'Having to use English others us': South African terminologies of sexual and gender diversity

SOURCE: Sexualities
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2021
TITLE AUTHOR(S): I.Lynch, F.Reygan, M.Ramphalile
KEYWORDS: ENGLISH (LANGUAGE), LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX(LGBTI), SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
DEPARTMENT: Human and Social Capabilities (HSC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11847
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15894
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11910/15894

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Abstract

The linguistic coding of sexual and gender diversity remains highly contested in African contexts. While English language terminologies reflecting rights-based talk proliferate, such terms fail to fully reflect the lived realities of African queerness. This paper engages existing South African research on indigenous terminologies to describe sexual and gender diversity, focusing on representations of male same-sex sexualities. Our findings show that local terminologies serve not only to 'other' sexual and gender diversity, but also hold the potential to render those existing outside of normative sex/gender binaries as socially intelligible. Two core themes emerged: (i) the persistence of hetero-gendered subjectivities, where sexual dissidence is mapped onto a normative male/ female binary; and (ii) a procreative imperative focused on communitarian norms that privilege heterosexual childbearing. The findings highlight the limitations of global terminologies of sexual and gender diversity by engaging the ways in which local African terminologies provide social recognition for same-sex sexualities in generally heteronormative community spaces. We discuss the implications of this gendered encoding of sexual dissidence in terms of advocacy strategies for the greater social inclusion of sexual and gender minorities.