This week’s story is about a most feared and best-avoided topic – one that we would rather tip toe around and speak in hushed tones about lest the heavens come down on us in judgment and condemnation.
Now that I have your interest let me give you the background.
The power that the older generation commanded is far greater than is often imagined in this ever-changing society we live in. They understood that people had to live according to culture and anything that threatened to distort this view had to be forced back into shape. Our foremothers were especially good at using ‘corrective measures’ to ensure this happened.
For example men who delayed getting married for whatever reason would be discussed and an arranged marriage would be planned to ensure that they too would be like everyone else in the village. Over the years community power or even family power has collapsed to give way to individual power, as the following story illustrates.
Tutu came to my office in the company of his elder brother Thari. Tutu took his time to greet me and introduce me to the brother. It was in the introduction that I began to suspect something odd as Tutu told the brother that I was an “understanding mother.”
Tutu told me in the presence of the brother that he had a problem with a young man who out of jealousy had threatened to destroy his life. He had brought Thari to the kgotla so that he too may know that his life was in danger.
I was curious to know why Tutu chose me rather than the police to report the matter. His answer to my question was well calculated and designed to break his long kept secret to the brother. He said “Kana ga ke a sireletsega mo mapodiising ka gore re lwela monna yo mongwe yo re ratanang nae mmogo le rre yo o batlang go mpolaya” meaning “The police cannot protect me because we are not fighting about a woman, but another man who is seeing both of us.”
Thari almost fell off his chair in shock. Fearing that his mouth would remain open for eternity, I gently reminded him of my mother figure status and smiled sheepishly, nodding with some kind of understanding towards Tutu.
I admit I was apprehensive since I hadn’t believed anyone would ever have the courage to open up in this fashion. It was Thari who broke the silence. “Gao na maitseo ebile oa itshotla, gape o simolotse leng dilo” (You have no manners and you are disgracing yourself. Anyway when did you start these things? He asked.)
His brother answered: “Ga ke a simolola sepe, ketsetswe ka bo ka gola kentse fela jaana” – Meaning I did not start anything I was born and grew up like this.
Having listened to the argument, I did what I thought best. I invited the party who was reported to be threatening Tutu’s life for reconciliation. Despite my unease I believed very strongly that we all have the right to justice and peace regardless of our sexual orientation
The man, who I shall refer to as Jack, was taken aback that Tutu had the courage to report his harassment to a respectable court of law, but two days later I had all the parties before me to resolve the problem.
Tutu led the discussion in the presence of Jack and his Brother Thari was there to support him. Jack admitted to sending a threatening and ugly sms, which was were before court, and also to making life difficult for Tutu because of a life triangle involving the men.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
a) Tutu knows too well that homosexuality is criminalised by Law and condemned by the Church. He knew too that I am a practicing believer.
b) Tutu knew that homosexuality was judged as ‘sinful, illegal and shameful,’ but he needed protection from a kgotla that upholds the laws and values of the Land.
c) Tutu’s brother was looking to me to say something that would correct what he saw as Tutu’s wayward choice of partner. He even suggested seeking divine healing for Tutu.
d) Jack admitted his wrong doing and pleaded for confidentiality concerning what transpired because he has a family to protect.
In judgement life as made easy by Jack’s remorse. He undertook never to threaten or send sms that would hurt Tutu. As I gavemy sermon and counseling to the two men who had been fighting over s man, Thari was softly sobbing and when I asked him why he cried he said this encounter makes him feel that Tutu is dead as a brother.
As we finallised our session he expressed gratitude that now he knows that his suspicion about Tutu was right. He said kana mothaka yo one a ntse a ganelela mo go tshamekeng ka bompopi meaning “this guy has always preferred play with dolls when we were young”.
Tutu was the happiest person at the end of the session because more than the threat from Jack Tutu confessed that he had always needed a family member to know his orientation.
One of my objectives for sharing these stories is to reach someone with facts that may alter their world view and build a new perspective in this ever changing society that we live in.
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