South Africa elects first black gay MP
Zakhele Mbhele made history last week when he became the first openly gay black MP to be elected in South Africa.
The 29-year-old member of the Democratic Alliance was officially sworn in to Parliament on Wednesday.
Whilst several gay politicians have served in the South African Parliament – Mbhele is the first black South African to come out as gay.
Speaking to South African publication Mamba, Mbhele acknowledged the historical significance of his appointment and hoped he could serve as a role model to young LGBTI people.
“I know what it means as a historical milestone but I’m not walking around thinking of myself as the first openly gay black MP in Africa or singularly defining myself by it,” he told Mamba Editor Luiz DeBarros.
“One of the most damaging things about homophobia is its destructive effect on a young LGBT person’s self-esteem. That was certainly one of the issues I grappled with when I was coming to terms with my sexuality in my teen years,” he told Mamba..
“Having more openly gay achievers in society can counter that damage by giving young LGBT people role models to inspire them to build their self-confidence and work ambitiously to achieve their dreams.”
While South Africa gave legal recognition to same-sex couples in 2006, homophobia remains a problem and violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community is still common in rural communities.