Being Queer & Black in South Africa.

I want this article to be a safe haven for each and every queer individual that might relate to the stories being shared and I also want it to be a mind-opener to the clueless and more than often ignorant heterosexuals. I want the article to also serve as a ‘learning experience.’

SA History acknowledged that, millions were affected by apartheid, but a group that has been seemingly forgotten during this era is the LGBTQI+ community. A government that implemented and quantified its mission of separateness with a radical fervor did not target homosexual individuals until 1968, nearly twenty years after the apartheid’s inception. As a fully functioning Ally, I yearn to create a safe space for every individual that identifies themselves as queer and are either gay, trans, lesbian, bi, questioning, intersex & asexual.

As an individual in this world we live in, one has to fight infinite battles. The battles range from ones race, fighting to be treated equally as whites and against oppression and colonialism or having to fight for being a woman against discriminatory actions, violence and unfairness. Now imagine having to also fight for your sexual orientation, every single day against the system and the society for liking/loving/lusting/marrying someone of the same sex and then getting murdered for it. While government legislation is supportive of the LGBTQI+ community, the South African society is still battling with homophobia; corrective rape, multiple murder cases but the perpetrators still go unpunished. Employees and students are still harassed for their sexuality daily.

“I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into primary or secondary struggles. They will be all one struggle” – Simon Nkoli

I asked three queer individuals about how it’s like being not only queer but also black in South Africa;

Likhona Xotyeni – they/them.

Being queer and black in South Africa means it’s either you risk your life by stepping outside your house expressing your true identity or minimizing who you are, all in the name of being safe. It’s the fear that each waking day may be your last. As much as we’re the most liberated country in Africa we still experience the injustices of being queer. Being black and queer in South Africa is heightened bigotry and injustices, the unfortunate part is that you can’t separate the two, you feel the hyper marginalization but through it all we are very much here and we are taking up space even if it means risking our lives.

Kwani – she/her

Without sounding dramatic, to be visibly queer and black in South Africa is to always be at a crossroads. You are always choosing between your happiness and your safety. For me, it feels like every time you step into your authenticity and express yourself exactly the way you want to, you are doing so with great risk attached. Just last week, my girlfriend was walking me to my doctor’s appointment. We were holding hands. A stranger, a man, felt the need to inform us that we needed him in between us. Something so simple as taking a walk together and suddenly strangers are making sexual comments. These comments terrify me because for so many beautiful people that have been reduced to a hashtag, it did not end at just a comment. To be queer and black in South Africa is to live in fear that you will be next.

Bafana Khumalo – they/them/he

Being black and queer has its own pros and cons but there’s progress in acceptance for being queer. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was accepted by most people, I wasn’t bullied or teased that much but I know friends that had it hard who ended up committing suicide and some went through depression because they were not being accepted. Now we have movies made about us and we also have public figures coming out so much as there’s progress in us being accepted and taking up spaces that were not meant for us there’s still so much hate out there. Many individual who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are being murdered, assaulted and harassed daily by our own black people.

There’s also hate amongst ourselves as queers, how can we be accepted by the outside world if we can’t start with our kind? I mean we are fighting with the wrong people for acceptance. Being black is hard, being black and queer is twice as hard because now you are fighting against racism and homophobia at the same time. Even though there’s so much information online people are stereotypical that when you queer you have to be a certain type of queer to be accepted and I love how trans people are taking space in commercial spaces, prime time TV and prints at least people are acknowledging us and we now have platforms to share our views and be ourselves on. By the year 2022/2023 they’ll be change.

“One can argue that opposition towards homosexuality in South Africa stems from religious tradition. Ever since colonization, Christianity has played a role in shaping South African society.”

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