We humans are not only diverse in race, culture and language; we are also diverse in the fears we have. The origin of the fears of snakes or closed spaces can be found for instance in childhood trauma of being locked up in a closet or cultural teachings of reptiles as being evil. Phobias are real so much so that they can induce negative mental and physiological effects.
The one phobia I have never understood is that of homophobia because people who claim to have this fear are fearless when they come into contact with a homosexual, so fearless in fact that slurs roll of the tongue like hot black molasses, so fearless that raising their hands to the unknown homosexual who did not provoke them is done swiftly, so fearless that they throw curses loudly in the homosexuals path and so fearless that when the word “gay” is uttered in their direction, it becomes grounds to attack.
People “suffering” from homophobia are the only ones to have a type of phobia that is towards another human being whose sexual expression is different from theirs as if it is poisonous ot infectious.
After news broke of deputy minister Manana’s beating of a young womxn, social networks and news media condemned the act until they found out reasons for his actions; many thought they were justified. He was called (according to the responses) the worst thing ever; he was not called a rapist, it was worse than that; he was called gay by the victim.
We live in a culture that insists on the binary view of life instead of a spectrum. Gender, sexual expression and even race is seen as either this or that, male or female, heterosexual or homosexual and if it’s not white it must be black or at least a variation of black. Heterosexuality much like race is built on a theories which many are lazy to refute, much like the creation of whiteness which is a veneer created to protect privileges and absurd notions of superiority; much like the variation of melanin across the human species so is sexuality.
The fear in homophobia is that it challenges the dichotomies that we have been raised with. In a beautiful piece about how parents and society kill the friendships of young boys Mark Greene sites that when boys reach adolescents they concentrate on what they are not, this means they look at the other sex and derive who they are supposed to be by being or doing the opposite. They are not girls, they are not flimsy, they are not emotional- all virtues that are traditionally believed to be traits of the feminine- young men will sever in the creation of their identities and manhood. What this creates in young men is a repression of the true and full exploration of themselves because much as we like to think men only have a masculine energy they also embody a feminine energy, same with womxn. The repression therefore of what is traditionally believed to be feminine traits in men creates volatile beings whose identities are always threatened and provoked when compared or likened to what some believe is feminine. The feminine is weak, disposable, non autonomous, dependent and other such misconceptions, therefore the word gay to an individual who expresses that they are heterosexual is an insult. The word gay means one is less than a man and more like a womxn. This view forces us also to look into how womxn are perceived in societies; there’s no need to extrapolate as many know this is a man’s world and womxn are either obstacles or trophies to men even in the year 2017.
The fear in homophobia therefore is that one would be treated like a womxn, as vulnerable, exposed to and deserving of violence which Manana proved in beating a womxn. The fear in homophobia is that it challenges societal constructs which many have adopted as natural occurring, typical or normal- a variation must be rigorously investigated and discarded which the outrageous responses defending Manana proved. The fear in homophobia is a dangerous phobia as it is oriented towards the most vulnerable group of humans who like heterosexuals are trying to navigate life but find themselves prone to violent attacks because of a harmless variation in the sexual spectrum. The fear in homophobia is dangerous because it maintains the status quo which is womxn deserve violence be it physically, verbally and even sexually. The fear in homophobia is a social construct which enables the abuse of power towards other humans and under the guise of homophobia protects the abuser. The fear in homophobia exposes the lie of morality and points its creation to the position which lies in those lucky enough to be born with testicles and a penis.
The time has just past midnight so actually it is a Saturday morning. There’s a sound of helicopter roaming the skies probably looking for a stolen car. A lot of them find their way to my hood; I even know one of the hijackers. He lives a few houses away from my grandmother’s house; I grew up with him, he was friends with my older brother and now he is a gangster who does not harm you if he knows you and I guess that is how my car and I are safe.
Anyway last week Friday I went to see a queer movie title While You Weren’t Looking, it’s quite a long title and one I did not find connected with the film. There are many plot lines to it. Firstly there’s an affluent lesbian couple going through a crisis in their marriage (of course the butch one has to be the one who cheats), secondly there’s their adopted daughter who finds herself falling for a lesbian (Shado) whom she mistook to be a man and even though she learns of her true gender she still pursues the relationship and lastly there’s an upper middle class black man hiding the secret of his gay past from his wife and teenage son. All these stories take place in Cape Town and all characters are linked to each other through some peripheral human links which focus on queerness of each individual.
The characters much like South Africa are diverse and their back stories are rich. My attention was focused on Ayanda (who is the adopted daughter) and Shado’s relationship. I believe their story alone could have been the sole driver of the whole movie. I wanted progression from all characters but mostly from them two. Ayanda grew up in a liberated house composing of two mothers who give her everything she wants and on her eighteenth birthday she decides she want to research her roots, coincidentally on her birthday night she kisses Shado whom she thought was a man and this meeting leads to her going to the townships of Cape Town where Shado resides. I don’t understand why she going to the townships is seen as going back to one’s roots. Anyway with Shado’s grandmother and cousin gone they have the house to themselves and they proceed to have some hot lesbian sex. After their romp, whilst sticky and wet, Shado warns Ayanda not to fall in love with her; I don’t know why maybe it’s that hardcore exterior that masculine presenting lesbians like to present.
In the early morning while in each other’s warm embrace Ayanda and Shado are violently woken up by some gangsters who are linked to Ayanda’s cousin; on realising that the two were having hot lesbian sex the previous night one of the gangsters decides to rape Shado but luckily his mate stops him because they just want the money and so they take all of Ayanda’s possessions because they actually have value unlike Shado’s. Ayanda is clearly traumatised by this event and puts on some of Shado’s clothes, she and Shado decide that they will never see each other again.
I believe this story is pivotal to young queer people, to be strong and fervent in their lives despite the barriers that exist; Ayanda and Shado’s story offers no hope.
It has the typical stifling and oppressive tone so popular in Cape Town, you stay in your lane and I’ll stay in mine. I believe Ayanda and Shado’s story could have been told a là Blue is the Warmest Colour because their barriers are barriers that take time to break down, barriers that are only hard to break down because of classism and society’s perspective on queer people. Yes Shado cannot offer Ayanda any security be it financial or physical or even emotional but love is not that simple and the two obviously have a connection, a chemistry unparalleled to Ayanda’s former boyfriend.
It would have been interesting to see Ayanda and Shado grow closer or apart in their relationship over the years be it three, five, seven or even ten years. To see them navigate the barriers in their lives, to see them move on from the trauma that happened in the morning, to see the reactions of Ayanda’s mothers to their daughter suddenly becoming one of them, to see if Ayanda would wafer once realising that actually being lesbian has dire consequences if one is within a certain class, that lesbianism is not a social experiment and Shado’s growth is important too.
I think maybe I might be asking for too much. I believe in fairies and God and heaven but reality is hell and the reality is truthfully that’s how stories of same-sex love end up in South Africa. It is too much to bear and those who do are brave and love, for them, love is enough.
The cinema where I watched the movie was in Soweto and there was an impressive number of queer ladies and a few men- I believe this is progress for a South African movie focusing on a taboo subject. I believe to retain these small numbers, to keep them engaged so that they may fish out more numbers of viewers to local content, a little more positivity in the narrative of black characters could be allowed. Black people are more than their poor backgrounds and even the ones who’ve jumped up the economic strata must not be portrayed as solely money hungry individuals whose sole purpose is to ensure they do not slip back into poverty. Black characters choices do not rest solely on economic factors because they do get married, they do have multiple children, they lead homosexual lives and they all strive for a better life even if the circumstances do not allow.
I am not suggesting a total glazing over of the stark issues at hand of the queer black populous, I’m just saying give a little light to Shado.