Because of the history, scars and residual effects of the Apartheid, South Africa has become inextricably linked to the fight for equality. Because of this past, compounded with the nation’s economic inequality, I entered this program expecting the struggle for basic human rights and equity to extend into almost every aspect of South African life. While disparities – particularly in terms of race and wealth – are quite evident, the degree of inequality in South Africa has not been as far reaching as I anticipated. Namely, I was surprised to discover the degree of acceptance of homosexuality here, particularly compared to that of the United States.
I first began noticing the broad acceptance and relative lack of stigma surrounding homosexuality while touring the South African Supreme court. There, the guide mentioned that same-sex marriage was legalized by the South African Supreme Court in 2006. This astonished me as it preceded the American Supreme Court’s ruling by nearly a decade, and I have always viewed America as being relativity accepting of homosexuality by global standards. However, this broad acceptance has become most evident by the conversations and interactions with South Africans I had during my first month here.
Though I have never experienced blatant homophobia in the States, I have on countless occasions encountered the sudden rigidity and discomfort that overtakes some individuals when I mention my sexuality. However, I am yet to experience that phenomenon here. In fact, I was astonished to see how openly people discuss homosexuality and the lack of stigma often attached to it that is so commonplace at home. Though I was nervous before arriving that I would face prejudice for my sexuality in South Africa, I discovered a community far more accepting of homosexuality than the one I was nervous to leave.