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They called me Queer, Book Cover
They called me Queer, Book Cover

They Called Me Queer

A new volume of South African queer stories.

All too often the lives of queer people, and particularly of those who are also black, are erased from mainstream society. They Called Me Queer is a collection of essays written by South African Queer People of Colour who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+). Across the continent, and throughout the world, South Africa has become known for its tolerance towards the LGBTQIA+ community. But being that as it may, even with the legal protections the law provides, South Africans live in a devastatingly segregated and unequal society, where the combination of race, class, gender and sexual identities still heavily impacts every part of our lives.

This collection of stories is a testimony to who black queer people are. It is an assertion of this community’s struggles, but also its joys and triumphs. These are tales of acceptance and rejection, of young love and old lovers, of families and communities, of the agonising thrills of coming out and coming into one’s self.

This anthology was compiled by Kelly-Eve Koopman and Kim Windvogel.

Koopman is a storyteller and activist. With her partner Sarah Summers she has developed the web series, Coloured Mentality. She is a delegate on the Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity and co-director and one third of FemmeProjects, anorganisation focused on intersectional approaches to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education.

Windvogel is a Human Rights Defender, and also a co-founder and Advocacy Officer of FemmeProjects. She had s to say about They Called Me Queer: ”It was birthed from my friendship with one of the editors of She Called me Woman – Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak, who was very encouraging of us creating our own South African edition, but mostly it was birthed from a need for us to centre Queer People of Colour’s experiences of queerness in South Africa, a country that has a love of white-washing absolutely everything. In the same breath, this book is for everyone, whether you are queer or not, white, of colour or black. It took a lot of hard work, team work, individual work, collective pain, joy and working through fear, for this labour of love to be ready.”

Contributors to the book include Haji Mohamed Dawjee, Lwando Scott, Ling Sheperd, Maneo Mohale, Chase Rhys, Wanelisa Xaba, Jamil F Khan, Khanya

Kemami, Janine Adams, Craig Lucas, Shelley Barry, Lester Walbrugh, Kat Kai Kol-Kes, Sandrine Mpazayabo, Clio Koopman, Carl Collison, Neo Baepi, Jamil Khan, Nicole Adams, Qondiswa James, Mary Hames, Zoey Black and many more.

Cover Image, courtesy of GALA (Gay & Lesbian Memory in Action) features Ismail Hanif, better known as Piper Laurie, was a well-known character from District Six, Cape Town. Piper Laurie was part of a queer community that was highly visible and integrated into the broader community, representing an important part of the social fabric and culture of District Six. Members of this queer community sometimes identified as gay men and sometimes identified as women. Piper Laurie and her contemporaries generally used feminine pronouns in referring to each other and whilst they may not necessarily have identified as queer, the intentional blurring of the gender binary can be viewed as queer.

They Called Me Queer is now available in all major book stores and can be purchased.


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