Interview With MTV Shuga: Social Stigma
Abuse can never be justified!
In the last instalment of our three-part series, Muzi Mthembu (‘Diliza’ from #MTVShugaDS) and Phumlani Kango (MTV Shuga contributor) describe their experiences of social stigma and discrimination in South Africa. After sharing their thoughts on identity and ‘coming out’, the pair broke down stigma for the Shugafam…
In episode 9, we saw Reggie on the receiving end of physical and verbal abuse from the very people that he thought he could trust. Q and the soccer boys showed their true colours, and showered our boy with insults, before Q eventually beat him up.
Being targeted by your closest allies because of your sexuality is wrong. No one deserves to be beaten up or insulted because of their sexual identity. Reggie’s story in #MTVShugaDS shows us how some people are treated in society, and that even the smallest words can cut to your very core.
Importantly, we saw Reggie stand up for himself and go back to the very people that turned him away. Rather than seek them out physically, Reggie showed that by being true to himself and returning to soccer practice, he was not going to give in to the social pressure and abuse that his friends directed his way. This is NOT an easy thing to do, and is not always possible (remember fam, safety first); but sticking to his principles has meant that Reggie is being the truest version of himself.
Find out what social stigma and discrimination look like below, as Muzi and Phumlani serve us a dose of some #RealTalk…
MTV Shuga: Have you ever experienced physical or verbal abuse because of your sexual identity?
I have never been physically assaulted, because I am lucky to have friends that always stand up for me. I have, however, been verbally abused; people uttering the usual slurs “Moffie, Stabane” and on some occasions I would get a “sies” when I walked past. I try and not let it get to me but there are days where I retaliate, but even then I fear for my safety because people are just looking for a reaction so they can physically harm you.
It’s ironic but the most physical and emotional abuse I have gotten for my sexual orientation came when it was still only alleged. Once I came out, it all stopped. I’ve learned that it’s not so much being different but rather being afraid to be different that people respond to.
MTV Shuga: Is there anywhere you can turn to for help if you have been discriminated against? Do you feel confident enough to report instances of abuse?
Sadly, I know of no places (doesn’t mean there aren’t, but I do not know of any) because even when you go and report an incident with the police, you may be ridiculed or your case will not be taken seriously.
I do feel confident about reporting abuse and discrimination, but that is largely because I live in an amazing country and city that has such respect for LGBT rights. A lot of my confidence comes from having such progressive legislation in my land of birth.
MTV Shuga: How supportive have your family and friends been? Have you had any support or backlash from your community?
Family and friends have ALWAYS been supportive as well as the gay community, however in the general community there are those who go against the grain and just further the hatred.
My family and friends are great allies. They support me and allow me to grow in all my endeavors. I am truly blessed.
MTV Shuga: Have you been to any LGBT support groups or networks?
I usually go to networks created on social media; there are events that cater for the LGBT community by creating a safe space where we can all meet and celebrate each other. We get to listen to talks and also have a good time. One of these events was Queers on Smash, which was held in Cape Town last year, and it was AWESOME!!
In varsity I was part of the gay society on campus, and also participated in a forum for queer youth every Thursday. I think I miss that environment the most.
MTV Shuga: Why do you think there is so much stigma on being a young gay boy or girl, especially a gay black boy or girl?
People do not understand the LGBT community PERIOD and do not want to understand us. For a long time being gay or lesbian was considered an illness and it was a norm to be hostile towards gay people. Nothing has really changed because now there’s also this belief that being gay is a choice, which further perpetuates this stigma.
Religion also perpetuates this stigma and people tend to hide behind the fact that the bible states, “no man shall lie with another man” whilst ignoring the scriptures that apply to their very own sins, but that’s a story for another day. In the black community, “bazothini abantu” (“what people are going to say”) has contributed to the way black gay men/women are treated by the families, because society blames the family when their child comes ‘out’, which furthers this stigma of being gay.
I believe that it is misogyny- the hatred of women- that is at the heart of homophobia. In gay men it is believed that homosexuality is emasculating and that the men in question want to be treated as women, while lesbians face (the worst) stigma because it’s about women engaging in sex for their own pleasure and not procreation, and lastly, that the said pleasure excludes men. I believe that the revolution will only come once we resolve our issues with gender.