Memoir of a Bullied Gay Boy
I may have not known the word “discrimination” but my being knew its essence. Laced with humour and coated with every possible act of disapproval. A young gay boy was bullied.
I am a flamboyantgay man, I absolutely love this about myself;Ten years ago, if you told me that I would one day start a short article about my self by saying these words, I would have told you that putting an elephant through a needle hole would be much more likely to happen. Self love seemed impossible. If my surrounding could not accept me as I was, who was I to defy societal standards? After all, we are raised to believe that what is largely accepted is what works and vice versa. My true identity wasn’t of importance then, I’m sure according to culture and religion, it is still of no importance if it doesn’t comply with the enforcement of those two pillars of society.So my rejection has always been justified. But has the justification been ethical and truly just?
Growing up, every child is comfortable in who they are and their interests. I grew up comfortable in having interests in activities that both girls and boys partook in. For me, gender did not define what was fun and adventurous for me. If I could do it, I only challenged the universe to bring it on. I did not see gender as a barrier to socialization. But society spoilt that for me. Typically a boy is expected to play with other boys and partake in rough activities which are meant to symbolize masculinity. Girls are expected to play with dolls and fight for the attention of the boys. But I was the boy who seemed to challenge all of this. A female was my best friend and I enjoyed the attention of the boys. Oh yes I did.
At primary school level, I did not know there was a price to be paid for being yourself.Innocently, I was living my true and honest life. It felt comfortable for me, it was part of my way of creating my safe space and character.Little did I know that names and insults of all shapes and sizes would become my daily bread. I was often referred to as the “ncukubili” (intersex one), or a girl. People would come from a different class just to come and see this monument which was a boy that had feminine characteristics. It felt like I was an alien existing in a world of humans. Something that is deeply a part of you, cannot be easily shaken off of you. So I struggled with pretending to be someone I wasn’t, for acceptance.
Only through this special treatment did I start feeling different, inadequate, faulty and odd. My self esteem hit rock bottom. I felt naked on a public environment. I did not have much dignity left to keep going. This easily translated to how other children treated me in the neighbourhood because it was a community school. Some brought the abuse from school to the community. My grades fluctuated and underperforming became a new song. I internalized a lot of this that it started to show at home. My parents thought it best to transfer me to a completely different school.
This was a completely different environment. Children who were exposed to media, and western entertainment. It was a good middle class school. But did it not come with its own fair share of gay bullying and bashing. I first heard the word “gay” when I was in grade seven, when a girl accused me of being a gay boy. This heightened my self consciousness because it was clear I was visibly different. I started to take a back seat on a lot of things because I felt unworthy. I dropped sports and even the reading culture. At such a young age, I had given up on life. Oppression had just got real. But I managed to pull through and make it to high school.
At this point I had learnt the tricks. Well I think. The will of being authentically myself had been left in primary school. At a boys school, I had to fit in or stand out. One came with suppressing myself and the other came with being visible and standing up for my flamboyant aura. Within a short space of time the boys had picked up my queerness. I lost my identity and easily became the gay guy everyone felt comfortable making fun of. Depression was inevitable. I at some point signed up for the school rugby team just to fit in. I believed that through a tough sport, I would be able to restore my masculinity in the eyes of people. I didn’t last a week.
Before I finished high school I had an option to relocate to a different country. South Africa was that option. As liberal as South Africa is, I thought it would be a safe haven for me. I had thought wrong. Fresh homophobia was dished for me daily. I grew to expect it. With the transition from teenage life to adulthood came seeking employment. You would think adults in corporate South Africa would be a lot more respectful and accommodating, homophobic slurs descended from the supervisor through to my team mates, all targeted at me. It took reflecting on all these experiences and deciding on the life I wanted for myself going forward, regardless of the hate and judgement I had experienced in my life.
At this point I decided to love myself. To embrace the homosexual male I am. To see value in my being and the work that has been put in by different people fighting injustice, abuse and discrimination. I decided to accept my true narrative and see it in a positive light. I chose to talk a walk on the lane of bravery and stand in my truth. I chose to see beauty in my queer nature. Yes, many bodies have tried to tear me down, through ignorance and injustice, but the rainbow community has ancestors too. I might have come as one but I stood as ten thousand of those queer ancestors that fought discrimination. Which is why today I can safely say “I am a flamboyant gay man, I absolutely love this about myself”…