And this is Ntombesizwe.
Ntombesizwe who is 23, who is cisgender, who is a woman, who is a lesbian, no specific order, just a name she made for herself.
A name one finds hard to carry in a predominantly white school of the Eastern Cape. So when she asked her father if she could choose an English name, young Ntombesizwe got a measure of the pride her family took in her name.
She got beaten. Her hair was cut.
Ntombesizwe, isiXhosa for “daughter of the Nation”, got an early measure of who she was, of what she meant.
While growing up, who she was meant something to others. She was this bald and breastless girl who played rugby with the boys. She played hockey too, a sport her father unabashedly categorised as a lesbian activity.
And when Ntombesizwe’s father did find the admission of lesbian activity in her diary, he lectured her about traditional values, told her women need men in their life.
Around the same time, Ntombesizwe’s mother became a member of the Universal Church of God.
This is it. You already get the full picture. That of a little Black girl, in a conflictive South Africa, torn between tradition and religion. And this is exactly why little Black girls, like Ntombesizwe, need to make a name for themselves.
During that summer camp, years ago, not so little Ntombesizwe got a new measure of what her sexuality could mean for others. Her and other kids had to watch and comment Gus Van Sant’s movie “Milk” that exposes the lifelong fight of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected in the United States. The topic rose animosity among the group, for some kids started to shame others in the name of God, tradition, uptight morals.
To her own surprise, Ntombesizwe raised her voice and took the defense of the queer kids in the room.
And since then, such topic has kept rising to new extents in Ntombesizwe’s existence.
As she slowly stopped trying to date men, as she wholeheartedly started embracing her love for women, Ntombesizwe got the full measure of what the names people put on “different sexualities” entails.
Violence and bigotry. From your own mother.
Just like when Ntombesizwe’s mother found out about her daughter’s girlfriend, and, in a swift and desperate move, splashed holy water to her face.
Violence and rejection. From your closest relatives.
Just like all these consecutive times when her mother would get angry at her for no obvious reason and beat her. Just like when 18 years old Ntombesizwe all at once decided for her own safety to leave her home, to enroll in university, to take up a part-time job.
Violence and trash. Because trash is men. Some men. Yet too many of them. Those who think they got it right when really, it’s all wrong.
Just like that night in Khayelitsha, when Ntombesizwe was having a party with her friends, among which were other lesbians. That night when this group of men circled the house holding axes and machetes, promising the girls rape, a corrective rape, a collective rape. That one night, one occasion among many, proving again that men are trash and that such word is used kindly. For trash is a soft term to describe the reality of Black lesbians residing in the townships of South Africa.
Violence and the right to fight back. The right to fight bigotry when religion made the ones you love the most hate you.
The right to debunk hegemonic masculinity when the latter suppresses every woman’s right to be.
The right to become an activist. To actively promote equality. Like Ntombesizwe, who has been working with different NGOs in Cape Town for the past few years.
Violence and the right to fight back.
Because this is an open war, on lesbian hearts, against queer bodies, people like Ntombesizwe, daughter of a new Nation, express this right as a duty.
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