Everyone in the township of Mafora, Mangaung knew that Tankiso’s family was warm and dignified. As an only child, Tankiso was blessed with parents who worked hard and loved him very much. From an early age, it was clear that Tankiso was clever. His parents were proud of him and continued to encourage him to shine, making sure that they took him to high-level schools where he could excel.

His father would often take him aside and say, “Son, you are loved here at home, and me and your mother are going to do everything in our power to make sure that you get the opportunities you deserve.”

“Thank you, Papa. I will not disappoint you and my ma,” Tankiso would say.

They were talking like this leaning on Tankiso’s bed. He had just arrived back from the fields where he was playing with his friends. Most of his friends were girls. When there were football matches at the fields, you’d never see him participating, he would rather watch with his friends.

“Listen, man,” said Mr Matanka. “Where’s your 2bob?”

“2bob, Papa?” Tankiso asked, with a smile.

“Yes, your girlfriend. I see that you are always among girls and I wonder which one it is.” Mr Matanka said this and turned to look his son in the eye.

“Ah, Papa. I do not look at those people like that. I just like to hang out with them.”

“No problem, son. However, when you decide to fall in love, take care of yourself, man. Use the protection and don’t be afraid to talk to me about these issues,” Mr Matanka said, and got up from the bed. He knew that his son was handsome and smart, and on top of that, their family had a good reputation, so it was not surprising that Tankiso was always among the girls.

Mr Matanka left Tankiso’s room and went to his wife who was sitting in the study. Mrs Matanka was sitting, reading and drinking tea.

“Hey dear, what were you and your son talking about?” she asked, as soon as Mr Matanka entered the room.

“Well, I was just engaging him on masculinity and romantic relationships, but it sounds like he hasn’t reached that stage yet.”

“Hey! Do you think he will tell us if he has a girlfriend? We taught him to focus on his studies and develop himself. He will not open up to you because he is afraid that we will be against such things.”

“We will be against love? Foolish! The ladies like him. I believe there is one he likes among them. It is natural and it is better that we pave the way for discussions on these issues from now on. He doesn’t have to be afraid,” said Mr Matanka, and kissed his wife.

That same year, Tankiso’s parents, through discussion with their son, agreed that Tankiso would complete his Grade 10 to 12 studies at boarding school, living in a hostel. They identified a school outside Mangaung with the view that living away from home would teach Tankiso to be independent. They had a firm hope that their son would behave himself and  continue to excel in his academics at the new school. Most of Tankiso’s friends were saddened to hear that he would be leaving the following year.

“What can I say, Tankiso, because that’s what you decided with your family. There won’t be another guy I can confide in. You are the only person who makes me feel secure,” said Mpene, one of Tankiso’s girlfriends.

Tankiso put his hand on Mpene’s shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about communication; it’s not 1950, we have cell phones. We will talk every now and again.” The two hugged.

Tell us: Should schools include matters related to the LGBTQIA+ in education to raise awareness about the complexities of gender? Why or why not?