"Queer means freedom and community. Freedom to be, to love, and to express yourself without any explanations," writes Leonardo Simelane.

June is now globally seen as International Pride Month. As part of International Pride Month, the Cape Argus will be carrying stories from members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share insights and challenges they face:

#MyQueerLife: 'I refuse to dim my light because some are uncomfortable'

I have always known that I was different; I just didn’t know what name to attach it to. 

Growing up in very religious Catholic family was tough, but not so much. I learnt from an early age to hide parts of myself that my family didn’t necessarily like or approve of. I sat through homophobic jokes, hate speech and made sure I was not noticed or rather I didn’t reveal anything incriminating about myself. 

Education got me out of that environment into what I thought would have been “My Best Life” – a new city with open minded people.

Johannesburg gave me such freedom; I started thinking maybe I can finally be myself. 

I went to my first gay club and started looking for a “real” relationship until I discovered that within my community there were still “unacceptable”/”unattractive” traits.

I reacted by doing what I normally do when I want acceptance - hide parts of myself…. 

This took me down a path of severe depression and anxiety.

At my lowest low, I made the decision that changed my life. I would live as authentically as possible, even if that meant I would be alone for the rest of my life. 

I, at 25, had to learn to love myself…it's ridiculous now that I think about.

I drew strength from those that chose to live their truth than cower behind fear of rejection, hate and death. I drew strength from the likes of Marsha P. Johnson, Simon Nkoli, Noxolo Nogwaza  - it's a long, long list. 

Most of them gave their lives, so we can LIVE without fear or shame - some of our brothers and sisters are still living in fear and as a member of this community I refuse to dim my light just because some people are uncomfortable.

Being Queer, means freedom to me. Freedom to be, to live, to love.