I am a gay man of 22 years. Together with my mother, three sisters, little brother and my aunt, I live in Pretoria, South Africa. And I have a partner. I work as a peer educator for OUT, which is an organisation that aims to advance the health and well-being of LGBT people. It is every gay guy’s dream to work for OUT, and I am living this dream! The work offers me a platform to understand myself as a homosexual man and to find out what I can bring to the community. This is a stepping stone for me to become a motivation figure. I am learning how to bring about behaviour change and how difficult it can be at times. In South Africa, many people think that when you are a homosexual, you are going to hell, while others think you are an unnatural species. Stigma and discrimination are evident here. The psychological impact of this on individuals is that they start to believe that they are crazy and that something is wrong with them. It also leads to homophobic attacks and hate crimes. Homosexuals are often exposed to danger. But most difficulty they experience at home with their parents. They fear rejection if they come out, and they also feel that they have failed their parents. Besides, they are afraid to express who they really are at school and at work, as they fear criticism. And those who are committed to religion find it difficult to be LGBT, because it is viewed as wrong. Some religious persons in South Africa even think that LGBT people should be killed. This leads to a lot of self-hatred and some seek comfort in alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity. Unfortunately, many people have incorrect perceptions about LGBT people. And the stigma surrounding anal sex makes it difficult to talk about.
I want people to have pride in themselves
As a peer educator I have clients of 18 years and older, both LGBT and heterosexual people. Often, jointly with fellow peer educators, I implement outreach activities in clubs, to raise awareness regarding safer sexual activity. There, I set up a table and hand out condoms, lubrication, and educational materials. Moreover, I provide training programmes at local clinics, which are more formal educational activities. Sometimes, I initiate conversations with people in taxis, and I visit events in parks to create awareness. And I also educate my own family. As a peer educator I work flexible hours. I am ready at any time to provide information, and I look for opportunities throughout the day. Particularly at night, there is a lot to do at events and in clubs. I want people to have pride in themselves and to understand their behaviour. And I wish to create more awareness in my community. But it will take time for the people of South Africa to understand and accept LGBT.