Large AHE HEADER IMAGE JOSEPH

MY RATHER SHELTERED LIFE – Joseph Khumalo

I’ve always been one of those guys who lived a rather sheltered life. I was an introvert, so I pretty much kept to myself. Life was idealistic, nothing really special, but it was comfortable. I enjoyed creative arts, cartoons and video games. I also had big dreams of becoming an animator. My very close friends knew me as an outgoing, sarcastic, fun-loving kid who loved to mess around.

I realised my attraction to men at a rather young age, so as you can imagine – puberty was a very confusing time for me. A rush of hormones and feelings all swirling up into a turbulent storm called “growing up.” I had no idea what to do, what to feel or anything – it was really confusing.

On one hand I liked the fact that in some way I was unique, going against the status quo, and on the other hand I thought, “Fuck, another reason for me to hate myself.” The homophobia the world felt towards people who didn’t identify as straight was strong, conservative and full of gay-hating bigots.

It was at this time that I began to wonder why people were ashamed of being gay? As a young boy, I guess it’s not easy to live with being teased for being different than everyone else. For enjoying different things than other boys. With all this hostility I had to really question myself. I had to really look within myself to try and find an answer… I’m still looking.

As I hit sixteen or seventeen, I just decided, “You know, just screw it!” I wouldn’t let the world define me, so I began to live my life as best as I could gay or not. But as I was living a more open life I was kinda scared of this “gay thing.” I felt like it would define me. I assumed, mostly out of fear that everything else I was wouldn’t matter anymore because people would see me as just “the gay guy”.

A few years later, when I hit twenty-two everything changed!

For the most part, gay kids don’t get a sexual education. You don’t learn about it in school, and the internet rarely offers anything relevant other than pornography.

As a result, when I became sexually active for the first time with men, I had to regress back to adolescence and learn how to navigate my sexuality without a proper compass to guide me. I was very immature and stupid, and I made tons of mistakes.

I rushed right out of the closet to embrace my newfound freedom, and it caused so many problems for myself. I loved too quickly and got hurt, I made poor sexual and relationship choices that have impacted me on many levels.

Hmph… So stupid. Ultimately though, I do not regret most of what happened, because it’s those choices and experiences that have shaped me into the person that I am today.

One of these choices led me to volunteering for an LGBTI organization called Gays and Lesbians of Rustenburg (GLOR). It was during my time at GLOR that I got to experience the injustices that some people face in their daily lives, so I took up the cause.

Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”