Mvelisi, Actor, Cape Town, South Africa

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Mvelisi, in his own words: “When I was growing up I had a best friend by the name of Toni. She lived opposite our house in Sea Point and one day after her mom saw me counting cars (again) on our wall, she came over and invited me to play with Toni. We developed a strong relationship and throughout my pre-teenage and toddler years she was my best friend.

Our friendship was rather bizarre though. Unlike any other friendship I had had, Toni insisted that I was in fact her best girl friend and throughout our friendship we played with barbies, make-believe-family (where I was the younger sister) and did incredibly girly activities. I remember for one of my earlier birthdays her father had bought me a horse set because I enjoyed playing with her’s so much.

What was incredibly surprising was that I actually enjoyed these games of ours and my time with Toni was the best in my life. You must understand, I was incredibly fat when I was younger so despite being feminine (as it was emerging) sports and typical male activities were incredibly hard for me to part-take in, let alone enjoy.

Throughout this period, I slowly began to realise that I was gay – and like many other homosexual young people I was incredibly afraid. Imagine you are around 9 and you know that you don’t fit into the mould that surrounds you, but instead know that when you grow up you will be different. What many people have come to understand is that homosexuality is not a choice and therefore we are able to understand from a young age that we like boys (or girls if you are a lesbian), what people often fail to divulge is that young children are incredibly aware of the implications that this may have and so we develop an idea of how our lives will turn out to be.

It is during this stage of development that often young, gay children decide whether they accept themselves or if they will attempt to discard their natural feelings. As you may realise, this is incredibly challenging and more often than none this process is internal and completely done in isolation. This is why it is incredibly important for homes to be nurturing for their children – again I re-iterate the idea that parents have great influence upon their children and choices are borne out of what they believe is best for their parents. Children are incredibly selfless and that is why it is important to have a strong grounding.

Even in homes where this exists, you often find that children wait years to come out of the closet. You see, for heterosexual individuals there is never a process of telling your family and friends about who you are attracted to. Now, for a gay teenager this process is incredibly psychological – you are born into something different and people will inadvertently and deliberately dislike you for it. Coming out should be a cathartic process, but having to reveal a major part of your life to the world (well the world that extends to your loved ones) is incredibly daunting. There is no going back and if you aren’t accepted initially then you may lose your family, friends and a life that you have made comfortable by hiding your identity.

This is why the best option is not to push your children or friends into coming out. You may know that they are gay, but they are not ready for you to know. It is incredibly difficult having to answer the “Are you gay?” question because at that moment, for as long as your child, brother, sister, cousin, or friend needs, he or she wants to be straight.”

One comment

  1. jempeirson

    Mvelisi, thank you for such an interesting, wise, well-written, thoughtful account of what it is like to be gay as a youngster. I wish you had gone on to share your own experiences and what happened to you. Much of what you had to say so resonated with me only in my day it was quite out of the question even to think you might possibly by some remote and evil chance be gay. I repressed every notion of it for a long, long time. I remember a little about Sea Point as I had an aunt who lived in Green Point whom I visited while I was at UCT back in the days of pre-independent, apartheid South Africa. Oh what a long way we have come!

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