ABBW Around the World: Fighting Prejudice – Lesbian Soccer in South Africa
After reading this article about these courageous women, I wondered what issues lesbian sisters have in regard to dating and romance in the West. I would love to hear some opinions.please feel post away!
July 6, 2010 10:49 AM
Posted by David Gutnick @ The Fifa Worlc Cup Official Web SiteWhen South Africans tossed their racist laws into the garbage can at the beginning of the 1990’s, they showed the rest of the world that they were in the mood to make history. Anti-apartheid activists who had spent years in jail were finally free and hungry to remake their society.
Every citizen – no matter who they were – was to be treated with respect. The South African constitution – adopted in 1996 – was the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.” In the eyes of the law, gay and lesbian people have guaranteed rights. That is what is on paper. What happens in townships like Soweto, Alexandra and Diepsloot, and communities across South Africa is something else. Women who love women are still pushed aside, beaten and murdered.
That is why the Chosen Few soccer club is so extraordinary.It is the country’s only lesbian soccer team and it has made one of apartheid’s terrible symbols home base.
The Women’s Prison
“I was arrested on the 18th of November. They interrogated me in the night and then they assaulted me. What made them so cruel?” That is the voice of one of the thousands of black women who were thrown into Johannesburg Women’s jail by the South African government.
The heroic tales of women who spent years locked up because they fought for racial equality now boom out of loudspeakers hanging in the dark, damp cells. The tales of suffering are unbearable: Black prisoners were not allowed to wear undergarments; guards regularly fondled and raped women if they complained. Among the prisoners were articulate political prisoners who continued their work even under the most horrific conditions. “Because we were a big group of powerful women we made our jailers know what our cause was and what we were all about.”As you walk the somber corridors hearing those beautifully intense voices you cannot but wonder if their ghosts live behind the thick metal cell doors. They may well be living there.
However, these days they have to share their space with a new generation of revolutionaries.
The soccer-loving members of Chosen Few have turned a cell that used to hold political prisoners into their dressing room.Tin toilet buckets and blankets chewed up by rats have been replaced with balls and uniforms.”We come from different communities whereby we have been discriminated against because of our sexuality of being lesbians. And when you come to Chosen Few you meet other lesbians who have struggles just like you.”Twenty-two-year old Sidi Mofoneng’s dyed blond hair is shaved in zigzags. She chomps on gum as she kicks a ball around in the prison courtyard before practice. “In South Africa, when you’re black – we have our culture, we got our beliefs, we have religions. I am a Sesotho speaker and I come from a culture where they believe that being a lesbian is a sin. People do not believe that you can be born like that. They cannot believe it.”
Even worse, they attack women they suspect of being lesbian with their fists, sticks and guns.
On April 28th, 2008, Eudy Simelane, a member of South Africa’s national women’s soccer team and a lesbian rights activist, was gang raped and stabbed 25 times in KwaThema township.
Chosen Few member Sidi has experienced her own horror.A couple of weeks ago she was beaten up when she went out shopping.”It happened with my mom. We were in a mall. This other guy knew I was a lesbian because we go to the same school. I wanted to pass and buy something. So he did not want to let me pass and buy that thing. And he started calling me a faggot and swearing at me. I wanted to pass, and one thing I remember is being down and bleeding on my mouth. There is a long way for us to go to be accepted for who we are”.
Tuesday and Thursday soccer practice
The Chosen Few practice on a parking lot down the hill from the jail. Local schools will not allow them to use their grassy pitches.So Lerto-Chicken-Marumolwa and the rest of the team practice on gravel. “They don’t say because you are lesbian we are not going to allow you. It’s just no no no no. The field is empty. But look where we are training right now.”For an hour and a half, the women run round the parking lot. Their passes are smooth, their headers are powerful.Sidi’s a great dribbler and easily darts around her teammates.The goalposts are red plastic cones. Whoever scores has to chase the ball as it rolls down the hill towards the highway.Sweat dribbles down smiling faces.
A young man named Jambulo wanders by the practice. “They look very good. We always see boys playing, but these are girls. They are working very hard. “When Jambulo learns that Chosen Few are lesbians, his face falls.”That is a lesbian soccer team? I do not like lesbians – women who act like a boy. I do not like lesbians. Seriously.”Every Chosen Few soccer practice ends with stretching exercises and songs – the same songs that were sung by the women who were imprisoned just up the hill.As the sun goes down the winter evening is getting chilly. It is time for Lerato and her teammates to head back to their dressing room. “No, I am not tired. I am feeling somehow refreshed. I am just happy. Everyday when I come here some of the stress that I have from home, it feels like I am releasing some of the load that I was carrying with me”.In a few weeks, Chosen Few will fly off to Cologne, Germany to compete in the VIII Gay Games. They joke that before the first ball is kicked they might just take a few minutes and roll around on the soft grass.