Simisola Jolaoso|16.05.2014|Feature Real stories
We spoke to three young LGBT people in South Africa to find out what life is really like for them

Contrary to popular belief, LGBT equality and culture is thriving in parts of Africa, specifically in South Africa. Same-sex marriage has been legal there since 2006, even before the UK and USA!

The media often portrays many countries in Africa as forbidden lands for LGBT individuals, where they are subjected to harsh treatment on a constant basis.

We spoke to three young LGBT people in South Africa to find out what life is really like for them:

Gerard Damstra (Nurse and LGBT activist)

I have always known that I was gay and I never fought it. After school I had an awesome girlfriend for about 2 years. But it got to a point where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I ended up telling her, broke of the relationship, and came out to my whole family. Initially they didn’t take it very well but got over it as time went by.

You obviously still get the homophobic ass that thinks it’s funny to terrorise a gay guy or couple. But the fact that South Africa recognises gay people and same-sex marriages makes it a lot easier.

I love being gay, and our constitution is brilliant! We get to marry who ever we want to and it’s recognised by law. The LGBTI community have freedom of speech and they stand together to make South Africa a better country to live in for everyone. Homophobia may still be an issue in certain parts of the country but we are slowly but surely winning the fight.

Mhudi Khalinkomo (Law Clerk)

In South Africa, I’m afforded the opportunity to declare my love for, marry, and perform acts of PDA [public display of affection] with my partner (of any sex) when and where I please. This is because of activists like Beverly Ditsie and Simon Nkoli who were flamboyant, gay, HIV-positive, and proud.

There are even more spaces for people like us to express ourselves, in gay clubs for example, because of the rights we have and we can all be happy being ourselves.

The biggest struggle I’ve personally faced in my life has been my sexuality. More than anything, it has been an inner-struggle for acceptance and peace within me. Many face tougher challenges than me, like structural inequality; but having these rights are just the beginning for us to live a life of true freedom. The struggle continues.

Brian Sibeko (Health Support Officer and LGBT activist)

As a young gay man I feel privileged to be living in South Africa as my human rights are respected and upheld unlike in other countries. The atmosphere is very welcoming for people like me.

Even the preamble of our country’s constitution says “…South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

I think much credit should be given to all the activists who fought for the legalisation of same-sex marriages. They made the law makers aware of the fact that they would be going against our constitution if they were to deny same sex couples the right to marry because our constitution clearly states that no one should be discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation.

With there still being hate crimes, especially perpetuated against lesbian women in townships; I find myself educating people about the issues of LGBT people. It is my mission to help them understand so that they can change their preconceived ideas about homosexuals.

Click here to find out  what life is like for young LGBT people around the world.

Are you an LGBT person? What’s life like for you where you live?