As people with diverse experiences, challenges and backgrounds, we experience trauma in differing ways and at a range of depths. It is a part of our being and history.
As South Africans we experience trauma emanating from the fractured race relations of this country. Those fractures have given rise to identity issues; our class challenges in education, employment opportunities and often even where we live. As queer people we have the added fracture of being separated from those groups where we might have found commonality in the damage created by the history of this country. I would like us to reflect on healing, as queer people, amidst this ongoing trauma.
The recent ad campaign by Castle Lager, in which they declared a ‘war on labels’ had me thinking about my relationship with the word “stabane”. This word was used on me throughout my earlier life to traumatise me, taunt me and kill the spirit of the child I was.
Arriving at university and joining the LGBT rights movement on campus I soon learned there was a group of people that were reclaiming this word. I would attend talks, gatherings and even marches where we would claim with pride that we are izitabane. The process of healing from the trauma of this word began then.
I have also argued with many about how I centre most of my decisions on my sexuality. I may be young, Black, etc, but I am also a queer person and the world, more often than not, choses to identify me as that before anything else. This can be traumatic, especially in professional spaces. So, in everything I do, I consider that I am a queer Black, young South African from the townships; then I make my decision. This way of thinking is part of my way of healing the fractures of my identity in all its layers.
Having never formally come out, I have only seen second-hand the joy and the pain of this rite of passage. I have seen friends almost lose their all; family, education, friends and sanity because they have been outed. I have also seen young people sprout into beautiful creations upon coming out and being embraced by family, friends and society alike. With that being said, I have also experienced the wilting spirit of a young life, ending in death due to the rejection of family.
I am still a supporter of coming out. I believe in it, but I also believe we need to heal those who have come out and were received by harsh hands and have never been able to come back from that.
I need to heal from the self-inflicted trauma caused as a secondary effect of the primary traumas
There is indeed much we need to heal from. We need to heal from out tortures as children. We need to heal from our bathroom horror stories. We need to heal from being forced to accept that we are queer as children on the playground before we even knew what that means. We need to heal from the education we lost, the love we never received and affection we were deprived off because we are queer. We also need to heal our relations, with friends who outed us or shunned us, with family who loved us and switched the moment we said “yes, I am gay” and from colleagues who sneered and snickered until we left the places we thought we’d build careers. And we need to heal our whole selves.
Though I never came out, because I didn’t need to (and yes my family knows I am gay) … I still have times when I wonder if I have been fully accepted or I am just tolerated because of that proverbial saying about family.
I want to heal that part of me. I want to heal due to my fractured relationship with my father who was absent in my life until two years ago. I need to heal from the notion that people need to prove their worth and place in my life – because I question motives and intentions due to past trauma. I need to heal from the pain of a friend being unkind and shaming me for my sexuality. And I believe I need to heal from the self-inflicted trauma caused as a secondary effect of the primary traumas.
As we gear up to try again in 2019 (and yes, 2018 was not the greatest of years), the one thing I hope we can bring with us into this New Year is a desire and intention to heal. Whether we forgive and then forget, we accept apologies and rebuild relations, or we move on from trauma and hurt – I hope we bring ourselves closer to some soothing resolution. I hope we can define healing by what it means to each of us and pursue it. May we allow ourselves to face our traumas one last time and finally free ourselves from them this New Year.