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Happy Gay Anniversary to me

Today marks the anniversary of my coming out – 12 December 2012.

I have lost track of how many times I’ve written that sentence.

I’ve probably used the same sentence to commemorate my coming out every anniversary since that day. One would think as I writer I’d come up with something more poetic and eloquent, but it’s always been that sentence.

Weirdly enough, the weight of that sentence has somehow started meaning more to me as time goes on, not less.

That doesn’t really make sense to me because I thought it would have less significant, but if anything I’ve realise just how powerful of a moment it was in life. In some ways I see my life pre-coming out and everything thereafter.

It’s not that way for everyone, but for me that day I came out was a seismic shift in my reality and perception of the world.

It wasn’t the first time I had come out actually, because I had come out to friends months prior, and I was struggling with it. I had even had a four part counselling session, at the recommendation of a friend, which really helped.

The reason why my coming out on 12 December 2012 carries more weight was because it was the day I told my mother that I was gay.

It was the scariest AND bravest decision I ever made. It changed my life.

A lot went down that day, and I remember a lot of details about that day. It will be burned into my memory and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that evening.

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Getting a tattoo in February 2016 to honour the day. Picture: David Ritchie

On the night I told my mom that I was gay, I couldn’t stay at  home because my mom feared what she might to do me. Her reaction was something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Currently, while she’s not fully comfortable with my homosexuality, I know she loves me.

Every year since coming out, I’ve found myself having difficult time in the last quarter of the year.

I felt a sadness start settling in my soul during September leading into October (my birthday month) and just find myself strugglling – feeling like all the colours from my life and the vibrancy of it had been muted.

It had been particularly difficult this year as for the whole of November, I was hypersensitive and feeling raw. I didn’t know what was going on, and I was scared. I was constantly seconds away from crying whenever someone asked me how I was doing, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

It felt like I was back in the weeks leading to my coming out, which was a particularly dark time for me.

I can’t recall exactly how I discovered the correlation, but I was able to get to get a better understanding once I realised that how I felt had to do with my coming out.

At it’s discovery, I was left feeling confused.

A part of me is worried that my increasing melancholy heading into the festive season is connected to my tumultuous my coming out experience.Bottom of Form

Almost like none of the vast growth I’ve done since then will impact on my mood because of the deep feelings of rejection which come from it.

There was one day that I was feeling very lost and confused, and I needed to get away from my desk at work, because I was seconds away from crying at my desk or in the work bathroom.

I am not the biggest fan of crying – well not true, because I do not mind crying during a TV show, but when it comes to real life situations and feelings, I try to avoid it.

I left my desk, and took a 20 minute walk to visit my friend at her offices nearby.

Even that walk was a challenge, because I almost started crying along the side of the road. I had to pull myself together a few times and give myself a talking to like “Stop being stupid and pull it together. You’re a man, and this is a dumb”.

I got to her offices, and she was surprised and delighted to see me, but she could sense something was up.

I gave the non-committal blanket answer – “I’m fine and you?” – when she asked how I was doing, but she pressed.

Eventually everything spilled out and as I explained why I wasn’t in the best space. I barely made it a sentence when tears were running down my face. She gave me a tight hug.

When I explained my theory behind my feelings, she said something that stuck with me.

“Of course it’s coming up out now, I am surprised it took this long if I’m being honest. What happened to you was an emotional trauma…”

When I argued that I felt dumb because I was stuck on something that happened years ago she replied.

“When you break your arm, of course it’s going to take time to heal, what you’re going through now is the same. Something inside you broke, and it needs time to heal.”

What she said gave me context and greater understanding for my feelings because I realised that I had never really dealt with what had happened that day, or rather, not in any helpful way. I had instead gone into survival mode because it was a sink or swim situation.

My life was up in the air at the time, and for the longest time I had been so proud of having just survived it, that I didn’t recognise how much pain I felt.

Looking back over that time, I hadn’t actually cried as much as I should’ve.

I think that was because It was easier to feel numb and nothing, than feeling that pain, and heartache of being rejected for something I had tried to change, but was unchangeable. I never had that cathartic sob, and in all honestly, I still haven’t.

I can still feel my hurt.

I try to not sit in it or give it my full attention because it doesn’t feel healthy, and I still have my current life to live.

However, I know better than to just fully ignore it. I don’t know if I will ever fully be healed but I know that I am getting better. It will be a process, but one that will take time.

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The before and after

12 December 2012, will always be special to me. I got a tattoo in memory of the day because of its significance.

Coming out isn’t easy, and while I’m still battling with my internalised homophobia, it does get better.

I am reluctant to think about where I would be if I didn’t come out.

I am proud of my younger self for doing the scariest and bravest thing he could have done. It wasn’t easy, but we’re better for it.

If you take anything away from having read this – be gentle with yourself, and there is no timeline to healing. Sometimes pain never goes away; we just get better at handling it.

I am so grateful to all the people in my life for being my support structure. Thank you for being there for me. I appreciate your love, compassion and kindness.

Theo. Over and Out.

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Dear Marvel, stop telling us about LGBT+ characters, show us.

Dear Marvel

I have a bone to pick with your movie studio.

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With Thor: Ragnarok, we’re roughly 17 movies into Marvel Studios’s historic cinematic universe, and we’re set to get a culmination of this universe building with the arrival of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 not long thereafter.

Marvel Studios has given us exciting adaptations of it’s properties. This year, they’ve delivered with Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Spiderman Homecoming, and recently Thor: Ragnarok.

While the movies have been unending fun, something which isn’t necessarily the best in the long term, they have been methodical at building the cinematic universe, but it has ultimately paid off for the studio.

I do know the studio has had their three phase plan, and stuck to it with an impressive level of devotion.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have given us a vast array of movies, choosing to go with quality over quantity, with 2017 being the first year they upped their output from two movies a year to three.

The thorough process, despite its successes, has not come without its failures – namely that the MCU has been slow on incorporating diverse voices and actors into it’s world.

While Marvel had a bigger head start over DC, it was Wonder Woman who made it to screen as the first female led superhero movie – overlooking Elektra and Catwoman – going on to become the top origin story of all time.

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Marvel has its first female lead in Ant-Man and The Wasp, in 2018 before following that up with Captain Marvel, who will be the studio’s first solo female heroine in 2019.

The first black female lead character came with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, and while her introduction was badass, it’s a little frustrating that it came now only.

The Marvel stable however, are forgiven for this slow delivery because they are in fact blessing us with a predominantly black cast in Black Panther – which is the first movie with a predominantly black cast to have a big action superhero blockbuster budget.

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(The Blade trilogy did exist, but Wesley Snipes was always surrounded by predominantly white actors)

Black Panther is a pretty big deal because there will be disenfranchised and disillusioned young black boys and girls, who will get to see themselves represented on screens as heroes, and while to some this may seem trivial, it’s actually a huge deal.

Representation matters. Seeing yourself represented in the various media you consume matters.

Which is why as a member of the LGBT+ community, it’s frustrating when in interviews directors speaking about queers characters existing in the MCU but not showing that, or saying characters are bisexual, but having them acknowledge that on screen.

James Gunn, director of both Guardians of the Galaxy films was asked about this, in a previous interview, and then later again clarified his remarks saying:

“You know, somebody asked me will there by any gay characters in Marvel movies, and what I meant was there’s a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them have we delved into what their sexualities are – whether it’s gay or straight or bisexual,” Gunn said.

“We don’t really know. So, I imagine there are probably gay characters in the Marvel Universe, you know. We just don’t know who they are yet.”

While his remarks seem harmless, it is frustrating when all you hear is about these fictional LGBT+ characters, but you never see them.

It’s an empty gesture. A form of tokenism to allow the studios to appear more queer friendly without having to put action to their words. It creates false hope.

Queer people don’t want to see ourselves represented as token characters because in our everyday lives we are the heroes of our own story. We aren’t tokens that exist for people to brag about showing off how accepting they are.

We battle our own demons, villains and face our own challenges. Sometimes we are the villains of our own story, but in reality we live complicated queer lives.

On film screens, we’re sorely lack the same level of complicated portrayal.

We’ve been so starved for on screen heroic representation, it’s why the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend social media campaign galvanized so many people.

It was their way of expressing their desire to see the lead hero, Captain America get a on screen boyfriend.

The request, which isn’t unfounded or unreasonable when taking into account the high level of queer baiting which exists between Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes.

[Queerbaiting is the practice to hint at, but then to not actually depict, a potential same-sex romantic relationship between fictional characters. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.]

It’s also alarming when your lead character has more romantic chemistry with his best friend than that of Sharon Carter – whose romantic development was so rushed in screen it’s comical and not in a good way.

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There is however a bigger picture to consider – global audiences and their conservatism…especially in big profit areas such as China and India.

Marvel is a movie studio, and movie studios need money to continue making more movies. The more money the better for them. It’s why they’ve started paying attention to releasing their films in the international markets.

Within some of these countries, they have restrictive guidelines about what may or may not be shown, and with Hollywood eager to captalise on the vast profit potential that these regions offer, they will certainly stick to these guidelines.

In China, the biggest film market outside of America, the The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) board pulled and banned LGBT related shows, which were successful as these shows went against what they perceive as normal.

An example of this was a show I have watched called “Addicted” – which deals with the development of a relationship between a teenage same sex Chinese couple.

To quote a Guardian article the show was banned as:

“The government said the show contravened the new guidelines, which state that “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”

The ban also extends to smoking, drinking, adultery, sexually suggestive clothing, even reincarnation. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television told television producers it would constantly monitor TV channels to ensure the new rules were strictly adhered to.
The clampdown follows an increase in cultural censorship in China since Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012

The same goes for it’s films.

In India, another big film market, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) besides, having banned a gay film, Ka Bodyscapes – they also had Oscar winning film, Moonlight allegedly recut removing pivotal scenes from the film which directly reveal it’s handling of homosexuality.

In India, homosexuality is still seen as a taboo.

It is for this very lucrative reasons that one can understand why Marvel has been so slow and been dragging its feet when it comes to LGBT+ representation, and giving vague answers, trying to appease those who want to see LGBT+ representation.

It’s also maybe for this reason why the Valkyrie scene in which it was suggested that she was bisexual was removed.

So in closing…

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Dear Marvel, If you’re not interested in tackling or adding LGBT+ characters then please say so.

It’s your prerogative to do as you wish, and decide if you will tackle LGBT+ characters or not, it’s also our prerogative to decide what movies I am going to spend my money on.

Who knows…maybe DC will be the first movie studio to do that too…

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Regards,

The Lion Mutters.

PS: I know your TV shows have been delivering some LGBT representation, but let us not get started on how TV and film differs. Also how they had to separate y’all because you couldn’t place nice.

Killing who you used to be…

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This blog post was originally published on 6th September 2016.

It is often that moment when you realise that the person you are becoming is different from who you used to be, and not in way that leaves you fulfilled.

It’s a heartbreaking realisation but it is the price of admission you pay for adulthood.
For the price of adulthood I’ve had to repeatedly sacrifice the sweetness I once had because people take advantage.

For the price of adulthood I’ve had to restrict that level of enthusiasm I use to have because everyone made me feel like that was out of place for someone like me.

For the price of adulthood I’ve had to sacrifice the gentle manner I used to have because it is not appropriate for a man.

For the price of adulthood I’ve gained a large dose of cynicism because people deceive and lie so regularly that you will pay dearly for  accepting something at face value.

For the price of adulthood I’ve had to learn to protect my heart to the hatefulness of other. To shield myself from those who seek to do me harm for no good logical reason.

For the price of adulthood I’ve had to watch people hurt each other and all I could do was watch, because sometimes the ways they hurt each other are intangible.

For the price of adulthood, you learn about the grey:
– where black and white blur
– where good and bad aren’t defined
– where right and wrong both harm and hurt.

The price of adulthood is costly, but it’s a price you have to pay.

It sucks to look at the person you were and the personality traits you love in yourself that no longer have a place in your life, all for the price of adulthood.

I’ve been watching myself kill off the parts of me that can’t exist all for the price of adulthood.

I miss the me I used to be.

Fuck adulthood.

Theo. Over and Out.

Things said in anger…

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Originally published on: Wednesday, 25 November 2015

You’re seething with anger, and you aren’t thinking clearly, so there you go and say something so cruel you don’t even recognise yourself…

It happens, and it is something that you have to learn to deal with – no matter what side of the argument you find yourself on.

I became very interested in this following a big argument that I had with my mother.

I won’t get into the details but following the argument, my mother then not only launched the dustpan, but she also aimed and threw her ceramic bowl, which had been half-filled with cereal, at me.

It didn’t hit me, but the point was to intimidate me.

I left shortly thereafter to go to work, but needless to say that it was a day that I don’t want to experience again.

The whole day I felt this knot in my stomach, and I had also gotten stuck on this notion of things said in anger.

Some people get aggressive when angry, not just physically but verbally too.

Swear words are quickly thrown at you, and things are said with the intent to hurt you.

What I found interesting about it, well interesting is bad word but it was something that caught my attention, was how issues from years ago suddenly reared its head.

Things that you thought had been dealt with were once again laid bare, all with the intent to cause guilt and hurt.

It just goes show that sometimes we say we’re past an issue, but sometimes that is a lie.

I never get angry, and a large part is that I am scared of what I might do or say…

I have this huge fear of getting violent, but more so of hurting someone with words – of saying something so full of vitriol and malice that you just want hurt this other person’s feelings as much as you can.

It is frightening, and people sometimes underestimate just how much damaged can be done with words.

Sure, you can argue that things said in anger are not thoughts of a sober mind, but they are things that you feel without any filtering or editing because they are purely instinctive.

Some can forgive, but if you are someone like me, you will always be aware of those things somewhere in your mind. Even if things were said in anger, they came from a place within the person where they thought or felt like that at a particular point.

However not all things said in anger can be a bad thing…

Sometimes things said in anger reveal a hidden part of ourselves that we didn’t want to deal with. By revealing that hidden part, it may lead us to processing things that we weren’t aware of.

Not all anger is a bad thing, because sometimes anger gives us courage to say the things we may be afraid to say.

Things said in anger sometimes reveal more than what we would like to. It puts us at our most vulnerable but also at our most volatile.

It reveals all the baggage that we carry with us, moments and experiences we’ve collected – all of which have left an indelible mark on us – and then depending on which person we are angry at, these moments and experiences come bubbling up. Sometimes when they do come up, we may choose to use it as a weapon.

Weaponised aggression.

Anger is a valid emotion, but it a dangerous one. People have committed murders in anger because they were consumed by the emotion.

You have every right to feel angry, because it is a natural human emotion that you will feel at some point, but you have to be careful of what you do with that anger. The words you say when angry may cause irreparable harm, and the physical manifestations of that anger present a greater hazard.

There is no tried and tested method to deal with anger but we all have to find our own quirks because if we don’t that very anger may just consume you from the inside out.

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Theo. Over and Out.

PS – What the whole experience with my mother had also revealed to me about myself was that all I wanted to do was speak to one specific person, but it was someone who I couldn’t speak to. It proved to be an informative experience of how to do deal with a matter when you can’t speak to the person you would like to.

The Power in Silence

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It is very easy to think that I’m someone who speaks a lot because I’m a journalist, and we’re characterised as mouthy self-important people who don’t care about the feelings of others because we only care about the story.

Sure, not going to lie but there are definitely a few in the industry but I’m not one of them.

News is something I really enjoy and I like speaking to people for the most part but I’m also someone who loves the quiet.

Once I leave work every day, I pretty much don’t say a word, it was something I hadn’t even known about myself until recently but I really like being quiet.

I came to realise just how much I appreciate the quiet and silence after we moved. Currently my mom and I are staying with my grandparents while we find a place.

While it isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation but it is for the length of time that we’ve been there. Also it’s my first time working while being in Mitchell’s Plain and it is an adjustment.

The long bus rides, the crampedness we find ourselves in and just the constant noise.

My goodness is it a lot of noise.

Coloured people don’t know how to be quiet, and it is definitely where I got my loudness from (it comes out when I’m with friends or when it wants to but for the rest of the time it’s mute).

Anyway, I really have come to learn that I love the stillness of silence.

No one is in your space making conversation out of a sense of obligation to talk to you, no one is speaking to you when you’re busy typing your novel or watching series. No one is asking you things you don’t want to answer, no one is playing music on top of you when you just want to listen to nothing.

Just silence and quietness.

I had gotten home from work one day when I came in and I was just naturally quiet. I didn’t feel the need to speak.

My grandparents with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s disease kept asking me if I was okay because I was quiet and I just nodded. My aunt then asked if I was fine because I was so silent, and eventually my mom had to speak up and say that sometimes I just don’t have anything to say.

It took her while to understand that initially, but I’m thankful that she has learned.

A lot can be understood when you’re watching what is going around you, and not feeling da47b0582836795829a5b6b716a314f1like you have to say anything.

There isn’t a drive to fill the noise, to contribute for the sake of it, to speak up just because it is what you have to do. Silence can be a remedy when you least expect it.

One of my favourite times is when I’m with friends and we’re doing nothing and saying nothing, and just being.

It usually happens after we’ve caught up with each other and then we fall into that lull where we can sit still, enjoying each other’s company and saying things only when we feel we have to, not because we’re obligated to.

Sometimes I just turn to them and I notice something about them and our relationship, that sometimes I take for granted or haven’t really paid attention to, and usually that comes out of moments of quietness.

There is a power in silence, you just have to take the time to recognise it.

Call Me by Your Name – Twitter Book Review

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Read “Call Me by Your Name” and I was frustrated. At the start it was just another gay romance being about how characters don’t even get to enjoy the romance.

I did a live-tweet reaction to the book which I will post here:

After finish reading Call Me By Your Name, I realized that it was a beautiful piece of text. Plot got iffy in the middle but the way it was written was beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experienced.

Loved the touch of melancholy and “the better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” thing was sweet. I still am tired of this type of narrative though…where all queer men just get unhappy endings but Aciman gets a pass because the story that he told was beautifully done.

At least no one died for the romance to end. It was just life.

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Film adaptation review: http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/call-me-by-your-name-review-1201966646/

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CEA Writers without Boundaries – Part 4

CEA Writers without Boundaries, the debut volume for the general fiction anthology from Celenic Earth Publications has been released, and along with that comes stories to exciting, scare and thrill you.

Seven writers and myself from the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) group in the Western Cape Region have been hard at work putting stories together for you to enjoy.

For the next few days, I’ll be revealing the short interviews that I had with the writers of each story to give more insight into not only their story but the writers themselves.

Next up we have Fiona Tanzer and Shameez Patel Papathanasiou:

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The Smell of Roasting Meat

by Fiona Tanzer

Question: What did you enjoy about writing it?

Fiona: I enjoyed having this story just flowing out and onto the page quickly and without a great deal of conscious thought. I suppose that this is because the story premise comes from my long-standing fascination with people’s beliefs (ever since I can remember!) and something that I have frequently ruminated over for many years.

Q: How did the inspiration for your story come about?

Fiona: My inspiration was in one sense my abiding interest in how would a person’s beliefs appear in practice? – and in the more immediate sense, the title phrase just popped into my mind one day and sparked my thoughts on people’s beliefs – and I just sat down to write without any planning.

Q: What do you want people to take away from it? If there is anything you want to get across?

Fiona: I would like people to take away from my story the reality that whoever we are as people, we all share the same love of family and care for one another, however different our beliefs may appear on the surface. After all, we developed our beliefs and practices ultimately as a sign of our spiritual care for one another.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the process?

Fiona: The most challenging aspect in this case was the notion that I am writing about another cultural belief system and while I believe that I have done so respectfully, I hope it came across well. I also wanted to make the story general to Africa rather than particular to one specific locality in South Africa, and to give no indication of historical period so that the generality of the belief system comes through. I chose my characters’ names according to names that I happened to like – but unwittingly I chose names from different traditional groupings in Southern Africa. Ms Masobeng pointed this out to me (for which I am grateful) and I gave it some more thought but decided in the end to keep the different names in token of the intended generality of this belief system. So the name choice ended up adding to the story theme. Obviously, it would have been too much of a stretch to use East and West African names as well.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Fiona: I’ve chosen the story to be loosely set in Southern Africa because that is where I live and have grown up, but the basics of this old traditional spiritual belief system in Southern Africa is shared not only throughout much of the rest of Africa, but indeed throughout most of the rest of the world at one time and another – both today and throughout history. And that, I find fascinating.

 

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In.Hold.Out

by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou

Question: What did you enjoy about writing it?

Shameez: I love writing about smart, strong women

Q: How did the inspiration for your story come about?

Shameez: I have experienced the anxiety of having an intruder in my house and it was a different situation, but inspired it nonetheless

Q: What do you want people to take away from it? If there is anything you want to get across?

Shameez: Someone, somewhere will read your story and enjoy it. If you don’t, that’s okay too

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the process?

Shameez: My story is anxiety-inducing and I am easily frightened, so basically, I frightened myself

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Shameez: Keep writing, regardless of recognition and money, as long as you enjoy your own work

If you would like a copy of CEA Writers without Boundaries, then click here.

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