I don’t accurately recall when I heard the word “moffie,” being used for the first time. All I know is I was not at a school-going age yet. So that makes me young and susceptible to the harsh realities very early in life.
The story of him:
Years ago, I recall my dad telling me that his adopted brother was gay. The only kind of gay I knew was the one where people were happy. I was around 6 years old at the time and had gone with my dad to visit my grandmother. I never knew his first name because we were told to call him, uncle “Haasie.” Uncle Haasie was called that because they said he walked on his toes and “hopped around like a bunny,” hence the “haasie,” nickname.
He was adopted by my grandmother with his siblings. When I asked what “being gay” meant if it wasn’t happy, I was told it’s when a man likes a man or wants to be a woman.
I didn’t often visit my grandmother, but when I did, my uncle was always cooking, cleaning or hand washing. My dad said that my uncle liked men and had feminine traits because he was made to wash women’s underwear in the house. I remember them laughing every time he “swirled” his hair, swayed his hips or painted his nails. I also remember him being hit and punched by his siblings, my grandmother screaming at him and insulting him, and even neighbours kids laughing and jeering and calling him names, one name in particular when he walked in the road. They would follow him down the road, screaming “moffie,” as he walked, and more kids would join in as he continued walking.
He would play netball with my older cousins, but people would make fun of him every time he missed a shot. And the name-calling would start from those watching the game. Children as young as 2 years old chanting, “Moffie,” while their parents laughed loudly. If he retaliated and swore at them, they would simply beat him up. These were on the occasions I visited. I can’t help but wonder what happened when I wasn’t there. Unlike the rest of the family, he never seemed to be happy and hardly ever sat down. He was always working around the house. While the women enjoyed tea and cake, the men played dominoes at the back and drank their whisky, and the children played games outside he was working, and if he wasn’t working, or being laughed at, punched or insulted, he would be “missing” from home. Missing for weeks at a time! No one knew for sure where he went, but there would be speculation. I heard he was a sex worker in Sea Point. He had a rich old white man as a lover, etc. Speculation was rife, yet not once did it occur to anyone that he was unhappy, tired of doing all the housework, tired of the insults, the physical assaults, the abuse he was consistently subjected to for just trying to be who he was.
I heard years later, he became a chef at a 5-star hotel, that he moved from my grandmother’s house, out of the township, and away from being nothing but a “moffie.”
The sexual assaults I heard about was much like the “corrective rape” and violence lesbians experience, but no charges were ever laid because “he wanted” it. According to the rumour mill, he “wanted” sex with a man, so that’s what he got!
I recall him being kind and friendly and always taking the time to talk to us. I heard he lived a “good” life, earned good money, and lived in a “fancy” apartment. I don’t know if it’s true because we moved away.
Years later, I met him at a cousin’s place and finally discovered his name was Sidney, not Haasie, not “moffie.” I introduced my children to him by his real name. He was ill, and my cousin looked after him until he passed away in 2020 during the lockdown. He found love among family but only much later in life.
I can’t help but wonder what he could have been if he had been shown the love and respect denied to him.
I can’t help but wonder how many more “moffies,” there is who are being treated in much the same way he was?
I can’t help but wonder when we will look at people that are “different” and love them and embrace them as being part of us instead of ostracising them.
When do we wake up and see peoples’ humanity and humanness before we judge them and make their lives a misery?
You’d think that life has changed because this happened years ago, but it’s still happening to this day.
When do we stop and simply accept each other for whoever we are?
The world has enough haters and critics.
We need to do better and be kinder.