Sibongile Raphagadi (41, not her real name*) has always struggled with her sexuality.
Raphagadi says she knew as early as primary school that she was different.
“When my classmates would be excited about speaking to boys or being asked to go on dates, I had no such feelings. Instead, I started realising that I had a lot more in common with the boys in my class and neighbourhood than the girls.”
Growing up in a staunch Christian home made it difficult for her to express her feelings openly with family members.
“My mother was never open to the idea of homosexuality. When I became a teenager, I found myself almost forced to date guys because it was expected of me,” she says.
It was only in 2000 that she gathered the courage to speak out about her sexuality to those around her.
“One day in December 2000, while I was out with my female friends, a bunch of guys approached us and started grabbing two of the girls. I, of course, interjected and was insulted and physically assaulted.”
During the altercation, one of the guys said he wanted to prove she could never be a man while stomping on her face. As a result, she lost sight in her right eye.
“I knew the attack was not just about the girls, but was more about me being lesbian and them thinking I had free access to women and taking the ladies away from them.”
After the incident, Raphagadi and her family sought counselling.
“We had therapy sessions with the organisation OUT and I was able to heal over the trauma and anxiety that the crime had caused me.”
She had to accept her new reality as a partially blind person.
“The sessions also helped my family to voice their concerns and get further understanding on my sexuality. Therapy proved to be a healer and I would strongly advise others to explore this route.”
OUT is a Pretoria-based non-governmental organisation that provides direct health services to the LGBTQI community.
“We are all wholesome women despite our sexual preferences. This Women’s Day, I would like to encourage South Africans to do better in respecting women from the LGBTQI commun-
ity,” Raphagadi says.
Did you know?
- The Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill were officially signed into law in 2022.
- Under these new laws, it is compulsory for all convicted sexual offenders to be listed on the National Sexual Offenders Register.
- The new law also states that the definition of domestic violence has also changed to include victims of assault in those engaged to be married, people who are dating, customary relationships, and those in actual or perceived romantic, intimate, or sexual relationships of any duration.
If you need help, contact the following organisations:
The gender-based violence command centre 0800 428 428 or send (PLEASE CALL ME) to *120* 7867#