Tag Archives: The Chosen Few

The highest profile victim so far

The BBC delivers a typically-restrained and well-edited story on the The Chosen Few lesbian football team out of South Africa. It’s only 2 minutes, 11 seconds and does a good job of presenting a snapshot of the dangers (violence, rape, and murder) that black lesbians face in the townships in South Africa.

Naturally, the story touches on the rape, torture and murder of Eudy Similane, the voice over revealing a sense of hopelessness to the situation:

“The highest profile victim so far [emphasis added], Eudy Similane, a star player on the national women’s team…”

I am glad that the World Cup is bringing these issues to light, but I am eager to see a real response mounted. ESPN, the BBC, and countless bloggers (among others) have reported the story – let’s see something of substance come out of the coverage to begin protecting these women.

Watch the BBC piece here. Read my original post on The Chosen Few here.

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ESPN to air segment on “corrective” rape, tonight at 7pm EST

Though I’ve not shied away from the topic of violence in these pages, I have found it extremely challenging to write about the violence against lesbians in South Africa, particularly the practice of so-called “corrective” rape. Doubling my apprehension is the urgency with which I need to write and publish this post, because I’ve just found out that ESPN will be airing a segment, “Corrective Rape”, on their program E:60, tonight at 7pm EST.

“The segment will tell the story of the former top female soccer players in South Africa, Eudy Simelane, was raped and murdered… Emmy winning journalist Jeremy Schaap traveled to the impoverished, crime-ridden townships of South Africa to report on the disturbing trend of ‘corrective rape’ in the country hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He interviewed three South African women soccer players who say they were beaten and raped because they are gay. Their haunting stories — and an interview with Simelane’s mother — are the backbone of E:60’s report.”

– From “ESPN’s E:60 brings ‘Corrective Rape’ May 11, programming notes” by April MacIntyre

As well, there’s a 52-second preview on ESPN’s site.

In the interests of time, I’ll cut the editorial here. For background and more information, read my post on the Chosen FEW football team and the article “Girlie “S’Gelane” Nkosi, Eudy Similane’s teammate and a lesbian activist murdered” by Jennifer Doyle at From a Left Wing.

I don’t get ESPN and I don’t know anything about the show or journalist Jeremy Schaap. I am apprehensive but hopeful that this might end up being a positive example of how the World Cup is bringing attention (and ultimately practice- and policy-change) to the violence facing South Africa’s lesbians. Those of you who watch the program are invited to post in the comments section.

UPDATE:
Watch the piece (approximately 16 minutes) on ESPN’s site, here.This is a story about the practice of  “corrective” rape, which is rape with the intended purpose of punishing – and “correcting” – lesbians. The story hangs loosely around the 2008 rape, mutilation, and murder of South African pro footballer, LGBT-rights activist, and out lesbian, Eudy Similane. Journalist Schaap interviews several out lesbian soccer players, including Eudy’s childhood friend, from the townships of South Africa.

It’s not easy to tell a story like this while avoiding the grimy sheen of exploitation, and I don’t think the piece is entirely successful in doing so. That said, there are some revelatory moments. Schaap’s discussion with South African P0lice Services Spokesman Vishnu Naidoo handily illuminates the unwillingness of authority to even name the practice, much less prohibit it. Former Chair of the South African Human Rights Commision Jody Kollapen’s comments on culture and society provide some sort of context, which is a small relief following several man-on-the-street interviews parroting the sentiment that lesbians are deserving targets.

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The Chosen Few

A year before my trip to Africa I went to the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) World Championship in London, UK. It was here that I was drafted to the same team as Craig, who would later become my South Africa host family and partner in do-goodery. Dennis Fish (VP of the DC Federal Triangles, and recently profiled in these pages for organizing a game for the Football v Homophobia Initiative) was another teammate. I’ve told many stories here that began during those seven days, but there’s one that hasn’t yet made it into these pages – a story that I’d all but forgotten until an article showed up in my feed today.

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It began during the 2008 IGLFA Championship. As someone who comes from a co-ed league it felt natural to place myself on a mixed team, if you can call 13 men and me “mixed”. The unfortunate side effect was that I felt pretty separate from the other women participating in the tourney (including me, there were less than five women playing in the open division). There was little overlap between divisions at the field, so it wasn’t until I made it to a tournament event that I caught up with some of the women players.

It was mid-summer so the best part of the party was taking place outside the venue in the back alley. After a knocking out a few moves on the dance floor with my teammates, I ventured outside. The alley was packed with people reliving the day’s games, pints swinging around and voices rising over rival conversations.

Off to one side was the South African women’s team, the Chosen Few.  They’d been the subject of many conversations, having invited the attention of players from both divisions for their practice of approaching the field for their games singing and dancing in unison. It was an impressive display, both beautiful and intimidating.

Now, the team was standing in a wide circle socializing with each other and whoever wanted to step into the ring. I did.

Within moments I realized I’d inserted myself into a discussion about the consequences of being lesbian in the townships of South Africa. The women spoke in turn, uninterrupted, and told everyone assembled stories of brutal violence, “corrective” rape, and murder. In the preceding few years, I was told, several players had been killed for being lesbian.

We were standing close, shoulder to shoulder, protective and insular, when the women from the Chosen Few began to clap and sing, pulling each other into the centre one by one. Concentrating on matching the rhythm of the group, I slapped my palms together and felt honored and ridiculous and lucky and amazed all at once. By choosing to play, these women were effectively “coming out” into extreme hostility and risking terrible violence, even death. I didn’t know what to do with this information – I still don’t – except to put my hands together and share that fleeting moment in the alley.

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The Chosen Few is run by the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW). They won a bronze medal at the Gay Games Tournament in Chicago in 2006, and again in 2008 at the IGLFA Championships in London. The team has been awarded a Gay Games scholarship to handle travel and accommodation expenses so they can compete in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, but they still require further financial assistance to obtain gear and handle other associated expenses.

To help, contact Dikeledi Sibanda at 0113391867 or 0765123874 or e- mail project1@few.org.za

Read the article in full: “Lesbian Team Needs Your Support for World Tournament“.

UPDATE:For additional information about the team and the women who play in it, read Magali Reinert’s article, “Belles of the ball” published in the Mail & Guardian Online on Arpil 23, 2010.

The piece does a good job of explaining the structure and background of the team -the Chosen Few is the team launched and supported by NGO The Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) – and what it means to be an out lesbian in some parts of South Africa. To be drafted, every player “must ‘be out’, have passed the physical aptitude trials and be committed to defending homosexual and women’s rights.”

This team’s story is extremely resonant of the themes of homophobia, violence, activism, and sport that I discuss in these pages. Well worth the read.

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