Today is the third day since the traditional ceremony we had as a family. My mind is trying to make sense of everything that took place during the preparations and on the day of the ceremony but a huge part of me would rather forget. I know this will probably raise some concerns from the reader, but I will share with you since I would like you to join me on this journey of writing.
Today I woke up with a strong desire of turning my life around and for the first time I am not going back to sleep with another dream of writing my story being not fulfilled. I may want to forget some parts of the ceremony but what good is it going to make if this story will not offer you the eyes through which I look at life?
I have always wanted to forget some things from my past but I have now realised that no matter how far you try to run away from your past, it will always catch up with you. Just like my shadow, I have made peace with the fact that sometimes I realise its presence and other times I don’t, that does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Before I was assaulted and raped, I always viewed life as my oyster and it promised a brighter future for me, or so I thought. Even today as I am writing my thoughts, I invite the very same spirit I once had as a young boy growing up. The spirit that used to burn endlessly inside me before someone told me that they own me and what they were doing to my body was right.
I know I have given so much away to these words: “Their overtones became my song over the years suggesting that I need to dim my light.”
I have believed that I had no place in this society and boys like me deserved to be raped and beaten up if they do not conform to the norms of society. These words were said by the man who raped me, maybe the reason why I fell for them was the look in his eyes.
He seemed so confident and calm at the very same time, for someone breaking the law or was it the fact that he belongs to a society that dictates how woman, children and even vulnerable people should behave?
There was something about him which made me not go and open a case of rape and assault against him. Up until today I have not shared the gruesome details of that horrific night in 2006 with any of my family members except the partner I am dating, because we believe in honesty. A few of my friends also know because I told them when we were intoxicated.
Thanks to that ceremony, today I am challenged to write about what I have gone through. Just like my shadow, the pain of being raped is never gone but I have managed to hide it very well, up until when my family was busy preparing for the big day.
As a black child coming from a big family like mine, you are always subjected to or expected to act in a certain way in terms of the family values you grew up with. Greats emphasis is put on traditions, when and who you marry, with enormous expectations of having children to carry forth your clan name.
Growing up I have always been different from all the other children in my family and was never teased about how I looked or my sexuality but the whole week leading up to the ceremony was a little bit awkward and tense. My two uncles with their wives were around, also my aunt (my mother’s sister) for the ceremony. It had been a while since the family came together like that, since they organised my late mother’s funeral. This time the meeting was different all together; my cousin who was younger than me was getting married soon and everyone was excited getting ready for the Lobola negotiations.
At this point in time, I do not feel like I belong to this family. I always thought that my family understood me and that I was different and no amount of gossip or lies would ever come between us. They never even imposed the family values on me as something I needed to follow to gain their approval.
Even though I have performed imbeleko (when a goat is slaughtered to welcome you into the family) and ulwaluko (circumcision as a rite of passage from being a boy to a man), I have spent my whole life with these people but today I do not feel comfortable around them and my mind is trying so hard to protect my heart from the hurt, hence it wanted not to remember the week-long preparation to the ceremony.
I looked back to the day I was raped and gained some perspective. I gained power from within and realised that all men wanted something in common and that is to be heard not just to be seen. One of the elders in my family made a comment about how I socialise with woman in general.
His words were belittling, assuming since I am a homosexual, I belong in the same box he puts woman into. This is what he sees me as and that is not something new to me and if there is any truth to it, the man that raped me confirmed it long before and I always knew that there is a certain requirement you need to have, to be considered as a real man in the black community.
In December 2008, I went to the mountain. It was a big achievement for me as I went there with the money I worked hard for and, I wanted to prove to my uncles that I would come back alive and as a homosexual man we can also follow and succeed in doing that ritual.
Both of my uncles were never around during the time I was in initiation school. It never bothered me that much because they were working far away and would come back to attend the coming home celebration.
I came back and I was a man, people started to respect me and the attention I was getting made me feel worthy and that made me to be selfless. In my mind, I created high expectations for myself and the environment I was in and the kind of thinking that I have adopted was something like: “I must do well. People must always think well of me. If I don’t bring glory to the family name, I will bring shame.”
Such self-talk brought about an irrational fear of failure and tremendous guilt if I haven’t achieved anything that is not outstanding and worthy of credit. This is the time when I did not feature on any list of priorities in my life. Everyone else’s needs were always more important than my own. Even today I still battle but reading about other people’s challenges and writing about my own has proven therapeutic.
Tell us: What have you learned reading this story?