In a world where there are way too many weird things going on, it is no longer news that the act of lesbianism has been legalized in so many countries of the world. Yes same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa but we all know how difficult it can be to be gay in a community where the Government legalized same-sex marriage against the better judgement of a majority of the people who are still firm traditionalists.
Against all of these odds, a gay couple in South Africa Antoinette (Vaivi) Swartz and Sape Maodi-Swartz have taken the game to a whole a new level by proving that it is very much possible to stay true to oneself and still respect African tradition by paying lobola. According to Sape,
“I grew up in a family where there isn’t any homosexuality, there isn’t any lesbian, there aren’t any gays. The closest that we have had to a gay guy is that guy they called a trasie, who was our neighbour, and it remained a distant thing to us. My family could never relate to him.
“The initiation point for us was saying we want to do this process. Speaking to our parents about it we found them open to the idea because I think they expected it from my side.
Even though she declined on revealing the exact amount, she said that after every consideration, it was decided that the labola should be paid to her family instead of Antoinette’s.
Yes, my family will be the recipients, so we agreed that my family had their expectations and her family also had expected her to pay the lobola.
I felt it was unfair because it is a 50/50 relationship, and I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that my family had to be the recipients.”
As is the usual case in every African society, the man pays lobola to his bride’s family in appreciation of all the good work her family did in raising her and instilling good morals in her. It is also paid as a way of thanking the bride’s family for letting him marry her and as true Africans, Sape and Antoinette say they want to follow tradition and get married like every other straight couple would do.
“We did the entire process like a heterosexual couple would do. The main reason was that if we don’t do it that way, most people would not respect our marriage when it comes to African customs and tradition. It wouldn’t gain the same respect that a heterosexual marriage carries with it,” said Sape.
Boldly staring into each other’s eyes and smiling, they said it was important to them to bridge the gaping hole between tradition and homosexual relationships. They said usually, gay couples would simply get married at the court without involving their families or tradition.
“We decided to take it [tradition] on. Although it’s not inclusive of homosexuals, we made it inclusive of us.”
Despite their show of bravado in daring the odds, the two admitted to encountering problems with their decision to pay the lobola, but found ways to ensure their cultures were respected and their situation accommodated. They said communication was key to the success of the process.
“When we were not comfortable with something, we spoke about it and found ways to negotiate around the cultural requirements to ensure they accommodated lesbians,” said Sape.
Antoinette said the driving force behind their decision to follow culture was to ensure their families blessed and accepted their union. It ensured the ancestors of both families knew about and accepted the new members. Families performed rituals to announce new additions to the clan. This happened when people married or when a child was born.
The couple said it resulted in people from their communities embracing their relationship and way of life.
They held a traditional wedding attended by 280 guests on December 19. It served as an eye-opener for the parents of some of the guests who attended.
“Most of the families don’t accept their children being homosexuals. It was easy for the parents to see that we can still follow the proper steps and tradition. This was not only for us but for the rest of society to see that it can be done. They must understand that this is love and it doesn’t matter if it’s two females,” said Vaivi.
They intended to have a white wedding later and were saving up for it.
They wanted to have a child and build a family together. Sape said they would use artificial insemination, and she would carry the baby.
The pair hoped their story would inspire others to follow tradition while still remaining true to themselves and their sexual orientation.