I’ve been wearing blond braids for almost a week now and while I do love my hair I could do with a little less attention on the streets. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to hear someone telling me how great they think it looks and, just like everyone else, I do like compliments but there are certain instances when it becomes catcalling.
Men on the streets who presumably mistake me for a woman holler things like “hey baby”, “sweetie” and all that crappy stuff they usually say to make women feel uncomfortable walking these streets. Mostly, people pick up on the fact that I am just a boy with braids on and when they do these are some of the reactions I have very quickly learnt to expect:
- - Laughter
- - Whispers about what a “faggot” I am
- - Stares (others literally stop and stare until I disappear around a corner or into a store)
- - Offers to help me out with whatever I am carrying
- … and, and, and…
I understand that people are most probably fascinated by the way I currently look and, like I said earlier, I do appreciate a well-meaning compliment. Being a gay man, especially having spent most of my adult life commuting through Johannesburg’s busy CBD, I am quite accustomed to having people throw insults at me for simply walking the streets. It could be my skinny jeans or even a bright coloured shirt (or a blouse, which I love wearing) and some people will feel the need to point out: “staban’”, “moffie”, etc, as if poor little me forgot that I am not straight.
I’ve come to understand why some gay men choose to be “straight acting” and why some even choose to be strict about dating “straight acting” gay men (besides the fact that some are just bowing down to heteronormativity, at times without even realising it).
Few of us are strong enough to withstand the constant barrage of insults (and women, I salute you!) and some choose not to associate themselves with individuals who are potential subjects of petty discrimination, I understand that. Few of us are standing up for what’s right perhaps for fear of being victimised for it ourselves.
Imagine a world where people who know what’s right don’t keep silent when their friends catcall a woman or throw homophobic insults at gay men. Imagine a world where we didn’t have to censor ourselves out of fear of the outside world’s reaction to whatever it is we choose to wear or however we choose to present ourselves. Imagine a world where I don’t have to think about it 20 times before I walk outside to buy myself a cigarette. Imagine a world where I don’t have to actually choose between a taxi and a cab simply because sometimes I am just not in the mood to face all of those whispers, stares and giggles inside a public taxi. Imagine a world where I can just do any damn hairstyle I want and not feel like I’ve done something wrong!