Journalist. Writer. Researcher. Editor.

Interracial, cross-cultural same-sex marriage. Diversity at its best.

CHARLENE Donald and Larissa Klazinga are about as different as two women can be.
Donald, 23, is bi-racial, of Xhosa descent and grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness home in East London.
Klazinga, 40, is Jewish and grew up in a small gold-mining town in Gauteng. Klazinga is a vegetarian, while Donald loves to eat meat.
But they are both women, madly in love and live together in Grahamstown.

Donald said it was a challenge for her mother to come to terms with her daughter’s sexual orientation. “She has double doses of what I guess we would call homophobia,” Donald said.
“I think she’s in denial – she pretends it isn’t real.”
The couple have often joked about whether Klazinga would pay lobola when they get married, as is tradition in Xhosa culture. Donald said “it gets tricky” to negotiate their relationship and some cultural traditions.
She has a simple solution though: “Larissa isn’t Xhosa, so she would be honouring my culture by paying lobola for me.” She said the lobola would be an affirmation of how much they love each other.
Klazinga isn’t so sold on the idea, though. “I’m not sure that I want to pay lobola to Charlene’s mother if she won’t accept us. But we’ll see, and we’ll negotiate. We’re just taking it one day at a time,” she said.

Donald said she planned to convert to Judaism once they are married. “It’s a nice tradition to raise a family in; it’s very family orientated. And we’ll be a good gay family,” Donalds said.

“Just because we’re gay doesn’t mean we don’t believe in family values,” Klazinga said, adding that while there were many challenges to negotiate in their relationship, she didn’t believe they were any more difficult than any other relationship.
“We are no different from any other couple. Just because we’re gay doesn’t mean we have a different taste in furniture, the cars we drive, our family traditions or our wedding plans,” she said. “The biggest issue we have is that she eats meat and I am a vegetarian. That is the thing we argue about the most.”
Klazinga added that she was “very happy” to have found Donald. “When we found each other we found family for each other. Finding that stability has made the rest of my life better,” she said.
The protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTi) rights in South Africa is based on section 9 of the Constitution, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, as well as race, among others. This provision applies both to the government and to private parties.
In 2006 South Africa became the fifth country in the world to recognise gay marriage, and remains the only country in Africa to support marriage equality today.
This April, France became the 12th country to legalise same-sex marriage.
LGBTi rights came into the spotlight recently after a Daily Dispatch reader bemoaned the newspaper’s publication of a lesbian couple on the wedding photographs page.
Vuyolwethu Matshele’s letter was published on May 1, and he wrote: “By my, and other Christian and also God’s definition, a marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman and they become husband and wife.”
Abigail Lottering, a bride depicted in the photo, responded to Matshele’s letter, writing: “As has been shown in your attack on gays and lesbians in this very public forum, you have shown not only your ignorance, but that which you represent as a whole in society.”
“Being gay is not only a gift, but also a stand made only by the bravest of our nation.”
“I grew up in East London. It’s time [for the city] to move forward and accept change,” Donald said.

Originally published in the Saturday Dispatch on 10 May 2013.

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