So there I was. Sixteen and confused about how to approach the subject; you know, that subject. The one that makes you blush every time you would walk in the mall with your mom and you would spot a gay magazine next to her new copy of “Sarie”. Yes, I was born Afrikaans and am a lesbian. I hated that word. Did not have any love for it at all, especially not its Afrikaans counterpart. Lesbiër. Sounded like the name of a foreign exchange student no one dared talk to because of her moustache. It sounds like you should have a mop of hair on your chest.
Fast forward some ten plus years later and that word still sits rather uncomfortably with me. I do not define myself as anything but me, really. And yes, I have had really angry gay, bi, gender-queer and straight people hitting me metaphorically over the head to try and label me. I look slightly butch, but I don’t act it. My character is soft, but I have taken down men who have tried to mug me. I’m not a show off and I’m not part of the scene. What does that make me? Well…some would say I’m batman. Yes, laugh I know you are holding your mouth over your hand as you are reading this. But that is the problem; Afrikaans lesbians either identify with the local scene or they run away from it. Some form subcultures like the famous GAT parties which are predominantly an Afrikaans run and visited spot.
So where do these girls go? And what the hell happens when they are faced with the plethora of other subcultures? Indulge me for a bit, seeing as I will share with you a short story of what happens behind the boerewors curtain.
There was this girl I knew, let’s call her Sandra, who use to sit outside her house in the tree plenty suburb of Durbanville. She would literally sit and watch people go by, occasionally talking to or commenting on them. She would sit on that stoep and watch the world go by. Until one day she got fed up. She got fed up of having the perfect length blond hair and feminine clothes. Problem was Sandra didn’t know anyone different from herself. And the stereotypes offered via the internet at that stage were not what she had in mind for herself. She lived in a world of cardboard cut-out lifestyles and interests. Sure she loved her family well enough, loved the house and the car and her parents, but something was growing inside of her. A curiosity which had only plagued her once before in high school and now being in college she didn’t know what the problem seemed to be; she had a group of friends and even a guy who was interested in her. Problem was, as “perfect” as her life seemed on the outside, Sandra had never had much joy in the bedroom.
She started befriending guys with a less savory background in the hopes of finding out where the problem was and emerged less the wiser every time. I watched her from the sidelines, she was a friend of a friend and she became more disconnected and withdrawn as time went on. One Saturday eve we were all at an acquaintances’ house, his parents were out and we could do as we wished as long as we cleaned up after ourselves. Needless to say it was pandemonium. I had become a part of a group of six girls who were openly gay, but I always circled the room. I had just seen enough people get head over heels and causing drama. Something I wanted to avoid. Being a lesbian metal-head was something of an unheard phenomenon in the early 2000’s and being Afrikaans on top of that, well let’s just say I was persecuted a freak way too many times. So I was circling the room at the house party and decided to step outside for a solitary smoke break. It was a beautiful November night, stars shining brightly in the sky, but this elation was quickly cut short by sniffling next to me. It was dark outside so I had no idea who I was talking to.
“Hey.” No answer, I dropped my back against the wall and rested my rear on my calves.
“Hey… you okay?”
She never answered the actual question; instead she asked me a whole bunch. How did you know? When did you? How do you get to know people? Where do you go? I sat motionlessly my legs starting to numb. See, Sandra realized she was gay. She realized this and she had no idea what to do about it. As Afrikaans people we are raised more traditionally, more fearful of God and the church and what would your grandmother say? We are a culture that would break its own children to fit a mould that has outgrown many of the views our parents and relatives have. So we end up lost. For a longer time than some because we try to keep our morals and intellect separate from our backgrounds. Because asking is being forward, because in asking you could invite the devil onto your doorstep.
So I have just a few words for you as I did for Sandra. It does not matter where you come from or what your parents taught you. You decide at the end of the day what you take from that. That does not mean you have to shun your culture. It just means you have to accept these things about yourself. Because if you are happy with whom you are, you will find people who will do the same. No need to become part of something that is not part of yourself.
And besides, who would want boring cardboard cut-out lesbians anyway?