Who are we?

For our café discussion this week we discussed “Freeing South Africa: The ‘Modernization’ of Male-Male Sexuality in Soweto” by Donald L. Donham. It was a really interesting one that brought up people’s conflicts with identity and it being placed upon them. In class we were asked if we think the anti-apartheid movement and the changes it brought to Linda’s life liberalized him. We decided that we think it did and a quote which answers it is that Linda said is,

“Before, al skesanas wanted to have a small cock. Now we can relax, it does not matter too much and people don’t discuss cocks as much… Before, I thought I was a woman. Now I think I’m a man, but it doesn’t worry me anyway. Although it used to cause problems earlier” (204).

After the anti-apartheid movement Linda realized that he was a man and was comfortable saying it. Before it was confusing and he was beaten for his identity, but now he is safe from violence. Linda didn’t want people to be close-minded and instead wanted people to be open to the world changing, different orientations and different preferences. Someone in class said it made Linda’s situation worse in the world because now he has a label compared to before when he didn’t. After the anti-apartheid movement he had an identity placed upon him, which is very confusing for someone. We talked about how this is very difficult for someone and although he went about his life before and faced consequences from his father and violence from others; after the movement he had to face categorizing. Just to make our café discussion interesting I asked Jen and Tina if they thought one was worse than the other. We all agreed it’s a tough question to answer since no one wants to get hit for who they are, but no one also wants to be labeled for other people’s benefits. Before Linda went about his daily life not necessarily caring about his label and then he had one because other people put it upon him. Tina said people want to classify things since they don’t like questioning who they are or someone else. Jen said people categorize for their own benefit, I agree with them completely with this.

Before and after the anti-apartheid movement Linda had to deal with different types of issues pertaining to his sexuality and gender. We talked about how that should not even be an issue nor decide how people think about him. Jen said “it’s so stupid that we have to talk about this”, which is true, but then we talked about how it is necessary. We talked about how this relates to color blindness and that we need to talk about gender and sexuality issues since it has changed so many people’s lives and people to suffer. We talked about how we should not have to since it should not be an issue, but since gender/sexuality issues have affected so many people, it is important to be aware of the topic. People are so obsessed with the topic since they need to know who they are. People don’t like to question themselves nor others therefore focus so much thought on their identity. Jen said, “we try not to classify, but it’s really difficult because we were raised in a society where everyone is placed into groups.” Tina and I agree and Tina said, “we’re all separated but try to be equal.” People label everyone, but also try to assimilate to where they are.

We got a little off topic from the reading and began discussing labeling in general. Jen brought up how when you say you’re American it generally implies you are white, because when you’re in America and not white you say you’re something else as well. For example Jen said when she’s out of the country and says she’s American , she also has to say she’s Dominican Republican.  A lot of people try to assimilate certain things and have questions about their identity because of their uncertainties. We then began talking about identities in general and our name’s identity. Jen told us that when she came to school she couldn’t say Henessy, how Jenessy is pronounced, because of her retainer so a professor thought her name was Jen. She then was known as Jen around school and she felt like she had a different identity. Her family pronounces her name Hennessy and barely anyone does here, so it has brought her different questions about her name. We then discussed how our name and what people call us gives us certain feelings and provides us with this sense of identity. She does want her name to have these meanings or feelings, but it naturally has done this. She said when she goes into the “real world” and applies to jobs that will most likely be owned by white males that will think of her name referring to the beer and of her as a joke. Although it sounds silly, we discussed it realistically. It is similar to the reading in the sense that people put identities upon us and it is uncomfortable situation.


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