I’m Gay because I have three older sisters and I’m the only boy. I’m Gay because I have more female hormones than male ones.
Those were some of the excuses I gave growing up as a gay boy in Soshanguve. Of course, back then, I didn’t realise how complex sexuality is. I was a six year old gay diva who just did things as naturally as they felt. My father did his best to discourage this behaviour by asking me to “tone it down a notch”. This would happen again in my teen years.
Growing up gay in a township has got to be one of the most difficult things for anyone. From homophobic slurs to dirty looks from fellow gay men who’ve ‘made it’, one experiences it all.
My name is Tshegofatso Mphahlele. The letter G describes my sexuality, my gender (Garcon means boy in French) and the word that I realised has terrified me more than I care to admit: Gay.
The word ‘Gay’ has always said to me: free, flamboyant, fun, fierce, fashion forward. I’ve always wanted to be what we (by we, I mean my ‘enlightened’ friends and I) now call a ‘typical gay guy’. I realised how hungry I was for this after I got my first boyfriend. When I had him, I knew what it meant to love another man. The only man I had adored for years, was my father. But now, I had a man of my own.
The First Boyfriend Months faded away and I met even more men. All I would do with these men I met was kiss and maybe fool around, but unbeknown to everyone, I was still a virgin. I had gone through high school telling everyone what a maverick I was in the bedroom when in reality, all I had done was fellate one guy. I was actually proud of myself. That had been the most convincing lie I had ever told. It didn’t worry me then that I was helping add to the negative perception that gay people only want to have sex.
My life changed forever one November afternoon in 2008. I met a man online and went to his place after he had knocked off. I was used to doing this so I wasn’t really worried. I even had the whole thing planned out in my head: we would talk, getting to know each other, then we’d kiss and then I’d leave. He had the whole thing planned out in his head too. Long and short of it is: I was raped. He came on to me and forced himself on me.
For the longest time, after the rape, I thought it was my fault. I had gone to his place, so I had placed myself in the line of fire. The first friend I told blatantly told me that I had wanted it. To this day, I think only my closest friends and my psychologist believe me. I don’t blame the rest of the population for thinking what they’re thinking. My lifestyle back then left a lot to be desired but hell, I did not deserve the trauma I got. When I spoke to the guy, telling him about my intention to press charges, he flat out said to me: “Well, I’m not the one who said you should booty hop on my dick”. I was defeated by that. Here was this man who had violated me telling me that I couldn’t bring him to justice. It was truly devastating.
As if to add insult to the injury, my father passed away a few months later. It was really a hard time for me. It was characterised by incessant drinking, meaningless relationships with guys I didn’t even like. It is safe to say that I really hated myself. I hated my life. I hated that I had, in my view, fallen this low.
But, the Universe was about to come to my rescue. On the 20th of December 2010, I got a copy of Eat Pray Love. Before you roll your eyes at me, the book really did help me deal with things I had kept in. I learnt how to accept my father’s death, made peace with my ordeal (somewhat. This was before I began seeing a psychologist) and learnt how to genuinely love myself. On a lighter note, my friends had to take the book away so that I didn’t end up turning into Liz Gilbert with all her drama.
My ordeal could have easily destroyed me. Granted, it still eats away at me sometimes, but I’ve learnt to deal with the rage, the shame and the guilt that comes with being violated. Forgiving people is a hard exercise that I will not claim to have mastered. In fact, I’m still utterly convinced that I hate him for taking away something I valued even more than my independence.
With that being said, I am grateful for the support that has been given to me by my friends (those who know about the ordeal). I am grateful for all the people who have been taking care of me and making sure that I’m ready for the repercussions, if you will, of this post. Especially thankful to my boyfriend who has been nothing but supportive. Love and blessings to all involved.