South Africa: Gay couple hope their traditional wedding will inspire the black community

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A gay couple in South Africa have married in a wedding ceremony uniting Zulu and Tswana traditions, which they hope will send a message to others that “Being gay is as African as being black.”

Tshepo Cameron Modisane and Thoba Calvin Sithole, both 27, met several years ago while studying in Durban, but lost contact with each other.

A chance meeting in a gym in the suburbs of Johannesburg led to them becoming training partners, then a couple. After three years as boyfriends Mr Modisane proposed in June 2012.

South Africa legalised same-sex marriage in 2006, but the pair still drew media attention as the area’s “first legal gay wedding”.

On 6 April the pair were married in a ceremony drawing on traditions from both Mr Modisane’s Tswana and Mr Sithole’s Zulu ancestry. Both wore traditional regalia, asked their ancestors for blessing, and a cow was slaughtered. Gifts were presented to the parents of both men as thanks for raising them.

Speaking to ENCA at the ceremony, Mr Modisane said the wedding went “against the idea that being gay isn’t African. Being gay is as African as being black.”

Mr Modisane said: “People are still ashamed because the vast majority of the black community is not accepting of being a homosexual. They see it as largely being a ‘Western trend’ that is in fashion lately.”

The view that homosexuality is a Western trend is often promoted by media and politicians in Africa, with perhaps the most notable recent example being the Ugandan President blaming European culture for encouraging “deviant” homosexual behaviour, such as “luring of young people using money into homosexual acts” in March.

The couple hope their wedding sets an example against this view, said Mr Modisane: “If people are inspired by our love and actions and want to do the same to follow in our footsteps then we don’t mind being labelled as ‘role models’ in the LGBTI community.”

Mr Sithole agreed: “Hiding who we are is what makes people judge us even more and makes them not accept us for who we are. If we can just live life openly then in time people will get used to the idea that gay and lesbian people are part of society and we are here to stay.”

In February this year the pair told MambaOnline that being out to their parents and having the support of their families was one of the best aspects of their relationship.

“The great step that we took in our relationship as a gay couple was introducing each other to our families. We are so blessed to have supportive families who care about us. Even though we are gay they still love us,” said Mr Modisane.

“Family is important to us and that is the number one reason why we want to have children,” said Mr Sithole.

“We also want our children to grow up in an environment where they are loved greatly by both parents who appreciate them.”

The men will go by the double-barreled surname Sithole-Modisane in future.

In February anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele formed a new political party, the Agang Party, and spoke up for LGBT people by saying being gay “is not a crime, is not a disease; it’s not something you can cure. It is how God created us.”

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