Gay Stuff

Give Me a Feather

Side note: One of my favourite songs of all time is ‘Half-Breed’ by Cher (written by Al Capps and Mary Dean). I’ll be quoting the lyrics as I move through this post.

It was just another day on Facebook. I was scrolling through all the usual Monday motivational bullshit when:

Weslee

Being who I am, I immediately felt the need to comment. Only, I didn’t know what to say. So, being the quirky kid that I am, I said this:

Comment

Not even one laughing reaction. My comedic genius is wasted on these people.

As the day went by, the fact that I couldn’t come up with a gay South African role model started to bother me. It’s not that there aren’t any, it’s just that I couldn’t think of one who influenced my life during my closet years specifically. Well, except for Ellen DeGeneres, but she’s American.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

“My father married a pure Cherokee. My mother’s people were ashamed of me. The Indians said that I was white by law. The white man always called me Indian Squaw.”

I remember the moment quite clearly. I was about five years old and in pre-school. I was walking alone, which was already a pretty common thing for me to do. I looked at the playground filled with boys and girls and thought:

The boys are prettier than the girls.

I didn’t know what it meant. Obviously I made no sexual connection to it at the time. I just knew that I liked boys more than girls.

I quickly learned that this was wrong.

My infamous pre-school teacher once referred to two little boys as “moffies” (The Afrikaans word for “faggots”) for being to close together. “Moffie” became a word that I heard often. My father used it. My father’s friends used it. Almost everyone around me used it. It was never explicitly explained to me, but I understood the meaning. “Moffie” is a word used to describe men who love other men or who behave in an effeminate way.

In other words: me.

I didn’t know that it was a derogative word. It was only when I asked my mom if a local celebrity was a moffie and I saw how the word shocked and upset her that I realized its true impact.

“Well, that’s a very horrible way of putting it, but yes, people say that he is gay. Not that it matters.”

I guess that my mom was the closest thing I had to a gay role model at the time. She preached the Gospel of Freddie Mercury and often spoke in defence of gay people. A part of me always knew that she knew, or at the very least, suspected.

And yes, I thought Freddie Mercury was pretty cool. Here was this man who was so unabashedly open about his sexuality in a time when that was a major taboo. That must have been rather tough. But then I would look at the letters in Huisgenoot, one of the leading magazines in South Africa. People were writing about how Freddie Mercury was the spawn of Satan.

Sorry, Mom. Apparently this man who was adored by millions is now burning in Hell for… existing.

“We never settled, went from town to town. When you’re not welcome you don’t hang around. The other children always laughed at me; ‘Give her a feather. She’s a Cherokee!’”

As I got older, the word “moffie” continued to pop up. Only, now it was directed towards me. The kids at school called me a few variations of the word. So did my father. One psychologist I saw even used the word.

I couldn’t shake it off.

When I moved to Pretoria to study drama, I thought that this would be my opportunity to finally be myself. One of my former friends at school referred to Pretoria as “the gay capital of South Africa”, and told me that if I went there and “became gay”, she would no longer be my friend. Surprise, baby. I was born this way.

So, I came to Pretoria thinking, “Yay! I’m finally going to be accepted!.”

Wrong.

The only other two guys in my year group were huge homophobes who believed that Freddie deserved to get AIDS because he was gay. Once, during class, a lecturer said that would never kiss another man on stage. He asked me if I would. I crinkled my nose and said “Oh no!”. In the meantime I was daydreaming about one of the musical theatre boys with his curly hair and brown eyes. And his tight red pants that hugged him in all the right places.

I only found freedom in being gay after I graduated. I found people who accept me, and more importantly, I accepted myself. I love good old Sodom/Pretoria, despite homophobia being omnipresent. Especially in the small towns. I see this each time I go to my hometown. People stare at me because of my jewellery, clothing, and hair. These things don’t seem to bother most of the people in Pretoria, but in Harrismith I always feel strange and unwelcome. I realize now that although I love my hometown, my hometown never loved me. Whenever I drive up the hill, leaving Harrismith, I think of the last verse and chorus of one of my favourite songs:

“We weren’t accepted and I felt ashamed. 19 I left them. Tell me who’s to blame? My life since then has been from man to man, but I can’t run away from what I am:

HALF-BREED! That’s all I ever heard.

HALF-BREED! How I learned to hate the word.

HALF-BREED! ‘She’s no good.’ They warned.

Both sides were against me since the day I was born.”

You think I have digressed, but I have not.

The truth is that I don’t have a local gay role model. Yes, I have friends like Weslee, who I look up to, not only as a gay person, but as an artist and overall awesome human being. But when I specifically think back to being a child and a teenager, I can’t think of someone who gave me much hope (except Ellen). There are two reasons for this. The one is that the local mainstream media and entertainment industry aren’t very keen on talking about LGBT+ topics. The other reason is the prevailing fear of rejection among the gays. I know of quite a few famous South African actors who are gay, but they maintain a public persona that seems heterosexual. They fear that coming out will damage their careers. They are right. It will. I know the fact that I am openly gay will probably keep me from becoming a part of the inner circle, both as an actor and a writer. Same sex marriage may have become legal in this country over a decade ago, but South Africa doesn’t care much for the gays. They tolerate us, because the law no longer permits them not to. But God help you if you’re a black lesbian.

So, maybe I was right in my joking comment. Maybe I am my own gay role model. Nobody showed me how. I just stumbled forward with my hands outstretched in the dark. I’ve come a long way from being the 15 year old boy who was suicidal and convinced that I would remain closeted for the rest of my life.

I became my own local gay role model. And darling, so should you. If you’re fortunate enough, you might have someone there for you, but you’re mostly going to walk alone. It’s like Glinda the Good told Dorothy, you have everything you need within you. Glinda did turn out to be a total bitch in Wicked, but that’s besides the point.

No one will show you the way. You need to find it yourself. And you can.

 

You are flesh and blood! And you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given.” ~ Florence + the Machine

 

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Attempts at Inspiration, Gay Stuff, Rambling

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It’s Okay To Be Straight

I have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin.

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Gay Stuff, On a Serious Note, Rambling

The Pink T-Shirt

I will not be another gay writer. I will not be another gay writer. I will n- Oh screw it!

I have a pink T-shirt. No, you don’t understand. It’s really pink. Okay, it’s neon pink. Yes, that’s how pink it is. You see, I believe that it’s one of those things that just had to happen. It was close to the end of my first year in college when I walked into Mr. Price. It wasn’t that I really needed new clothes. Sometimes I think that the new clothes need me. Anyway, I walked in and I saw it, almost immediately. It was hanging there like a magical piece of material that is capable of giving you super powers. I picked it up… and then I put it down. And then I picked it up again and I was about to put it back down again when I thought wait, just let me go and try this thing on. I finally went into the dressing room and tried the T-shirt on. Immediately I felt like a different person. I know that it seems strange, but I felt like it would give me new confidence. But at the same time I knew that people would react to it. But then I realized that I wanted them to react. I wanted to wear something that would attract attention to me, because I hardly ever get any attention because of the way I look. I’ve never been a particularly attractive person. People hardly ever pay attention to my looks because, well, I’m plain! Nothing about me is really special enough for me to stand out from the crowd. With all these thoughts I looked in the mirror and decided: I’m going to buy it.

The T-shirt had exactly the effect that I wanted. People noticed me. Every time I wore it someone made a comment about it. Many people complimented me. Some of them made fun of me. Some of them even tried to subtly tell me that they think it’s a bit too much. But I didn’t care. As self-centered as it sounds, it got me noticed, and that felt amazing. Sometimes I think that the T-shirt was one of the stepping stones that led to me eventually coming out of the closet completely. Because, you know, they could already see it, so I just had to confirm it.

As time went by, I continued wearing my signature pink T-shirt. I even got another pink T-shirt. It’s a bit darker with a wide V-neck and it fits a bit tighter on my body. You see, since I bought the original one I lost weight and went from XL to Medium, and obviously I had to show the world just how much I could suck my stomach in. I often wore the T-shirt to rehearsals, because my drama family never fails to make an issue of it. It always causes some kind of joking at my expense and I really don’t mind, because I get paid to get people to laugh at me on stage, so I might as well let them laugh as much as they want for free as well.

On the opening day of our production of Hansel and Gretel (I play Hansel and his father.) I was very excited to be back on stage for the first time in 2014, so naturally I wore my favorite T-shirt. The theatre manager was really impressed and told me more than once that she liked the T-shirt very much and that the others were just jealous. I, on the other hand, was very impressed by her accurate insight and fashion sense.

So, we did the show. Like with every theatrical production, there is make-up involved. I’m not the world’s best applier of make-up, because I’m half blind without my glasses, so I just keep it safe with base, (not that my skin has any flaws. *cough*) some eyeliner, (I need to highlight my best feature) and powder (lots of it. Those theatre lights make you sweat like crazy!). I think that there is a little drag queen that lives deep within me, but I don’t really see myself going down that route. I like my beard and hairy legs too much and the whole tucking business scares the crap out of me. Anyway, we performed the show to a very enthusiastic audience and it all went well. When we finished we rushed to pack everything up as soon as possible so that we could get out of the theatre and make space for the next show.

When I got home I took a quick shower and my mom and I headed off to the mall. My mom had to go and look for a place to register with e-toll and I wanted to go and deposit the money that I had earned that day into my account. I washed off the make-up, but I still had some eyeliner on my lashes. I didn’t have a lot of time and on top of that, we were going to watch The Rocky Horror Show that night, so I didn’t think that the eyeliner would actually bother anyone.

When we got to the mall, I got in line at FNB and my mom got in line at the e-toll desk. Well, the e-toll desk didn’t really have a line, there were just a bunch of people standing around and looking irritated or confused. You know, the normal South African thing. Nobody helped my mom and she eventually gave up. I think that perhaps she was just too short for the people to see her on the other side of the counter. The line at FNB was quite long, because as usual, only one of the three ATMs was working on that busy Saturday. Two women were standing in front of me. One of them, who looked like she hated everyone and everything in the world, looked at me in my bright neon T-shirt and whispered to her friend; “This one standing behind us. He’s got eyeliner on. He’s a real faggot.”

Do you know what the first thought was that crossed my mind? Oh, so it’s finally happened again. You see, it’s not the first time that someone called me a faggot. I got called one throughout my time at school. It used to bother me so much, but after being called that name (and a number of other names) so many times, I almost feel like I’ve become numb to it. Because I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that’s what bothered me. I felt like I was supposed to be angry and shouting or crying and running off, but it was almost as if I just didn’t see the use in any of that. To tell you the truth, she said it in such a way that I couldn’t be absolutely sure that she said it. I’m about 95% certain that she said it, but I didn’t want to say something and perhaps be completely wrong about it. But even if she didn’t say it and I imagined it all, (because it’s possible) why did I feel so empty? The truth is that there are people out there that are always going to be hating gay people. It will always be that way, just the way that racism will never go away. The fact that I could be smart and talented, or perhaps very funny and friendly, didn’t matter to that woman. She summed me up with one look and made her decision of who and what I am.

Maybe the fact that I’ve become numb to the abuse and name-calling is a good thing. I guess that it’s good that I don’t feel so hurt by it all anymore. But it makes me sad that I had to become this way in order to cope with something that is so mean and unfair. I haven’t worn my pink T-shirt again since this incident and it’s silly, because she didn’t even comment on what I was wearing. But somehow I feel like the T-shirt has been spoiled now.

 

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