Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reality check

After watching a great lesbian-themed movie, I was inspired to go online and see if I could buy some more similar DVDs. The U.S website has a wonderful selection, but being in South Africa, I’d rather buy locally. It just feels safer to do so, from a recourse point of view. It's also possibly cheaper.

So, I went to a few well known SA retail sites and was dismayed by what I found. In short, very little. None of the main SA sites even had a 'gay and lesbian' category, let alone stocked some of the most popular movies. Come on! Haven’t they heard about the Pink Rand?

So, anyway, here are the results of my snap survey of a few SA sites. Please let me know if I've missed any out. If you have any Pink Rands at your disposal, you may want to spend them at the more pro-gay shops.

In order to compare apples with apples, I searched for various items on each site. I’ve included a few of the more popular books too.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream circuits in SA)
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3)
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD – a classic)
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!)

According to, there are a few website contenders for books or DVDs if you’re in SA. I tried all five options they listed. (

This was my first choice because it markets itself as the biggest and best in SA, and a site that delivers your order in less than 48 hours.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD) They’ve got the book, and it sells at around R145. No DVD.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD) They’ve got the book, and it sells at around R145. No DVD.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA)
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3. This has been shown on TV here)
Nope. But their rather pathetic internal search engine coughed up a list of ‘possibles’ for this one, including ‘Die Lief en Leed van Anastasia’ and ‘Breastfeeding without Tears’.
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD) – No
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!) It’s there – for R94.95

Their search engine is pretty weak. Under DVDs, I searched for ‘lesbian’ under ‘keyword’ and random movies popped up including ‘Friends – Season 1’.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 3

Exclusive Books (

Billed as ‘the online shop of one of South Africa's biggest bookselling chains’.

In order to compare apples with apples, I searched for various items on each site.
1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
They’ve got the book, priced at between R250 and R158. No DVD.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
They’ve got the book, priced at R378 for the hardback to R118 for the soft cover. No DVD.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA) - No
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3) - Nope
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD) – No
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!) Nope

Notably absent from the category list for books is a distinct category for ‘gay and lesbian’. Considering they stock both of the books I searched for, it may make sense to add the category so we can skip straight to it, so to speak.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 2

Loot (

This site was news to me so I wasn’t expecting much. It proved to be the best of the lot. The search engine allowed you to look for a title across categories. For example, Fingersmith produced the book and DVD results all in one go. Nice.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
Loot had both. The book went for between R254 (hardcover) and R122 (paperback). The DVD was R275.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
Once again, it’s got the book and the DVD. Book retails for between R136 and R125. DVD priced at R92. Wow, that’s cheap.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA)
Got it – for R246.
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3)
They’ve got the DVD of Season 1 (R605) and Season 2 (R604) and the soundtrack CD of season’s 2 and 3.
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD)
Not there. Ahh!
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!)
Yes, it’s there – for R117 and R91

Incidentally, I searched for ‘lesbian’ under Books and a host of titles came up. Impressive. Did the same under DVDs and only ‘Tipping the Velvet’ came up.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 8

Look & Listen (

Didn’t really expect to find any of the DVDs listed and was surprised to find that they had Kissing Jessica Stein (R99.99) and Tipping the Velvet – the DVD – for R299.

The site is not user-friendly to search for movie titles.

Score: (out of 8 – as they don’t do books) 2

Musica (

This site had all three box sets of L Word – for just under R600 a piece. Also had ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’ for R99.95
The site’s search function is not very user-friendly. When looking for a DVD, it frequently pulls up everything, music CDs included.

Score: (out of 8 – as they don’t do books) 4

Overall: Okay, so you may think that I’ve defeated my own argument that you can’t find lesbian movies and books in SA, online, but remember, I generally searched for the popular, mainstream titles. The one non-mainstream DVD I searched for, Claire of the Moon (which is all over Amazon) was nowhere to be seen. In other words, while the mainstream titles may be available (as a token), there isn’t much investment in this genre. For that, I need to shop abroad. Hmm. Pink Rand indeed. For now, my money is on Loot.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Come out, come out – wherever you are…

Every gay person has to face the task of ‘coming out’. For most, it’s not an easy thing to do. After all, depending on where you live, the repercussions can be pretty bleak. Most of us fear rejection. It is always a relief when this does not happen!

Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had great responses from most of the people I’ve come out to. Although, one wonders if we selectively choose to tell those who we feel will accept out lifestyle. Whether that’s true or not, when they don’t reject you, it’s a wonderful feeling of elation and freedom. In most cases, the person I’ve confided in has said they’ve suspected as much for quite some time. To this, I’ve always responded: “But, why didn’t you say something to me then?” The stock response is that they didn’t feel it was their place to do so. They’ve said that they knew when I was ready, I would tell them and they’ve often been waiting many years for that moment.

And I guess, when you think about it, this is the order that this ‘coming out’ should follow. We need to be ready to tell people about this thing that often ends up defining us, and we need to be strong enough to endure, if the response is not all warm and fuzzy.

I’ve had a few of those too. Bloody hell, they’re not fun. For me, undoubtedly the most intensely negative reaction was from my mom. In short, she sent me to a shrink and then told me she loved the sinner, but not the sin! It wasn’t a very helpful response for a 17-year-old.

Below are a selection of a few coming out scenarios. Please add yours by way of the comments page, or by emailing them to me on, and I will add them.

The good:

These are usually close friends. The kind of people who respond - as mentioned above – that deep down they always knew you were gay. They’re often the scariest to come out to, as their opinions mean the most. You know that if they don’t accept you, it will forever change your relationship dynamic. If they do, it will change it for the better. These are the people who love you unconditionally and who support you no matter what. They’re the kind of people we need to surround ourselves with! In most cases, I instinctively knew who fitted into this category. It was wonderful - albeit nerve-wracking - coming out to them. Finally, you were able to be yourself. The majority of people I’ve chosen to come out to have fallen into this category.

The next two categories are often where relatives fit in. You know the saying: you can choose your friends…

The bad:

They have no idea what to say to you when you tell them you’re gay. They try to make all the right noises, but their facial expressions or tone of voice betrays them. They’re battling to deal with the concept of their friend / family member being a homosexual. What will others think of them, by way of association? These are sometimes the most dangerous, as you’re never quite sure of where they stand.

The ugly:

Boy, oh boy. These are the ones that make you wish you’d never ventured out of the closet. They’re toxic. They’re judgemental. In my experience, they often come from strict religious backgrounds that govern how they view gay people, and can be utterly destructive in their efforts to get you to renounce your ways. Let’s just say the love is not unconditional. In extreme cases, their extreme aversion may be a way of hiding their own latent homosexuality. These are people to steer clear of. With them around, you generally won’t ‘feel the love’!

Depending on your personal circumstances, and the kind of people you’re surrounded with, it’s often easier to come out when you are old enough to: a) have left home; and b) support yourself. I always wished this had been the case with me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The purpose...

So, are you South African, or formerly South African, and would like to know how you can take part in this Blog? Well, have you ever read Nancy Friday's 'My Secret Garden'? If you have, you will begin to understand what I am hoping to achieve. Not a barrage of sexual fantasies.. but a heap of emails detailing your experiences on various topics.

I am hoping to collate these responses and ultimately produce a South African book about all of us. 'Us', if you are wondering, is 'gay or lesbian' and 'South African."

I am still trying to formulate the main questions for the 'book' but my goal is to produce something that depicts the history, or her-story, of SA gays and lesbians, through the years.

I would like it to be a reference point for young gays and lesbians to turn to when they feel as if they are the only one's out there who have feelings for someone of the same sex.

I would like it to be a documentary of the cities and towns in South Africa where we have lived and loved. I would like it to be a record of life as a gay or lesbian, in this complexed country, over the years (pre-democracy). If one person can feel less isolated by this project, it would have succeeded.

Please e-mail me to suggest categories and I will also put out my own suggestions in the coming weeks. The address is

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A few signs that you might be a lesbian...

  • You develop crush after crush on various teachers throughout your school career. This can be a blessing in disguise, as it usually means you do very well in whatever subject said teacher is in charge of.

  • You’re more interested in beating the boys at tennis or cricket, than impressing them with your demure ways

  • You spend hours trying to dream up ways of getting your best girlfriend at school to show you how to kiss

  • You spend all your pocket money buying kd lang CDs or Ellen DeGeneres sitcom re-runs.

  • Your clothing taste tends to be more on the practical side

  • You consider a touch of lipstick as being fully ‘made-up’

  • You watch every episode of E.R just to catch a glimpse of the Dr Weaver story line.
  • Erm.. you just happen to have fallen in love with a woman!

(Got your own tell-tale signs to add? email me and I'll add them!)

Sunday, January 7, 2007

For the straight folks...

For the straight folks, who don't mind gays - but wish they weren't so blatant

- By Pat Parker (this is a great poem I came across in the late '80's. It's actually a spoken song, and I just loved it at the time. Still do.)

You know, some people got a lot of nerve.

Sometimes I don’t believe the things I see and hear.

Have you met the woman who’s shocked by two women kissing
and in the same breath, tells you she's pregnant?
BUT gays, shouldn’t be blatant.

Or the straight couple who sit next to you in a movie and you can’t hear the dialogue because of the sound effects.
BUT gays shouldn’t be blatant.

And the woman in your office, spends your whole lunch hour
talking about her new bikini drawers and how much her husband likes them.
BUT gays shouldn’t be blatant.

Or the “hip” chick in your class rattling a mile a minute
while you’re trying to get stoned in the john, about the camping trip she took with her musician boyfriend.
BUT gays shouldn’t be blatant.

You go in a public bathroom and all over the walls there’s: “John loves
Mary”, “Janice digs Richard”, “Pepe loves Delores”, etc., etc.
BUT gays shouldn’t be blatant.

Or your go to the amusement park and there’s the ‘tunnel of love’
and pictures of straights painted on the front; and grinning couples coming in and out.
BUT gays shouldn’t be blatant.

Fact is, blatant heterosexuals are all over the place.
Supermarkets, movies, on your job, in church, in books, on television - every day
and night, every place -- even, gay bars!

And they want gay men and woman to go and hide in the closets.

So to you straight folks I say, “Sure! I’ll go - if you go too!”
“BUT I’m polite so, after you.”