Self-care was the buzzword of 2017 and it’s not hard to figure out why. In a world where marginalised identities are finally being recognised in conversations around inclusivity, visibility and transformation, self-care is the language of activism, introspection and self-love.
In South Africa, self-care – as a black woman – is a mechanism for survival. What we don’t often hear in mainstream narratives around self-care is what it means for queer women living in a country that’s still plagued by queer-antagonism and homophobia.
What does it mean to navigate space and experience self-love as a queer body? We asked three queer women to give us an inside perspective on self-preservation as a radical act of self-love:
Nandi Jakuja, 23
To be a black, queer female in South Africa means constantly being erased but simultaneously being hyper-visible and that, for me, also translates into purposely putting my identity out there, but also keeping to myself and almost being in hiding. Self-care for me means boundaries.
First and foremost, it’s about creating boundaries, pushing boundaries, letting go of boundaries and having grey-area boundaries. Because, in each space that I exist in and each identity that I carry, I constantly need to be a different person. Unfortunately, the spaces that I exist in sometimes can only accommodate a certain part of me and never myself as a whole. I have grown to understand this as learning how to simply just take what I need for that present moment.
A few things I don’t compromise on:
- Being unapologetic about who I am and the things that I like.
- Not being offended by problematic people any more. As damaging as they may be, being a ‘teacher’ to them weighs heavily on me and I don’t engage in free labour any more.
- Exploring and listening to music by queer artists. Beyond supporting queer artists, I also explore their music. By doing this I am getting a deeper understanding of the wider queer community.
- Making queer friends.
- Exploring astrology. I think I have a little bit of an obsession but it’s so affirming to me to find out that there’s an entire universe out there, and I am ready to explore the interconnected nature of it and to play an active part in the creation of what is being observed.
- Taking care of my damn self – taking long baths, masturbating, making sure I make time for a haircut every week, and getting my nails done.
Inga Sibaya, 24
Though our society has transformed somewhat, the tolerance and protection of queer people still need to improve. This is why I find self-care so important. I’ve stopped romanticising relationships with family, friends and peers because I’ve experienced a lot of bigotry and discrimination from them.
I rarely go ‘home’ because my parents don’t accept or acknowledge my sexuality. They often make insensitive remarks or insist I pray my ‘issues’ away – it’s not a place I feel safe in, so I’d rather not be there.
I’ve had to be intentional about the spaces I go into and the interactions I engage in because I refuse to entertain ignorance and hate any longer.
At first, I was angry. Why should I tip-toe in and around spaces full of intolerable/intolerant people? They should be the ones made to feel out-of-place. I used to be loud and proud to the point of being obnoxious until I noticed how exhausted I was at the end of every day.
I decided my peace was more important.
I didn’t want to become a type of spokesperson at my own expense. My personality isn’t suited to that. Other queer’s might be right for it and I support them when I can.
I come out of my soap-box when I have the strength, but I retreat to self-soothe when I need to because I know this fight is long.
Zaki Mlaba, 26
Self-care is not just about bath bombs, green tea, face masks, sushi and wine.
Self-care is mostly digging, learning, unlearning, growing and becoming the best version of oneself. It’s knowing when to detach and when to connect. Self-care is actively, deliberately and continuously working on yourself. My self-care is work; on myself, my connections and my growth.
My self-care will never be an aesthetic. My self-care is about survival. Surviving in a world that actively tries to destroy black queer beings every single day. I am a black queer womxn. I cannot separate my black, my queer or my womxn. I am all these things, all the time. It is difficult, but it’s also magic.
Make a safe space for yourself before looking for safe spaces elsewhere.
As black queer beings, we deserve and need safe spaces. But before you go looking for that, create a safe space for yourself; within yourself.
Self-care will be work but it will be worth it. It is tears. It is shedding. It is living through and because of your purpose.
We tend to make mental lists about the types of people we want relationships with. We need to do the same with ourselves because the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important.
- Write down what you want from yourself.
- Write down who you want to be.
- Write everything down and hold yourself accountable for everything, all the time.
My self-care, like my love, needs to feel like a world away and a world within.
Read more self-care in the time of activism
Read more Sunday self-care routines
Read our interview on self-care and singing with Jabu Nadia Newman.