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Posts tagged ‘LGBT’

Ashes – a review

Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs in Ashes. Image – http://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Ashes/

What came first? The staging or the script. Do the two work together? Do they happen over time as they bleed into each other. These are questions as old as theatre itself, and probably with reasonable answers, and I couldn’t help but wonder while watching Ashes.

Deprecation aside, this review wont do anything to sway ticket sales for this play in its final week at the theatre at Alexander Bar in Cape Town. But good art must be appreciated where it can.

But back to the stage. Small – very small – restricting and inescapable. When the actors looked at me, I felt like they were actually looking at me and connecting, indicting and pleading; not merely looking through me as actors are supposed to.

Their performances grab you by the throat. When they break down, you will want to run up and hold them and say “It’s going to be ok” even though you knows it’s really not.

Ashes tells the story of two queer brown boys in Cape Town – a description that belies the depth of the story. These levels of depth felt while watching the two actors, Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs’s characters dance around each other is breath taking.

They flit in and out of various characters, chipping away until the nuances in the archetypes are revealed. A flick of a jersey transforms a young man into a judgmental woman; a hoodie turns the other young man into his homophobic bully. The supporting characters all float around the main two, who interact with each other only briefly, letting the audience in on their tender moments – intimate, honest and gut wrenching, as we are driven to the conclusion, which was obvious but still impactful.

The mostly epistolary (letter writing) style works well, as the characters tell their stories without reaction from other characters. But the only downside I could find, which still works in its own way, was the crutch of exposition. Parents and son tell of his coming out story, and the conversation about what to call each other – boyfriends, lovers, partners? Forced, but still necessary. By virtue of its existence, queer work is still revolutionary, but somehow still new, therefore nothing can be taken for granted.

Don’t let the words queer and brown throw you off. It’s a story that many can relate to – the two lovers meet by chance in the city. One a small town buy. Forces work against them and their ghostly worlds are torn apart. The notion of love, not as obvious as in other works, binds the characters, but hardly ever at the same time.

I went in not knowing what the play was about other than the risky epithet of “gay play”, and was taken aback by the devastating account.

The audience was small, a lot less than the already small theatre at Alexander Bar could hold, which led me to believe that this was a play that was not being seen by as many people as it should.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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My Gay Wish for 2013 – Be More!

I’ve written about gays. I’ve written about sex. I’ve written about love.

So now I’m wondering why they don’t seem to ever coalesce into one post. Is it just this blogger who is unlucky to not have all three at once, or is this common? This could just be the nature of the game, but I refuse to believe that we are only capable of this perception.

Recently I attended MCQP (Mother City Queer Project) in Cape Town, the biggest gay party around. It was help at the Cape Town stadium and one of the dance floors had a dark room. For those not in the know, like I am now, this is literally a room that one enters that is dark. What happens in here is another story. Men (because only men are allowed) were literally ambling about and touching each other and having sex. Sure free condoms were provided, but wow, this one was a shocker for me. I was coerced to enter, and when a fellow writer friend told me that it could be an experience to write about, I thought “Why not?”
However, after being groped once and witnessing some rather unsavoury acts (you don’t even need much imagination for that one) I was done. No really, I ran out! My few minutes in the dark were more than enough for me to have a spark of insight.
If this didn’t confirm how un-cool I am, then it made me hark back to my younger days (like a few years ago) when I was 20 and went to a place called Hot House. It was my first and only time at such a place. Here’s how it works: you get a towel and there are steam rooms and showers and a bar and it’s actually a really pretty place. That’s right; I was alone looking at décor while my friend was doing the things one does at such an establishment. It was terribly lonely and I sat outside on the second story balcony at night, shivering (I didn’t promise a happy tale) and waited to leave.

It’s not all darkness though. Well, the nightclubs are also places of looming and low lights, but that’s a rather obvious point. It made me think back to the time I went to the nude beach, Sandy Bay. A friend went recently and he told me about the things he did. Same thing as before, despite the sun being out. He was in the adjacent bushes and men were doing things with each other which would make any conservative sit up and want to join. When I went a few years ago, I didn’t even get naked (I told you I’m boring, and not a happy tale, remember). However, it is a really beautiful unspoilt piece of ocean side and lovely houses in the distance and crystal clear water and guess what, men were doing things in the bushes with each other thentoo!
***

Why do gay men feel the need to be in the darkness, or the bushes? My fellow academics would see the connection with a group of people in the dark, hence no enlightenment.
It all made sense. It’s something so obvious, but I’ve never considered very deeply before, but gay people think that the outside appearance is all they have. The endless gym sessions, faffing over frown lines and receding hair lines; it all amounts to a focus on one thing, due to a lack of another. And what we can’t get right in one aspect of our lives, we make up for in another. I’ve made this point so many times, but you can’t cover up scars and the hurt you’re feeling by masking it with stuff and people.

A good friend pointed out something very interesting. In many of our online chats with new friends, whom we had met online, the subject of sex features so prominently. This may be important to some men; however why it has to be as important as it is merely affirms my argument. Many times the conversation will not even be a day old before the inevitable “Top? Bottom?Vers?” questions arise (so to speak) referring to one’s sexual preference. My friend’s point (so to speak) was why gay men have to typecast themselves, before society even gets a chance to? Isn’t the idea of freedom having the safety and space to choose who we want to be? Apparently not, because by asking these questions, you are already deciding that you are going to have sex with this person, without even asking, and by doing so you merely set yourself up as a sexual stereotype and perpetuate so many others. This hit me so hard when we discussed it, because once again, it highlighted how significant the sexual and the physical areto many gay men. I truly believe that many of us are going blindly through the darkness and the bushes, thinking that what we are doing is what we are meant to do. For a long time I thought that dressing and acting and being a certain way was the only way.

Gay people are ostracised based on who they are, which is further based on their outside appearance. A different pitch of voice, a flamboyant hand gesture, dressing a little differently than the norm are all possible indicators of a gay man, relative to the majority of society. So to make up for this ostracism, gay men go to the extreme and try to outdo each other within the safe space of the community. The only problem is that we don’t realise how we shut each other out when we do this, as it becomes one big competition to look the best.

Remember my point about being shrouded in darkness? The problem with this is that it is still a community, and people are bound to get hurt. You cannot keep secrets and not expect them to get out, especially at the expense of the feelings of others. Being hurt is no excuse to lead people on and hurt them.

My wish for this year is that people realise that you are allowed to be more than a pretty face and nice pecs, and that you are better than empty sex.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Gaga Gone Gone

She came, she left, she Gaga’d. And guess what? The country survived.

There was endless controversy surrounding Lady Gaga and her concerts in South Africa. “She’s a Satanist, she’s going to send us to the pits of hell…” And that was all from my mother. The religious groups who were apparently protesting her performances were nowhere to be seen, and must now eat their words. Someone pass them some sauce to go with their feet. Cape Town’s infamous bitch of a weather pattern even let up, with the little drizzle subsiding in time for her arrival.

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But what can I even say about the concert? Not much really. It was everything it promised and a little bit more, and then some. But I had a few insights of my own as I watched this powerhouse go at it.

Why are we not brave? I’ve spoken about standing up, but this woman is something else. Speaking up, and out about how she was bullied and how she wants to end it. Her Born This Way foundation, which she started with her mother, deals with issues regarding bullying, especially with LGBT youths. So how brave are you?

We speak up when it’s too late. Not that the cause is any less noble, but why wait till a fall or incident before you stand up? We bow before corporations and our government, but we complain about. So maybe we should take a cue from this performer who goes beyond her call of duty to sing and prance on stage.

gaga flag

Why are we not proud? Others are. Lady Gaga rode a motorcycle with our national flag flying behind her. Later she ran down the stage holding it. Why can’t we do that more often? NOT just at rugby games. NOT just when it is convenient to us. But all the time. Gaga said that “the fame is within” referring to the idea of celebrity and power. Why not keep that flag, and everything that goes with it, on the inside so when we can’t fly it, we wear it?

Pride and all the colours that represent the SA flag should not be something abstract that we cheer at when an American performer waves it around.

“I don’t give a fuck” And why should you Miss Gaga? Why the hell should you?! This was one of the stand-out moments for me as Gaga told us exactly how she feels.  This part of her persona is already glaringly obvious from her unapologetically pop music, to the outrageous fashions.

So my question is, why should we? Laws and rules withstanding, we don’t need to care what others think. So, let’s not give a fuck, please. Now.

Megan♡1

So let’s learn a lesson or two from a true superstar and glean what we can, before she brings the Devil here again!

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Passings (Short Story)

“Did he have to do it in front of our house? Anywhere else, but he had to go and be a hero where we live!” she thought to herself. His mother was wringing her hands and looking out the dining room window at the spot where her son ran out and stopped the young man trying to rob the old lady. The tik koppe got braver, no longer content with stealing copper tap heads to sell for their drug money.

That’s the way she remembers it. Old lady. Young man. Robbery. Car crash. Rob dead. Trying not to think too much about that day. Too much detail just brought it back. Everyone just stood there as she ran over to his limp body as he was cringing and just kept trying to tell her that he loves her and to tell Ruben too. She just told him to be quiet and not to worry that everything will be taken care of and he will be back home in no time to do all that himself. But the next time he came home, it was not alive.

She saw those two weeks after he died in flashes before she would break down in tears. It started slow. A smile and a single tear as she thought of him. She always thought it would be a reminiscent, fond memory. She proved herself wrong every time. Every day.  A year later and the tears still flow like the streams in which he used to swim when they went camping. The stream became a torrent as her face contorts and the… what was the word he used?… huckles. The huckles was what he used to call them. “Huck, huck, huckle” was the way he used to tease her when she cried freely while watching a romantic comedy. “You know how it’s going to end Mummy” as he rolled his eyes. But she fell for it every time. Now she was huck huck huckling as she stared at the spot in the street outside her window.

She was now slumped in the chair. The big faux leather seater that he hated when she first bought it. She never let him forget how much he hated it when he fell asleep in it. And the endless nights of movies and popcorn where he would not move while working his way through his childhood favourites. She was now rocking back and forth and not a sound came out of her upside down half-moon mouth. Yet the tears came regardless. She shook her head in disbelief. She could not believe that she was still feeling this way, but also that he was not going to walk in the door after his afternoon class.

The doorbell rang.

She missed any car that might have pulled up and quickly checked, hoping she wouldn’t be noticed. But there was nothing. She sprang up and wiped her face with the flats of her hands. It was a far cry from the way he told her to always dab with the ring finger so as not to stretch the delicate skin under the eyes.

It was Ruben.  “Shit”, she said and wiped again. She fanned her face with her hands as she tilted her head back. She pressed her hands to her eyes and she shook her head. She kicked off her shoes behind the door and opened it. His head came into view, revealing itself to her only as fast as she would allow. There he was. In all his smiling handsome glory.  Rob certainly had better taste than she ever did. He held a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine in his hands. They appeared to smile, his hands. They were golden brown and always so soft. Glowing.

“Hi Ruben. Sorry my dear, I just woke up” she said, squinting her eyes from the sunlight that was apparently too much for her.

“Really now?” he said, with that smirk and his head tilted to one side.

When Rob first brought this boy home, she was convinced that he was too smart and cocky for his own good. He would make polite conversation about the weather and he would walk over to her vases or paintings and ask her about them. Where she got them? The history behind them? What it meant to her? “Your friend is quite… inquisitive hey?” she said to him one day. He resented the “friend” excuse and how she couldn’t bring herself to call him by what he actually was.

She let him inside and she sat down. She couldn’t pretend with this one. He and Rob had a bond that was sickening at times. She had to remind herself to be happy for him. But you have your whole life ahead of you to be serious, she would tell him, thinking more about her own failed marriage and early foray into dating and raising a child.

He dropped the flowers into the vase on the coffee table and put the wine down next to it. His hair was now shoulder length, black as ever and still perfect in every way. He took great pride in that hair, she always noted. Rob didn’t care about his own brown locks, cutting them off when it got longer than he could run his fingers through.

“How are you Esther?” he asked as he sat down. She hated that he called her that and not Miss Thomas, or Aunty Esther.

“I’m good my boy” she said, letting out a sigh that indicated otherwise. Her automatic replies had become a problem in her life. “Yes I’m fine” Rob would tease her whenever she would say it to friends and not mean it.

“Ester?” he said, his eyebrows raised, head tilted down.

“Yes?” she asked back.

He shook his head slightly, a hint of a smirk emerging from his mouth.

“What?!” she asked, surprised that he was giving her what she thought was a judgmental stare.

“Ok, that’s it. Up you get. Let’s go” he said grabbing the bottle of wine again. He went over to her and took her gently by the arm.

“What are you doing” she said. “I… I don’t have my… where are we?… Wag” she shouted as her persisted to lead her towards the front door again.

“We are going for a drive” he said as they continued to the door. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror in the foyer and she nearly gasped in shock. She had forgotten that she was wearing eyeliner and mascara when she started crying earlier. The black was smeared from her eyes to her temples in two big streaks on either side. He knew and didn’t say a thing.

“There are wet wipes in the cubby hole” he said as they got in the car.

He pulled out of the driveway and they both looked at the spot where the car hit him a year earlier when he was trying to stop the old lady from being a victim of crime. Ruben visited often after Rob died. It wasn’t easy for her. More so than she could have ever imagined, having buried both her parents and two siblings. She was alone now. There was a huge hole in her heart when she lost Rob. She could almost feel it. A burning whenever she thought of him. Worse than any heartburn she had ever experienced. Ruben would come over and they would have polite conversation, only ever mentioning Rob in passing. Both were scared that bringing him up would mean that they would then have to deal with it all over again.

She watched the world pass her by as Ruben drove, like she had been doing for the past twelve months. Her world came to a standstill and things just seemed to go by as she moved in slow motion. She only wore make up so that people would stop asking her if she was ok. And now she was sitting in the car with Ruben wiping off the make- up and cursing it for wearing it in the first place.

He pulled into the cemetery parking lot.

She knew they were coming here, but nothing ever prepared her for it. They got out of the car and walked over to the old lady selling flowers at the entrance. He bought two big bouquets before the old lady could say “blomme my engel? blomme” and flashing the missing front teeth. He would always laugh and wonder why she would ask him as if she had anything else to sell besides flowers.

They walked together through the entrance with the heavy wall and wrought iron gates. His grave was not too far from the entrance. She wanted only the best headstone for her Robby. Her mouth contorted as they approached the neatly mowed lawn in the well maintained cemetery. Only the best. They stood there looking at the grave. Two bodies looking at the earth with their beloved, with only the silence and the sunlight between them.

“Drink?” he said and held the bottle out to her.

She turned her head to him and his mouth was now in a closed upside down half-moon, eyebrows raised, yet humble. For the first time in a very long time, she saw a sadness in those big brown eyes. She took the bottle and took a sip. She wiped her mouth, not used to drinking from a bottle, and smiled at him. She passed it back to him and he nodded at the bottle, telling her to take another swig. She smiled, shook her head then laughed. She drank again and then gave the bottle back to him. He took it from her as she walked to the tree a few metres away from Robby. She sat with her back towards the tree as she watched his back as he drank. His head tipped back as the sun lit up the white wine.

“I miss his ass” he said after wiping his mouth.

She looked up at him. He laughed and said “he was the only person who was more competitive than me. No one on that track could beat me but him.” She looked at the back of his head as he spoke. He turned around and walked towards her.

“He was the only one that I couldn’t keep up with” he said. The tears in his eyes sparkling in the setting sun. “I would give anything to run after him again” he said as he sat down next to her.

“You know, when I met you, I didn’t really like you that much” she said.

“No shit! I thought you were a bitch” he said. She laughed and grabbed the wine from him.

“I’m glad that you had each other” she said. “I don’t, I mean I didn’t, understand it, what you two had” she said looking at the label on the bottle and back to him. “But I’m really happy he met you.”

“Thank you Esther” he said. “Thank you”

She rested her head on his shoulder as they watched the sun set. The earth and the amber met as the two finished the bottle, one slug at a time. That day there was no more huck huck as they found their peace.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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JHB Pride. Need I say more?

Has Pride lost its meaning? After the recent Joburg pride debacle, I’m starting to wonder.

For those who missed it, a group of (Black) feminists blocked the procession and demanded a minute of silence for Black lesbians and transgendered victims of hate crimes.

I’ve written about my own experience at Cape Town Pride (check out the “Gender and Sexuality” category and go way down to earlier this year) and I am starting to worry about the community.

Being part of the LESBIAN GAY BISEXUAL TRANSGENDERED INTER SEXED QUESTIONING ASEXUAL (LGBTIQA) acronym makes you an activist whether you like it or not. It is my opinion that, as long as you are alive, you should be standing up in your own way.
Is it possible to separate the personal from the political? I think not.

Last year I met someone from a University in Johannesburg who told me that they try to balance it out by hosting parties and signing members up at the events. This is a good idea, however, if the members actually come back for the not-so-fun bits is the question. They usually don’t, not en masse at least.

I believe that one must never care what others think, however, is the image of the gyrating man on a float, oiled up and in thong the only image we want of a community comprised of so much more?

Have we lost the message? Is there even a message anymore? Did CT Pride have a message?Is it even possible to balance the political and serious aspects of this world with the partying and celebration?

Many people I know who despise Pride still attend bars and clubs and live this side of their LGBTIQA selves. Does this make them hypocrites or do they then just not have Gay Pride per se? Like I always say, to each their own.
To me there is still great untapped potential in the idea of a celebration and herding everyone together to show that we are here. However when it becomes a cattle call of the hottest and fittest of the herd, then we start losing the plot.

Whatever happened to unity?

Some of us are living great lives, far from the hate crimes that others experience, so why bother? That is the exact sentiment that I get from people who claim to be out and proud. But what happens when it happens in your backyard? When a friend or family member gets hurt or killed for being what they are, does it become your problem then?
This was the issue that many feel the JHB Pride committee is still not getting.  Until we are all free and equal, there will always be a struggle.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

For a more comprehensive view on the event, check out this link:

http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/1450#

And furthermore, for writers and bloggers, here’s a lesson. Always do it before others get the chance to. As I wrote this post this past week, the Director of the Unit where I volunteer posted this quote. I don’t mind though.  You can see where I earned my wings! This is the quote via FaceBook:

Gender Equity 3:34pm Oct 9
Gender Equity Unit director, Mary Hames:”It is with deep shock that I have read and heard about the Johannesburg Pride (?). Pride has always been a political movement. When Bev Ditsie and Simon Nkoli organised the first Johannesburg Pride it was done out strong political belief and when Theresa Raizenberg and Midi Achmat organised the Cape Town Pride march it was because they were influenced by the Johannesburg one. The personal is political. I applaud the bravery of the 1 in 9 Campaign. There is indeed a consistency in the demands of the campaign. Aluta Continua. Stop the neoliberal behaviour.”

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Depression: My Story (IDAHO 2012)

Not the wittiest title, but that’s all it is. My story:

I used that title in the hopes that someone else who is feeling what I am currently feeling will relate.

My battle with depression started in 2005. I still do not know if it was the fact that my perfect little life didn’t go as I had planned, or the Roaccutane (or Accutane in America) acne medication I had used two years earlier and had been known to cause depression. Whatever the cause, make no mistake, it is a battle. I say “is” because truth be told, it never went away.  I feel like if the acne medication did anything, it may have fuelled what had already been there.

However, me being me, I’ve never spoken about this to many people. I’m a proud person and I don’t like letting others into my inner world. It can be a fucked up place and not many are brave, or strong enough to go along for the ride. I’m not doing a good job of selling myself here. I’m really a great guy; I have my ups and my downs. But the dark side has never been easy to accept and embrace.  And once that all-consuming darkness hit, there was no escaping.

So there I was, a twice dropout, the life I had envisioned (finish school, study, get a job, die) completely ruined. So I thought, why not cut out the middle man. And there I hung, the noose cutting into my neck. At the last minute I kicked and thrashed and fought it off and fell to the ground, a bloody mess. After a year of Prozac, I was back to my “usual” self, although a year of no drinking was not easy for a 20 year old.

I learned a LOT about myself since, but clearly not enough. One, I’m way too hard on myself! I beat myself up. I’m a pusher. I want the best for those around me. I want the best for myself. But mostly for those around me… those who mean the most to me. This in turn, usually pushes them away. The stubborn Scorpion in me still maintains that my intentions are good, even though the road to Johannesburg is paved with them. Yet despite this, people still tend to take advantage of me.

***

So, why the rant? Well, this week is International Day Against Homophobia 2012 (IDAHO). There has been a lot of talk about this “It Gets Better” campaign focussed on gay and lesbian teens who have committed suicide after being bullied regarding their sexuality. I have been lucky in this regard that this side of my life has never really been that big of a problem the way it affects others. I thought, if my past can help others, “why the heck not” would I share my experience? Not enough people share their stories and I’ve always been as open a book as I could be.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that it is a battle. That was not for dramatic purposes. It really is one. And after a tempestuous failed relationship, or a hectic academic schedule, or a circle of support that is not very supportive, the pressures of life can take its toll. But it really does get better. Sure I rolled my eyes at the liberal media and this campaign, but that’s just the cynic in me. The message really is a strong and important one that, if anything, must be spread virally and taken advantage of the connectivity of our world.

Whether you are old or young, but especially people in the LGBT community, no matter what your story, do not give up. Look in the eyes of a child, play with a dog, watch a sunrise, get a massage or read a book. But whatever you do, try to never give in to the battle that may try to consume you. Others may seem like they do not care, but someone does. People disappoint, but they also surprise. Share your story. Blog about it! (But don’t say I sent you)

I started this post because I was asked to write a poem for the IDAHO 2012 event at campus this week (17th May 2012). It’s a slightly melancholic piece and meant to have a message, however, just recently I found myself slipping back into the trap. A hapless soldier in the battle. All of the above factors caught up with me and I fell. It’s like the time I was walking in the snow with a bag in each hand. The path took a slight dip and before I knew it, the building in front of me shrunk and the black sky was straddling me and dropping light fluffs of ice on my face. That time, alone in a small town in Germany in the middle of the night, I laughed my head off. It was really funny. This time I have to find the humour. This time I’m writing.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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