Written by Anold Mulaisho
Approximately seven years ago, I migrated to South Africa from Zambia. In Zambia, the law is a weapon used to punish and prosecute homosexuals. Before migrating, I had two options: flee my country and pursue refuge in an LGBTQIA+ tolerant nation or lose my life and freedom. I was rejected by family and community because of my sexuality at 14, and have been in survival mode since. It is scary to think that as a child; I was abandoned by those who brought me into the world when I needed love the most.
Seven years in South Africa has been a journey of high and low frequencies. South Africa gifted me with community and friendship, freedom to be myself, platforms to share my story and inspire others. I loved, celebrated, and explored new cultures. Yet, I experienced hurt and emotional pain between the smiles and laughter. I lived life fearful of the unknown and had constant anxiety over what would become of me if I’m deported back to Zambia.
I optimistically migrated to South Africa in 2017. I heard South Africa has progressive laws protecting LGBTQIA+ persons from discrimination. Within the first weeks of my arrival, I applied for asylum. My asylum application was rejected because state authorities at the Department of Home Affairs did not believe I was a gay man. According to state actors, identifying as a Christian, not wearing makeup and having female friends meant I was not gay. I was stripped of my identity because authorities decided I was not a gay man based on their personal bias and gender stereotypes about how men and women should be. As a result, I was denied refugee status in South Africa, limiting my aspirations to build a comfortable life. I could not open a bank account, rent out property in my name, access healthcare and had limited access to self-development opportunities.
Within the past seven years, I have experienced discrimination on multiple occasions, assault and insult. I have been excluded by those who do not believe that gay people deserve rights. The experiences made me question my worth and the point of my existence. It was through activism work that I found comfort and, perhaps, therapy. When everything else was wrong and my dreams seemed to be diminished, I still had my voice and story. Unfortunately, while my status as an LGBTI activist and social media personnel created opportunities to affect change, it also made an easy target for anti-homosexuality rhetoric, bullying and exacerbated the discriminative treatment I received Home Affairs each time I sought assistance. Essentially, South Africa gave me freedom and imprisoned me at the same time.
On a more positive note, I acknowledge how far South Africa has come as a nation. South Africa gave experiences and protection I wouldn’t have experienced in Zambia where I concealed my sexuality from the public. However, South Africa still has a long way to go and the laws in place are useless when state officials and communities still believe that homosexuality is wrong and unAfrican. Freedom and equality cannot be fully enjoyed when a society refuses to acknowledge and accept the most marginalised groups.
I do not see myself as a victim, but as a survivor. I share my story to inspire and shed light on the realities of being an LGBTQIA+ migrant in South Africa. Ultimately, the system failed me, as it has many before me and continues to do so. It is common to hear stories about hate crime and the tragic demise of LGBTIA+ persons who lost their lives because of their gender identity, sexual orientation and sex characteristics. Unfortunately, the most improvised LGBTQIA+ persons are most affected and are slain like sheep.
The adversities I have experienced privately and publicly will not stop me from creating awareness and advocating for LGBTQIA+ human rights. As I move forward, I aim to rebuild my identity. I pray for safety, love, peace, and joy.
I am a proud, flamboyant gay man, limitless, unique, and unapologetically living as their authentic self. Something that is deeply a part of you cannot be easily shaken off of you. Now, I have the opportunity to start again, live again, to love and be loved in return. Hopefully, someday I will marry someone of my choice, support my community, and show others that embracing yourself is the greatest way to see the value of who truly is. BE YOU, BEYOND DREAMS.