From Inkanyiso “Let Your Voices be Heard” by Charmain Carrol
Given an opportunity to tell my story I will talk about where I’ve been and what I have done and the remarkable people I met along my journeys. This remains in my archived memories. It was an ardent path that any other youth might have gone through without much guidance and support from parents and relatives. One had to rely on strangers and friends who then became my extended family. People who loved and embraced me as their daughter, younger sister, who loved my daughter as theirs and fed me when there was no food on the table.
My name is Charmain (without an ‘e’). My surname is Carrol. I’m a gender activist, a lesbian mother, a partner, a media activist, a homemaker, a writer, a motivational speaker, a counselor and facilitator. Currently I work for the bank as anExternal Sales Manager and part-time for Inkanyiso productions as a volunteer reporter and project administrator.
I was born on the 7th July 1977, Durban. KwaZulu Natal. Birthed by mixed parents, an Indian father and a Xhosa mother which makes be classified as colored according to the South African color bar. I don’t like that much but prefer to be just ‘Black’.
I speak English, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans.
You know it stunt me to see that some people will stand in front of me in the queue and gossip in Zulu assuming that I don’t hear them. I know that my long hair and complexion confuse them. Surprisingly I hear(d) them quite well. Sometimes I respond but most of the I just keep quiet. Worst of is when some lesbians assume that I’m a heterosexual women. Ok, I’m not.
I was raised in the Eastern Cape by my grandmother. My mother worked in Durban as a domestic worker and my father remained in Durban working as a Private Investigator for a private company. I was two months old when my parents separated. I’ve heard that my father was too violent towards my mother and she could not take it and left him. Later, my uncle told me that racial differences sparked that gender based violence. He was mixed race himself, born and grew up Qumbu. He was such a jealous man. That’s the men who met his mom at 16 and I met him when I was 9 years old for the first time. You can only imagine what does that do to an only girl child longing for paternal love. With all that said, my grandmother was there for me throughout. She mother, my father, my all.
I’m grateful to her for all the teachings she taught me. Unfortunately my gran died in 2007 at the age of 100 plus which was a blessing for a black family. After meeting my father, I was moved to Durban to be with my father and his other children (born by different mothers). It is where I attended coloured school in Wentworth. I was there until I was 17 years old. My father died in 1995, he was murdered. So all the children were returned to their mothers. My mom came for me as well, who I last saw at the age of 9 when she left and dropped me off at my father’s. In 1995 my mother was selling second hands clothes and own a shebeen in Philipi,
I fell pregnant before my 18th birthday. I gave birth to Lynne my only daughter in 1996, Cape Town. I must confess that it was a natural birth with no complications even though my body tender or not matured enough. I was young and a teenager at that time.
I was not raped like how most lesbians would say to shun away from the fact that some of us do not conceive due sexual assault or have the luxury of artificial insemination and other birthing processes. With that said my sexuality did come from the point of abuse.
Period! I’ve been intimate with women before I gave birth to my child and continued thereafter. Hence, I won’t judge those who want to use the abuse or rape as means of protecting their sexual identities. Different strokes for different folks. Amen to that!
My child has a father that she met later on in life just like I did with my own father. Contact between them is not that good because he was not involved in her upbringing and maintenance — papgeld was a big issue like some men in South Africa who refuse to take responsibility of their offspring. I had to admit that we were both young and got involve in teenage sex without an understanding of the consequences. I then started working from an early age to support my child. My mother could not assist much because she had her own challenges. I don’t stop my daughter to be in contact with her father. She has a right to communicate with him. He also knows of his child’s existence. The guy is also fully aware of my lesbianism.
If I remember well my first encounter with same gender love was with my cousin sister who was a year older than me. She is a heterosexual woman with kids, probably do not recall what we did but I remember very well cause that excited me very much.
I will later narrate on how I fell pregnant which is a life story on it own!
Important people I met along the way
In 1996 I met Kali van der Merwe, filmmaker, who trained me in Media Activism and conducted Radio Training. She came to the Onsplek, which was a place of safety for girls in Albertus Str, Cape Town central. Where I lived for two years with my daughter because mother did not accept that I fell pregnant early.
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The Inkanyiso crew featuring Charmain Carrol (blue dress) and Funeka Soldaat (light yellow polo t-shirt). Photo by Zanele Muholi. (2012 Dec. 8, Hector Pietersen Museum at the Iranti — 16 Days of Activism event)
Another person I was lucky to share my life with was Funeka Soldaat, gender activist, who guided and mentored me.
Soldaat is currently involve with Freegender – now, but at that time she was working for Triangle Project.
Not forgetting Gabrielle le Roux, an art activist, who worked for Media Watch. Le Roux and van der Merwe taught us life skills, media skills and how to conduct interviews and deal with public related projects.
In 1998 I worked for Idol Pictures which was headed by Jack Lewis, filmmaker, producer and director, some of his productions is Siyanqoba/ Beat It! I did voice over for the Gugu Dlamini, HIV activist who was brutally murdered in December 1998, Durban for disclosing her HIV status. After that I was later appointed by Media Watch…In 1999, I represented the gay and lesbian youth at International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA) conference held in Johannesburg, on behalf of UManyano, the defunct black lesbian organisation which was based in Khayelitsha…..Continue on Inkanyiso