No. 5: Cape Town Pride and Class

Wait! So who must create for you the Cape Town Pride that you want?

Perhaps we ought to consider for a moment that Cape Town Pride as an organisation really does not owe it to us to create a Pride event that is political, inclusive or addresses serious LGBTI issues. The organisation is not the government where there are taxpayers to answer to. It is, from my understanding, an organisation run by ordinary civilians who are dedicating their own time and effort to create an experience they believe the LGBTIA community will enjoy and appreciate.

This fiery blog emerged last week with a strong message to Cape Town’s middle class queer community. It continued this week in the same vein. This week’s subject was about the change that many have waited years to see in the non-inclusive Cape Town Pride events and that responsibility for agency also needs to be accepted by those who express dissatisfaction.

5 Ways Black middle-class Queers in Cape Town could be sell outs.

At least once a month, without fail, I have threatened to break the city’s structural conditioning and mission across to the other side of town to meet other queer folk. This, of course, never materializes because I am part of the beautiful Cape Town that reinforces segregation and upholds its geographic privilege by deeming any location far from Table Mountain as too far, too risky or just not that necessary to visit.

Tie this into the first blog post from last week and it becomes clear what some of the recent post laments: a lot black middle class queers who could be fighting to bringing transformation to Cape Town Pride have settled nicely into their privileged lives, even becoming complacent with the very white privilege they once so fiercely railed against. The piece lists five typical things they say to avoid confronting the battles of queers in the margins of the community. The writer speaks of the ”sell-outs” in the first person plural “we”, which keeps the piece from taking a self-righteous tone.

Is there hope for LGBT rights in in South Africa? Or are LGBTI people left to fend for themselves?

The case echoes loudly the principal challenge facing LGBTI persons in South Africa: while the laws may be good, often, practice does not match up. Public officials subject LGBTI people to astounding levels of prejudice and abusive behaviour.

Brad Cibane’s piece arrives after Nadia Swanepoel, a trans woman, struggled with Home Affairs to procure documents that correctly reflect her gender. An event like this reveals a country with a stellar constitution that does not translate into equality for its queers citizens. Even though the matter has been take care of, it is an unsettling reminder that work still needs to be done.

What the event also made clear was that this mistranslation worked on various levels, in the our everyday lives and in our administrative institutions. The latter is quite alarming because its procedures are expected to closely mirror policy, the constitution itself, but sometimes that won’t happen until you go on a hunger strike.

Queer House of Horrors.

It is hard to say if Fistvoices was any more ungovernable this week than any others but it sure was eventful. I looked for a series of tweets to link together into one coherent text, which proved to be a bit tricky so I thought of picking separate, individual tweets to put on here. However, even that would be a bit bland. So I decided to experiment a little. It is similar to storifying tweets, except that I will bring a cartoonish fictional setting and plot into it. It was fun to write and I tried to not make it too conceptual.

The Mr Smith character only functions as a caricature of conservative white heterosexism. A simple device I use here is that a tweet = a room.

Thabiso invited Mr Smith, a 55 year old straight man, into his home. Mr Smith was comfortable with the idea because his own son was gay. There was a lot he was learning from his son and his partner, especially just how normal gay people could be. Nothing to fuss over. They taught him everything, the tops and the bottoms. “Oh, so bottoms are basically ‘the women,’” he concluded. This was quite satisfying because his son was quite clearly “the man”, even when they were adamant that there was no “woman” in the relationship.

Thabiso and Mr Smith had tea on the patio before the tour of the house. Mr Smith asked to explore the house on his own and take as much time as he wanted, to which Thabiso obliged. The first room was the first door on the right.

society is failing itself by teaching that sex education = heterosexual sex education…lots of queers having sex at 15

Mr Smith stood in the middle of the room, somewhere around the failing, feeling a little apprehensive. He saved a question for later about the dangers of messing with innocent minds.

there is a fallacy that we need to commit to someone who is of our preferred gender.

It made little sense to Mr Smith. He smoothed down his tie with his sweaty palm and hoped that the designers of the house were simply opposed to making first impressions with the way the rooms were arranged. Save the best for last, perhaps.

#youknowitsagaysite when white old men finally see black bodies as ”bed equals”

This one was downright offensive. Hopefully, it only pertained to homosexuals. Sure, it is true that he developed a taste for black women after his first divorce but he had always appreciated their chocolate skin without really acting on it.

i own anal beads, nigga im a freak thou 🙂

He stepped on this curious purple object and nearly slipped. He picked it up to examine it but it merely looked like a decorative object, although of poor taste. There was a box on the table not far from where picked up the object and it had a picture of the thing on its sides. The box was labeled “anal beads”. “Anal beads? Anal… oh, dear lord? Why leave such things lying around? Has he no decency?”

It couldn’t get any worse, could it?

#analpleasure there are nerves there, lots of blood there, your man is most likely to enjoy its stimulation while u giving head

“He does know a lot about sodomy,” he said to himself.

Mr Smith realised he had skipped a room in his hurry to peek at everything as he had promised and see his way out.

straight men and women always meddle in queer business, let me do the reverse

That was when he realised whose stimulation that other room had been talking about and this next room clarified everything:

@MrSkota women taking dildos and inserting it to their men, that is what i am saying

Could this madman possibly mean that he, Mr Smith, as straight as can be…

#Prostatejoy every male bodied str8/gay top/btm is capable of enjoying bottoming #analpleasure

What a grotesque way to build a home! It was gay men like Thabiso who were ruining it for other upstanding gay citizens like his son. He should rush home and call his son to confirm that such things were also just as abominable to them. They were the good gays.

The End.


No. 4

Stories Of Our Lives: Not In Kenya

Does the film transgress “national norms and values”? Stories Of Our Lives is a film about people, it’s about co-existence, it’s about finding love and belonging. We made this film to open dialogue about identities, what it means to be Kenyan, and what it means to be different. By placing a restriction on this film, the Board has chosen to delay this inevitable conversation.

Last week featured the Nairobi art collective, NEST, and their film “Stories Of Our lives”, giving us a glimpse of what went behind its production, including some of their anxieties the reception their work would get. Only a few days later after posting, The Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film for its depiction of homosexuality. This entry is their response to this ruling.

Kenya’s first sexual and gender minorities news agency gains international support

‘Our work is often not recognized or appreciated considering ”news” is still not considered as a priority area in the queer and sex work movement but thankfully this funding injection will help in professionalizing our work and supporting news of the news and activities we have been volunteering for.”

The DenisNzioka News Agency & Services does an extensive job covering queer news and issues in Kenya and the East African region. They have grown considerably over the years and this week they reported on international support they received from PlanetRomero. If things carry on at this momentum, they could be in a position to be The Advocate for Kenya and the larger East African region.

“Stories Of Our Lives” and the DenisNzioka News Agency give a picture of where Kenya may be going with their fight for equal rights. Apart from this obstacle the NEST collective are facing, the upside is that there seems to be considerable activity bubbling under and potentially leading to something significant while debate around queer people continues to rage in the country.

Dewani’s bisexuality, femicide and ‘real men’ narratives

The idea of ‘real men’ being less inclined to commit violence is problematic, because men who fulfill societal expectations, but commit violence are often overlooked. On the other hand, men who are trans, queer or effeminate are further demonised. This demonisation takes a number of different forms, one of which the emphasizing of marginalized sexuality in apparent perpetrators.
Case in point: Shrien Dewani.

Following South African media’s treatment of Shrien Dewani’s sexual orientation, Sian Ferguson wrote for News24 about some of the troubling ways masculinity is talked about in relation to rape culture. The common sentiment that “real men don’t rape” suggests that certain kinds of masculinity are more likely to commit sexual assault. It shifts the potential in the “real man” to be a perpetrator and onto supposedly deviant kinds of masculinity. The media focused a ridiculous amount of their attention on the fact that Dewani said he was bisexual and Ferguson analyses how the media tried to fit Dewani’s sexuality together with the murder of his wife to suggest that his bisexuality had something to do with it.

I am a Sex Worker

“What I’m doing is my own choice. I’m happy that I’m doing it.”

This Tumblr is an extension of the “I am sex worker” photojournalism project that includes a diversity of gender and sexual identities. The project was started by Ian Kwok and Vivian Nguyen with the contribution of Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task-force.

Think-piece Wish list

1. A queer reading of izikhothane.
2. The murky area between “queer”, the self-applied political label and the “queer” as social category in academic jargon.
3. Trans* in a gay bar.
4. 25 years later, what does Paris Is Burning mean to queers in Africa?
5. The racial pole ends of the Banjee Boy and twink archetypes in the South African context.
6. When a woman discovers her husbands’ prostate.
Until straight men discover their prostates…
7. The need for the EFF to strengthen its stance on LGBTI rights.
8. The representation of queer women in SABC’s Home Affairs.
9. Not thinking in binaries is really, really hard for people, including homonormative queers.
10. The maintenance of “top-ness” and exclusive masculinity.
11. The instability of language when gender flows but sexual orientation remains the same.
12. The inscription of Africa’s queer history in amasangoma.
13. Queering Biko (on Fistvoices’ agenda).
14. The EFF’s stance on LGBTI rights and their homophobic affiliated party in Namibia.
15. The next big move against corrective rape while the ANC remains cool.
16. “Black gay Twitter” as a legitimate social space and site of resistance.
17. Generations fucked up its chance to properly represent gay men but could Generations even properly represent anyone?
18. How women as more sexually more fluid than men gained traction beyond biological facts.

No. 3 Extension: Queers & Synths

Africa’s a Country introduces Kat Kai Kol-Kes, a transgender musician from Botswana (article originally featured in Afropop Worldwide). Natasha Mmonatau also provides a brief analysis of Botswana’s attitude to queers and the relatively tolerant cultural climate from which Kat Kai Kol-Les comes. It makes a deeper analysis for another time irresistible. What I also found irresistible is exploiting this opportunity to roughly examine what seems to be queer artists’ preference for left-field sounds in their music, particularly those taken from underground electronic music. The analysis is not meant to be deterministic but offers a possible perspective on how Kat Kai Kol-Les’s identity and her choice of sound inform each other.

My Body starts with the funky bass you would expect from the experimental pop act, Little Dragon, before an uptempo beat reminiscent of Bjork’s “Hyperballad” kicks in. There are South African queer artists that can be shoehorned alongside her. Umlilo generously incorporates electronic production into the music. Nakhane Toure’s music, although more on the “organic” sounding spectrum, is a unique hybrid of influences jazz, funk, rock and afropop. With this piece, I attempt to argue that experimental, electronic (not to be confused with “EDM for bros”) music offers refuge for queer identities and embodies queerness itself.

In the last couple of years, the New York rap scene has seen the emergence of rappers like Le1f, Angel Haze, Cakes Da Killa etc. They refuse to make music that is instantly comfortable and immediately accessible. In indie pop, Perfume Genius’ recent album more deeply engages with his sexual identity and it so happens to be the first time he ditches his pared-down piano ballads for a more out-there, electronic-inflected sound. The line “no family’s safe when I sashay” from the song “Queen” possesses more queer punk sensibility than anything I’ve heard this year. Just watch the powerful video (I still not sure I get half of what it means). Compare this to Sam Smith. Oh, Sam Smith. Any middle class family would welcome Sam Smith with open arms when he sashays in, except he wouldn’t even sashay at all so as to not throw his sexuality in their faces. As it happens, his music is neatly packaged in all the traditional signifiers of “music of substance” – including that golden voice – for the masses.

Electronic music – and I speak of it as if it’s not incredibly vast and diverse – deconstructs the distinction between the organic and the synthetic. In the process, it de-priviliges the organic over the synthetic. It rejects the prestige of well-established musical institutions like classical music and jazz, both built on the production of “organic” instruments. These traditional instruments are as disposable as a “real” penis when a dildo is available for use. At times, the sounds are as off-putting as the sight of two men kissing is inappropriate and unnatural to a homophobe.

Bjork, one of the notable figureheads of avant-garde pop, explores the depths of musical possibility through various techniques of electronic production. Last year, Le1f tweeted in the midst of the media venerating straight US rapper, Macklemore, for selling gay rights to a wide audience: “gay kids don’t come out cuz of Macklemore vids. they come out to Bjork concerts YA DIG??”. This is not to say queerness does not thrive in other genres. Punk band, Against Me!, released their album this year titled “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, dealing with subject matter suggested by the title.

Queerness can be seen as more easily drawn to non-conventional signifiers in music-making and I also see a deliberate attempt to carve out a niche away from mainstream audiences that would be hostile to new musical ideas as they would be to unapologetically non-normative gender identities. The fascinating history of underground electronic music itself signals its nature as a refuge for queer people, its creativity accommodating of non-normative gender expression. This piece in the New Yorker shows how queer people are a major feature in Berlin’s world-famous techno scene. Resident Advisor foregrounds the critical role of queer people of colour in the origins of modern electronic music. You can hear disco’s prominent influence in the house music that has accompanied ball culture and voguing throughout the years. It’s not an accident that queer-identifying Azealia Banks, although known to be occasionally homophobic, uses 90’s house beats that are more than ready for walking and a deadly death drop.

In a time when all sorts of alternative music is beamed over the internet, queer Africans like Kat Kai Kol-Kes also seem to be finding a home in it and bringing in elements that acknowledge geographical ties. Hearing that SeStswana sample gave me life.

No. 3

Half of this week’s featured blogs/websites are the kind that have already amassed a sizeable audience. One of the goals of A O Re Q is to find the kind of blogger that has a few readers to engage with and thus little motivation to update regularly. They eventually stop writing (or find greener pastures), so there is little that falls under my radar for a week, like this past one. If you want to give your self-promotion-averse friend/favourite blogger a shout-out, please drop their URL in my Twitter mentions. Meanwhile, I will be protesting very soon with a #ThinkPieceWishlist, an exercise in the grossest kind of nerdy en-(ternet)-titlement.

iGay, iLesbian, iBisexual – Xhosalisation of English

Growing up I had no language to talk about sexual identity; even the concept of having a “sexual identity” was a revelation in my late teens. Although visibly gay while growing up, there was no concrete articulation of my gayness as a sexual identity have often struggled with articulating sexual identity terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) in my mother tongue.

The post examines the lack of names for sexual minorities in South Africa’s indigenous languages. Some say that it is an indication that alternatives to the norm are foreign to the continent but Lwando Scott asks, instead, why the names have not yet been coined. In a language like IsiXhosa, there is a fairly simple borrowing process where lexical items are borrowed from English and have an i- prefixed to the them. However, the English ones have not always been present in the English lexicon either and it is extensive writing in the language that necessitated the coinage of these new names resulting in “lesbian”, “homosexual”, “transgender” and so on. Scott then identifies the scarcity of academic writing in languages like IsiXhosa as having not allowed for the coinage of new names in those languages to label sexual minorities.

An aside: try to read this paragraph without thinking of the title of NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names.

Transgendered in Botswana

“My Body,” a track from Bongo Country , merges Setswana and English hooks to create a slice of dance-floor slaying EDM that pulls from club sounds as varied as Cher, ’90s pop, and South African Afro-futurists like Spoek Mathambo. While Kat prefers to write songs in English, her Setswana lyrics often speak insightfully to her personal journey as a Motswana artist, an identity she claims is inextricable from her work.

Africa’s a Country introduces Kat Kai Kol-Kes, a trans* musician from Botswana (article originally featured in Afropop Worldwide). Kopano Mmonatau also provides a brief analysis of Botswana’s relatively tolerant cultural climate from which Kat Kai Kol-Les comes. It makes a deeper analysis for another time irresistible. What is also irresistible is exploiting this opportunity to enquire if queer artists have a preference for left-field, experimental sounds in their music, particularly those heard in underground electronic scenes. The analysis is not meant to be deterministic but offers a possible perspective on how Kat Kai Kol-Les’s trans* identity and her choice of sound inform each other.

My Body starts with the funky bass you would expect from the experimental pop act, Little Dragon. There are a number of South African queer artists that can be shoehorned alongside her. Umlilo gemerously incorporates electronic production into the music. Nakhane Toure’s music, although more on the “organic” sounding spectrum, is a unique hybrid of influences jazz, funk, rock and afropop. So as to not overshadow the purpose of this post, I will expand elsewhere on how left-field (electronic) music – not to be confused with “EDM for bros” – is available as refuge for queer identities and embodies queerness itself.

Voicing That Inner Scream: Visibility and AIDS in LGBT Africa

Healing powers were summoned to quiet that extra-crispy brand of brutality reserved especially for queer Africans. We licked the death wish within the body’s hidden caverns, our skilled African tongues glossing over bruises from beatings—pipes, stones, Daddy’s belt while your mother watched in silence. We seduced delicious poetry from crushed glass inserted deep within a young lesbian’s tight vagina so her rapist could make her “less gay” to make her more of a “traditional African woman” who preferred “real African men” to masculinity in women.

Nick Mwaluko’s writing yanks you by the collar and covers quite a range of (mostly tragic) queer experiences in Africa. The piece gives perspective on the ways that communities have been more violent to queer bodies than HIV/AIDS has been commonly known to afflict them. In intimate moments when the virus is potentially transferred between bodies, the writer finds something more humane and precious than the vicious prejudice that one has to face from society. The flipping around of traditional symbols of light and darkness – the moral institutions of heteronormative society vs dreaded queerness conflated with disease – is coupled with the frantic shuffling of both positive and negative attributes and states around the word more – more fake, more safe… Nothing is absolute; it can only be experienced in the relative nature of more or less. It captures how “the world is committed to making queer Africans crazy”.

The piece won the first annual Christopher Hewitt prize in the Creative Nonfiction Category.

LOOK! We Made A Film

As the NEST collective, we believe that Kenyans and Africans – like all human beings have multiple, complex identities, histories and aspirations. we think it is important to represent these complexities to challenge the anti-intellectual, anti-minority, hyper-religious, simplistic, puritanical, revisionist and conformist movements that are sweeping our country and the continent.

By now, some of you would’ve heard of The Stories of Our Lives, the anthology film documenting the lives of queers in Kenya that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. As they explain in the post, this massive sort of exposure was a surprise. Their post takes us behind the scenes and shifts the spotlight onto NEST, a multimedia art collective based in Nairobi. The interest they show in LGBTI rights sounds like it would be worth following them to look out for future projects.