By Galaletsang Koffman
This month I take a detour approaching this column. As promised, I will be in conversations with friends from different worlds throughout the year. Bullying is a topic very close to my heart. Growing up with 6 brothers and male cousins, I have always been questioned about my sexuality due to hand me down shorts and t-shirts worn by my male family members. Some referring to me as lesbian, tomboy or unfashionable,
little did they know the struggles and challenges one was faced with. My sexuality has always been a reason for pome people to pick on me and discredit the relationship I was having at the time, whether with a boy or girl and not wanting to conform to one gender made me an easy target. This month I am talking to a friend in the LGBTQI+ community about this topic. I pray and hope that you receive closure, whether you have been on the receiving or giving end. JUST KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
• Who are you and what do you do? My name is Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane. I am a bibliophile who practices law every now and then. I run a really cool podcast called the Cheeky Natives that focus on Black writers around the world.
• How do people in your workspace receive and interact with you because of your sexually? Is there a difference in treatment with your colleagues, boss and clients? I am no longer working in a typical office environment so I cannot
fully answer this question. I will say that I am not treated differently.
• What makes one a target of bullying or being bullied? And Have you ever been bullied or bullied someone else? I think that my femme-ness has often been a site of bullying and even my voice. People constantly mistaken me for a womxn.
• How do you think harassment and bullying affects one’s mental and physical state of being? And What effects does that have on one’s social behaviour in their adult life? I think that harassment has profound consequences on one’s mental health. We have heard of people killing themselves because they have been harassed and bullied.
• What do you think is the reason for people to not come forward after being bullied? Society has not created a safe space for us, we are often seen as being too sensitive or not “man enough” and constantly told to “manup”
• How do you feel about bystanders? I think that bystanders can be allies in speaking up against bullies but often they also enjoy the show of people getting harassed.
• Do you feel that coming out is easier for a specific gender than the other in South Africa and what are the challenges? No, coming out is not easier for anyone. I often think about the social cost of coming out. You may lose your family, their financial support and also emotion support.
• Do you feel that it is imperative for one to disclose their sexuality? No, I do not. Sometimes people do it for their own safety. A person is the only one that can determine when they feel it is okay to invite people into the life.
• What does representation mean to you? It means that our lives, the way we have sex, the way we love matters.
• What personal challenges have you faced as part of the LGBTQI+ community? Violence in all its forms. The world has been really harsh.
• What do you think can be done to protect people that have been bullied? Anti-bullying policies in the classroom and the workplace, and they must believe us and our experience.
• What do you think is the cause of cyberbullying and how can social media platforms create a safe environment for victims? I think that social media has shown us what has always been there. People are bolder because we cannot see them. However, for some of us have found community in the interwebs so it is not all bad.
• Do you feel that there is discrimination, bullying and homophobia happening amongst people in the LGBTQI+ community?
Yes, we are people who live in this society that is rife, soothe community is not special. I think that some of our challenges include class politics, our proximity to heteronormative and the generally clique culture we have cultivated.
• What are the challenges? and is it different to being bullied by someone from outside the community? I think it may hurt a little more because you think people will understand your struggles.
• At what point does conflict between peers become bullying on social media? T This is a tough question, which I am not sure I can answer. Save to say, bullying is when people no longer engage in the argument but start attacking the person.
• What can society to do to contribute towards the inclusion of people in the LGBTQI Community. In truth, be better human beings.
My conversations with Letlhogonolo are always a breath of fresh air and I hope that you have also experienced the same type of catharsis as I do when I speak to him. Honest, brave and driven… The change we would all want to see begins with all of us
Until next month, with Love
If you have any problems that you feel like you need help with, here are a few numbers that you can call:
THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY GROUP To find a Support Group in your area, please phone SADAG on 0800 21 22 23. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development 012 315 1111 Childline 080 005 5555 Lifeline 011 728 1347 South African Police Services (SAPS) 10111 or 086 001 0111 The Department of Social Development (SDS) 012 312 7500 The Department of Basic Education (DBE) 0800 202 933 National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) 012 845 6000 Legal Aid South Africa 011 877 2000