Gay Culture is Hookup Culture

On Wednesday morning, I put an ad on the classified website AdsAfrica. In my ad, I was pretty clear about what I wanted: dick. The ad was meant to sound simple but ended up being a rambly, sort of needy mess:

The ad attracted several men who then inundated me with pics of their schlongs and dongs, all solicited, of course.

All of this had me thinking: is hookup culture synonymous with gay culture?

Gay culture is a lot of things. It’s relying on friends when family rejects you. It’s drinking with reckless abandon at a club on Monday night because all other aspects of your life are shit. Gay culture is learning to fight, not only for yourself but for the LGBTQ+ community. Gay culture is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So it isn’t crazy to think that gay culture could also be hookup culture.

Historically, Queerness and Queer culture has been vilified. So how would you meet a potential lover, shag or friend when doing so could’ve gotten you arrested or killed? You would hookup, secretly. Whether you placed a cryptic classified in a newspaper or went cruising (don’t do this, kids) or frequented a bathhouse, hookup culture has been an integral part of the Queer movement. I do not doubt that many have met their significant others or friends via hooking up.

I’ve hooked up with so many men via apps and websites that cater to queer folk. One such hookup was with a gorgeous tall man from South America. Him and I met on MambaOnline’s MeetMarket one December afternoon. We proceeded to chat, he sent me a dick pic, but it never felt sleazy. Him and I had sex a couple of time but went on to become good friends. With benefits, naturally. So I guess in that way, gay culture became hookup culture for me. I’ve also had amazing, affirming sex with men I’ve met on these sites. So it isn’t all bad.

The idea for this post came to me earlier this week when I signed up on a site called OnlyLads. I then went on to download the app (everything has an app these days, hey?!). I then bumped into a guy I had had sex with at a club on the app. I laughed so hard because my friend had mentioned him earlier that night in conversation. The bloke was in my friend’s inbox, talking about wanting a relationship. I also laughed because every single time I’ve ever been on a dating app or site, I always come across his profiles. This Adonis who had banged me in a club needed help getting laid? There’s hope for us ugly ducklings then.

Society is becoming more accepting of Queer folk and Queer culture. Our stories are being told by mainstream media. Queer roles are finally being played by Queer folk (not as much as we’d like though) and people are doing the work needed to ensure better protections for Queer folk. What does this mean for queer hookup culture? Will Grindr survive inclusion? We’ll see.

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Crabs, Jobs and My Dream Guy

I haven’t done this in a while. Somewhere between the last post and learning how to be a journalist, I stopped writing. True to my nature, I made excuses for it. I blamed singlehood, antidepressants, too much sex, too little sex and even threw writer’s block into the mix. But it was and is me. 

I have never thought of myself as a brilliant writer. But because I am narcissistic as fuck, I lap up the attention that comes with the title ‘writer’. 

The past ten months have been interesting. I’ve dated two men, had my second nervous breakdown, met my dream guy, made lifelong friends, caught crabs, recovered from crabs, lost 3 phones because when I drink I turn into a moron, worked for a magazine and most importantly, I’ve realised that being alone  isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Dream guy? Well he’s a published short story author. He reads,  introduced me to 1 litre Black Lable and had me spend a weekend with him where we did nothing but attempt to fuck and talk. Why didn’t I try to make it work with him? Well, he’s younger than me and I still suffer from heteronormativity. Also, I don’t think he liked me the way I liked him. A week later, I sent him a rambling text confessing how fascinating I find him. Surprisingly, he didn’t run for the hills.  He called me “brave” for my confession.  We all know that’s code for “forget it,  weirdo”. But it’s all good. 

I had my first STI ever. Somehow, I managed to catch crabs. To the less slang savvy, I had pubic lice. Now, it was a dark and confusing time in my life. All the men I had been with had a clean bill of health(of course I asked!) Where had these little buggers come from? I then remembered that I had been to a seedy hotel one Saturday morning after too much partying. The timeline matches. I am happy to report I am crab-free. The miracle that is Tea Tree Oil and emergency e-wallets. 

I had my second nervous breakdown in August. It was one of those “I’m going to kill myself” scenarios again. As a result, I am (albeit begrudgingly) back on antidepressants. My psychiatrist had me sign a suicide contract. I know it sounds creepy and to me, it is. Basically,  in this contract, I promised not to hurt myself.  Does it sound like I gave away my autonomy?  Because that’s how I’m interpreting that damn contract. I am technically sane now. The meds help,  I guess, but the real stars are the people I call my friends. 

Ok. I’m tired of doing this. Did I mention that I’m job hunting again? Next thing you know,  I’ll be a 28 year old Intern. Such a queer stereotype. 

Dating Men: A Queer Extreme Sport

​Also, dating men is an extreme sport, y’all. I don’t know how we do it.

You find one, cuff him kanti he doesn’t really like feminine men. Y’all break up.
You find one who doesn’t care that you’re feminine but is ironically, a misogynist. Now I have to dump you because you have outdated notions.
You find one who has no problem with you femininity, isn’t a misogynist but is transphobic. Misgendering people intentionally (always happens, I’ve noticed when Caitlyn Jenner is mentioned). Dumped. 
You find one who has isn’t transphobic, loves your femininity, isn’t a misogynist but forms part of the “I’m not like other queer men” brigade. This bunch oft shames Beyoncé loving queers, Lacantina and Liquid Blue and will try to sound faux intelligent by mentioning that we don’t need pride because straight people don’t have pride. Boy, bye.
Then you find one that’s amazing with his politics in place until you get to the “no fats, no femmes” part of his online dating profile. Says it’s his preference. Usually a gym bunny.
Then there are the lads who want a monogamous relationship but cheat. When you introduce an alternative to monogamy, they don’t believe in it. 
While all of this is happening, you have to meet guys online, decide whether they’re worth being serial killed for and go on dates. On these dates, you have to deal with narcissism, no real knowledge of how the world works, people being rude to waiters and his mêlée of friends who all came to check on him. In. The. Middle. Of. A. Date.

Did I mention abafana bamo kasi who hurl slurs at you the whole day only to give you bomb sex that night? These are also the ones most likely to kill you because fragile masculinity.

I could go on forever.

I really don’t know how we do it and go on to form very beautiful couplings….. 

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.

When It Isn’t Just A Joke: Homophobia in comedy

About two months ago, a friend and respected LGBTQIA activist sent a screenshot of this tweet, in jest, to a LGBTQIA group we’re both a part of: “Bathi Gay Police be like: “chommie you are under arrest bathong. Yho o sa bua thata, chomza coz re di berekisa against u”. I would’ve liked to call it the tweet that launched a thousand retweets rejecting and shaming this inherently homophobic and lazy sort of thinking, instead it got eight retweets and a favourite.

One of those retweets was from a gay man and although it is not clear if he was retweeting it for his timeline to see or if he approved of it, it is still disappointing because to me, it looked like he was endorsing the offensive tweet.

Then a few weeks later, a colleague and up-and-coming comedian regurgitated the same joke. He said that gay men can’t be police officers because instead of shooting suspects, they would just let them go because they’re, and I quote, “cute”.

These jokes are very problematic because they normalise police brutality (officers can’t go around just shooting alleged suspects), reinforce  stereotypical ideas about queer individuals regarding the kind of jobs queer people cannot do because of their sexuality.

These jokes are troubling because they reduce those of us who find them offensive to being individuals with “no sense of humour” because we don’t get that it’s “just a joke”.

It isn’t just a joke. In a country where corrective rape and other forms of hate crimes against LGBTQIA people are prevalent, we should not let mildly-disguised homophobia slide.

This is not a duty that should only be left up to activists, we should all be actively trying to get rid of stereotypical and troubling tropes about gay people,. I- I’m not comfortable with just laughing problematic jokes away.

What worries me, are the people who tell you to “get over it” or that “it’s just a joke” because they never want to understand where my concern and anger is coming from. I cannot just remove myself from certain situations when it suits me.

Local comedian Thapelo Tips “Shampoo” Seemise is notoriously homophobic in his skits. In one show, he told straight men to stop saying “fuck you” to gay men as gay men “expect you to.” He went on to ask where gay people come from, as he had never seen a gay comrade during the Struggle. He also seemed to think that gay men aren’t real men stating that we hate the movie “Think Like a Man” (of course we do. It was a really bad movie which reinforces patriarchy. Bye Felicia!)

These notions, these tropes that are perpetuated by famous people, contribute to society’s hatred of queer individuals. It is ignorant to assume that just because you did not see them and they’re not in our history books, there weren’t any gay freedom fighters. Read up on Simon Nkoli and Bev Ditsie.

I’m all for a good joke. I am even willing to laugh at myself once in a while. But when the joke is inherently sexist, homophobic, ableist and racist, I cannot just stand back and laugh it off as “just a joke.” It isn’t funny.

Follow me on Twitter: @Tsheggy_ZA

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

It’s being called ‘The Wedding Of The Year’. It has the country talking about something that has been in the back of people’s minds, but until now, they’ve ignored. The liberals are overcome with joy, the conservatives are mad as fuck and the fence sitters are silent about it. Whichever side you’re on, the Sithole-Modisane wedding has clearly opened a can of worms which perhaps needed to be opened.

The title of this piece pays homage to that old traditional English rhyme that alleges that if one is to have a good, long married life, they should have something old (usually from their parents or grandparents’ wedding day), something new (a gift from either the bride or groom’s new in-laws), something borrowed (usually from friends, not quite sure) and finally, something blue (anything blue, really). The two grooms have both received something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, but not in the traditional sense. I’ll explain.

Something Old

The grooms unfortunately got married in a country where, with a glowing constitution that upholds the rights of LGBTIA individuals, there’s still a lot of hate and judgement towards sexual minorities. To say that this is because of ignorance and to hide behind the fact that “people just don’t understand” is foolish and dangerous. I think that the black nation (who have been the most vocal critics) has been conditioned not to accept anything that is supposedly ‘foreign’ to their way of life. This, however much we try running away from it, has been created by that most divisive of laws: Apartheid. It gave black people a huge inferiority complex that persists today. We can see it in attacks on sexual minorities, attacks on foreign nationals and the general hopelessness found in each and every township corner (think: nyaope boys, gangsterism). To say that being gay is UnAfrican is like saying that being black is less than human (I think I just quoted one of the grooms!). These boys did things by the book. They’ve announced their marriage to the ancestors, they’ve thanked their respective in-laws for raising their partner by means of Umabo and had a full on traditional wedding. Instead of being happy that young people are upholding their culture, traditionalists instead choose to focus on how UnAfrican they think the whole practise is. The very same people who complain to government every other day about upholding traditions and all that jazz. Hypocrisy, no?

Something New

The newlyweds introduced themselves to the world in spectacular fashion. This was the first gay wedding in South Africa to receive such media attention. From radio to print, there is no way that one hasn’t heard or seen the Sithole-Modisane wedding. But was it such a good idea to go so public with the most special day of their lives? Yes and no, I think. On the activism side of things, this was a good move. It shows that we as the black LGBTIA youth are here, we’re as African as Shaka himself and if we want to get married traditionally, we will do so. On the other hand, I feel that perhaps the publicity has kind of spiralled out of control and I’m not alone in this view. Most people I’ve spoken to about the wedding and the media coverage of the wedding agree that it is a tad bit much. It looks like it has turned into a campaign to gain celebrity. There’s been outrage in activist camps with one friend even saying “The very same guys who claim that their wedding was to inspire other gay people to come out are nowhere to be seen when there are big activism activities going on!” I do not know how true that statement is, but it seems that, as if opposition from the conservative narrow minded straights isn’t enough, this young couple has to also deal with criticism from members of their own community. Perhaps the couple hadn’t intended for their wedding to be the talking point of the whole country, but it happened and the best the rest of us can do is applaud them for their bravery and walk away.

Something Borrowed

For thousands of year, humanity has been lead to believe that marriage was the bastion of straight couples. That only they (straight couples) were allowed to marry. It’s a least known fact that for thousands of years, elaborate ceremonies were conducted for same-sex couples. This happened across the globe, from the Two-Spirit ceremonies of the Native Americans to the lesbian couplings of Zimbabwe (Wikipedia reports that while homosexuality is illegal in our neighbouring country, the punishment is mostly meted out to gay men). So no. Marriage isn’t borrowed from heterosexuals. It is a human right and perhaps even a human need to wed whoever you love, regardless of their gender, race, creed.

Something Blue

I do not know if the grooms intentionally did this, but both wore different shades of blue to their reception. Blue is of course a typically masculine colour, reinforcing that these are two men, who are equals and is in a way an opposition to patriarchal black and white, with black being acceptable on men but not on women. a woman with a black wedding dress is doomed to divorce. But these two wore same colours, and even their traditional outfits were similar in colour. A union of equals. One does wonder though, since Thoba wore a lighter shade of blue and Cameron a darker one, does this perhaps say something about their level of dominance? Cliché, but one does wonder: Who wears the pants in this beautiful union? Just like the fact that nobody should care that two men are in love, this is irrelevant.

The Young LGBTIA Chronicles: G for Garcon

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.