LGBT+ PRIDE MONTH 2019 : Q & A WITH CHRISTO AND ALEX
The month of June was chosen as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, that occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognise the impact that LGBT people have had in the world. For Joburgers, October is Pride Month here in Gauteng and according to Wiki, it was first held in South Africa on the 13th October 1990. The event was initiated and organised by GLOW, the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) that was founded by gay, anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli in 1988.
We did a Pride feature back in 2017, and this year we’re back and featuring Christo and Alex.
If you, the reader, know of any other inspirational LGBT+ individuals or perhaps your own story that we could feature, please contact us.
Thank you for sharing your story, Christo and Alex.
In their own words …
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELVES, AND WHAT SHAPED YOU BOTH TO LIVE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF TODAY?
C: We are two normal and sometimes crazy guys with our own individuality that sometimes drive each other crazy. We love! We fight! We cry! We love some more!
Alex just turned 28 and I will be 48 in February. Lucky for me, he prefers older men! We grew up worlds apart from each other. I’m from a typical Afrikaans family with very strong family bonds. While Alex comes from a mixed background (oh he is so going to kill me) English and Dutch and attended an Afrikaans school. With our age difference of only 19 years, we also grew up with different social acceptances. If that wasn’t enough, Alex is a typical city boy while I’m more of a country boy.
With all our differences, we have learnt to respect and love each one, and I believe that it has somehow also bonded us together. Think a clear “Opposite Attraction” scenario for us. It keeps things interesting for us!
HOW AND WHERE DID YOU TWO MEET, WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR LIFE JOURNEY, HOBBIES, A BIT ABOUT YOUR YOUTH ?
A: Christo and I met at a Pride After Party (the next day of Pride, actually, don’t judge). Truth be told I was there with someone. They were more of a fling than anything else, but as soon as Christo walked through the door he had my attention. I’ll be as bold as to say that even though Christo had already consumed quite a few drinks, it only made him that much more charismatic and bolder. I remember the moment he came up to me like it was yesterday. I was sitting with my feet in the pool when he came swimming up to me with the pretence of looking at the ring I was wearing and brazenly asked to see it. By the time I had to leave he still had it and the only way I was going to get it back was by kissing him! The audacity and nerve! I’m not known to dish out my jewellery, ever, but of course I complied! I wasn’t going to let slip the chance to kiss the man that had held my attention and been flirting shamelessly with me the whole day!
I am very fortunate to have the parents I have. My mom (God rest her soul) and dad raised me without any pressure of who they wanted me to be. They encouraged me to sing and dance when I wanted to be part of the school revue. When I was much younger, I was very shy and both my mom and dad believed drama lessons would do me the world of good and bring me out of my shell. It did! I will and still am forever grateful for them.
C: Well now you all know how “courage in a bottle” gave me some help to flirt with the man who has become the love of my life. At the time I met Alex I had just started working for Cartier (yes, THE Cartier brand) so I was in a comfortable place in my life. At that time my hobbies consisted of gardening and reading. About two years ago I bought my first ever freshwater fish and have since became a total “fishaholic“, is there even such a word? I have accumulated a total of 12 freshwater aquariums at home. It was bound to happen I guess, Alex has given me an ultimatum, if I bring one more tank home I’m destined for the spare room! Now both of us enjoy fine art and antiques, but most of all sharing the blessings and beauty of life.
Growing up in the 80’s and not even being allowed to use the word gay, life has not been easy. I attended a small countryside school where rugby seemed like the only thing that mattered. I was also the Head-boy of the school, so I was deep in the closet not even allowing myself to think about the possibility that I may be gay. It was a constant struggle as I had nobody to speak to about these strange feelings inside me. Only after I started working in Bloemfontein after school could I explore and find my authentic self.
“Do to others that you would like to be done to yourself” Haven’t got a clue who said that, but it resonates with me because one of my biggest pleasures in my life is to be able to do something for somebody, anybody. Their smile of appreciation is so worth it. – Christo
ARE YOU MARRIED, ENGAGED OR COUPLED UP AND ARE THRE PLANS TO ADD A CHILD OR TWO TO GROW THE FAMILY?
A: We have been together for 9 years now and quite recently celebrated our anniversary. Seven years ago in the beautiful city Brussels, Belgium we got engaged. It has been a journey, one that has not always been easy. Over this time we have gotten to know each other. I would honestly move mountains for Christo. We have our family and love our fur babies to the moon and back.
C: Being in the retail industry we both work extremely long hours and very irregular shifts. Unfortunately, this does not allow us to grow our family with human babies. We do however have two fur boys, Troy and Bruno. They are the anchors in our crazy world and we love them beyond words.
WHEN YOU MET, WAS IT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT?
C: As it is Alex’s nature to always elaborate on questions, he has already answered this, (LOL) Love at first sight? No, but the next day I realised that I couldn’t stop thinking about him and that is when the BIG search started. We hadn’t exchanged more than our names. Do you know how many Alex’s exist on Facebook? Somehow we managed to find each other two weeks later and went on our first official date. It was during our date that the penny dropped and I realised that I was on a date with a Matric boy whom I had fallen in love with.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU EACH REALISE/ACCEPT THAT YOU WERE GAY?
A: It had been a while, but I think I realized I was different at the age of 7 but fully accepted my sexuality when I was around 14/15.
C: At age 6 I wondered why I was different from the other boys I’m growing up with, but could only explore for answers when I started to work after school at age 19. When did I finally find the answers I was searching for? At 21. I had a huge struggle with my Christianity, but with the help of our church Minister I was finally able to find peace of mind in my religion.
WHEN YOU CAME OUT TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS, WERE THEY ACCEPTING OF YOU? ACCEPTING OR NOT, HOW DID THIS MAKE YOU FEEL? DID IT MATTER TO YOU HOW THEY FELT?
A: Being raised the way I was, my family were fully accepting of me and encouraged me 100% to live my authentic self, always. Even though I was expecting the worst when coming out I could not have asked for better reactions.
C: Now with my background and when I finally accepted myself, was during a period where hate towards gay individuals was rife and not an easy situation. I was not ready to come out to my family then, but due to a situation with a fling at that time, my mother cornered me and asked me what was wrong. I started weeping like a baby as I felt like I was such a disappointment to my family. She finally asked me if I was gay and all I could do was cry. Mom demanded that we tell dad, who was a schoolmaster. Dad just responded by saying he knew since I was born and that we must “please stop this crying”. Well, I was so shocked that the tears stopped immediately. Mom struggled for about 3 months, she had all the typical questions. “What have I done wrong?” but with the help of our church Minister we now have the most amazing relationship and I am blessed beyond with the relationship that I have with my mother. Dad and I had a very loving relationship until his passing. Mom still prays for me every day.
YOU MAY HAVE SEEN ON SM HOW GARETH THOMAS, EX-WELSH AND BRITISH & IRISH LIONS RUGBY PLAYER WAS FORCED TO SHARE HIS HIV+ STATUS PUBLICLY. THIS UNFORTUNATELY HAPPENS REGULARLY IN THE LGBT+ COMMUNITY. WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR COMING OUT, WAS IT A DECISION YOU TOOK ON YOUR OWN ACCORD OR WERE YOU “ENCOURAGED” TO COME OUT FOR ANY PARTICULAR REASON?
A: It was definitely a personal decision. I was tired of hiding who I felt I was and needed to be. At the time I heard about so many kids committing suicide because they felt they couldn’t show their true selves and I did not want to be one of them even if I did have the thoughts.
C: Definitely not a decision at that point as I always said that I will tell my parents the day I have met my forever. I am so very thankful that my mother cornered me that day and that my life changed from then on. Otherwise my dad would never have known the true me and I would have never had my dad’s blessing. Many of my peers married because of the pressure to be accepted by society or attempting to not contract HIV, the ‘gay illness’. I had the privilege to live my life honestly with the ongoing support of my family.
HOW HAS YOUR COMING OUT IMPACTED ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?
A: Being in the fashion industry I believe it impacts my career on a daily basis. Let’s face it, most women love a fabulous gay giving compliments, and when we do they know we mean it! (we picky as hell!)
C: Luckily for me, my choice of career at the time was interior design. Working as a Window Dresser at the time made it easier. When I came out there was a stigma linked to certain careers like Window Dresser, or Hairdresser or Fashion Designer and if you were male in that role. It was automatically assumed that you were gay.
I have never flaunted my sexuality at work. You could say that I am old school, gay generation, who believes that I am a man and can do anything any other hetero male can. The reality is, I have love for a man and not a woman. Should I be questioned about my sexuality, I am honest as I’m quite proud about my sexuality.
Alex has really helped me in making this aspect of my life easier to deal with. (Thank you my love!)
“Rather have your flame burn bright than have a tiny little pilot light” Elliot from Queer as Folk.
IF YOU PLAN TO HAVE CHILDREN, WILL IT BE VIA SURROGATE OR ADOPTION?
A: We don’t believe we will have children as explained before due to our working life. We do have our fur babies who we love endlessly. (Even Christo’s mom refers to them as her grandchildren) We adore our godson and nephew, even if we don’t get to see him as much as we’d like.
WHAT DO YOU TWO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
A: As typical as it is we love browsing around vintage and antique shops and finding unique pieces. On the odd occasion a pawn shop or two as they also hold some unexpected bargains. Christo also loves sharing his passion for fish and we visit aquariums and pet shops. I enjoy accompanying him when I can as it makes me happy to see him enjoy his hobby.
C: One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is that Alex is actually a crow. Oh man oh man……Anything that blings! He absolutely adores jewellery and with this passion (and my empty wallet) he has studied the Royal Jewels and is able to tell you anything and everything about any Royal Jewel ever made.
DO YOU PREFER TO EAT IN OR OUT? CHICKEN OR BEEF? PIZZA OR SALAD? FINE DINING OR TAKEOUT?
A: I guess that really depends on how we feel. Mostly it’s eating in and sitting around the kitchen table and chatting about random things. On the odd occasion we have date nights, but in all honest we much prefer hearty meals.
C: Another passion of Alex is definitely food, so it really doesn’t matter were we eating as long as he can enjoy it. Personally, given the choice I would say the kitchen table trumps eating out any day. It’s more about the quality time together for me than the food. I am happy with just a slice of bread.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE LIFE, WORK AND SOCIAL COMMITMENTS?
A: Being in Retail, it is honestly very difficult to maintain any sort of social life but we have true friends (Tiaan and Adri) who will come over even during the week to just sit and chat. Weekends are extremely challenging for us to socialise with friends and family.
C: This is truly the most difficult part of our lives. We hardly have the same days off, so to plan for special social events together literally takes months of planning.
IF YOU HAD A “DAY PASS” WHICH CELEBRITY CRUSH(LOCALLY) WOULD YOU USE IT ON?
A: Honestly I’d much rather spend my day feasting my eyes on jewellery or having a braai with people that I love and who bring joy to my life.
C: I would rather spend it with my mom. Time is too precious to waste on somebody that you do not know and would probably not bring any meaning to your life.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE DEALING WITH THE ACCEPTANCE OF THEIR OWN SEXUALITY, AND THAT OF SOCIETY OR FAMILY?
C: Hiding your true self from the world will only make life difficult. Those who don’t accept you for who you are were never meant to be in your life in the first place. You are still the person they know and love so why should your sexual preference change that? The beautiful advantage the gay community has is that we get to choose our family. Those who stand by us, help us and love us are our family.
A: Even though I don’t force my sexuality onto anyone I don’t make a point of hiding it either. Be who you are meant to be, enjoy life and just smile every day!
Find Christo and Alex via their Social Media handle: