Written by Thandiwe Ntshinga.
“I would like to give us one last try, if you would?” I pleaded.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that,” he sighed. “It’s just not worth it”.
This is how I was dumped. Dumped on a Sunday afternoon while walking to my boifriend’s local market. That he finally took me to for the first time. Halfway through my four-month visit to Sydney to be with him. That Tuesday morning, I was on a plane back to Johannesburg.
Rewind two months.
It was half a year into our long-distance relationship and Mans and I felt like the perfect candidates for a season of 90 Day Fiancé. As with any modern love story, we met on Tinder. His was the first SuperLike I could not ignore because I’m a sucker for the long hair/long beard combo. Admittedly, to borrow his words, “the connection was slow,” but his message saying he had bought his tickets for his already-planned trip to South Africa got us into gear.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” my self-proclaimed loose-lipped Black queer friend asked when I told her about the adventure I was about to embark on with my online lover. Her concern stemmed from the often overlooked abuse in queer relationships. She relayed experiences of Black female friends who have suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of transgender partners. Having been in unsavory queer relationships before, I understood my friend’s need to protect me. Like any relationship, queer relationships are not always cute. Still, Mans and I chatted non-stop. After six weeks, we met for the first time. Two days later, we made our relationship official. Within six months he came to South Africa twice.
He was the optimist to my pessimist. The extrovert to my introvert. The hot to my cold. We were living queer love. It was not perfect, but it was caring, which entailed me ensuring that my trans boifriend felt safe. When gender dysphoria, jealousy or racial insecurity overcame him, I reassured him that, unlike the womxn before me, he was not lacking for me. I loved him for him. I accepted him in his entirety. I wasn’t going anywhere. Not for anyone. In return, I was promised a partner that was supportive, loyal and committed.
After six weeks, we met for the first time. Two days later, we made our relationship official.
During our time together, Mans had finally convinced me to stay with him in Sydney for an extended visit, even though I had no interest in Australia as a country to live or holiday destination. On a personal level, I was born there and after leaving as a child went back to visit my high school girlfriend. So, it was not like it was a novel experience for me. On an intellectual level, as a Black South African and a critical race scholar, I have dubious attachments to Australia for providing refuge to white people who ran away from Black political power after the end of white rule in Southern Africa. I was laughed at by my friends who recited Trevor Noah’s jokes about white South Africans “going to Australia.”
I myself could not believe what I was about to go to the other side of the world for love. A four-month visit may not seem like a long time but there was something about going to a foreign country, unemployed, to be completely financially dependent on a boifriend that went against everything I was taught. I could only imagine my dad exclaiming, “You are going to Australia for a boy?!” Independent womxn don’t just pack up for love, do they?
It took but a few weeks in Australia before I saw a different side to my sweet, cheese ball boifriend. Being in his space meant playing by his rules. I was no longer allowed to be my own person. He became controlling, dismissive, critical and judgmental. I was not good enough. I was always wrong. Always inadequate. Isolated in a foreign country, dealing with arguments and his constant critique, I slipped into a depressive state.
I was not safe with him, and yet I still tried. Through my outward and inward objections, I tried.
I became reclusive. I became disinterested. Brushing my teeth and showering began to feel like mammoth daily tasks. This was not met kindly by my boifriend—my supposed support system who boasted about giving emotional support to close friends and exes who suffered from mental health issues. This was not the case with me, however. Whatever insecurities I shared with him were used as ammunition against me. My past, as well as my mental/emotional state, became license for my character assassination.
I was not safe with him, and yet I still tried. Through my outward and inward objections, I tried. I tried to give him what he wanted. Needless to say, I felt weak in the process. Weak for staying with an emotionally abusive person who constantly measured us by his failed seven-year relationship. Weak for trying hard to be seen by a person who only wanted to highlight my shortcomings. Weak for wanting to feel loved by a person who did not value me.
While in Sydney, I went to a meet-up for Black womxn. During a conversation on dating in Sydney, I defended my boifriend for not being the type of cis white guy these womxn were describing with disdain. I was wrong. He was just like white men who lack the basic empathy needed in an interracial relationship with a Black womxn. In hindsight, I’m reminded of poet Mahogany L. Browne, who once pondered, “I wonder what might happen if Black women gave to themselves the same grace we shower onto others?” If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t shrink myself after trying to build him up. Perhaps I would have left instead of trying to make it work. Or, perhaps I would know my worth and not try to please a person who did not appreciate, respect, nor accept me.
About the Author
Thandiwe Ntshinga is a South African freelance writer, social researcher and editor. She holds an MA in social anthropology. Her writing includes work that highlights the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality. More of her work can be found on her website: www.thandiwentshinga.com.