My name is Oluchukwu. I’m 28 years old and I was born in Zimbabwe. Growing up I always felt I was different but I wasn’t sure about my feelings until the age of 12 when I was doing my grade 6. I was approached by a boy who was in grade 7 and he asked me to be his boyfriend. At first it was a shock to me but since I always had feelings for other boys, I accepted the proposal. This relationship helped me in discovering my true feelings and identity, however it (the relationship) didn’t last long because my partner had to transfer to another school for his form 1 studies, so due to the long distance our relationship ended.
Living in Zimbabwe as an LGBTQI+ person is very difficult because it is considered a taboo and is a crime. Due to life’s harsh circumstances and hardships I had to leave my home country and find refugee here in South Africa. It wasn’t by choice, but I had to leave because I was seen as a cursed child, a disgrace and viewed as a criminal even by my own family members, society and friends. I was even threatened with being thrown in the jail for being gay. I even tried to explain to my parents with so much hope that they would understand me as their child but they said it’s against our culture and societal beliefs and norms. This left me with no other choice than to leave and find a better life in a country with a progressive constitution that protects the rights of LGBTI persons, or so I thought.
Coming to South Africa was helpful because at least some people here understood and accepted me as I am even though some discriminate and stigmatize me for being Zimbabwean. They call us Makwerekwere. Nonetheless, I have found a home, a place where I can go and find my friends at Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry and The Fruit Basket. These organizations have been helping us with food hampers, trainings in development skills, safe transition advice for trans bodies and asylum support workshops. All thanks to a friend who introduced me to The Fruit Basket and The Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry.
As a queer black man, I think religious and cultural norms must be neutral and must not discriminate or stigmatize anyone.