Spoken: Phumelele Nkomozake
composed: Mananya Senona
Picture: Evaan Jason
Please let me pee. As I enter the bathroom, I see him. I look away, I try to hold it in. I go to the toilet and put the seat down I take off my pants I need to pee. As I am about to pee, I hear their voices, his voice. I cannot pee, I do not know what is wrong with my body.I cannot pee in this bathroom, While he is here. I will hold it in. He knows I am in here. He can see through this door. I know it.
Please let me pee. I sit holding onto that toilet seat covered with pee, my hands holding on tightly as I wait for them to leave this room. Yes, sometimes they pee with the toilet seat down, because this is their room. I need him to leave this room.I want to pee, my body refuses to pee.I cannot with him here, he will hear me peeing sitting down. If he sees me it will happen again. He will do it again, cut me with his eyes whilst observing if I still have a penis or not.
I let out a sigh of relief as I am now able to pee in peace for he is no longer here. As I pee holding on to the sides of the toilet seat, I hope I finish in time so I can wash my hands, before he comes in again. Before they come in again. Done, I quickly pull my pants up, tucking it tightly between my thighs, in fear of who might walk in next.
Not concerned with how I look at this point in time, rushing to wash my hands, another one of ‘him’ walks in. My hands are wet not from the water that I used to wash them, but from the beads of sweat created by the fear of being yet again being violated, experiencing misogny, the stares,the unconsented touches that leave you vulnerable to anything, ready for the wild to eat. Vulnerable to them to him. I am scared of him., I am scared of his body, which is the same body that we share. I am not him, I am them, not him.
I had to do it. I had to pee. I could not hold it anymore… Please can I pee. I need to pee. I promise I will be quick. I only need to pee. As pressed as I am,he has to give me permission to pee. Only he exists, his masculinity, not me. Please can I pee.
I cannot choose safety over peeing. I sometimes have to compromise my safety to pee. Just. To. Pee. I have done it. Yes I have peed, and this time he did not do anything. Yes he did assess me, but at least he did not do anything this time. Sometimes peeing while saying a prayer helps. Close your eyes, but not completely!
Photographer: Evaan Ferreira
Edited by: Chili Kier
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.