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Toilet Signs

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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  1. Zuki says:

    Nicely done young person- questioning the norm is a noble quest indeed!

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  2. Jason says:

    I wouldn’t really call that an illustration, but I’ll take what I can get.

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  3. Jason says:

    And I’m with you on the cider thing. And then there’s the lady’s (half) pint.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    empty fucking rant

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  5. Andy says:

    it’s not empty Anonymous… you just need to read it with a dictionary.

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  6. Andy says:

    and by that I mean “you” not “one”.

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  7. Sehlu says:

    Clearly mr. anonymous needs a dictionary but just incase he doesn’t have time to get to one, here’s a definition of the word rant from a not too difficult site to use, wikipeida:

    A rant is a speech or text that does not present a calm argument; rather, it is typically an enthusiastic speech or talk or lecture on an idea, a person or an institution

    Now, what mr. pikoli has presented seems like a pretty CALM reflection on a topic. Secondly, it’s not said in ‘entusiastically’ against anyone, which is another criteria for a rant. Rather, it a self-reflective piece and if it’s against anyone, it’s against himself.

    Your, comment on the other hand… i think it fits the criteria…

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  8. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think this is a particularly insightful piece of writing.

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  9. Zuki says:

    Word to ur momma Sehlu!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    good example to remind us of growing up becoming a passive fragile construct of society first whose joints are, if you are willinig to look closer and lucky enough to have access to the critical glasses, visbly leaking. i guess its wrong to say, that heteronormativity is just a political, cultural tool. but its most of all a simplification, a gps that helps people orientate in life. human but defective.

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  11. Dedalus says:

    If anyone uses the word ‘construct’ again in anything other than a building and/or maintenance context, I’m going to shit.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    not a native speaker thats why. thumbs crossed for your weak sphincter

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  13. itcharus says:

    If anyone uses the word ‘context’ again in a mahala comment, I’m going to construct me a media refuge second to none.

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  14. random says:

    sweet piece of social commentary…

    My only problem with mahala (and my second comment on it in as many days) is; why the fuck do the haters just keep coming back?!?

    If they hate it THAT much, why don’t they read something else? like YOU magazine for instance, which seems more suited to their banal tastes.

    Anyway, well done writer…

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  15. Siyabulela Moon. says:

    You have touched on a trully sensitive topic yet contructed your approach to the subject very well. Giving reference to yourself gives the reader someone to relate to. Well done!

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  16. Siyabulela Moon says:

    Oops! My bad. I meant constructed, sorry about that.

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  17. disco says:

    Nice one hawk’s!!!

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  18. Jade says:

    Not when I took this article at face value first did I realize where the final conduct would lead me…impressed I am to say the least! Well done! Really interesting angle the matter was taken from, I would never have guessed it.

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  19. mich says:

    Nicely done. this on has such a sober tone – little guilt tripping, few pointing fingers – that’s such an achievement mr pikoli – to decry something without insulting Every One – just a clear heads-up for when every one turns into everyone + people conflate themselves into a mass mentality.

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  20. Jannie says:

    When I was 12, I knew I was a moffie, it made me develop skills that today I think is quite unfair for a small child or perfectly normal to prepare yourself for life to come. Handling my heterosexual homophobic parents in primary school and the feeling of your own blood turning on you, the fear that they might spot you and you will be the shame of the family, a burden for something they did wrong. I had to be the best in everything I do to make up for the shame that might come. Every move had to be reprogrammed, a sexy guy- don’t look, lift your elbow when you drink a beer, never ask for a cider, two options for shoes- choose the ugly one, don’t speak with your hands, don’t watch miss world except for the swimwear section, date girls but cheat on them as soon as you can so they can drop you. Don’t ever get too drunk you might spill the beans. Watch rugby, but never make your hero the sexy one. And today I am the shame I feared to be. I came out the closet a few months ago, my best friend whom I spend my whole youth with suddenly wouldn’t take a lift with me to his house alone. Our boxing together stopped because he can’t afford it anymore. My other friends have calculated conversations with me. It’s easy to say you have shit friends but I love them they were part of me, not something I can just quickly change for a new set of friends. They feel I lied to them my whole life, it must be so traumatising. I get bombarded with heterosexual propaganda in every single movie and magazine everyday. Look a guy drinking a cider, did I spot a gay? All right to love, show affection, be masculine and be a man are owned by heterosexuals. And don’t come with nature made a penis to fit a vagina kak, heterosexuals have more anal sex than gays, so before you judge a cider drinking dude again wipe the shit off our own cock first. You might be dealing with a person who dealt with allot more in life you can ever imagine.

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  21. Bob says:

    This is pretty gay.

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  22. Matt says:

    I love that you guys all think I am gay because I drink cider. That’ll make it much easier to fuck your girlfriends behind your back.

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  23. Hemani says:


    I really enjoyed reading this- it was wonderfully articulated.

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  24. str8 says:


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  25. wipneusie says:

    agreed: fucking girls and drinking cider is for queers.

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