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My 20 truths


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“It takes strength and courage to admit the truth”-Rick Riodan

1. I am a quirky person and have come to accept that as a fact. Why change what is my true self, many will not understand my “strange” ways but that will not make me change who I am.

2. I have come to realise that I will never be the cutest, funniest, sexiest, smartest, richest or even coolest person even if I sold my soul (which is something I am not even considering doing), but I have special qualities that are unique only to me.

3. I am growing old and that scares me sometimes; more especially the fact that I am way behind what my peers have accomplished. Its not a race and even if it was; the turtle won the race remember.

4. The challenges in my life will never stop me from dreaming and finding ways to make those dreams come true.

5. I am a better person today because I found someone who loves me in the same way that I love him. Love is a lifesaver. I found my strength in this twin soul of mine. He centers and grounds me. Honestly I am calmer since I met him and people have said they see the difference.

6. I believe every soul was placed on earth for a purpose. Mine might be a little fuzzy and unclear but I am doing my best to make sense and  fulfil it.

7. I have touched and made a difference in at least one life.

8. Chocolate, books and music has saved me from a lot of misery. Two friends who never let me down.

9. I am forever grateful for God’s blessings in my life. Sometimes we overlook the good and dwell on all the negatives,  forgetting that there is always a balance. No matter how small the blessings seem, they are actually worth a lot more than all the pain.

10.   I am proud of who I am. I was raised by a strong woman who taught me that giving is much better than receiving and has led by example. Yes I am my mama’s son and nothing will ever change that.

11. I am not the strongest person in the world, yes contrary to popular belief I sometimes need a shoulder to cry on and unfortunately those are few and far between.

12. My faith in God will never wane.

13. I live life one day at a time, there is no rush and I do my best to enjoy each moment (reffer to #3)

14. I still believe in the goodness of humanity. Not all is lost.

15. The suffering I have seen in my travels have made me learn to appreciate the little that I have.

16. Living with a chronic condition has taught me how to appreciate every breath that I take.

17. My mistakes and wrong choices serve as lessons for the journey ahead.

18. There is nothing that can replace the beauty of a child’s smile. I live my kids with my whole heart and sometimes wish I had their innocence.

19. To me beauty is not limited to aesthetics.  Beauty can ooze from within and is more attractive than what is on the surface.

20. I don’t know where this road leads, but yet I soldier on building bridges and paving ways as I go.

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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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HI who? Oh you mean that uninvited guest I’m living with.


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It has been a little over a decade since an uninvited guest decided to come into my life (well I had a role in this), he has never left and will be here till I take my last breath.

A conversation at the office made me realise that actually I even forget that this “guest” is with me every day. Ironic isn’t it because for the past decade every day I have to take antiretrovirals in order to suppress it.

How can this be possible? I was 26 when I was diagnosed with HIV and today I’m 38 and still the same crazy, strange, skinny gay guy I’ve always been. It all comes down to the decision I made on that June afternoon years ago; that I am not going to allow HIV to be a determining factor in my life. Like come on, this is my show and I am the solo star “geddit”. There is no way I am going to allow something that needs me in order to live to take control and steal my spotlight.

Its not like I don’t think of HIV, come on I hear the bugger mentioned every day of my life because I work in the Health and Human Rights field, do trainings and workshops on this. But still it is not one of the things I obsess over. Its a virus, I am human, it has killed people and very real. But there is no way I am allowing that to happen to me.

My life is my life HIV or not, I am in control. Some people have said they find it strange that I am able to separate my HIV related work, living with HIV and  my existence on earth. I wish I knew how I am capable of doing this. Honestly there is no secret or fomular to this; I just decided to live my life.

Before my diagnosis I was into fashion, media and the arts, what has changed? The answer is NOTHING. Okay I might spend the whole day reasearching, talking, giving advice and training on HIV. Thats the only time this virus is in my mind. Come knockoff time; I’m listening to music, reading fashion blogs and magazines or “plotting” as to how I am going to change and improve my living space, wardrobe and hair or what gadget I would like to add to my ever growing collection. Come on, this is who I am. I not HIV, so why must it be the main thing in my life.

I’m no Super Hero. I am Luckyboy Phoenix Edison Mkhondwane, well I happen to live with HIV but it is not the most important thing in my life. I live, I breathe and I am proud of who I am and I approve this message as I “keep on swimming” 😉

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Homeward bound


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“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” L. FRANK BAUM, -The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

They say there is no place like home or home is where the heart is. Honestly my heart is at home and no place in the world will ever be like home.

This time last year I was doing the same thing I’m doing today; looking for removal companies and quotes as I had a great move ahead of me. Because of work, I had to relocate from Duduza, Gauteng to Pietermartzburg, KwaZulu Natal. Some 410 kilometres away from all that is familiar. This was largely a decision that was influenced by job security as I’ve stated and it turned out to be one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my 37 years on this planet.

I left behind not only my family, the comfort of knowing where what is and all my friends. I also left my love and my sense of belonging. Initially I thought I would give this “new” place six months and if it doesn’t work out I would be on the first six to seven hours bus back home. Contrary to my plan, even though this place did not “grow” on me as I expected, I decided to give it another six months. This is my 11th moth here and I just can’t stay any longer. The phone calls, text messages and monthly bus trips have not made any difference.

The city itself is nothing different from the small town I grew up in, but there is something really frustrating about the pace of this place “Sleepy Hollow” comes to mind. I don’t know how I’ve survived this far, but staying any longer will be the death of me or if not, I might just lose my mind.

A while back I posted about how it seems as if no one actually notices my sexuality and that is really not a problem. But I’ve realised I’m too different form the people here. The way that I dress which funny enough is understated by Johannesburg standard, my tattoo covered arms and well there is my taste in music which I find quite shocking that people here or those I’ve come into contact with really don’t get it that I listen to Pop, Rock, Electro with some RnB thrown in. I am definitely an oddity over here and it is such things that make me realise one can experience culture shock in one’s own country.

Don’t ask me anything about my surroundings; I’ve come to know the city very well and can make my way around quite easy, but honestly in the 11 months that I’ve been here; I’ve actually haven’t done much more than go to work, go back to my apartment, go to the shops and hit the mall. Friends have asked me about hot spots and night life; like really is there a night life here. If I am to respond to that in all honesty I would say “it doesn’t exist, there is nothing, zilch nada”.

I am a small town boy through and through, but there is a limit on how quiet a place has to be, and this just didn’t cut it. As I count down the weeks before I eventually say goodbye to “Sleepy Hollow” and go back to where my heart is, I’m noting this down; Never Stray Far From Home Unless It Is Where You Can Make a New Home.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Emancipation of Phoe-Phoe

The Emancipation of Phoe-Phoe

Most of what we become as grown-ups is largely determined by what were taught and exposed to as children (socialisation). As children we a literally sponges that get saturated by what we are exposed as we are tend to accept anything that we hear and see, we absorb all influences and mostly it is our families, communities and friends that shape our thinking, behaviour and beliefs.

The formative years (Socialisation)

Mirror Mirror on the wall. We all struggle with a lot of things as we are growing up and mostly they are external things that we feel we don’t have control over, an most of the time if we did not get exposed to the things we worry so much about we couldn’t care less about them. With me it was my looks, I have drop-dead gorgeous siblings and all my cousins are also tall beautiful or handsome. Then there is me; short, scrawny, big forehead and sometimes I used to think I’m all teeth.

I laugh when I think about this because actually no-one ever said to me ‘Lucky you are so ugly’ or anything like that. This opinion was shaped by the magazines I used to steal from my cousin’s room when I ran out of reading material. Way back the all Black” magazines few as they were had these well-built guys with big afro’s, perfect white smiles and imagine I wasn’t even in my teens then but I was comparing myself to those pictures of the perfect man and the people whom whom I believed were very close to the “mannequins” I believed to be the way I am supposed to be. This goes on to show that it is not only the people we grow around with that influence our behavior and thinking, but also what we expose ourselves to and I my case it was an overload of pop-culture which instead of being there for entertainment became one of the drivers of my not so healthy self-image and of course my, very beautiful family.

Are you a boy or a girl? “Go outside and play with other boy and throw that doll away. Who bought it?”, that is my father shouting at me as he finds me playing with my cheap fashion doll which I secretly brought with my lunch money after months of saving in my bedroom. “You are not supposed to be playing with that. 

This is what I always think of when I have those moments where I think about my sexuality which is very rare. 

What or who makes the rules on what boys or girls are supposed to be like? Society, our parents and to some extent the media teaches us what we can and can’t do in order to be accepted. Well who wants to be normal? Your normal and my normal will never be the same, so why do we pull our hair out and cause ourselves headaches for something that is beyond our control.

I’ve never been an outdoors kind of boy (I’m still not) and see nothing wrong with my choice of toys, my brother (turned out to be heterosexual) played with my dolls too, but I don’t remember him being told he is a” sissy”. Why me, is it because even though I’m three years older than him, I am shorter, skinnier and more fragile. Well that also caused a lot of scaring as I am now being taught that I can’t do this or that because it is not normal for boys. Growing up surrounded by my male cousins, my brother and not a single girl living with us, I am being “programmed” to be a man. “Don’t cry, man up, drop that, here is a soccer ball, is that a doll” is what I remember hearing all the time in the house. How do I respond to this? Well I’ve got no choice but to man-up as I’m told or I’ll end up being like my uncle whatever that means.

The latter years (re-socialisation)

Freedom from the mirror! Like I said in the first part of this piece, what I saw and exposed myself to shaped my body image. This is something I have struggled with until I discovered Oprah Winfrey. The first time I saw her I must have said “who is this fat woman with big hair and a flat nose and why is she on TV?”, this is how my relationship with talk-shows started and more-so I had someone who did not look perfect to look up to and say “well if she is on TV, so why am I stressing about the body I did not choose” I don’t know if it is the fact that our birthdays are both in January (mine on the 28th and hers on the 29th) that I felt such a bond with this woman who is halfway across the world from me or is it the positive way she portrayed people; black, white, big, small, good –looking or plain”.

I found my release from the prison I have built for myself through the magazines and comparing myself to people who did not even care how I looked but gave me love and affection. I am now so confident that I don’t even notice my teeth and humongous forehead (well most of the time).

Thank you Susan Erasmus I’m 14 and yet again I’m reading a stolen magazine. This time it is well known around the house where the magazines go as my pile is growing by the day. As I page through this copy of YOU Magazine, (reading every page as always) I come across an article by Susan Erasmus (I think it was based on her thesis) and it is about homosexual teenagers and it was like reading about myself, Light bulb moment as my “friend” Oprah would say. So I am gay, but what is it really? Then after several sessions of going through Susan’s article, I finally come to realize “absolutely I am” 

So there is a name for this “thing” and it is not wrong or weird as I used to think. Well a sense of relief came over me as I am now able to name my “condition and break away from the pretence of being a “normal” boy. 

I pick a book and sigh in relief as I have found that nothing is wrong with me. Nothing has been wrong with me and nothing will be wrong with me. I am normal, not anybody else’s normal, but my own normal. The world can either take it or leave it (I think this is where Lucky the activist was born).

Well going forward, my father stopped asking about the dolls and the pink floral wrapping paper I used on my school books and it is still a mystery why.

I started this piece by saying we are shaped by what we see, hear and expose ourselves or are exposed to, but this socialisation is not a permanent thing; learned behavior, made up opinions, social influences can be undone. And it doesn’t take a person that you know to “re-socialise” you. It can be that fat talk show host, that lady you have never seen but whose words struck a chord in you and revealed who you really are.

I still read magazines, but I’ve come to terms with my skinny frame, my big fat nose and my forehead. That can’t be changed because it is the person that counts, the human being. I am no longer scared of my love for pink and “girl” things an funny enough I think I’m manlier than my three close friend, but we are the same in many ways. I don’t have to live up to societies expectations of what beauty and manliness is. Like flowers in a garden, we all add beauty and variety to this world.

How we are socialised, be it willingly, or unconsciously can be undone is at most of the times not our own doing, but determined by how we were brought up, the social norms or cultural background. But all that is not the all in all. Things change, people get exposed to other cultures, move to other place or discover new things. Everything changes, so can socialisation.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Queens of “The Gardens”

The Queens of “The Gardens”

It was a cold a drizzling day when I met Megan and Cleo; two homeless gay men belonging to a group called “The Queens of the Gardens” because of their frequenting the famous Company Gardens, I shiver even though I am wearing a jersey and I can’t help wondering how cold these two young men sitting next to me must feel in their light tops.

Cleo is 19 years old and Megan is 20, they are both originally from Mitchells Plain where they grew up and got thrown out of their comfort zones because of circumstances they both attest that they couldn’t control, they have never met before they became homeless but their circumstances made them best friends. This makes one wonder if the lives we are living are something we can or cannot have control over.  As they share their stories with me I can’t help notice that they are bubbly and well-spoken even though Megan has told me that he dropped out of school and he can’t read.

Cleo ended up on the streets of Cape Town six years ago when he couldn’t take the instability in his family life anymore “my mother has never had a house of her own, and we have always been moving from place to place. Most of the time we were living her boyfriends and would have to move on when the relationship ended” he says with a glazed look in his eyes. He tells me that six years ago he and his mother were living with one of her boyfriends as usual when the man’s sister arrived one night and told him that it is about time he found a place of his own, that was not the only problem he faced this time; the man they were living with was intolerant of his sexual orientation and had very strict rules about how he was supposed to be a “man”. Cleo goes on to say on that very same night he packed whatever little he had and decided to move to the City with hopes of finding a job which turned out to be a rather difficult task for someone so young and who doesn’t have any education.  That is how he ended up living by himself in the streets until he met Megan a little later who became his friend not only because they share the same circumstances of being homeless, but that they both are gay men who have been rejected by society.

Megan who is a year older than Cleo and has been homeless for seven years was forced to go out into the cold streets of Cape Town when his mother and sister were shot in an unexplained incidence, and His other sister is also in Cape Town making a living as a commercial sex worker. He comes across as the stronger of the two and he is so well-spoken for someone who never had an education and his sense of humour adds to his aura. For someone who has no place to call home and depends on what people are willing to give him, Megan is very spiritual and very optimistic about life. If only he had an identity document he would be able to get a job and make a living but that is not the case as his mother was negligent and did not even bother registering his birth.

Cleo and Megan shared with me how they live by begging on the streets and having clothes given to them by total strangers while in the other hand some people tell them to go look for jobs when they ask them for money which ironically enough is not large amounts as all they need for a single meal at the soup kitchen, where the go three times a day is R1.50. They both share the same fear of something happening to them and Megan being the oldest is more concerned about Cleo’s safety than his own, “every night when he is not back or delayed in coming back to Bo Kaap where we spend the nights I cry and pray that he be safe”. What strikes me as interesting and dispelled my misconceptions of homeless people is that the two “queens” laughed and said not at all, but we do smoke cigarettes when I asked them if they do drugs.

Life is indeed very interesting but when you get to talk with the people who are experiencing something you have never imagined could happen in your life is quite an eye opening experience and how we take for granted all the things we have whereas there are other people who wish they could be us.

(picture by Simonia Mashangoane; Cleo, me and Megan)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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