Growing up gay in South Africa

Latest posts by Matthew Hoy (see all)

At school we are taught about our Human Rights and how the South Africa Constitution protects us all, but I can still remember when ma’am listed our rights. The right to freedom of expression, the right to association, the right to not be discriminated against due to race, gender, sexual orientation. This is where I cringed, the inevitable was about to happen and it did. The laughter would bubble up from the pricks at the back of the class and someone would say “You mean moffies?”

You see whilst South Africa allows gay men and women to marry, adopt and be open about their sexual orientation we are not free. Still to this day children are growing up thinking it’s not okay to be gay but why in South Africa, a country heralded as gay-friendly?

Well I think one of the biggest problems is the president. Jacob Zuma has been quoted as saying the country of South Africa respects Nigeria’s new anti-gay laws and in 2006 he was hauled over the coals for anti-gay comments. Sadly our President’s views are shared by more than one.

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Secondly the Joburg Pride (which I attended once and never again) was cancelled due to some activists who endangered peoples’ lives with their stupid idea to lie in the road of the oncoming parade and resisting police.

Thirdly the South African gay scene and in particular that of Joburg is very promiscuous and gives the community as a whole a somewhat bad names. Well there are glimmers of hope, more like one sole light flickering, with Beefcakes (probably the South African equivalent of Ku Bar). But other than that it is a club, a strip-bar and the rec-room (sauna).

Another issue which is probably not reported by foreign media is that about a year ago there was a string of murders, wherein all the victims were gay businessmen. One of the victims was a law professor and I can remember listening to this on the radio as I arrived at University. Sadly the University didn’t do anything. There was no message or memorial to this member of their staff. I shall be honest despite this news being somewhat horrifying I wasn’t any more scared than before. You see growing up in South Africa one becomes accustomed to violence and school bullying can become quite brutal. My worst memory at school was probably being dangled by my feet like some victim in a childhood cartoon.

So as you can tell I don’t really have much good to say about South Africa’s gay scene because although our rights are enshrined in law we are still judged and persecuted. I mean I received the dirty eye not too long ago from an old lady for picking up the Attitude in a bookstore and was verbally abused by police officers when I went in to a police station to report a crime.

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But if I had to honestly think long and hard about what good there is in South Africa’s gay community, it probably is that I am here… okay jokes aside it is that despite all this we are still here. The LGBT+ community is alive and thriving to some extent but with the likes of Russia and Nigeria and their numerous nods towards anti-gay legislation I don’t know for how long our rights will remain safe.