– feature image by: Andy Worhol.
I have not spoken to you since 27th June 2011. Frankly, I have no reason to.
But I am navigating the world as a queer Black man and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up the pretence of being the one queer person that has not experience violence. After all, our school groomed us to be perfect. To be men. To be the perfect gentlemen.
The truth is that I have been aching. I have been aching ever since I left high school. Aching so much that I have no choice but to ache myself into the consciousness of who I really and what I mean to the world.
I never really considered you an important part the perpetual healing I have to continuously do a person that puts his Blackness and queerness at the forefront of his identity. Yes, That is what my life is about lately. That is my centre these days. Partially choice. Greatly fate.
You keep sending me Facebook messages, asking me if I am alright, If I am doing well, that you’re proud of who I’ve become and that you’re sorry for the way things happened between us.
The real question you should be asking is:
What happened to you, the day I exercised my privilege to fuck you up.
Here is what happened.
08:30. 27th June, 2011.
Miss Moore (the school’s psychologist), an ungracefully thin and tall White lady, wonders humbly into my Geography class. Her presence causes mild stir among the boys- your friends. They gossiped under their breaths- something about penetration, her twigs for legs and anorexic fetishes. Boy banter. Crude, but not unusual.
She murmured, hot caffeinated breath into my ear, “Someone wants to see you in the head office”…
Her temperament was questionably warm. It made me more suspicious than nervous.
The setting in Mr. Coetzee’s office was dubiously formal. Glasses of water and name cards are placed on the mahogany table. Remember that? Coetzee is sitting at its head. There were two chairs reserved for me and Miss Moore on his left, while chairs on his right side are already occupied by one of the first rugby side coaches; a matric representative of the academic portfolio within the school’s SRC; Mr. Ragan (your father); and you, with whom I have been sharing a secret romance for the last five months at the time.
“Welcome Lelo. I will get right to it” Coetzee said bashfully. He seems embarrassed. It’s odd seeing a stern figure of masculine authority appear to be uncomfortable. Did you pick that up Chad? I’m sure you did.
“Lelo, do you know Chad Ragan?”
“Yes…” I replied. An implication into pending doom.
“Do you have an intimate relationship with Chad?” Coetzee enquired. He coughed out of obvious discomfort. He already knew the answer and was waiting for my reply to confirm my pending incrimination. I glancd at you Chad, for reassurance. But you gave me nothing. Hanging your head in pathetic guilt.
“We’ve become very close recently” I replied. Evasively.
“Lelo, the reason you have been brought into Chad’s hearing is because you have been cited as a threat to his well-being and school life” Coetzee explained with proud disdain. I was perplexed to find out that that I have been lured into my own boyfriend’s disciplinary hearing. Is you selling Ritalin? Did you start a fight at some club last weekend? Do they think I know something? How do these people even know about our relationship? Are you like, really even my boyfriend? Cool, we texted every day. Okay, we kissed that one time. Argh, what’s going on here!? I kept thinking to myself as I tried to supress my panic.
Coetzee elaborated further. “As I’m sure you know, Chad is on a 75% sports scholarship at the school and he has done wonders for our first rugby side. But, his marks have been declining and his poor performance on the field is affecting the team. You must be aware that Chad is in matric and it is exam season. The school cannot afford to lose him”.
“You are the cause of all of this and we are here to stop it right now!” father screamed, unexpectedly.
He lunged across the table as though he intended crinkle my shirt break my nose.
Miss Moore put her skinny arms across my chest in an attempt to protect me, while Coetzee placed his hands on your father’s shoulder to calm him down. Do you remember that? But, then again. How could you. You kept staring at the floor. You did not even flinch, Chad. Were you even in the room?
“As a concerned parent, Mr Ragan contacted the school” Coetzee carried on. “Chad told his father that he was in a romantic relationship with another boy and had a hard time handling it”.
“I don’t understand…” I uttered, confused to the point of feeling nauseous.
“A hearing has been called because, your relationship with him has put his sports scholarship and academics in jeopardy. Here is evidence to confirm your responsibility in this matter” explains Coetzee as he placed three plastic sleeve on the table. One, containing printed versions of our private conversations on Facebook and email. The second, your recent academic report and the last, your fitness statistics. I remember looking at you, watching you turn viciously red as the sun itself was burning inside of you. I can only wonder what you were thinking.
“Do you have any defences, Lelo?” Coetzee asked condescendingly. The hostility in the room paralysed my ability to reason. My conscience was numb. You invented an intentionally misleading story to foil your own inconsistencies which had nothing to do with me or our relationship. Your deception succeeded. Everybody else had made up their minds and the real truth seemed so inaccessible. I wanted you to tell the truth, Chad. Not about us. But, about what you were really doing to fail yourself. But, I know that my protest would be punished, somehow. So, I play into your lie and assume victimhood. Still trying protecting you. Residual affection. I guess that’s what happened when you fall for boys that fall on hard times. You want to be their hero, even when they don’t deserve your salvation.
“No defences, Sir” I replied. A resignation. An aching defeat.
“… Alright. I think that will be all. I’d like to thank representatives of the sports and academic councils respectively. Mr. Ragan, you can take Chad home to rest. Lelo, this has been a traumatic experience for you. I advise you follow Miss Moore for a counselling session after this. But, I’d like to have a private word with you before you go” Coetzee said. Everyone left the room. My eyes follow you, Chad. All the way until you left the room completely. You reeked of guilt. But still, I got nothing from you. Not a wink, not a shame-riddled smirk. Soon, it was just Coetzee and I.
“Foremost, I must apologise for Mr. Ragan’s reaction” Coetzee said, pacing the room. His tone became increasingly parentalistic. “It was inappropriate. But, I do understand where he is coming from. He’s in a tough position. Much hangs in the balance for Chad and his future. Look, I understand that you like the boy. But, you’re not what he needs at the moment. After all, this is likely to just be phase in your lives. Look, you’re flying the cultural banner high for the school. You’re a musician. But, Chad is a sportsman. The two worlds just don’t mix. Not in a boys’ school at least. I’m not trying to infringe your constitutional right to date and fall in love and blah, blah, blah. But, I’m sure you can agree that what is written in the Constitution isn’t always consistent with reality” he said.
There was an underlying complexity to that entire situation which I couldn’t yet grasp at the time. I wanted to challenge his sentiments, but my trauma-induced nausea compelled me not to.
“You’re free to go to your counselling session. I’m sure you’ll be able to go back to class after that” he concluded.
Chad, there are some things that I want you to understand and innerstand.
The hearing was a scathing demonstration of power. A quick battle between an already-determined victor and loser. White and Black. Heterosexuality and homosexuality. A norm and an unwelcome reality.
The hearing was not about reconciling your sporting and academic commitments in healthy ways. Neither was it about fairly protecting you and I. The hearing was the school’s way of institutionally immortalising our (romantic) relationship, and, eliminating the collision of race and homosexuality in an elitist all-boy environment.
Your father’s violent behaviour towards me demonstrated an inherently septic relationship Western-centric/White patriarchal hegemony has with Blackness. Would your father have reacted so violently if the supposed cause of his your troubles was a White female; a White male; or Black female? Would the hearing have been called in the first place, had any of these entities been involved? I can only speculate. Yet, history teaches us that the Black body- particularly, the Black male body- continues to experience ideological and actual annihilation at the hands of Whiteness. What I went through that room had a complex and profound impact on how I see the world.
The underlying complexity which I could not comprehend at the time of the hearing, turns out to be the malicious manifestations of White masculine hegemony doing its work within sites of glorified intellectual development, we call all-boys’ (elite) schools. There could never exist a valid justification to subjecting my private relationships with other male peers to disciplinary action(s). These kinds of occurrences can only make sense in a patriarchal environment which prioritises heteronormative culture and employs acrobatic performances of masculinity as a norm. Please, understand and innerstand this.
As for you…
The nature of your panic and subsequent betrayal is strange, but not abnormal. There is something about relinquishing the title of representing White esteem that would drive anyone who embodies and embraces White culture, to delirium.
You knew the responsibilities, opportunities and glories that came with being a posterchild for an elite rugby-playing all-boys’ high school. You jeopardised his sports scholarship by underperforming in his academics in your own capacity in which I did not exist. Then you manufactured the perfect lie which would mitigate implicating yourself as the architect of your own troubles.
When you cited our romance as a reason for his supposed misfortunes, he exercised clever yet immature imperialism. You did this for three reasons:
(1) You understood that he was the school’s sports hero. You also understood that your position as a sportsman gave off the perception of the perfect-gentleman the school prided itself in grooming its pupils into. Therefore, you knew that our relationship would represent a stain to the image of an indestructible figure the school had constructed you to be.
(2) You knew that my relationship with you be reduced to a symbol of immorality by your father and those who presided over the hearing. You’re is a shareholder in a White-hetero-masculinist hegemony that portrays its men as ‘intelligently’ hyper-sexual, yet gullible beings. Therefore, you knew that scapegoating our relationship would portray me as a devious individual who brainwashed an innocent young man into a homosexual agenda. Because, that’s how people look at me, Chad. You understood that you had the power and privilege to make a personal issue a politically beneficial one for you.
(3) The part the hurts me the most is that you took advantage of who I genuinely am; who I cannot hide or help myself to be. The politics are complicated and the lines are continuously shifting, but you picked on my femininity. You knew I would never deny my attraction to men as it is not a part of my personal constitution- no matter the consequences. Your yearning to be treated like the prioritised and privileged being required you to renounce your sexuality. What an intrusive way to wound someone.
Never in my life had I had strangers treat to me as though I owed them my obedience. I was treated as though I threatened your manhood and that my homosexuality was an irreversible delay of my induction into manhood itself. I was seen as a diseased figure; a remediable body the school’s ideology couldn’t fix; an incomplete man.
Your audacity to crucify our relationship in order for you to be claimed by his hegemony is not surprising to me, though. You conduct is still hilarious and heart-breaking at the same damn time. It is how White people behave they secretly venture into entertaining interests forbidden in the world they belong to. You and the school’s treatment of me is no different to how wider society operates today. No different. I do not doubt that you felt bad about what you did. But, I learned that you and the school would do the most to protect the economy that is White morality.
This particular moment in my high school career confirmed that people like me cannot be regarded as alive and relevant without having the tragic badge of inferiority stamped on our existences.
Otherwise, I’ve been doing great, Chad.
I hope you’re well.