Andreas, in his own words:“Being gay means having the opportunity to be more accepting of others.
Continuous challenge is learning to accept myself, to trust in the process called life. One of my greatest successes has been finishing a masters while recovering from a barrage of illnesses I picked up whilst traveling in India.
Coming out was gradual – took about 5 years, starting with accepting myself to telling my father. Some of my extended family members still don’t know about my sexuality, maybe that will change now. I’m lucky in that all the responses were positive – everyone was supportive and accepting (although most didn’t see it coming!).
The Cape Town gay community, much like the rest of South Africa is socially and geographically divided. I only know middle class gay men who live in suburbs; we share very similar stories. I wish it would be easier to meet more gay men from different backgrounds.
I would tell my younger self to keep away from trying to do things right.”
Siya, in his own words:“Being gay to me means life, future and lots of successes as any human creature could ever imagine and above all I think I’m privileged to be a gay man in South Africa, especially coming from a township where there’s so much stigma imposed on homosexual people.
(With regards to challenges) Not much but the issue of being homo-prejudiced has played a huge role for quite some time and also being negatively labeled in your own community, but I guess back than people were slow to adapt in all this, as we black people put culture and traditions as paramount in terms of our customs as far as they are concern.
My coming out story was never much of an issue, my mother was not actually happy with it but in no time she eventually adapted to it too and my father was the most supportive and the siblings were not surprise because they claimed the fact that they had recognised me at an early age (as being gay).
Cape Town with no gays will be like Cape Town with no Sea, I guess gay men play a huge role and also since the world evolves I believe they play a huge role as part of that mechanism, and for me that’s a learning curve and people around the city are mostly the nicest ever, also tourist from other countries do like to associate themselves with people like myself.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) go to school and study hard, whether you gay or bisexual nothing can stop you from reaching your GOAL.”
Xolani, in his own words:“I’m Xolani Mvula, born in the peri rural area of the wine lands in Capetown. I was born 1980 and had very little knowledge about my own sexuality. Time had come and passed and I did not see any one who was like me, that bored me sometimes and I even questioned myself asking if this was for real. In time I saw that I’m not the only one even though the others did not understand what was happening with them. With very little knowledge we continued about being gay and the life continued. Through times I realized that being gay is beautiful and gorgeous.
I had the most caring family that any gay person could ask for and in my time I obtained my qualification as a bookkeeper but that never stopped me from being gay. Today I spent my life working at the foundation as a community outreach worker. This enhanced my level of opportunity of engaging with people and sharing my own knowledge.
I came out of the closet when I was very young nevertheless did I know at that time I was coming out. There was guy who used to like taking me out and one day he proposed and I fell for him. So he kept on taking me out for almost a year up until the day when he asked me to sleep over. No one at home was aware and I just passed my grade 12. I decided to sleep over, and in the morning the drama started.
Being gay in Capetown is the most humble province ever, where the LGBT group is being tolerated.
(Advice I’d give to my younger self) The most valuable information is knowing your rights and do not allow anyone to take that for granted. Be informed and be educated because it is the best possible weapon that you could have.”
Mussa, in his own words:“Being gay to me, means being who I am. I don’t see any strange thing in being gay as a human. Because in this world people are not the same. We should just respect one another as God’s creations.
In this world people face a lot of challenges but when it comes to a gay person, it is another issue. Discriminations, stigmas etc…but all of those things you should challenge them in accepting yourself first then you will have full access in dealing with other issues. Like family, friends, communities etc… the moment people stress you, and you allow stress to stress you, you will be stressed the entirety of your life. I believe that any one can have goals to achieve in his life, but so long with grace of God I am coping with any kind of situation which I never thought of. The success it is good thing in life. I can not say that I achieved everything in life needed, but what I can assure you is that I made a peace inside of myself.
My coming out story is so complicated. As I’m telling you, I am 37 years old but this year 2014, that’s when my family knew about my sexuality.
Coming out is not an easy thing, but I always believed that nothing was wrong about me, where by I never felt owing anyone an explanation of me being homosexual or gay. People talk a lot of things about the bible, but what I know is that homosexuals have been there from the start of creation. And I believe that again God is not a killer.
The gay community in Capetown is more broader (generally than in South Africa ). Having a government which recognizes human rights is a big step in keeping your nation at peace. Out of that, South Africa’s law, allowing marriage to the same sex couples even though there is still a lot to do for the community to feel it as normal life, but at least same saxes couples fill protected by the law.
The advice I would give to youths is that in life people love one another and people hate one another. So, they should be prepared for those kind of challenges and they shouldn’t fill ashamed or offended because of criticism, stigmas hate, will be always there until Jesus comes, if it will happen. And they should know that God loves each and every person. However he look like. God loves everyone and they should not keep themselves away from churches or public services which would uplift them for their daily life until a person dies.”
Peet, in his own words:“(Being gay means) Nothing, other than liking guys. I don’t have a “gay” friend circle and a straight friend circle. It is more like a film friend circle and non-film friend circle (I study motion picture at a college here in Cape Town).
Now, yes, I am different from straight guys in that they like girls and I like guys. But that is a difference I am comfortable with, because it is one that I understand. But when it comes to interest in movies, in sports, in you name it, there is no difference. When it comes to emotional levels and maturity, there is no difference (I know straight guys more dramatic than any gay guy I have ever met). We are who we are, and our sexuality is merely a small facet of our complete personality. I don’t feel the need to announce to the world that I am gay, but neither do I ever hide it.
For my latest exam project at film school I made my first film revolving around a gay relationship. But the intent of this film wasn’t to be an LGBT focused film. It didn’t highlight the lovers as being different. Them being gay wasn’t a plot-point, it was a characteristic. Example; Brokeback Mountain would not be Brokeback Mountain had it been a straight couple, there wouldn’t be a story. Them being gay is a plot point that drives the narrative. Yes, it worked. I loved that film. But, my intention with my film was to put a gay relationship in a situation a straight relationship would work as well. Thus, the couple being gay ends up being more of a characteristic than a plot-point, and that is how I live my life. Being gay is a part of who I am but it doesn’t drive my choices and decisions on all aspects of life, it doesn’t define what I eat, where I go and who I hang out with; it merely makes me a guy who likes guys.
Well, I think like everyone you interview, I have always known. I grew up in a smallish city in South Africa, among a devoutly religious and conservative family.
My celebrity crush when I was 10? Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings. Yoh, I tell you, love at first sigh (for a 10 year old).
But so it continued, and it was never really something I spoke about. When I was a bit older, the South African legal system became more and more progressive and gay marriage was legalised. This created much controversy as my parents naturally opposed this move. I was then forced to see this opposition, and so suppressed all feelings of being gay until I was about 17. I never really dated or anything as I was one of those high school nerds that just did everything that was available to do. So, I kept busy. The first time that I was truly introduced to people who are completely comfortable with their sexuality was at the end of my 11th year when my Model UN debating team made it to nationals. At nationals as well I was selected as part of a team of 13 South Africans to go to Cornell University, New York to participate at a MUN conference there.
This all gave me a tremendous amount of confidence and the first time ever that I told someone I was gay was 3 days after the competition. It was strange; she wasn’t a close friend, she wasn’t a family member, she was a classmate, but it just needed to get out.
After that, I slowly told my close friends and then my sister, and just after my 18th birthday, my parents. Scariest moment of my life. They were watching television and I finally got the courage to tell them. So I walked in and gave them this long speech about what I have achieved in all my activities etc and how proud they should be to have me as their son. I then blurted out: “I’m gay” and ran out of the room as quickly as I could. I panicked. So, impulse? RUN! Silly now that I think of it.
My dad approached me afterwards, very calmly, gave me a hug and thanked me for telling them, and told me that they will always love me. This meant the world to me. It’s gotten to the stage now, that he even makes jokes about it, in a non-offensive way. But it is something I really appreciate, as to me it shows how comfortable he is with me being me.
Now, although my mom wasn’t openly opposed to the whole “gay thing”, I have my suspicions that she wasn’t entirely pleased with it either. This all changed, however, when a film called “Prayers for Bobby” came on tv about a year after I came out, and she happened to see the second half of it. She excitedly emailed me (as I was living in Bangkok at this stage) and told me about this amazing movie she saw. I then told her to go look in my bookcase in my room, as I have the book there. I think by now she has forced at least 10 people to also read it and has given numerous people a bit of a reprimand on the issue of gay rights. GO MOM!
Finally, the big “come out” was done during my final few months of high school, where I decided to be brave and take my Indian boyfriend to my private Christian high school’s prom (as americans would call it). Everyone received us very positively and after that, being gay meant being me. Nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide.
I am in no position to really discuss the gay community (in Cape Town). I haven’t really taken upon myself to become apart of it. Yes, I have been to Crew (local gay club) now and then, but it never really dragged me into the gay belly of the Mother City. Most of the people I meet are those that I study with, and to be honest, my studies all but consume who I am at the moment.
I watch movies, I study movies, I speak about movies, I make them (or learning to at least). It is a rather intense course and quite a competitive industry, so success demands obedience, and, well, it is one I am willingly giving. I love film, and I love hanging out with my fellow film students as our conversations are always a joy and an education. So, because of my over involvement in the film community, or at least my college community, I do not really spend that much time in any of the other communities Cape Town has to offer.
So, back to the question, it won’t be right of me to discuss the gay community as I do not know enough about it to judge. I admit, from what I have seen, it didn’t strike me as a community I wanted to be part of, sad to say, as I always felt very judged and uncomfortable at the gay clubs, but this is purely based on a few experiences and maybe someone who does partake within the community would have a different and more accurate opinion. I also do not have a very big “clubbing” persona (anymore) and prefer a nice quiet meal at home (I love good food) with an awesome movie (a good evening always involves an awesome movie).
I would tell myself to be more daring, make more mistakes and be more stupid. Looking back through all my travels and experiences, it’s the impulsive and sometimes, stupid, decisions that left the lasting impressions and created the more interesting stories. It was by travelling Vietnam a lone, getting lost in China, getting really bad food poisoning and being unable to afford a doctor in India that I grew as a person and became a citizen of the world and, now looking back, even if some of those situations were undesirable at the time, I would want them to happen again because they all turned out to be amazing memories and shaped the person who I am today.”
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.”
Nehemiah, in his own words:“To me (being gay) means I’m fabulous, ambitious and a hard worker.
The first thing I created was my own chapter when I chose to live as a gay person. So what I have done is to forgive whoever wronged before without knowing. I asked forgiveness to those who I have wronged. I worked to get where I am today. I always am up for the challenge in life. I’m not afraid of taking a new ride. I make something out of nothing in my life. I turn my situation from red to yellow to the gay rainbow because that is who I am.
(With regards to coming out) I had a friend who was a lesbian. She kind a taught me the whole thing. I had my own experience in my mind. So the first person I told was my cousin because he was always on my side for everything I do. Even if the whole family is against me he was always there. Then I went from there and I first told my sister about it. She went and told the whole family and I was ready for that so it wasn’t that much to handle. Some asked me if they could call a Doctor or Tradition healer to see me and chaco everything. With all of that I didn’t stop them and I gave them the go ahead until they gave it in.
The gay community in Cape town is amazing. I never come across that huge problem of me being gay. But I saw some people who have come cross lots of things in life as a gay person. But to me Cape town is great, they treat me with the respect I give them. I smile at them every morning they smile back to me.
(With regards to advice) hmmmmm I come across a lot of things when I was young. I grew up in Village called MANZVIRE in Chipinge (Zimbabwe) I had to make something out of nothing again for me to go to school was hard without someone paying your school fees. I grew up with my Father which happened to never like me at all. He would fight with my Mother in front of me about how I acted like a girl and how I didn’t look like him and how he didn’t have a gay son. At the time I knew nothing about being gay. I was Nehemiah who liked to play with girls, that was what I knew at the time. He used to go to a park with other kids and I had to pretend to be busy because I knew he would not take me along. To see him laughing and having fun with my older brother and young brother while I was there, it was a pain and still a pain in my heart. I couldn’t bury the feeling of being rejected with my Father. People use to make fun of me. Telling me I’m not human enough to be loved that was why my own Father doesn’t like me. I grew up on that situation. It was very hard. Till I come up with decision of forgiving myself and everyone around me and to be happy. The only person I can’t forgive is my Father. I can’t.
So my advice will be “ONLY YOU CAN TELL NO ONE CAN TELL THE WAY I DO. SO BE STRONG AND CHANGE THE SITUATION AND TURN IT TO BE A MOTIVATING LETTER TO THE YOUNG TO BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO ALOW YOUR SELF TO BE HAPPY.”