If you’re a gay man living in a township and you’ve never been called stabane, faggot, moffie or had condescending feminine gestures thrown your way, then you, my friend, had a privileged upbringing.
Life is hard for young queer individuals growing up in a disenfranchised community. And it isn’t surprising.
The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraception. 62% of South Africans said that homosexuality was unacceptable. A whole 62%! That is like over 32 million South Africans!
In a country with the most liberal (and most celebrated) constitution in the world, this should make every queer and gender nonconforming person worry. Our lives as black LGBTQIA aren’t worth much in South Africa and that is the sad reality.
It starts very subtly, this homophobia. It could be a religious mother telling her son to stop acting like a girl; a traditionalist father forcing his daughter into an arranged marriage; a community leader who sees nothing wrong with the violation of LGBTQIA bodies. According to a recent GCRO quality of life survey 13% of the people in Gauteng – equivalent to 1,2 million people – agreed with the statement that “it is acceptable to be violent towards gays and lesbians”.
People aren’t taught about the acceptance of people who don’t look, act or even love like them. If anything, we’re taught to “tolerate” each other. We see it in the awkward smiles we give each other or the lingering stares when people see an interracial couple. Imagine two men in a township kissing? Unspeakable!
If you find the thought of two men kissing to be morally unacceptable, I can’t imagine how your stomach must churn when you see a lesbian couple. Traditionally, the role of the woman is to be subservient to a man, no? Seeing a woman assume a masculine identity and having a girlfriend when you can’t even get one is disgusting, no? No.
What is disgusting is the entitlement that most men have. How in the world is the love of two same-sex individuals so offensive to you that you’d kill them just to stop it? It’s easy to turn to religion or your culture or tradition to justify your actions, but the truth is you’re just a hateful person. Religion does play an integral part in your intolerance but religion doesn’t tell you to murder innocent people.
Are the youth homophobic?
Old people will go on about how homosexuality did not exist in their day. They probably don’t realise that it was not as visible in their day because it was illegal, but then again so was going to a “whites only” areas and interracial relationships. The world and the country have moved on. We live in what should be an inclusive era and homophobia, although rife, is getting wildly boring.
What puzzles me the most is the existence of young homophobes. You find young men (and let’s not even lie, it is mostly young men) throwing homophobic slurs at gay people. I’ve experienced this too. Guys I grew up playing with suddenly grew enough balls to start calling me “stabane” and asking me, offensively, if I got horny whenever I saw them. Because that’s what gay men are, right? Hyper-sexualised beings. Surprisingly (or not, I can’t decide) these very same men will ask you for money, due to that age-old stereotype that gay men have money.
Are the youth inherently homophobic? Yes and no. Yes, because their families demonise homosexuality and their pastors tell them that we, homosexuals, will burn in the pits of hell and no, because when given the chance to hang out with queer people, most homophobes are more likely to change their opinions.
It all boils down to ignorance. People aren’t born homophobic, they’re natured into it. Their dogma nurtures it in them. Experience often teaches them that queer people are people too and that we deserve to be treated with respect.
The state of affairs for young LGBTQIA individuals in the country, while better than in most African states, is worrying. It leaves a lot to be desired. It talks to our history; it talks to our different cultures, traditions and religions. We need to foster an environment that allows the laws enshrined in the constitution to be what we live on the daily.
These are the opinions of a young, black, gay, atheist man who is fed up with being hated and violated for who he loves.
This article was first published by LiveMag.