Attempting to date while black, queer and living with a mental health problem

​I’ve slept with several men, been on at least 3 dates and have had countless other men “speaking” to me in the last 8 months. At first, I had chosen to be single to reconnect, if you will, with Tshego. But now, 9 months since the end of that other love affair (you know, the one I’ve written exhaustively about. The one I continue to speak about in unguarded, drunk conversations), I’m beginning to wonder if my race, sexuality (or to be really specific, femininity) and mental illness are the reasons I’m not prospering romantically. 

Dating as a black queer man is notoriously hard. There are so many hurdles to jump over. There’s the stigma attached to feminine men. While this isn’t entirely unique to black queer men, I personally, think that it is worse in our community because of African views and notions of homosexuality, masculinity and gender roles in a relationship.

A few months ago, I went to a friend’s family braai. There, I met a cousin of his, let’s call him X, who is apparently, MSM. X then proceeded to tell me how crazy I made him (one does try) and said that we should date. I laughed it off and jokingly engaged him on this. He had it all planned out: He was going to love, fuck and protect me. He then asked where I lived and what I did for a living. I proceeded to tell him that I live in Soshanguve and that I’m a writer. That’s when X suggested that we go out soon, on my dime. Now, I have no problem taking people out but it’s what he said next that shocked me. “Ene ke nna tlebe ke tshwere karata ya banka, ankere ke nna monna?” basically, he had assumed that because I was more femme presenting than he is, I’d just give him control of my money because “black tops are so rare.”

But here’s the thing, black tops aren’t rare. They’re just in hiding because of society’s perceived notions of masculinity. It’s a toxic masculinity that doesn’t see beyond the binaries. It’s the type of masculinity that costs me a dick appointment and perhaps even a long term relationship after I call or send a voice note. I’ve never been ashamed of my femininity but I have started thinking that I need to “tone it down” in order to meet guys. Fucken’ tragic. Probably never happening. 

Then there’s the issue of my depression. Studies across the globe continue to state that LGBTQIA+ peoples’ rates of depression and anxiety exceed those of straight people. This, some guess, is a reaction to how society treats us. I got diagnosed with depression in November last year. It worsened after I quit my job (is it really a job if you worked there for 3 days?), The Aquarius dumped me (If you’re reading this, I need closure. And possibly goodbye sex) and I started realising that in the grand scheme of things, I ain’t shit. I sought help at the persistent urging of my friends. But the first 5 months of anti-depressants were the worst. Especially for my sex and love life.

I was put on Amitriptyline first. It left me constipated so even with all the preparation, sex was messy then. I legit think that’s why my regular casual sex bud never came back, even though he said he was a nurse and he understood. Men are fucky, hey?! Then I was on Fluoxetine which left me emotionless and without a libido. It did, however, cause me to forget stuff when I’d drink after taking it. Yes, I know it’s wrong to take anti-depressants with alcohol but I have a love-hate relationship with booze which I will address in a later post. But, I am told that at one point, I danced, topless (mkhaba and all), on a table at a local drinking establishment.

The worst and most terrifying, however, was when I walked in a daze for a good four hours, in the Tshwane CBD. I had been on a date. It went well until it came time to leave. My date excused himself to go to the bathroom. I closed my eyes for what seemed like a minute and when I opened them, I had no idea where I was. I left the restaurant and wandered the streets of Tshwane until I came to and realised that I was near the Bosman Gautrain station, with absolutely no idea how I got there. Because good people still exist, I managed to find shelter and reconnected with my date the following morning. Poor guy had almost gotten robbed looking for me. Not only had I placed my own life at risk, but another’s. A few weeks later, with the permission, but not blessing of my psychologist and psychiatrist, I went off the meds, choosing to opt for talk therapy instead. Again, with this love affair with booze. Also, I don’t think most black and brown men know how to deal with a partner with a mental illness. What with their own battles to fight.

What’s my point? Attempting to date while black, queer and living with a mental illness is hard. But it is not impossible. I live in the hope that I too can fall in love again one day with a man who’ll accept me with all my imperfections. I see queer love stories all over my social media feeds and when out socialising and I’m inspired. I just have to keep swiping right on Tinder till the one who’ll accept and love me, mkhaba et al.