ve just been hiding out of fear.