I think the We The Brave campaign helps to talk about issues we don’t usually want to. Sexual health is seen as an awkward topic but we should spread ideas about how to have a positive sex life. #spreadlovenotAIDS. Get tested.
It all started in high school. It’s when you feel that something isn’t quite right, like you are different from the other kids in your school. That’s when the fighting starts. You try and convince yourself it is just a phase. You try and convince yourself that it will pass. This is when I began overcompensating. The classic getting a girlfriend and trying really hard to make it work before you realise this is not who you are and this is who you never will be.
I think that is the first milestone to becoming an openly gay male in South Africa. You only ever really need to be happy with you who are. Other people are secondary. I think if you can do that you are in a sense openly gay, to yourself at least.
The phrase openly gay is riddled with different quantifiable variables. From, ‘I am openly gay but only to my friends,’ or, ‘I am openly gay but not in public,’ and, ‘I am openly gay but not at work.’ Even in Cape Town, the supposed gay capital of the world, doesn’t openly gay mean, well, to be openly gay? The issue here is the quantifiable variables. As a sub-culture we have created and adopted the hetero-oppressive linguistic terms. We are striving to be openly gay and when we fall short of this ideal we hardly understand the meaning of, we begin quantifying. What does it mean to be an openly gay male in South Africa? Is it the ability to walk hand in hand with your partner down Long Street? Are you only openly gay if you are able to tell your friends and family? Or are you only openly gay when you can talk about it with your work colleagues? I would argue none of the above. We need to get rid of these hetero-oppressive terms entirely. We need to end the cycle of pressuring our community into striving for something we don’t fully understand.
When I came out the closet (another hetero-oppressive term we should stop using), I faced many challenges. Does it take failed suicide attempts, arguments with parents, depression, an array of meaningless one-night stands, holding hands in the park or kissing in the street to be openly gayin South Africa? No, I think when we stop using hetero-oppressive phrases and stop trying to fit into a hetero-oppressive paradigm of how gay people should act then we are open. We should strive to just be. When you can walk down Long Street and be whoever and however you want, whether holding hands with your partner or just sharing glances, only then are we open.
I recently got married in Cape Town. It was only there, standing face-to-face with my soon to be husband that I finally had no more qualms or doubts about who I am. I am a gay man. I am open.