MaThoko is the coming to life of a space I wish existed when I was a young Black Lesbian. Thokozile Khumalo, known affectionately as MaThoko opened up her home in KwaThema township to countless LGBTI youth seeking a space of understanding and community. Her postbox became a receiver of letters from across South Africa from other LGBTI youth wanting to creating networks of support and relations of solidarity. Her postbox is the last remaining object from the original house – it has become a radical symbol of resistance
Coming across this story made me think about where OUR MaThoko was? Who/What would be the figure that would provide a space where we could heal, create, and build networks of solidarity and community. Where was our space “to learn to love our selves as Black women beyond a simplistic insistence that ‘Black is beautiful.” – Audre Lorde
This was the thought process that brought about the impetus for me to create uMaThoko – she is representative of the need for individual emotional, spiritual and psychological healing journeys that Black Lesbian South Africans are in various stages of traveling. I will be writing about my own journey to spiritual and mental health. We might not all be at the same level but we are all on the same journey.
However this is not your typical pull-yourself-up by your bootsraps/positive thinking space. I do not believe in the culture of positive thinking which has permeated our cultural language. I don’t think the perfect body, the right amount of incense and crystals will make things better. I write from a space of knowing that everyday Black Lesbians in South Africa are dealing with a variety of emotional, financial and spiritual oppressions which are the result of institutionalised homophobia* and misogynoir*. My writing acknowledges all the structural and systemic oppressions you deal with. I acknowledge that being angry, sad, emotionally fatigued and exhausted is justified because you – as a masculine/feminine/androgynous presenting lesbian – have to enter spaces where you will be harassed and potentially physically violated (taxi ranks are the worst). You have to do this because it is part of your daily routine of survival. You have to go to your job and make money to get out of an environment where you’re emotional and financial resources are continuously being depleted. I acknowledge all your struggles and I say your emotional fatigue is justified.
I hope to give you tools which will enable you to create an emotional safety network which will hold and support you through this process. I hope you will also engage with me and keep me accountable where I do use language which is exclusionary or does not reflect the kind of community we want to create.
Come BBZ* bring all yourselves
Come rest, come lay next to me and tell me everything
Why do you wonder at my silence? Have you never been listened to with intention before?
Come BBZ bring all your tired selves.
Peace in the Middle-East – MaThoko
- Misogynoir – a word which combines “misogyny” and “noir” (French for black) – a term coined by Moya Bailey to described the particular kind of racialized sexism black womxn face
- Homohopbia – the inexplicable hate towards people who are homosexual/queer
- Taken from BBZ London – a London based inclusive creative space for Queer womxn and genderqueer people of colour (BBZ – Bold Brazen Zamis) – Zami taken from Audre Lorde’s book of the same name – “Zami is West Indian term for Lesbian).