A BOTTOM IN BENONI
Thu, 14 June 2012
“A young gay Capetonian boy moves to the East Rand of Johannesburg…” Sounds like a great concept for a new reality show right? Except, it’s actually my life!
I grew up in a beachfront townhouse across the bay from Table Mountain. Now, I live on a smallholding, off a dirt road, on the outskirts of Benoni (or as I prefer “Sandton Adjacent”). Sounds like the last place you’d find a happy gay right? Wrong.
Although Benoni may appear to be stuck in 1976 and have an overabundance of mullets and swan shaped pot plants, it is responsible for producing some of South Africa’s finest. First, Charlize then Charlene, Princess of Monaco, and now this queen (yours truly).
I’ve learnt quite a few things about being gay in South Africa during these last few months in Gayteng so I thought I’d share what I’ve been able to suss out about the Joburg gay scene (for all those ignorant Capetonians).
Cape Town has been dubbed “the gay capital of Africa” - or The Queen Mother City, as I like to call it - but I now beg to differ. Cape Town’s gay scene is pretty concentrated (with the exception of a few gay friendly shebeens and Bellville’s epic Star Gayzers). In contrast, Joburg’s gay scene is widespread (excuse the pun).
Also, either Joburg is super obsessed with the biblical city of Babylon, or is just painfully unoriginal. For some reason, both of the main gay clubs in Gauteng are named Babylon.
First we have “Babylon the Bar” which, despite only having opened in April last year, is already getting a little stale. But, this is the place to go on Friday nights. This Babs has some super fine go-go boys/strippers who dance on the bar and are always oh-so-eager to make the gay boys’ dreams come true.
At BB the strippers may be straight but the bartenders are gay - which is so different from Cape Town where Crew and Beaulah make sure their bartenders are straight - otherwise nothing would get done . Well, no work anyway..."Cape Town may be the well groomed 'face of gay' in SA but Johannesburg seems to be the heart..."
On Saturday nights, Babylon the Club in Centurion is the ‘G-spot’. It transforms itself from a straight club called Recess into a scene straight out of Queer as Folk. Yes, it may have a R50 entrance fee, which is pretty heavy for a boy from Cape Town (where an entrance of R15 at Crew almost caused Stonewall 2.0), but the lasers, bubbles and foam make it all worth it.
Boksburg’s once legendary Ramp Divas club has closed down. I went there once. It was located under a putt-putt golf course, which really didn’t help out the East Rand’s rep. The owners of Ramps have since opened up two new clubs: SOHO (which may have already closed) also in Boksburg, and recently Provocative in Linksfield.
There is also the new Cool Cats (previously Risque) which is open Fridays and Saturdays in Fourways. I still need to visit these establishments.
Much like Stellenbosch, Pretoria also has its own vibe and places for the gays. My hot Afrikaans boy sources tell me that Plum and Design Square are the gay hotspots (no, they are not saunas, that’s Camp David, sweetie).
I’m sure there are a few more baths and less popular clubs in the greater Gayteng area that I’ve left out but, whatever, you can fill in the gaps. Obviously both cities have their gay pros and cons. But my point is that there is this perception that Cape Town is the centre of the South African gay world and it really isn’t.
Yes, Joburg may have a serious lack of style and an abundance of 90’s gelled spiky hairstyles with hyena highlights but Johannesburg is where the fight for gay rights happened in South Africa. If you doubt me, which you really shouldn’t, there is an exhibition about the struggle for gay rights at the Africa Museum in Newtown right now. Cape Town may be the well-groomed “face of gay” in SA but Johannesburg seems to be the heart.
And even with Jozi’s dangerously high number of Muscle Marys, I was surprised to find out that the people of Gayteng are SO much friendlier than cliquey Cape Town. I am really enjoying discovering Joburg because it’s still new and shiny. I can’t wait to attend the famous Joburg pride and the infamous Fireman’s Ball.
There’s so much more to explore and experience in Johannesburg than the notorious pollution and traffic. Best of all, Joburg is so much bigger than Cape Town; and we all know I’m a size queen.