I could not hold the tears in any longer. It was my second visit to Bab’ Sangweni and already I was made to strip naked while he chanted and prayed the spirits away. He made me bath in cold bloody water. The blood came from a goat we had slaughtered earlier in the day. I should never have agreed to even participate in this ritual. You see, I was almost forced to partake. No, I was blackmailed and there was no way out of it.
It started three weeks ago when my mother walked in to my bedroom unannounced. My bedroom is a room at the back of the house; no one ever walks there except if they are going to the washing line. It was 17:00 and there was no washing in the line and there was no need for anyone to be walking to that side of the yard. I had never seen anyone scream as loud as she did hat day, you would swear she had seen a ghost. Well, maybe she did see a ghost. I was naked and she had not seen me naked since I was ten years old. And if I must say, I look like a Greek god, chiseled and dark. Call me shallow; but I don’t work out to be healthy, I work out to look sexy.
My mom’s deafening scream was the only reason I had agreed to go and see Bab’ Sangweni. Immediately after she left my room she started praying so loud, I swear God heard her loud and clear. By 18:00 4 cars were parked off-street and I was summoned into the house. There must have been ten elders there; my mom, dad, aunts, uncles, Pastor James and Sis Mary, the social worker. It was only then that I realized that this was going to be a serious intervention. I stood at the door ashamed, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Pastor James had a chair right next to him and he signaled that I come and sit next to him.
We started the meeting with a prayer. We all held hands as Pastor James prayed. He prayed that God be the “driver of this bus we are on”. He prayed that the evil spirits and demons that had possessed me be cast away. As he prayed, I could hear the entire room scream “yes Lord!” in agreement to his prayer. I wanted this prayer to last forever so that we do not get to talk about the issue at hand. I was in no mood to engage anyone on this. My mom had invaded my privacy and had no right to be offended. Unfortunately my prayer was not answered and my thoughts were broken by the loud unison “amen” in the room.
My name is Tshepo and my sin is love. My sin is being in love with a man, Sthembiso. Sthembiso and I have been together for two years now. We met on the Internet when we realized that we lived under 2km away from each other. Sthe has been coming to my house since we started dating. I told my mom that he was my friend. It was easy to do that, he was just three years older than me and he looked straight. I, on the other hand, went a step further and got a girlfriend to cover this relationship I had with Sthe. I had no choice but to do that, I knew that if my family found out I would be disowned. No one else, other than Sthe, knew that I kicked it with dudes and I as going to make sure that no one else found out.
My mom had walked in on my lover and I making love. I was lying on my back, with legs pointing to the heavens and screaming all sorts of heavenly praises as Sthe went deeper and deeper inside me. If there is one thing my baby knew how to do well was to lay the pipe down. Clearly the heavenly praises I had been screaming were at a wrong place and at a wrong time. I was reminded of this when my mom stormed in to the room and screamed “manyala mani ke lawa” out loud. My erection went from cement-hard to jelly-soft faster than Usain Bolt’s 100-meter sprint. We wished that the earth could open up and swallow the both of us.
In that extra-ordinary emergency meeting, Pastor James read the famous homophobic verse numerous times and asked me if I understood. I wouldn’t dare say no amidst all those people. What was shocking is what Sis Mary, the social worker, said about violent acts of homophobia in Mamelodi. She said there was no place for a gay man there because I would become the next victim if I didn’t change. I could not believe that a person of her caliber would utter such. I thought her mandate was to be objective while helping the community. With that kind of thinking, I feel sorry for anyone that is subjected to her sessions.
My uncle was the last person to speak. I knew that this panel was carefully selected and briefed to remind me that being gay is wrong. It was no surprise to me to hear him talk of African customs and how, as the only male in the house, I had a responsibility to procreate and get my mother grandchildren. He suggested that I saw Bab’ Sangweni, a spiritual healer. He claimed that the healer had healed many men suffering from my condition. It was also agreed that I would need to stop seeing Sthe and they would arrange that I marry my girlfriend of eighteen months as quick as possible.
I could have rebelled and told them that I was gay and was not about to change. However, a big part of me believed that I was possessed with demons. A part of me believed that this was a phase. What I had with Sthe was too good to be true, maybe that is why it was met with such negativity. It felt like blackmail, almost like they were saying you would be the reason why your family’s name is not carried forth. But such is the life of a black male.
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