South Africa has enjoyed 23 years of democracy. An ideal which was profusely appreciated in post-apartheid. Democracy, as well, introduced to South Africans, a host of rights which could be explored in all aspects of existence – including sexuality. However, all these rights are coupled with responsibilities that each person should take upon themselves to exercise.
After all these reflective years into democracy one would think that South Africans would now be a bit more open-minded when it comes to certain things, including sexuality. One would even go as assuming that communities such as the LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender) wouldn’t find themselves treated in isolation or with hostility. Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is quite contradictory that while we enjoy freedom of speech, we find it difficult to have constructive conversations about sexuality – as such, the idea remains taboo. Instead, people find it more suiting to ostracize people whose sexuality differs from the conventional heterosexual setting. People, especially in the black communities don’t believe that there can be people of different sexual orientations in these very black communities. Granted, hostility toward homosexuality is much more prevalent in black communities but there are perpetual discomforts in white communities as well.
What’s even more discouraging is the ease with which homophobes belittle homosexual people. By virtue of South Africans not teaching each other and learning about such ideas, we’re constantly exposed to the worst stories of brutality. Women who are openly lesbian or transgender are still subject to hate crimes – unnecessary killings which are apparently aimed at ‘correcting’. As to what is being corrected exactly, one can only wonder.
As such, people find themselves in perpetual fear for their lives – because should they openly express their sexuality – they may as well have dug their graves. In an article by ReachOut.com a homosexual man alluded that ‘at the age of 6, I started questioning my sexuality and how I had to cope with it. Even though I didn’t tell anybody about it, I just keep it to myself. I know a mother knows when her child is gay. Mothers just know. All the feelings I had were not just based on girls. They were strongly based on men. I couldn’t lie to myself, but I blocked it out because of what everybody else said’.
This only suggests that because we find ourselves in unfriendly societies – at home is where parents need to encourage their children to be themselves regardless of what society may dictate. To think reflectively such that even their actions aren’t contributing to homophobia.
Additionally, people should stand together as the members of the LGBT community (or otherwise) and educate people because it’s the not knowing and understanding of the different sexual preferences that results in all these crimes and heinous behaviour. The government could also to be more involved, by putting more effective laws in place to protect the LGBT community and support them by having structures in place where they can support each other and help educate other people about them.