​Slice of Life: ‘I was afraid but ah, me, I’m now a man’

I really didn’t want to go to initiation school because I was scared. I heard that some people didn’t make it because the people running some of the schools aren’t skilled.

For a whole week before I went, I was stressed about it, thinking about the circumcision and that there’d be no real medicine to ease the pain.

But I thought about it again and realised that this is my culture and, for me to be a man, I needed to go – whether I liked it or not. I realised that to get the respect I deserve, I needed to go.

So when I told my mom that I was ready, she was happy.

But when I came back, she was even more happy. Everybody was rejoicing. I was glad to see that my family was so happy. Also, I was relieved. I felt like I had faced the scariest process, telling myself: “You can do this.”

Before I went to the initiation school, I was always told things like: “Ah, wena, you’re a small boy.” But on that day, I felt so proud because I knew I could now say: “Ah, me, I’m a man.”

That day, they slaughtered two cows, one for me to share with friends who were with me at initiation school. We cooked that meat on a fire in our yard. As we sat around that fire, I told my friends: “Now we are men, no longer teenagers.”

I feel like the person I was before, that boy, has changed. Even the way I walked. Now, when my older relatives are discussing an important issue, I am there. They include me in those discussions. – Themba Manda (20), as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian.

Carl Collison
Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa.

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