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Kenyon College

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


The creation of the post-apartheid government founded itself on the principles of equality for all people as laid out in the Constitution. However, while discrimination against people based on sexual orientation is illegal, homosexuals still experience a lack of acceptance in mainstream South African society. The purpose of this study is to understand the experience of Zulu and other black and coloured young-adult lesbian, gay, and bisexual (lgb ) peoples living in Durban, South Africa. I looked at how these people have developed their identities and what challenges and surprising joys they have found in their lives in relation to their sexuality. I spent time at the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre (DLGCHC) in their drop-in room getting to know as many visitors to the centre as possible. The DLGCHC is the only openly LGBT support organization in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. I conducted in-depth interviews with 7 individuals in the drop-in centre about their life stories to collect information and added to this through my own observations and experience at the centre.

My hypothesis in this study is that lgb young-adults in Durban who visit the DLGCHC feel as though they have to separate their sexual identity from their identity in their home culture to find acceptance.

What I have found is that all of my participants faced at least some level of discrimination ranging from taxi drivers whispering as they walked past to one mother burning her daughters pants to get rid of the Satan in her. None of the people I talked to said that they would rather be heterosexual or indicated that they were unhappy with their sexuality. In fact, almost all of my participants expressed pride in being gay and love this part of their identity having found positive self-images for themselves. There is a disconnect between the identities of these young adults and the cultural conservatism and religious fundamentalism that surrounds them in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This traditionalism has caused the development of a strong sub-culture in which all lgb or questioning individuals can find acceptance (according to my participants). In order for all lgb South Africans to feel empowered in their sexuality a unified political movement needs to develop in which lgb people can speak-out against the discrimination they face and educate their communities for liberalization and social acceptance.


Gender and Sexuality


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