Leliphi eli’nxeba nithetha ngalo.

inxeba

African cultures and traditional beliefs are for African people and only African people that is. No one can and should ever take that away from black people. More in particular amaXhosa, this is their story. Making reference in particular with the movie called Inxeba, the ‘wound’. This movie was directed by a white man called John Trengove. His identity is important because he is the one who put this film together, he is the directed of this film. As a white man, speaking and creating work on behalf of black men, is not okay and can never ever be acceptable.

I have seen the trailers of this film and it is a film that speaks about the Xhosa initiation which speaks about isiko loLwaluko. This traditional cultural practice is a practice that Xhosa boys go through to become men, or rather be recognised as men in the Xhosa society. The film speaks about all the sacred practices that are done in kweli siko loLwaluko. This is absolutely wrong, for so long black bodies have everything taken away from them, with white people have been doing; the constant taking and then capitalising from taking what is not there’s. John Trengove cannot and should not have directed this film, and a black queer Xhosa man should have written and directed this film it is their story to tell. Black history has been white washed, and straight washed because of colonialism, and because of white people being the face of these conversations. Utata uMpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu speaks about how the screening of this movie is problematic, however I agree with him to an extent.

Article: http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2017/08/17/outcry-film-showing-xhosa-initiation-rite/

I having gone through this ritual it is sacred and it only belongs to the Xhosa people, and people who have gone to the mountain, and the Xhosa families, no one else. Trengove is going to make money through this film, yet again a white person taking something from the black society. ‘Africa a society known for nothing good, but their interesting rituals”. This film later discusses homosexuality in the black culture, in particular kweli’siko loLwaluko. This for me becomes interesting and, it is of much importance that it is indeed discussed by the Xhosa community. Sexualities are very important and it is very much important to speak about homosexuality, and other queer sexualities in this ritual, for it is very heternormative. Indeed hyper masculinity does exist in this space, and it is oppressive for other bodies, especially the people who do not subscribe to this binary. I did not when I participated in this ritual. I too felt excluded, as a trans womxn. However, my main point is that this conversation should have been led by a black Xhosa man who identified to be part of the queer community.

This narrative is about “Traditon and sexuality” says Bathanda Mvundla. This is a conversation that is needed to be had, within the Xhosa community about how masculinity is defined within the black community and more in particular within the Xhosa culture. Bathanda claims to not have gone to the mountain. Therefore, personally he does not deserve to speak on behalf of queer black Xhosa bodies who have, indeed not all our lived realities are going to be the same, however how does one who has never been in that context begin to speak on behalf of people who have lived that reality, surely the narrative will be fragmented by nature. This cannot be acceptable. Thando and malusi have allegedly written the script for this film. In the interview above he speaks about consulting a cultural leader, because they had to “check their privilege”. As people who know nothing about this particular Xhosa experience. This is respectable and appropriate, however the main rules one is told in that space is for them not to speak about what is done in that space, so the cultural leader who gave them this information is definitely not an authentic cultural leader, because surely he would have told them all the processes of the film. With this story being the face of John and Bathanda people who do not know a lot about it, this important story losses its legitimacy. This is my main argument. This movie would have been more impactful and powerful if the body who went through these experiences narrated it and was the absolute face of it.

The main point of this film it is to educate people about the Xhosa culture, and more in particular Xhosa people who participate tradition. The point of this film to change the narrative and inform misinformed ideas about black masculinity and sexuality. How can this begin to happen if Xhosa men plan to boycott it and get it banned.

This film is so important for the Xhosa community. It speaks about the realities of sexuality and that sexuality is not what we have always thought it is. Sexuality is more complex than what has been presented to us by this heteronormative queerphobic colonial history. African cultures have always had fluid genders and sexualitites. Trans bodies were kings and queens, seen as Gods. Sexuality was seen to be fluid, heteronormativity was not a norm, but something that also existed like queer identities. There needs to be a conversation of this black masculinity that breeds in that space, problematising its fragility and the violent nature which it asserts its patriarchy amongst other black masculine bodies.

The epitome of blackness is not, and has never been that black cis-het body. It is all who are black. Singama Xhosa we need to know this, and begin to have conversations about the authenticity of gender, and it existing in black spaces, nakuthi maXhosa.

 

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Beholding Love

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How can you ever begin to love another person, but you do not know how it feels like to be loved? How can you love another, but you have never felt love? To let your body and soul be completely controlled or rather vulnerably available for another? How can you begin to trust the world and society if all that you have received is mistrust and hatred?

Erich Fromm mentions in his book that all are bound to fail in love because when one looks at love they look at it from a point of view of wanting to be loved back, and never from a point of view of wanting to love another, for the sake of loving. In other words, he says that love will not work until I love you for loving you (Fromm, vii: 1957). I associate this kind of love with my family, especially my siblings. I love them so much, probably more than my parent. They know my heart, because we shared the same bed, they know my blackness because them too live in black bodies, they know my body because we bath in the same bathtub, they know my weaknesses because they see them me struggle every day, they know my transsness because they see it through my soul..

Love is no longer about loving a person, because society in general is commodified (Fromm, 1: 1957). The superstructure of society is capitalism, the essence of capitalism is to make a lot of money as much as possible, and putting a price on everything, and this is why sex appeal has become a necessity. We have commodified our bodies and have set a standard of what love is and how it should look like. This is partly the reason why sex appeal has somehow become a necessity in society. This does also exist within the Trans community. The most valuable bodies in this community it is the people who have passing privilege, meaning they pass as cis-gendered people. I do not have passing privilege. I used to be very embarrassed and ashamed because of that, because there is violence that comes with that, from experiencing Trans misogyny when I walk to PnP during the day to being told which bathroom to use at the Rat, where you will 99.9 percent of the time will experience transphobia in both bathrooms, especially in male bathrooms. There is a particular way one has to look to be worthy of being loved by another, especially as a Trans body, hence the former violent terms in the Trans community: transgender or transsexual. These terms creates a hierarchy of who is the most womxn within the Trans community as if we are not all womxn, and do not have the same struggles at the end of the day.

When Trans bodies become sex workers it is not just a means of survival and finding ways of making money, because we have been excluded from society. It is also this need of receiving love from a man and them confirming our womxness, validating our identity, and that we too, are enough to be loved by them, because we are lucky to be loved, love is a privilege for a trans body. Fromm mentions there is some kind of a transaction between two bodies that claim to like each other (Fromm, 3:1957). For my Trans body it is sex, and intimacy I give you sex/intimacy in return give me love, and validation. This is how society implicitly regulates my body and my identity.

Fromm looks at love from a very unique lens, he looks at it from a lens of learning to love. People need to love for the sake of loving and not for the sake of receiving love. For he says love is not instant (Fromm, 2:1957). I am still learning to do this. I am still learning to love a person because they exist, but I too need to be loved. I can honestly only love another only if they promise to love my body.

The nature of love for me is intricate. I am still trying to understand it. To be honest I do not think I will ever be able to love another unconditionally, from looking at Fromm’s definition of what love is. I cannot love, and I probably will never be able to love another. Right now, I am still learning to love me. I cannot love another for my body is excessively complex to be loved by you. Only now am I beginning to make sense of it.

Activism and Transformation 2018 SRC

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Hello to everyone! I am uPhumelele Nkomozake, known mostly as u’Phumi’ on campus and I will be running for the SRC, in particular the Activism and Transformation portfolio.

Just to know a little more about me. I am currently doing my second year majoring in Drama and Journalism, and also taking Psychology. The co-president of the ‘Nkoli-Fassie’ society which was formerly known as ‘Outrhodes’. I am a presenter at RMR, ‘sex and sexualities’ show, an Iintetho zobomi tutor and a Huffington post contributor, blogger, and this is my blog 🙂 .

The reason I am running for this portfolio is because I am passionate about transformation. Not only is it passion that drives me to be part of transformation, but it is understanding the essence of being a marginalised body, and needing transformation to exist with security. I want inclusive transformation, because this institution and society at large needs it. Ndicela sitshintshe.

Please vote for INCLUSIVE TRANSFORMATION.

VOTE FOR ME TO MAKE IT HAPPEN IN 2018.

PHUMELELE NKOMOZAKE for Activism and Transformation 2018.

 

 

SA Idols “Is it a boy?”

 

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As I  watched Arshen Madlopha audition in SA Idols this year I was excited, for the first time you are seeing representation, the kind of representation as a Trans womxn that I do not always see all the time. However, this was not representation for me, as a black trans womxn this was shame. I was shamed and they were shamed, Arshen Madlopha was shamed for ‘confusing’ the judges whether they are a man or a woman.

We live in a country that has queer rights, however still that does not protect the lives of  queer people, especially those who do not have the privilege of having passing privilege. “Is it a boy?” Kelly Khumalo would like to know, SA Idols? Listening to those linguistics, is ‘it’. What is ‘it’?, the non-binary body, was ‘it’ not Arshen, but ‘it’. This is the violence non-binary bodies experience everyday and it was evidently expressed on the SA Idols show. In no way was Arshen given their dignity to state their pronoun and how they would like to be addressed. Instead a whole queer activist, well nothing, but an entertainer because that is all what queer people do,  entertain, Somizi, he then says “Walk like a lady” Again this is the kind of violence trans and non-binary people experience within the queer community. The judgement and expectation of explicitly having to express their ‘preferred gender’ to confirm their traness. This is the violent policing of trans bodies transess. I was completely disappointed in Somizi, but having no expectation was the expectation I was suppose to have on him, for he is nothing, but a black queer man, who completely compliments, enjoys and benefits from the queer stereotype. Representation is very important, but you sir, do not represent me, Somizi, instead of respecting them, you were in the forefront of ridiculing them on national television!

This could have been the best opportunity to represent, respect and show the rest of the country how to treat and give trans or non-binary bodies dignity. This is what the SA Idol judges should have done, You should asked their pronoun to give them dignity, they deserve. The questions you asked behind their back were completely disgusting and pathetic. As judges of colour you should already know,  the black body has no dignity and you stripped Arshen of all the dignity they had when they walked into that room by “walk, walk like a lady, yaaaas girl” already expecting some Lady Gaga performance from them, because that is what we have become, nothing, but a performance.

Now this is what SA Idols is going to do, you are going to APOLOGISE, for shaming Arshen’s identity.. You are going to apologise for taking the little dignity they already did not have. You are going to confess that you are FUCKY and that actually you do not care about anyone, and only care about making money out of humour, any humour, even if it means further marginalising the already marginalised people. People who are killed for being trans, non binary and non-comforming, people who are correctively raped because we are the ‘sin’. People who experience the depth of poverty because of their identity. After that, Somizi you are going to apologise to the queer community and say that actually you are not a good representation and that your fame is for you and not for us black queer bodies. Never will you in this life time nor the next, will you be a fraction of what Simon Nkoli was. I will be looking for SA Idols’s apology like they looked for Arshen Madlopha’s adams apple. Searching for it, like the idol you are searching for, who I hope does not embody the conduct of this show.

Links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/2017/07/31/dear-idols-sa-judges-trans-shaming-is-notfunny-apologise-to-a_a_23057433/

Let me Pee Peacefully…

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Transformation is very significant especially when it comes to transforming spaces in which people live in and spaces in which people are bound to find themselves in regardless of whether they want to or not. For instance, bathrooms. Let us please pee peacefully.

For every trans and non-binary body it is always a problem when one uses the bathroom. As a trans-womxn with all my experiences I find myself struggling to use the bathroom, because I do not feel safe, nor comfortable. When I enter male bathrooms, I feel very unsafe for they are usually transphobic, or they begin to forcefully sexually impose themselves on me in the bathrooms. I have had all these encounters, so I have started using the female bathrooms, and yes, I feel much safer, but not completely safe. When I enter female bathrooms, I also experience transphobia. This kind of transphobia that I experience in female bathrooms is more of looks or even sometimes them telling me “what are you doing there?”, or sometimes them just walking out when they notice that you are a trans-womxn. All this is Transphobia and it is psychologically taxing and frustrating for queer, trans bodies, my body.

Gender neutral bathrooms are not the solution, they are temporary solutions, because safety is very significant. I, as a trans woman should be able to exist in female bathrooms and queer bodies should be able to exist with their sexuality in those spaces.

links:

 

Transracial<Transgender

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Race and gender are very different identities and they carry different kinds of weight. These identities place a lot of significance on one’s physical biological features. To look like and be identified like a black person one must have a fair amount of melanin to not pass as white. To be a woman one must have the physical biological features of a woman to be recognised as a woman.
Rachel Dolezal is a Transracial woman. She claims to have identified as a black woman from a very young age (E interview). Rachel Dolezal was fired from the African American civil rights organisation, after she was exposed by her parents that she was born white (City Press article). According to the city Press article “Rachel misrepresented herself to obtain academic positions”. This means that Rachel lied and said she is black so that she could receive certain state privileges that are set aside for people of colour receive.
In the E interview Johanne says, “How can you pretend to be the victim”. As I was watching this interview, I found a kind of violation that was happening here, whereby we now want Rachel to prove that she is black, and to perform her blackness. Johanne continued to say, “Deceived people into believing that you are something that you are not”. We have immediately not given Rachel the opportunity to express herself, and to speak about her identity as a transracial person. Johanne then later asks Rachel is this not a result of white guilt. She later says, she is “pretending to be black”. There is something very much uncomfortable about the interview. As a transgendered woman, I felt very uncomfortable, because these are questions that I have and continue to be asked by society. I believe that we have not given Rachel a comfortable platform to express herself and tell us about her identity. I fear that misrepresentation is happening with her own story and identity.
Xolela Mangcu later wrote an article Whites can be Blacks too saying that Rachel is indeed a black woman. He is using Steve Bako’s philosophy to explain the reason for his statement. According to Xolela Mancgu said, “Blacks are all those who are, by law and tradition, discriminated against and identify as a unit towards their aspirations.” This means that to be a black person, you must go through what people of colour go through. Meaning the endless racism, the discrimination, being looked down and looked up when entering a store and being followed by the security guard.
Biko said that “blackness is a reflection of a mental attitude – skin pigmentation has nothing to do witih it” (City Press article). If one follows Steve Biko’s philosophy regarding words, it means that indeed Rachel Dolezal is a black person. Biko clearly says that Blackness is a reflection of mental attitude meaning that people tell themselves that they are black, this is part of Steve Biko’s black consciousness. Therefore, if one uses Biko’s philosophy to analyse Transracial bodies Rachel Dolezal is a black woman. Rachel says that she is a black woman to the point whereby she has taken the necessary steps to look like a black person. For instance, curling her hair, and tanning her skin to the point she is not white passing. I can relate to this as a Trans woman I do this. I dress in female clothes. I wear makeup, find and practise any possible things to fully articulate and show my womaness to the world. A Trans journey is a journey that needs the self and the other. The self as in the trans body, making a mental attitude about their Transness. For instance, I decided and told myself knowingly that I am a woman, regardless of what my body represents itself as. Inside I know I a female and a woman. This is my mental attitude which has taken me two decades. The other comes in when one speaks of society and people in general, confirming and certifying one’s identity. This is now where I have finally found the confidence to be tell society to refer to me which female pronouns. This is where Rachel Dolezal is now, whereby she is telling society that she is a black woman.
Biko later says skin pigmentation has nothing to do with blackness the race. However, I disagree with this. Race is not just a mental attitude, race has to do with biology. You must look like a black person. For instance, dark toned skin, not white passing, to be black is not just looking like a black person, it is going through black experiences growing up as a person of colour. Therefore, one can ask is being black about the lived experiences of one or the pigmentation. I believe it is both. One needs the other to exist. According to Mancgu in the article, ‘there is no such thing as pure black or pure white”. This means everyone has a bit of both races. This seems to undermine the power and strength biology and physical features play in determining one’s lived experiences. For instance, black children that are adopted by white people experience an existential crisis. For so long you grow up in a white environment with white people, and you probably have a connection to them (white adoptive parents), so you identify to be white without consciously making that decision, but you begin to recognise that you do not look like a white person, because you are black. However, even if you grow up and live in such an environment you cannot run away from the black lived experiences that come with the colour of your pigmentation, being black. Even as a black adopted child, you will be treated differently in that environment, maybe not by your adoptive parents, but by your neighbours, friends, teachers and other extended community. You will be followed in the shops, because you are black. If Rachel was born biologically black and identified as white, I do not think she would have received much publicity, that is because society and people in general are shaped and made to aspire to whiteness, because whiteness is the norm in society. That would have been seen to be normal or okay. I have come understand that blackness is about experience, however one cannot say that biology does not matter, because when I am in public spaces before I even speak, people see a black transgendered woman, or a man who has dressed up in female attire. That does influence the way in which that individual treats me. I constantly must prove my femininity to the world, try and be lady-like to push this narrative that I am indeed a woman.
Rachel Dolezal is a black woman according to Xolela Mangcu. I also think she is a black woman, however all the white privilege she has been afforded with in her white body, I do not think she can ever come to understand the essence of blackness. As a woman who has a Trans struggle I can never fully understand the essence of being in a female body, because I have been biologically robbed of having one. What I understand is the lived experiences of being a woman in a man’s body.

 

 

Impact of colourism on Trans women

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Slavery, colonialism and the Apartheid system are all systems that were invented to bring about the oppression of black people and people of colour in general. These oppression systems brought about racism and explicit hate towards black people. This kind of hate and racism also exists within the black communities. This kind of racism and discrimination exists within the black community itself, it works through a system called colourism.
What colourism does is that it rewards and compliments those black bodies and people of colour who aspire and to look like white people. For instance, in the black community people who are lighter skinned are seen to be more beautiful and sexually appealing. There is this constant thing in the black community who whereby we see and believe that whiteness is the most superior race and way of being. Therefore, there is this constant need and desire to meet the standards and expectations of being a white person, and performing their identity. Therefore, people say that whiteness is a disease. The body itself is not a disease, but the presence and the way in which history has shaped whiteness to be a norm, it has led to the dehumanisation of everything that is not white or westernised and has afforded all that possess these white norms what we call in today’s society white privilege, and has taxed black spaces with colourism.
In the documentary Dark Girls, the girls in the documentary speak about their experiences about being dark skinned and their experiences growing up in their black communities This constantly consists of being teased and abused emotionally by the black community because of their dark pigmentation. This documentary looks at the abused and their experiences growing up in the black community. Colourism affects people of colour and black people in general, but I believe that it mostly affects feminine bodies, women and transwomen in general. There is this constant need and understanding that everything that is feminine and beautiful has to be light skinned to be seen as worthy to be feminine and beautiful.
In the documentary, the dark girls speak about how they feel less womanly and the black men also speak about how they find light skinned women to be more attractive. This goes back to how history and that includes of the oppression of black bodies they have also been put in a position to always aspire and want to need to be black. When I think of the epitome of beauty I think of a white girl with blonde hair. This shows that the way in which we see and think of beauty is firstly of a white standard and of a white body. Therefore, in order for a black body to feel beautiful especially bodies that identify with the feminine gender have to constantly try and be as white as possible, this includes of slowly conforming to the white culture in general. This power of conforming and whiteness has also led to a lot of celebrities to bleach their skin. For instance, Lil’Kim, Mshoza and Khanyi Mbau.
I know when I was growing up I used to experience a lot violence at school and at home. Whereby when I had a conversation with someone and arguments raised one could use my complexion as a means of dehumanising me or just belittling me saying; “Awuse’mnyama” meaning, “You are so black”. This kind of hate and discrimination is within the black community and it oppresses other black bodies, which are obviously dark skinned.
According to the article I wrote on my blog last year, “Even now. I sometimes do struggle with my complex, especially having the pressure of not having passing privilege. I try to make myself look lighter, for light skin is associated with beauty. Light skin is associated with femininity. From a young age, I was told and taught to hate implicitly and indirectly myself. They taught me blackness is “either/or, not both”. Blackness is being African. Blackness is being straight. Blackness is possessing conservative masculine ideals. Blackness does not consist of queerness.  Blackness is an implicit reminder that I cannot be Trans. If I am Trans, then I cannot be African, black or Xhosa. It is a reminder that I cannot be a woman for I am in this black man’s body. ” I link this quote with this discussion.
As a Transwoman. Colourism is something that is a burden. Whereby, because being a woman is closely associated with femininity and having light skin or complexion. This is what I aspired to be, feminine and having light skin. I remember I went through a phase in high school whereby I bleached my skin considering trying to perform my authentic gender to the best of my ability. I obviously had side effects and had to stop using the cream. This is exactly what we spoke about in my conversation, and this is also a result of lack of dark skinned girl’s representation on media. I was going to Clicks to go buy make-up, I could not find foundation that suited my skin tone. I was left with no choice, but to take foundation that is a semi-tone lighter than my natural complexion. The beauty industry also works and pushes us to hate or find ourselves undesirable, leaving us aspiring to nothing, but whiteness and being light skinned.

 

Beholding Race and Gender

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Steve Biko was the elected Chairman of SASO publications. He was a very prominent anti-Apartheid South African activist. Known for his famous book; ‘I write what I like’. When I read Biko’s book the narrative was rightfully about the black man in Africa, and about how the black body needs to live in a black spaces, and try not be black in a white space. This kind of emancipation begins with one realising that they are black. This is his formation of the black consciousness. After defining back consciousness, he then goes to creating implicit separations between black, white and a non-white body. This separation forms implicit definitions of what blackness is. I then pose a question, which this essay plans to answer. “Can we look at gender the same way we look at race?”
South African white people are a group of people who receive and enjoy inherent privileges of being white. Privilege is something you are given, and have not worked for. According to Biko “It is a community of people who sit to enjoy a privileged position that they do not deserve”. White people in South Africa enjoy an extraordinary amount of privilege that has been paved and constructed by colonialism and by the Apartheid system in South Africa. That is why there is white privilege. This kind of white privilege goes beyond just living in a white body. Whiteness has become an institutionalised culture that you will find in most social institutions. This white culture was founded and constructed by the historical events that occurred in South Africa; which is colonialism and Apartheid. White people still benefit from the colonial and apartheid structures in this country. Therefore, with this being the case it means that if and when one is born another race other than white; it means you will be at a disadvantage by the virtue of your skin colour, which you did not decide upon.
The way in which the African National Congress (ANC) and the president Nelson Mandela dealt with this white privilege and uniting people in the post-Apartheid South Africa still put the black child in a disadvantaged position, this is why you will find that most people that are underprivileged in this country it is still the majority, which is people of colour. The kind of transformation the ANC practised was of a fabricated and artificial nature. It was navigated by what is called integration. This kind of integration forced parties of different races to forcibly integrate as much as they were previously forcibly segregated. According to Biko, “The integration they talk about is first of all artificial in that it is a response to conscious manoeuvre rather than to the dictates of the inner soul”. In other words the people forming the integrated complex have been extracted from various segregated societies with their inbuilt complexes of superiority and inferiority and these continue to manifest themselves even in the non-racial set-up of the integrated complex”. Therefore this kind of integration that is practised is redundant, for there is no kind of transformation, individuals still believe and practise practices and beliefs they once did in their segregated ‘safe spaces’. This integration can therefore and should not be regarded as transformation, for there is no action of changing one’s moral system, which makes it unproductive. Biko then defines the authentic result of integration to be, “Once the various groups within a given community have asserted themselves to the point that mutual respect has to be shown then you have the ingredients for a true and meaningful integration. At heart of true integration is the provision for each man, each group to rise and attain the envisioned self”.
With this being the result of true integration how do you then begin with the process of placing black people with white people? This process will only be effective once black people practise Steve Biko’s black consciousness. Black consciousness is the process by which the body is made aware of their blackness and their reflection of their mental attitude about their blackness. So much has been taken away from people colour. More than three centuries of enslavement, then followed by the oppression of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. How can one begin to undone what has been done to black bodies? How can one begin to undo the years of imprisonment? One cannot begin to undo what has been done to bodies of colour because it has already been done. One cannot unfold inferiority complex of black bodies that has been deeply contrasted for centuries. The thing that should be done now it is to liberate black bodies, by practising and advertising black consciousness.
Once we have begun with the process of conscious awakening black people of their blackness, and white people of their undeserving white privilege, will we then transform authentically. When approaching this transformation process there will have to be a fine level of defining what blackness constitutes as what. The nature of defining something limits that thing, by giving it certain boundaries. Therefore by the virtue of wanting to define blackness we have begun with the process of confining it in a box and excluding some bodies. However, if we leave it and not define it, we will not know what it is, leaving the definition of blackness floating around with the potential of it being anything. This is the same as sex and gender. The fact that we have begun with the process of defining and describing how a man and a woman looks like, we have already begun with separating these two bodies and defining them separately.
Steve Biko does mentions that we are not all white, but we are not all lack too, there are also non-whites. According to Biko, “If one’s aspiration is whiteness out of his pigmentation makes attainment of this impossible, then that person is a non-white. Anyone man who a white man “Baas”. Any man who serves in the police force or security branch is ipso facto a non-white.” Therefore, to my understanding a non-white is a black body who conforms to whiteness and is not aware about their blackness, and I guess the only thing that prevents that body from being completely white is because their skin has too much melanin (black). Steve Biko in this instance is implicitly already defining blackness, and it all begins with one having to be black. He is implicitly saying that black bodies are inevitably black by virtue of their pigmentation they can then make the decision to be aware of their blackness or not, or choose to be white. This makes them non-whites. Therefore non-whites are black bodies that aspire to be white. Contextualising this to my identity. As a black Xhosa Transwoman, I am biologically male, but I identify as female. According to Biko’s definition of non-whites. What does this make me, non-female? I am in this instance completely aware of my absolute male body, however I still do not identify as male. This also makes me question if race and gender can be treated the same.
There is a case study whereby two white parents during the Apartheid had a coloured baby. Her name is Sandra Laing. Sandra Laing had physical biological features of a black person, even though her parents were both white. She was identified to be biologically white after doing numerous DNA tests, she was indeed biologically white. This could be a possible case study to explain transgendered and transsexual bodies. Our emotions and identity are completely strong they defy our physical biological appearances. There has to be a similar instance to Sandra’s whereby there is a biological make-up error. I am definitely not a non-female.
Race and gender should be identified as equal identities in terms of entitlement, but the make-up of these identities are unique in their own instances. Therefore one cannot and should not completely use the same principles when evaluating and analysing race and gender. Race is centred by whiteness, and gender is centred by heteronormativity.

 

The Tragedy of Black Feminism

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Marginalised bodies in history have always come together to fight for themselves. The only time we are strong is when we stand together and mobilise in our masses. This is how battles have been won in history. Only then will the privilege together with our oppressors step aside and recognise our bodies, and how they, society subconsciously violate us.

Each and every movement I join I do not completely feel comfortable, for I have other struggles than the one the movement might specifically focus on. For instance, the Fees Must Fall movement was a movement that fought for the proletariat class to be able to access the higher education and training spaces in South Africa. This movement therefore looked at class, however it also looked at race and decolonising the educational sectors in South Africa. Fees must fall fought for black bodies too. These were the two intersections struggles that were recognised in this movement well at least here at the Rhodes University FMF. Funny enough most the people that lead this movement, those were their only struggles they faced, race and class. As a Black Xhosa Trans woman who comes from the proletariat class, I could not navigate that space, for it was rigid and parts of it erased my other struggles that included not only with race and class, but also my sex and gender identity.

I continued being part of the movement, because somehow as a marginalised black Queer/Trans body you always taught from a young age to put class and race first, and then can you include your gender, even better ignore it. This is how black spaces operate. This is how they socialised us, this is how they socialised me to always put my gender last because it is not valid in African and black spaces. Therefore, it cannot be put on the same platform with other black African identities especially race. You will find that patriarchy and queerphobia are the two biggest breeding factories, within the black communities.

The FMF movement at Rhodes University was mostly led by Black men. Patriarchy inevitably existed within the spaces. However, this kind of patriarchy was performed by black men who mostly embodied black masculinity. There is something explicitly triggering about black masculinity. Black masculinity is overwhelming unapologetically dominant. It is the kind of masculinity that exists and thrives via the oppression of female and feminine bodies. Therefore, if femininity never existed, masculinity wouldn’t too. I know this because as a black Trans woman, you are forced into those black masculine spaces, due to you possessing physical features that are identified by society to be that of a ‘man’, and because they (Black people) want to undo your transness  and unlearn this appalling gender that you seem to exhibit in black public spaces. They will even do what my father did, sending me off to a boys school. My father hoped that school would undo my transness and somehow I would become a ‘normal’ boy. One that embodies masculinity, trash that is, not femininity. However, being in such spaces, made me come to understand that men are trash.

Men have always been trash, and they too know this. They love it, it enhances their masculinity. The essence of trash here is not men, the physical body, but their gender masculinity. They possess the most disgusting ideals and behaviours under the labeling of calling it normal, being a boy, or ‘boys will be boys’ shit. I have always known men are trash. Therefore, when the FMF movement begun I was waiting patiently for trash to showcase itself, and this was the reality. This is why FMF was not successful at Rhodes because the people and men in particular that led it were trash and showcased this in their leadership whilst leading the movement. You will find that most of the time in the movement the number of people decreased every day, including myself. The kind of marginalisation one receives in black spaces especially Trans and Queer black bodies is shocking. Having your whole identity being reduced to being a ‘theory”. These are the realities of Queer and Trans bodies in black movements.

However, the #MenAreTrash movement begun. The start of this movement made me excited and I could not wait to experience and be part of a women’s struggle. Led by women for women. Finally women have found the strength and courage to voice out their opinions about men and how men are oppressive to them. As a women I am beyond excited to voice out my struggles and the trash that I have experienced from men and masculinity. The first meeting we had was at Rhodes University on Wednesday 17 of May 2017, #UnpackingMenAreTrash. I was completely excited about this discussion. When the discussion begun, I found myself uncomfortable within those female/women spaces where I always thought I felt safe while growing up. I begun to feel uncomfortable, and unwelcome. The scariest part was when I made the correlation and felt the same way I felt during FMF when black men lead the movement. This time the Men Are Trash (MAT) movement was led by black women, theoretically black feminism/ists. I still felt this way.

The space was very exclusive, somehow the only people that mattered in that space were black cis-het women. Somehow my experiences were yet again pushed aside as a black Trans women. It was here when I realised that somehow women have internalised the oppressors ways, and have taken the thrown of becoming the new renowned oppressors, in that space. In this case oppressing BLACK FEMININE BODIES, TRANS women and QUEER women. The people who have always been seen to be the most oppressed are now further oppressing people within their spaces who are women.

According to Lorde “It is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognise those differences” (1984:115). In other words within black feminism there is a separation and a divide. This divide exists because black cis-het women refuse to recognise and examine to understand black Queer, Trans, non-conforming and non-binary bodies within the movement. Just like black men did not recognise women and Queer struggles, Cis-het women refuse to recognise Queer black women within the movement. According to Lorde ” black women who were once insisted that lesbanism was a white women’s problem now insisted that black lesbians are a threat to black nationhood, are consorting with the enemy, are basically un-black” (1984:121). Black women have the same pattern and way of thinking as black men. They refuse to recognise queerness and transness to be a legitimate struggle to be placed on the same platform as black and cis-het women realities. This wipes away other intersectional realities and identities. In reality this implicitly delegitimises our identities.

Black feminists seem to further marginalise Queer and Trans women in this already marginalised space. There was once a time when feminism was just a movement that fought for women’s rights. It is when white feminists took the movement for themselves by refusing to recognise the intersectional struggles black women faced within the movement. When white women fought for jobs, black women already had jobs. However, it was the type of jobs that they were fighting for, because they were women and black. They had another struggle which was being black, facing racism. White feminists oppressed black women. White women refused to recognise this and the built in privilege they have (1984:117). This was the establishment of black feminism. Lorde says in her work Freire said “Revolutionary change is never the merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors tactics” (1984:123)

History shows that Black women have been oppressed for so long, by the white man, by the white woman, and even their own husbands, black men on their sides who knowingly confuses rape to be making love to them at night. They, black women are now starting to become the new oppressors. Entering a world of the oppressing. Oppressing us. People like me. Oppressing me.

When I see black feminists I used to feel a sense of pride within me. Until it came to my attention that they too are oppressors and oppress me by not recognising the other struggles that I face being a black transwoman. Being a woman who has a struggle of not only being black, being a woman, but also being a Trans/Queer woman. Black women are oppressive and oppress me. They refuse to recognise this, and the little built in privilege they have as cis-het women, in black female spaces. The privilege of them owning that movement and feeling completely safe, for the movement is located in heteronormative parameters. Not recognising privileges black Trans women do not have like just walking into a bathroom they were assigned with ease. The privilege they have in performing their gender and it being labelled as normal. When cis women experience misogyny. Trans women also experience misogyny, but the kind of misogyny we experience is influenced by transphobia. That we experience not only from men, but from women too. Black women.

Black cis-het feminists have become the new silent oppressors in black women spaces. There will come a time when Trans, Queer, non-conforming and non-binary identifying black women, silently leave black feminism, to create a safe space for themselves. This will be the end of black feminism. Leaving Black feminism/ists looking nothing less than white feminism, redundant. The existence of TERFS like Adichie (Trans, Exclusionary, Radical,  Feminists) within black feminist spaces, will be the tragedy of black feminism. It is only a matter of time. Continue.

Written by: Phumelele Nkomozake

Edited by: Lucky Brian Dlamini

Photographer: Ms. Green

Love that I cannot receive from the outside

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My femininity is very conservative. I rely on the existence of masculinity to exist. They say in sociology identities are relational. I am black in relation to white people. Queer in relation to straight people. I am feminine in relation to masculinity. I am a woman in relation to men. Trans woman in relation to women. Therefore, identities are relational. This means that if one identity did not exist, another probably would not too. Bringing this to my identity, being a Trans woman. I am only a trans woman in relation to women, being identified as woman biologically, through having a vagina. Sex is therefore given a lot of emphasis in expressing and identifying one’s identity and gender.

I am a trans woman because I do not have a vagina. This is the only reason I therefore cannot be a complete woman by society’s laws. I am therefore put in a position to constantly fight and perform my femininity. This entails wearing dresses constantly, aspiring to be soft spoken, submissive and most probably growing my hair and nails, if I do not do this then I therefore immediately and easily fall under the trap of being misgendered.

Looking at my identity as a trans woman I depend on masculinity to fully exist. Masculine bodies confirm my femininity. Masculine bodies make me feel more of a woman because they are men and embody masculinity.

I found myself having feelings for this man. He made me feel more like a woman. He would open doors for me. He would let me in first. This man would give me hugs instead of handshakes. He would hold me tight at night, because no one could see me with him in the dark. No one knew this secret, me. He had this thing whereby if we were together and his friends saw him, he would pretend he does not know me, or pretend to be talking to me on professional grounds. We would cuddle and hold each other in his drunken state, because that was the only time he could find the courage to tell me he loves me. I stayed with him because he made me happy. I thought it was happiness at first. However, being one’s secret cannot and should not bring another happiness. If is does, which at some point it did, then that means there is something wrong.

He never dared to misgender me because I told him I am a woman, although he could not see one, he admitted. He treated me like a woman, because I told him I am one. I remember him telling me this one time that I think there is another guy who I think likes me, and I kinder like him too. He responded and said, “Wait Phumi, is that guy gay?” I was confused and I did not know how to answer his question. This question implicitly erases my whole identity without misgendering me.
Because another man finds me attractive, he must be gay. Is it impossible for a straight man to find me attractive. I am a trans woman. This is my identity. Transness is not a sexuality. It is an identity. I am a woman, and I am attracted to men. What does this make me? Straight I presume so. Trans women are women. For the mere fact that you cannot believe that a man finds me attractive cannot be straight, comes to show that you do not see me as a woman, equivalent to other women. There is a hierarchy, and Trans women are at the bottom of it.

I continued to ask this man, and other people I know;
“would you ever date a woman?”
“Of course, I am straight”.
“Okay” I said… “Would you ever date a Trans woman?”
He replied and said, “no. I mean I don’t know”.

How can I go back to a man like that? How can I go back to someone who does not believe in my person? How can that space be safe for me? How can I stupidly believe all this time he liked me? How can I allow myself to be nothing, but a secret? He brought me joy, and I brought him nothing, but a shameful secret.

In conclusion, we still do not see Trans women as women in society, because we are constantly being compared to other women. When women struggles are being discussed trans women are not included in these discussions. Transness is a woman struggle not a Trans struggle. We have alienated trans women from these spaces. Women have, and continued for so long to reject Trans women in their so called women movements.

I have personally thought about removing the word trans before the woman, ‘Trans woman”. Does this Trans word not make me less of a woman? Does this word not make it harder to be recognised as a woman in social spaces? I cannot help that I am a woman and that I am in a man’s body, and therefore have some masculine physical biological features, that I cannot run away from.

I have come to harshly learn that Trans bodies always have to take care of themselves. No one can help us, and I am completely fine with that. However, how can we ever get justice for ourselves, when the legal and social laws do not recognise nor understand our identities. They say happy Freedom day. How free am I, When am I free; at night or during the day? I will fight for myself. I will love myself. I have to love myself. I only have me here. Now this is love I cannot receive from the outside, and that is why I left him.

Written by: Phumelele Nkomozake

Edited by: Lucky Brian Dlamini

Photographer: Beugene Green