Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I had a fascinating conversation with a friend a few weeks back. She was telling me a story about a lesbian woman, who had recently undergone a sex-change operation (gender reassignment) and had posed with her lesbian lover for a photo shoot. A very dignified one. The interesting part is the question my friend posed. 

"Now that she has undergone the gender reassignment, is she still a lesbian?"

It's a good question. She was with a woman before the op, when they were lesbians. So, what are they now? A straight couple? And if so, how does the lesbian in the equation feel? 

I have to admit, I think I'd feel rather cheated. Being lesbian for me is all about loving women more. It's part of my identity, and its taken a long time to feel comfortable in my womym-lovin'-womyn skin. So yes, for me, I would feel cheated if my partner became a man.

I'm not trying to make light of what is no doubt a very real, and very serious and very agonising situation: I'm just saying that for me, I don't know if I could go through everything I have; come out as a lesbian with another woman as my partner, and then have to explain to the folks that I've gone straight, and so has my partner.

I feel equally sorry for the woman who marries the guy, and identifies as a straight person, only to discover that he actually wants to be a 'she'. Does this mean the wife is a lesbian? It's complex. I am sure that the partners in these difficult cases are special people, and if they chose to stand by their partner through the gender reassignment, they are no doubt ready for the consequences.

Ultimately, it's a case of live and let live. Each to their own. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Unappreciated talent

South Africa has a lot of talented artists. We didn't used to think we did. Pre-1994 when we suddenly got legitimacy in the eyes of the world, thanks to our newfound democracy and the amazing Nelson Mandela, most of us thought anything local was inferior. In fact many of us used to try to avoid anything local. It couldn't be cool if it was local, we thought. I put this largely down to the apartheid hangover and the fact that shame was so embedded in so many of our psyche's that we just didn't have any national pride.

Things have changed in the intervening years though. Now we are partly ashamed of our political environment (it's not the same without Madiba!) but we're far more proud of our local artists. In SA terms, local truly is becoming 'lekker'. ('Lekker' - if you're not South African, means 'really nice/ cool'!)

I haven't known a lot about the South African music world, apart from what I hear on the radio. But I have come to realise in the last few months that our artists are truly under-appreciated and taken for granted. Very few of them have made it internationally. And, it's not because of a lack of talent. International appeal, in the Western world at least, seems to boil down to who you know and what you look like. And whether you've appeared on a U.S talent show or not.

The South African broadcasting regulatory body used to specify that SA radio stations play a certain percentage of local music. 10 years ago, it was a tough ask. Nowadays it's not though. So why have our artists not been given any airplay overseas (UK and US). It's certainly not that we are lacking in talent.

I love a number of our talented artists (and former artists), such as Just Jinger, Jennifer Ferguson, Juluka, Louise Carver, Tree63, Miriam Makeba, Watershed and the Melanie Lowe. I can only claim to have met and got to know one of the above: Melanie Lowe, and she is as lovely and good at what she does as she appears.

Melanie is a very determined, very talented, very driven artist who has literally been pursuing this dream since she was a young girl (when her dad bought her a guitar). She has had to fight for every opportunity she has been given and has earned her place on the SA music scene. Have a listen and see why I am a fan (this is one of her latest singles. Verrry nice!):