African Gay Love – A Year Later

Luiz DeBarros

Mambaonline.com

When audit manager Tshepo Cameron Modisane and IT specialist Thoba Calvin Sithole married in a gay “traditional” African wedding ceremony in April last year they unleashed waves of celebration and condemnation across South Africa and the continent.

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While they had officially tied the knot in March at a Home Affairs office in Johannesburg, the two young men wanted to make their marriage more than an intimate legal commitment between two people.

A month later they invited the media to their traditional wedding ceremony in front of 200 guests at the Stanger Siva Sungam community hall in KwaZulu-Natal.

The international media called it “the first African gay wedding,” which was of course nonsense (gay marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006), but there is no doubt that the widely-seen and powerful images of the two men kissing in their traditional attire were groundbreaking.

They became heroes to many LGBT Africans thanks to their courage in being so public in demanding recognition of their love, but were also slammed by traditional leaders as “unholy.” Most importantly, they sparked fierce debate in homes, bars and taxis around the country about Africanness and homosexuality.

Now, a year since we first met them and on the eve of Valentine’s Day and their first anniversary, Tshepo and Thoba (both 28-years-old) spoke to Mambaonline about their marriage and being a very public couple and even offered some relationship tips and advice.

So, it’s been a year. How is the relationship going?

Tshepo: The love that we share keeps growing stronger and stronger each day. We’re learning more about each other and appreciating our strengths and weaknesses.

Thoba: We can’t keep our hands off each other – be it at the mall, in the car or indoors. One look, one touch, and we spend all day glowing.

That’s fantastic! You’ve said before that it was a trying and difficult time after the wedding…
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Tshepo: Not everyone was welcoming and accepting of us getting married in African culture. Some people felt that we were violating cultural norms and standards. But we didn’t let their perceived homophobia and prejudices derail us as a couple.

Any regrets about being so public?

Tshepo: No, we don’t have any regrets. We allowed other people to see and learn from us; that you can be gay, in love and still be proud of who you and not be ashamed of your sexuality.

Did it put a strain on the relationship?

Tshepo: No. It’s actually allowed us to be open, free and live an honest life – without having to live a double life to please people.

Do people still recognise you?

Tshepo: Yes, and some get excited when they see us and even ask to take photos with us. Our lives haven’t been badly affected by it.

Thoba: The sad reality is that many of the people who’ve had issues with our marriage or being public are some gay people. They have something to say about our marriage lifespan and how we do things.

Really?

Thoba: They feel that this whole marriage was a publicity stunt. But we don’t allow that to have any bearing since we didn’t get married for the public but for us. The most support we get is from straight people who are not homophobic.

Do you think your public affirmation of love helped other gay people out there?

Tshepo: Yes, it allowed other people to express who they really are and not feel ashamed. All in all, we’ve normalised being gay and put LGBTI issues on the agenda and got people talking.

Thoba: We’ve helped a lot of people who were still in their shell. We’ve also brought awareness to other people in society that being gay is not always about trying be a woman but being attracted to another man and building a future together.

What are you planning to do to celebrate your anniversary next month?

Tshepo: We’re going away on a romantic trip to North America for almost two weeks. We’ll be going to Canada and meeting with other fellow gays and lesbians. We’re leaving at the end of February and we’ll be back at the beginning of March. We plan to spend quality time there and enjoy what being a married couple is all about. We’re looking forward to the trip – just celebrating life, love and our marriage.

Read full article here.