OPINION: I experienced one of my saddest moments this January 2020 as my father took the opportunity to taunt me yet again. He came up to me and asked me if I have made arrangements for my funeral.
I found that question to be rather odd and puzzling especially being asked this on the eve of my 39th birthday. I laughed at the question however I wish I read more into what he was getting at. He then expanded his random question into crystal-clear clarity.
“Please make sure your gay people know about your burial plans because I will never accept you, even today and even when you die, I will not have anything to do with you.”
I felt a hole crack up in my chest, I was raped and violated and now thirty-nine years later I was reminded that I lost my privilege of being his child. I was still a ‘moffie’ to him.
I forgave him instantly, but took that moment to realise I had to finally ‘cut the cord’ with him and live my life. As a kid, I found life to be utterly simple and carefree, it was all about school, religious studies and family for me. By the time I reached the ripe age of nine, I confronted my secret identity. I was a gay Muslim-Hindu boy and I knew I couldn’t tell anyone about my sexual preference. Of course, at that age being an 80’S child raised by orthodox Muslim and Hindus, the word ‘gay’ was never uttered. It was taboo, dirty and something that was never acknowledged.
As the years passed by, I grew up observing the world with caution always questioning everything. I spent most of my senior year just getting through each day at school being bullied for any reason that suited the school bullies. I would walk past a bunch of illiterate f*cks who would be throwing the word ‘moffie’ out at me, my silence and fear would be my defense. I would recall my grandmother’s voice in a hushed tone repeating, ‘Be Good, Do Good’, that would be the only voice I would use to shut those f*ckers out. I would be taunted DAILY and the word ‘moffie’ became another name I was known by in school.
Each day I would trudge home recollecting the day’s abuse and how much harder it got each day as the harassment, the abuse and the violence would grow against me and others like me. I couldn’t tell anyone around me, not even the gay friends I did have at school. Even my friends were in denial, we all were too afraid to even utter the truth to ourselves. I couldn’t say anything to my family as gay was certainly not okay. So as I would head home, I would mentally ‘fix myself’ before so I could recharge for another day of abuse. I made my way through the complex corridors of sexuality during the 80’s and 90’s understanding that the world did not accept ‘moffies’. I still had no clue what ‘moffies’ did or what sexual acts entailed, I honestly didn’t want to even find out. I was terrified that all the bad things said about my kind was true.
It was mostly through the medium of television that many of us ‘gays’ found some exposure to gay celebrity personalities. The most prominent of them all was Imran Vagar. Heavens to betsy for the dashing Imran who made our hearts go aflutter whenever he sashayed over to a gourmet meal and went ‘mmmm’.
As the years passed on, I had eventually understood my sense of purpose. The idea of individual freedom, a right to personal choices and who I choose to love was in my control. I just had to have the courage to be me for me. Homosexuality, remains a conversation that’s an off-limit topic around Indian family gatherings. But something inside of me stirred as usual, I could never just accept things at face value especially that gay people were bad.
It all starts with calling someone a ‘moffie’
Drawing from my own experiences as a gay man, the homophobic incident experienced by Naicker is one that for many within the LGBTQ community and myself can identify with. In my day, you simply weren’t allowed to be gay.
Terrible things happened to people who were gay (and still do), but back then even a playful bit of effeminacy would trigger jibes of “faggot” and “gaandu”. I recall when Viasen Soobramoney filed a disturbing story from 2014 the Post newspaper over an alleged hate-crime. The story was about the murder-case of Mohit Maharaj who was killed under curious circumstances. It was also reported that Maharaj may have been murdered for being a homosexual but this case went cold and Mohit Maharaj’s death was never solved. Many of us younger gay teens knew exactly what happened to him but nobody would believe us or want to confront that truth.
Another school mate of mine was raped and abused by other men when he was younger. The incident broke him inside, scarred by memories of that those experiences, there was no-one to talk to except me. I carried this burden of his as well as my own.
Many others drown in shame leading to unhappy lives and most consider taking their lives instead of rising up. I have lost many friends to homophobic abuse but today is NOT the day we will allow it to happen to another of our own.
I kept myself busy throughout my school life, it made the homophobia seem like a bruise rather than the painful mental abuse it really was. I spent my time as an active community member, I joined the local community policing forum at 14, I was out there rallying support for AIDS and HIV victims. I mobilized for ‘Teenagers Against Drug Abuse’ (TADA), I spent most of my school life working with so many movements. But I ignored the one movement that was closest to my heart, the movement to end homophobia, the true core of my identity.
I ignored the ‘moffie’ in me, I shut out the one thing I desperately wanted to scream out loudly for. Gay rights now are HUMAN rights and that was the movement I wanted to stand up for. I was crying inside but I wanted to stand up and tell everyone that yes, I am a ‘moffie’ but you can’t call me that.
But no one was around to listen to me.
Ignoring abuse is dangerous
Perpetuating a cycle of abuse leads to much larger and deadly situations for victims, some of these cases never make the newspapers. Some would be lucky to even see a police docket being opened. Earlier in 2019, Indian Spice reported on the matter of Theshen Naicker aka ‘Aunty Sheila’ and a scuffle with Durban food enthusiast Imran Omar.
Naicker was manhandled by an intoxicated Omar at a industry-related event where he was called a series of unwanted terms including ‘moffie.’ Imran Omar has stood by his version of events, adding fuel to fire by stating, that Naicker sought publicity through the incident.
Are you a homophobe Imran Omar?
When I questioned him over his position on homosexuality, Omar could not form a series of sentences together to answer my question.
This made things rather clear to me that Naicker’s allegations do seem carry weight. I shudder to think of what else could have happened to Naicker if others did not step in. The real danger comes from these so-called public figures like Omar is that they show off and grandstand with a façade of correctness, only to let their demons come out and that’s where they cause the real damage.
Theshen Naicker is a well known personality and so is his alter-ego Aunty Sheila. Omar’s demons tumbled out of the sari-closet the moment he laid hands on Naicker pinning him on a wall labeling him a ‘moffie.’ While we wait for the courts to decide on the issue, the public has voiced their support for Naicker. Thousands on social media are calling for justice for Naicker who has remained silent on only leaving this message for his fans.
We can choose to rise up and make an example of homophobic behavior or we can allow our future LGBT’s remember us as the ‘moffies’ who did nothing. I chose to do something about it and let us hope that more can be done to stamp out homophobia. Who knows what the future holds, you might be gay or your child is planning to come out to you.
What are you going to do? Call him a moffie or love him more?
WTF is hate speech?
“The qualifying criteria for hate speech must now include a clear intention to be harmful or to incite harm or promote or propagate hatred “on the basis of age, albinism, birth, color, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender or gender identity, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant or refugee status, race, religion, or sex, which includes intersex or sexual orientation”.
Section 10 of the Act, the Prohibition of Hate Speech, reads: “No person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be hurtful, be harmful or to incite harm [and/or] promote or propagate hatred.”
So what is homophobia? Well homophobia is “the irrational hatred, intolerance, and fear” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. These views are expressed through homophobic behaviours such as negative comments, bullying, physical attacks, discrimination and negative media representation. As well as the actions of individuals, homophobia may be expressed through actions of the state, such as punitive laws, as well as other social institutions. Some LGBT people may internalise negative attitudes towards same-sex attraction, this is called self-stigma.
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