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Culture, Reality

Toilet Signs

by Phumlani Pikoli / Illustration by Jason Bronkhorst / 30.07.2010

Heteronormativity. Hetero: A word derived from heterosexual, meaning people attracted to the opposite sex. Normative: Derived from normal, which means…. hmmm…. what does it mean? Things that aren’t unusual. Born in the Eighties, first generation of post-apartheid schooling, I had no idea that there was such a concept: Enter Cape Town.

I knew that there were people who were not like everybody else. Okay I’ll say it the homosexuals. Blame Pretoria. Oh and my parents, and their parents, and their parents. Fact: my world view is shaped in accordance with my culture and country. If I have a president with three or four wives, grow up in a predominantly patriarchal society, am I to blame for my way of thinking? Is it nature versus nurture? Or is it ignorance? An unwillingness to change? For fear of sacrificing elite comforts. Is it Apartheid all over again? Am I being melodramatic?

Hell no. Complacent attitudes of the masses give rise to megalomaniacs. All because they are to scared to forego a few privileges. It’s all hunky dory now. What are you going to say tomorrow when Jesus comes?

Heteronormativity is hard to pin down because it is yet another divisive ruling method. Racist, classist, sexist. Power sets out to conquer. It’s the recessive competitive gene that keeps recurring. “History does not repeat itself it just rhymes.” (Danny Glover). Being informed by both African culture and Western indoctrination – it becomes hard to place oneself.
A close friend came out to me last year. He was really anxious. Because of my cultural background – musically (Hip Hop) and ethnically (Xhosa) – he’d always thought that I would de-friend him. I’m still ashamed. I had never thought of myself as homophobic. Dismal considering our oppressive history.

Who am I? A by product of middle class suburbia and model-c education? Or am I a person? How would I feel hearing people speak degradingly of my ethnicity and accent? I do know what that feels like and still endure it. Why was I not more sensitive? I can’t claim that it was because I was unaware that he was actually gay. The issue was that I used homophobic language which suggested I had the mentality that Homosexuals were inferior.
Masculine domination has given rise to Heteronormative values. They’re in effect throughout society. Heterosexuals may be in the majority but it does not give them the right to marginalise all other groups while behaving as if their choices are superior.

I’m not preaching like some Born Again trying to convert people. I grew up playing rugby, thus the testosterone does tend to flow freely from time to time. If I see a guy drinking a cider instead of a beer I judge him. His man points plunge. It’s instinctive, most girls I know feel the same. But there again is another Heteronormative construct. Lines are getting blurred though. Look at the hipster obsession with Skinny jeans. It leads to the man toe – guys with outlined manhoods by the tight pants hugging them. That kind of self-display suggests self-branding is so far advanced that it threatens to amalgamate men and women once and for all. Hey, that’s a challenge to heteronormativity in my books.

* Illustration © Jason Bronkhorst.

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