The Broken Rainbow Ep 4: Spending the holidays with chosen family

Some queer people say the continued ostracisation and homophobic treatment from their communities and relatives mean they can't go back home.

Graphic: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - It should be a joyful time for many people who will be travelling back to their respective provinces to spend the festive season with loved ones. But not everyone will be taking up their seats at the family table.

Some queer people say the continued ostracism and homophobic treatment from their communities and relatives mean they can't go back home.

For those who choose to stay where they work, and with the country now experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, it will most likely be a lonely time for many.

For the second year in a row, Zanta Nkumane will not be seeing his family for Christmas.

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“Midway through varsity, my cousin came up to me and asked if I was gay and said she knew because she had gay friends. But she made me feel like it was a safe space and it was like I finally have someone in the family who is an ally. And then two years later, she outed me to my family. I was like, why would you do that, because you just hijacked my story and that is another form of violence.”

The eSwatini native has made this difficult choice because of how he was treated after a relative outed him.

“That was a very tough few years with the family because it was tense and that unspoken energy that something is wrong with you. You walk into the room and people go quiet.”

Nkumane is a Johannesburg-based academic has spent the last two Christmas holidays with chosen family in the form of Queermas.

The event is meant to be a gathering for the queer community to bring their own cheer together in the face of rejection and judgement from others.

The movement was started by LGBQTIA+ activist Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

“I started having people over at my house probably six years ago because this time period can be lonely and I thought that the loneliness that I was experiencing, other people were experiencing [too]. And about two years ago, almost three years now, I contacted two of my friends and asked them if they thought we should open it up. And then we started.”

Those treated as outcasts will be relying on support structures such as these in an already difficult year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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