When I was 11 years old, I saw how my girlfriends were attracted to boys and I couldn’t understand. I felt so weird and out of place because I didn’t have the same feelings about boys that they did. “Is there something wrong with me?”, I thought.
I started to feel a bit of shame when I realised that I was attracted to girls because being gay was not the norm in my community. I also didn’t know of many lesbians, and the ones I saw on TV were always tomboyish. I thought that I must have been confused because I didn’t think I could be a lesbian and be girly at the same time.
I ignored my feelings until I started high school. One of my seniors was a girl who dated other girls. I had kept my feelings to myself for all these years, but I had a deep desire to ask questions and find out more about what sexuality and lesbianism was.
I sent her a Facebook message asking her how to know if you are lesbian. She messaged me saying that there was an LGBTQI+ group at school and they met up once every month. The next social gathering was the next week and she said it would be nice for me to come.
The meet-up was in the school hall. There were music and snacks, but most surprisingly there were around 20 people who were all different, confident and amazing in their own ways.
Nontando, the girl that I contacted, was lesbian and feminine. Her friend, Nombulelo, was bisexual and said she felt comfortable being masculine. There were also gay guys. Some were very feminine and others were masculine. Nontando told me that being attracted to certain people didn’t have to define who you are. “There are some people that don’t even fit into any gender because they are both masculine and feminine”, she said. She told me that sexuality is about who you are attracted to, but gender is about if you choose to act feminine, masculine or both at the same time.
Wow! I remember being so confused, but the more I looked it up and the more I hung out with the group, the more I understood it better. They also told me I could call the Gay and Lesbian Network Helpline because I wanted advice about coming out to my family and community.
I know now that you should never have to rush coming out. Come out only if you know you will be physically and emotionally safe in your community. Not coming out does not mean you are ashamed of yourself, it just means that you are protecting yourself from people who don’t understand that LGBTQI individuals deserve to be treated with respect.
If you are LGBTQI and you would like more support, you can speak to the people at the Gay and Lesbian Network Helpline. They are available Friday to Sunday, 18:00 to 22:00 and you can contact them on their National Hotline: 0860 333 331. Having a supportive community of people that you can reach out to will remind you that you are not alone. With people to talk to, you’re able to gain confidence in yourself and accept yourself for who you are.
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