I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that our destination for the day was 20 mins away from the office.
When I was finally able to attach the name Sihle to a face, I was astonished at the fact that we had actually met before.
I met her at a LGBTQ discussion about how religion plays into the realities of queer people.
In this day, Sihle ended up sharing what it has been like coming out as queer during lockdown. As an activist, she spoke about the experience with grace, even though she is still experiencing the adversity.
Sihle is also the kind of woman that speaks with confidence, and she harnessed this confidence as she spoke about queer identity.
Speaking of confidence, I saw Zenande flourish today as she spoke to Sihle’s friend.
After the shoot, we all went for lunch at Xai Xai in Melville, with Sihle and her friend leading the way in their car.
Once we were seated, I remember the TV in front of us was playing female UFC wrestling. I became instantly captivated by their entrance gimmicks. One of them had a particularly arrogant demeanor, and I was so sure that she would win. However, the outcome of the match proved me wrong as the shorter and more humble female knocked her back down to earth.
As someone who grew up watching WWE wrestling religiously, I was not accustomed to watching two people actually beating each other into submission. I was only familiar with dramatic story lines, acrobatics and fake pain.
Once we exited Xai Xai, I realized I was surrounded by wholesome people that just meet something to jumpstart their emotions, or engage with something or someone intriguing.
A street performer is executing some of the most fascinating illusions I’ve ever seen in real life. As people gather around him to appreciate his mastery, I see how everyone is giving their undivided attention to this man. Our attention used to be so difficult to keep before the pandemic, now people are waiting to be blown away by reality.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I hated the power dynamic involved in this scenario.
We had people who are privileged dining at the restaurant while enjoying ‘free’ entertainment provided by the economically disadvantaged. Social hierarchy gives experiences such as these a bad after taste.
A more empowering image appeared in front of me, of a homeless woman and white woman walking side by side and talking. Surprisingly, it did not look like one of those ‘white savior’ moments at all. It looked like to female human beings walking side by side and creating human connection.
Sihle is a 19 years old queer woman who lives in Johannesburg, she is currently studying LLB law at Wits University. She is a young woman living with depression and anxiety, COVID -19 has really challenged and worsened her mental health problems because she is constantly locked up at her home. That has in turn her academics in a huge way. She is dealing with tensions at her home because of her being queer in particular with her father.
In Sihle’s story we look at how the online learning has affected her mentally and her family support structure, we also look at how her sexuality is being questioned more so with the lockdown and having to be closed in with her family and being forced to confront her own sexuality.