And this is Belle.
Belle who is queer, who is cisgender, who is 27, who is a woman, no specific order, just seasons of the soul.
Belle grew up in a tiny village of the Eastern Cape. Like many other places in South Africa, the town was segregated, according to class, according to plan. The social glue of it all was christianity.
Belle’s mother was an anglican, Belle’s father was a methodist. The latter’s office would even serve as a church, where Belle would attend Sunday school.
Weekdays school was that of the local Dutch Reformed Church. God and the Bible were guidelines to follow. What is good? What is not? As a kid, you swallow.
And the glue that is christianity had gooey extensions. So when 10 years old Belle was sent to a boarding school, there was still religion.
Later on and growing up, when kids become teenagers and like to follow fashion, Belle became a newborn christian.
Slowly, little by little, newborn Belle felt stifled, drowning in quicksands. She remembers that day when church people came to her school to promote chastity rings. That was the climax.
Belle didn’t take the ring, nor could she take religion any longer. Along with her illusions, Belle lost her religion.
A religion she sees now as patriarchal, heteronormative, cisgender-biased, a source of violence.
An upbringing she sees now as a blinding machine. She can barely remember queer people existing around her, being mentioned as real. In Belle’s world, queer wasn’t an option.
Subsequently, and for the longest time, Belle identified as heterosexual.
She moved to Cape Town to study. And Cape Town sure is a gayer town.
She moved to Scotland to work. And Scotland sure is a gayer land.
But as she was blind, blinded by her past, it never did cross her radar. Belle was a straight girl thus far.
And in Scotland, she met that Italian guy, and they fell in love. A 5 years long heterosexual, long distance and exclusive relationship is not an open field. Yet, for Belle, that was a beginning.
One year into their relationship, she confessed that she was queer. As a growing trend in her erotic life, she felt bedazzled by female beauty. It was a matter of time before these aesthetics became a desire, a burning desire.
But love can tame your soul.
So when 24 years old Belle broke up with her boyfriend, she had never kissed a woman. Free from religion, free from school, free from a man, Belle took herself into a coming-of-age tale. She dived into lesbian spaces.
Belle started exploring Cape Town’s lesbian nightlife. She started dating women, and how thrilling that was.
Her coming out story reflects how empowered she felt at that time. That one night, instead of using labels she knew her family was unfamiliar with, she just texted her mom, telling her she was going on a date with a girl.
And surprisingly, it did not make a fuss, for Belle said the truth, a newly found truth.
As she had studied gender and feminism at varsity, as she considered herself a feminist, Belle easily connected with queer activist circles. She surrounded herself with bold independent free-spirited women who happened to be lesbians.
A coincidence? Nobody said it was.
Today and now, Belle finds herself in the most exhilarating place. She connects, bonds, creates in a safe kind of space. She feels comfortable with her body, her sexuality, the way she challenges society.
She is here to strengthen existing queer spaces, here to design new ones: a community, a committee, a party.
And you know what’s funny?
Belle actually feels lucky.
Lucky for having had a religious background.
Lucky for distancing herself from it.
Lucky for having been with men.
Lucky for not completely closing herself off from them.
Lucky for the struggle her mind had to go through.
Lucky for the battle she can now fight for you.
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