S. African gay couple's plea: Put yourselves in our shoes

Michael Robin Wynne and Donovan Wynne
Donovan Wynne and Michael Robin Wynne (Photo courtesy of Michael Wynne)

How happiness replaced violence and self-loathing

South Africa still has problems with homophobia and anti-gay violence, despite the nation’s legal recognition of LGBT rights. But for many LGBT South Africans, life is good. In the following article, Michael Robin Wynne describes the challenges that many gay people face, as well as the normal life that he and his husband now live. He was inspired to write this commentary in response to the often nasty, sometimes thoughtful, barrage of anti-homosexuality and pro-rights comments from readers of this blog’s list of 76+ countries where homosexuality is illegal. Michael Robin (Cronje) Wynne, a song writer, lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with his husband, music teacher Donovan Wynne.

Hey, guys, I have been reading and thinking about all these posts for the last hour. My husband has too and we’ve been talking with a very open mind about everything that’s been said on this blog. We have left out all emotion and prejudice from our conversation to try and understand why so much hate has come out of this and, quite frankly, we can find no reason for it.

We live in South Africa. We have been married for almost two years but have been together for almost five years.

In our country, we as gay men have the same rights as everybody else. We are treated like “normal” people. Nobody cares that we are gay. We do not promote that fact that we are gay but then again we don’t try to hide it either.

Normal daily life

We live our lives like everybody else. We do our jobs, we go out for dinner, we wash our car, feed our pets, and we pay our taxes. The only time we make a point of not showing affection to one another is when there are children close by and the reason for this is because we think it is unfair to parents to force them to have to explain matters of a sexual nature to their kids before they think the time is right.

Before 2006 it was illegal for gay people to get married. We had our protests and pride marches and there was a lot of angry words and several gay bashings but as soon as we were protected and treated like everybody else it stopped. Yes, there is the odd gay bashing here and there, and every now and then some religious leader says something in a public forum that upsets us, but on the whole we get to go about our lives unscathed from homophobia and life is good for us.

This is all after 2006.

Before 2006……

Until 7 years ago: total fear

Before our rights were “granted” to us, gay men and women lived in total fear. Having your homes burned to the ground and being gang raped (corrective rape) was the norm for us. We had to find “girlfriends” and live unhappy lives. Men and women were thrown into jail and repeatedly raped and left to rot. Most of us have scars on our wrists from suicide attempts or we have rope burn marks around our necks. For me, I have problems with my liver and kidney from the damage done by the meds I used to overdose as well as many scars on my wrists. I survived and I am glad I did.

What most of the haters don’t know is what personal hell we went through and some times still go through when we discover that we are gay. As a small child, age 6 to 10, we know that we don’t fit in. We don’t know why but we don’t really care that much because we are so little and there are cool cartoons to keep your mind off for a while. Then from 11 to 14 we discover that everyone else likes girls. We don’t know why but we think to ourselves, one day things will change. Then puberty really sets in and we discover that we like boys. At first we don’t understand it as it presents itself as a form of hero worship. Later it becomes a full-out sexual lust that we can’t control, pretty much the same as straight boys of the same age.

Donovan Wynne and Michael Robin Wynne (Photo courtesy of Michael Wynne)
Donovan Wynne and Michael Robin Wynne (Photo courtesy of Michael Wynne)

Then our personal trip to hell begins.  Now we know we are gay. We hate it, we despise it and will do anything to change it because everyone we know hates gays. We turn to the Bible, we force ourselves to look at straight porn and we get girlfriends because we convince ourselves that the right girl will change us. We make sure that we do the “straight” activities and “man up” as much as possible … but it doesn’t go away. EVER !

By the time we are 16, the self-loathing becomes so overpowering that we lash out at everyone and when that doesn’t work we turn to God one more time. God does nothing and the fact that He did nothing makes us believe that we are the ugly things that the Bible and family say that we are … so we try to kill ourselves. The sad thing is that most kids don’t survive. Those that do face an even worse reality.

Two choices

From 16 to about 20 we make peace with the fact that we are gay and that there is nothing we can do about it. We are left with two choices: (1) come out and deal with whatever happens or (2) lie, find a wife and be miserable for the rest of our lives.

Choice 1. The consequences of coming out vary. In my case I was lucky and was accepted immediately by my family and friends. They treated me exactly the same as before. Most gay people are not so lucky. Most of them get kicked out of their homes and are disowned by their families. They are forced to live on the streets and become prostitutes and thieves. Most die from drug overdose or from hypothermia or will spend the rest of their lives in prison. Some of the really unfortunate ones are beaten to death.

Choice 2. Most of these men and women become nasty angry people. They do what is expected of them but on the odd occasion when the craving gets too much they will go find sex with men and women in dangerous places. Most times no protection is used and they get sick. They also makes their wives and husbands sick. So many people have died from AIDS because of this.

Now you know what we go through. The point I’m trying to make is this: Because gay men and women have the freedom and protection that we do in South Africa, we have become happier people. We no longer have to fear homophobia. We no longer feel like freaks. We get the same benefits as straight people and we can live our lives in peace. That’s all we ever wanted.

Teenagers don’t hurt themselves anymore. We are no longer part of a marriage we shouldn’t in in the first place and churches no longer tell us that God hates us. All this because of two laws. First law, no one may discriminate against us. Second law, we are allowed to marry whoever we want. The second that things changed for us, all the propaganda went away.

This is what all American gay people want. This is what all gay people worldwide want and nothing more. Now put yourself in our shoes. Would you not want to fight for these rights as well?


Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.


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