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  • Thandiwe Ntshinga

Rejecting Queer Stereotypes



A while ago, I was introduced to a podcast revolving around queerness and queer people in South Africa. In my opinion, this is very necessary for South African society, particularly amongst Black people where homophobia and overall ignorant attitudes conflict with the country’s recognition of the human rights of queer people.


In the single episode I watched, the two gay hosts engaged in valuable conversation with two lesbian wom_n. The episode began with an acknowledgement of a traditional lack of understanding between lesbians (specifically those that are masculine-presenting) and gay men. It then concluded with a feel-good message that, as a queer community, we need to care for one another.


Rejecting queerness as a monolithic community


As queer people fight against discrimination, rejection, hate, violence, rape and murder, on a more casual level, I think there is something to rejecting the understanding of queer people as members of a one-size-fits-all monolithic community—the queer community. The queer community, much like many other communities, is diverse. Queer people are not all the same nor do we all have the same views and experiences. On the topic of romantic relationships in this queer podcast, I was slightly irked by the declaration that the standard in queer relationships is to rush into a serious commitment...with the wrong person. This assertion follows the trope of “U-Haul lesbians” where the joke is that lesbians are ready to move in together on the second date. Yes, there is a degree of truth to this stereotype but it is not the only truth. While I know of those happy to commit speedily resulting in the justification of failed engagements and marriages as part of being queer, I also know of many queer people that are not like this, myself included. My reluctance to fall in love within the first month of dating—where love bombing in overly romantic gestures at the start of relationships can be a sign of abuse— has not always worked for those wanting to participate in relations with me. In being true to myself, I genuinely prefer not being grouped with a portion of queer people that choose to make hurried romantic decisions, for whatever reason, under the guise of sexual orientation.


Rejecting lack of accountability


My biggest grind with queer discourses is the centrality of victimhood and victimisation while simultaneously remaining silent on instances of being perpetrators of abuse. I cannot deny nor invalidate the reality of homophobia. However, I find the silencing of toxic, often violent, queer behaviours exceptionally embarrassing. Queer perpetrators of various forms of violence and toxic behaviours are shielded from societal persecution whilst calling this out renders one homophobic. Scrolling through social media, I had to agree with a tweet that read, “Yes…we know…you’re allowed to hide your toxic behaviours behind labelling us homophobic. We get it. You’re not to be corrected. We get it.”


Activist Nwabisa Mazana, in an article written for the Global Citizen, explains how queer spaces normalise silence about sexual and physical violence where “instead of holding each other accountable when named as perpetrators of abuse, we shun victims and accuse them of bringing bad vibes — yet we spend our days tweeting about the importance of accountability.”


This double standard is shameful. As a survivor of textbook emotional abuse—love bombing, controlling behaviour, isolation etc— by a white transgender man, sharing my experience online resulted in me being labelled transphobic where my story was interpreted as “thinly veiled transphobia”. Sharing this experience in my writing, for a feminist magazine, received no backlash when the focus was on his whiteness. That changed, swiftly, when the added layer of abusive behaviours of this trans man was expressed. Research on queer intimate partner violence shows unique tactics of abuse, used to threaten, undermine or isolate a victim/survivor. Furthermore, findings also reveal that LGBTQIA+ individuals are significantly less likely to seek support due to “intersections of violence and discrimination that place barriers in the way of LGBTQIA+ victim/survivors”. These barriers include homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia where “the reality is that hatred and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals exists. This potential judgment may prevent victim/survivors from sharing their story.” For me, although his victim/survivor after me reached out to thank me for my writings, sharing my experience on social media was almost as harmful as the abuse I survived.