The ‘Star newspaper headline: Sept.26, 2005’
The Star newspaper headline: Sept, 26, 2005
As most of you will remember, the festive spirit of the 2005 Joburg Pride ended abruptly on the 24th of September as 23-year-old Tumeka Goniwe was hit in the neck with a broken bottle in what is believed to have been a lesbophobic attack. She almost bled to death and was rushed to Johannesburg Hospital where she spent 3 days recuperating.
She has since recovered physically, though an emotional recovery from the attack is a slower process. Not only must she deal with the trauma of being a survivor of a hate crime, the incident also forced an unplanned coming out to her parents who were shocked and did not approve of her lesbian status. Having to explain to them that her sexuality is part of her and that she was not willing to change was even more difficult under the circumstances. However, with the help of a psychotherapist arranged for her by FEW, Tumeka believes she is at least past the stage of feeling like she cannot cope.
For Tumeka—and for all of us who embrace our sexualities—the attack is a stark reminder of the vulnerable position that “out and proud” lesbian, trans, and gay people are in despite the fact that we can hire floats and receive parade permits to celebrate our community’s diversity. While no one has been arrested for the attack, the broken bottle was obviously aimed at the FEW float and was designed to injure the body and spirit of a ‘lesbian.’
I spoke with this remarkably strong young woman from Mohlakeng in Randfontein on February 7th at our FEW offices. Here is the interview with Tumeka in brief.
TG: I spent the festive season with my family in East London where I got time to understand myself better and to be able to deal with some issues. I also tried to make my family understand why I am as a lesbian. For me being a lesbian is what makes me happy. For them to accept me, but I think they are getting there.
ZM: What are you doing now?
TG: I’m not doing anything and I’m busy looking for a job. I left school in 2003, because of financial difficulties. My dad passed away and that forced me to drop out of school. I was doing Introduction in Arts because I aimed at doing Graphic Designing. I tried to do the same course at Bloemfontein Technikon, but I was turned down because of my symbols and they advised me to go and upgrade.
ZM: Have you applied for internships?
TG: I have tried, but the problem has been that since I was raised by my aunt and she is a person who signed a lot of things (she works for government), and was responsible for affidavits. I was regretted by TEFSA when I applied through Technikons. I’ve been at home since then.
ZM: So right now if any opportunity can come your way you can accept it?
TM: Yes I can take it.
2005 Sept.: FEW float where the survivor got hurt during Jo’burg Pride 2005
ZM: After last year’s incident will you do Pride again?
TM: Yes, I will do pride again and I’m not scared, it just happened that I was the one that got hurt. It was homophobic people who did that, the fact that a strange person hurt me. If I stop, it will mean that I did not believe in who I am. I just don’t want to make other people happy by making myself scared and have doubts of my sexual orientation.
ZM: How has it been for you and your girlfriend after the incident?
TM: It was difficult at first, we broke up after a month but she came back to me afterwards. That was a time when I needed her most and she could not give me support and she blamed me-- if I did not go I was not going to get hurt.
She thought I was going to be crippled, but luckily I was not and now we are back together again, and happy.
ZM: How is your hand now?
TM: Compared to last year it is better. The physio-therapists told me that it is going to take time because my veins are strong since
I’m a young adult so it is going to take time to heal as time goes by.
ZM: How many times have you attended physio?
TM: five to six times because it is government hospital and they are many people who attend there. I go there twice a month. My mother covers the bill because I’m unemployed. It costs R30 each time I go to physio.
ZM: What message do you have other lesbians your age who are going through coming out period?
TM: I can say to them it only takes a strong person to admit who that person is.
’One needs to be determined, proud of who she is, and do not try to impress people. As long as she is happy. She must always remember that her happiness comes first.’