Breaking ground for gay marriage

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iol news 25 may SA SS ZULU GAYS pic

Tshepo and Thoba Sithole-Modisane have barely had time to enjoy life as newlyweds.

The gay couple, who tied the knot in a Zulu and Tswana wedding clad in their traditional attire last month, have been inundated with requests for interviews from far afield as France, the US, Germany and Netherlands.

But the two are not complaining and have used the platform not only to educate and inspire people but to help get rid of gay stereotypes, they say.

“We hope our story will help some people who might be struggling to come to terms with their sexuality,” said Tshepo.

Thoba, a Joburg-based IT specialist from Shakaville, KwaDukuza, and Tshepo, an audit manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, exchanged vows last month in front of 300 guests at the Stanger Siva Sungam community hall.

The young men, both 27, met several years ago while studying in Durban, but lost contact with each other.

It was a chance meeting in a gym in Johannesburg that led to them becoming a couple.

Tshepo popped the question last June after three years of dating.

Their traditional Zulu and Tswana wedding ceremony attracted hordes of uninvited, curious locals.

The pair wore traditional regalia and slaughtered a cow before asking their ancestors for a blessing. As customary with a Zulu wedding, gifts were presented to their parents.

The nuptials, however, sparked criticism from Zulu cultural and religious organisations.

Two weeks after their wedding a Durban woman said she was engaged to Thoba and was left heartbroken when she found out that her boyfriend of four years was gay.

Zama Ngcobo, from Mandeni, said she even tried to convince Thoba to “change” his sexual preference, in vain.

Throughout the barrage of criticism from traditionalists and a frenzy of mainly negative comments on social media, with many suggesting traditional practices were being perverted, the couple remained defiant, saying they are unfazed by the condemnation.

The video of their ground-breaking wedding – the first known traditional gay wedding in South Africa – has been viewed more than 500 000 times.

Their story was this week aired on SABC when the couple spoke about the challenges and difficulties they encountered growing up as gay black men in conservative townships.

Tshepo said that in his early teens he had often sought divine guidance, twice having asked his pastor to “ungay” him and seeing a psychologist for counselling.

“But throughout the process I learnt to embrace who I am,” he said, holding Thoba’s hand.

The support from their parents and families had helped them through the trying times and was the best aspect of their relationship, said the couple, who plan on having children through a surrogate.

Thoba’s aunt, Nelly Shange, said the family had never suspected that he was gay, but accepted his orientation when he told them.

“We were just happy that he was strong enough to tell us and didn’t commit suicide because of the teasing and insults that he experienced,” she said.

The Sithole-Modisanes have done interviews with a host of international publications, radio and TV stations, including E! Entertainment show Chelsea Lately.

The couple have also done a documentary which will be shown to the French parliament that has just passed a same-sex marriages act.

They are also filming documentaries with African Men for Sexual Health and Rights that will be aired locally and overseas.

Saturday Star


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