Written by Tshepo Maake
I am currently a PhD student at UJ’s Department of Sociology and have been lecturing at UNISA for almost 2 years. Before joining UNISA, I was a tutor at UJ from 2017 until late 2019, while also studying towards my Honours and Masters degrees. The experience of tutoring while studying was incredible and truly empowering. Interacting with fellow postgraduate students and standing in front of undergraduate students was a great way to learn. I met fun and interesting people throughout my academic career who have contributed significantly to my growth and confidence.
As a young sociology student at the University of Pretoria back in 2012, I got exposed to a different context from my rural home. During this time, I was actively engaging in issues related to gender and sexuality, and I developed a real interest in sexuality studies. I pursued this passion in my Honours and Masters studies, where I dealt with issues relating to religiously sanctioned homophobia. I interrogated the heteronormative nature of the male-dominated mining industry. It has always bothered me that sexual diversity, in some communities, in South Africa, is often used as a weapon against sexual minorities instead of being acknowledged as a difference that should be celebrated. I am unsettled by the current reality of homophobic violence in some parts of the country and deeply concerned that some people will never get to live freely due to heteronormative discourses that seek to erase LGBTIQ+ identities. Despite our progressive constitution, the heteronormative discourse is still dominant in South Africa. I find this deeply problematic hence my interest in research that challenges heteronormativity and can impact policy and change mindsets.
My PhD research seeks to understand black homosexual identity construction and negotiation from the perspectives of black homosexual men who work in two male-dominated workplaces, namely: the SAPS and SANDF. The study is concerned with breaking heteronormative barriers and challenging the notion that homosexual men have no place in these male-dominated workplaces that primarily endorse a masculinist occupational culture. It is a study dedicated to breaking heteronormative silence and making visible homosexual identities in male-dominated workplaces. It is an honour for me to be a part of the project, FruSTRAIGHTing the norm, since its aims are aligned with my deep desire to understands people’s perspectives on heteronormativity and come up with possible solutions to underlying issues of the concept.