Cape Town Gay Culture: Fake, Elitist, Pretty Privilege, and Clout

coffee with a fruit salad bowl
Privilege is invisible to those who have it |image: Micaela Baatjes

Last year after finishing a podcast with Musa Nkone, we sat down and just reflected on the Cape Town gay scene. In our talk, I felt personally attacked and that Musa was taking a jab at me because our talk began with him calling me a “fake elite gay”. It was at this point where I learnt of the privileges that I have enjoyed in my three years here.  It was at this juncture that I realised that the gay community in Cape Town especially amongst young black men is fake, toxic, elitist, and is run by pretty privilege and clout.

I was under the assumption that I was just a young black gay studying at UCT. But after some introspection that was prompted by this talk and a recent intersectional reflection piece I wrote for my psychology class. I realised that I was indeed enjoying a plethora of privileges and these were privileges specific to a very particular kind of gay in Cape Town. It was indeed the ‘fake elite gays’. Furthermore, I realised how within the social hierarchy, I had indeed been at the top because of my extroversion, looks, and class.

“Fake Elite Gays” in my understanding would the gay, bisexual, or “don’t box me”  queer males that are the top of the social hierarchy. This means they either have all or some of the following: conventionally attractive, slim to gym build, middle class, fairly stylish, and a fairly high social media following and engagement (clout).

Clout is essentially the ability to influence people on social media. So let’s talk about clout as a privilege? Colleen Jones argues that clout allows you to attract the right people and, at the right time, change what they think or do.” It is on this premise that I argue that clout is a form of privilege because it allows for people based on their social media pages coupled with the quality of their content to attract the ‘right people’. In the case of the “fake elite gays” this would be to attract other elite gays. Lol, I don’t have clout. I just happened to like things and know way too many people.

In terms of my own life, seeing that I pass off as ‘straight’, this has made it easier for me to navigate life with ease. Furthermore, being ‘more masculine’ and not a “girlie” gay has allowed for me to be able to also navigate the dating scene with ease as masculinity is a desirable trait amongst the community. I argue that this stems from the gay community’s own internalised homophobia. But it could also be a coping mechanism to deal with the societal homophobia that more feminine, as well as transgender people, experience.

To make the above statements more visible, you find that I prefer to date other men who are more masculine because it is more convenient in terms of how we can sit in a restaurant without people staring (that is if we aren’t engaging any form of PDA). Moreover, I cannot fight to save my life and if I were to be in a compromised situation, I’d need someone else to either fight for me or handle the situation. Also since my mom is not yet fully accepting of my sexuality, it would be easier to say that someone is ‘just a friend’ without her raising her eyebrows. This goes to show how preference is exclusionary because if we are discriminatory of other members of the gay community. How do we then expect society to accept us? Because we don’t just want to be tolerated but the goal is to normalise our queer lived experiences.

Age privilege, able-bodied privilege, Male privilege, middle-upper class privilege, and pretty privilege would be a summary of the privileges that ‘fake elite gays’ including myself enjoy.

For some pretty privilege is a foreign concept but simply put it is the access that your looks can give you which isn’t so easily attainable for others. For the lack of a better analogy, an explicit example would be how ‘pretty’ girls almost always end up in the Cubana lounges without necessarily paying nor booking them out themselves. Or how I can go to a club with a negative balance and make it home with an alarming amount of alcohol in my system.

Pretty privilege in the Cape Town gay scene has separated and divided people according to their looks and what they are perceived to have on social media which is either from family, a rich significant or talent/hard work. I have no issue with cross-class dating because, at the end of the day, people can’t choose where they are from. However, I would like to stress that the pressure to lead and portray a life that is way beyond their means has led to fake elite gays leaning towards “securing the bag” through dating outside of their class. In sum, “securing the bag” means dating, vibing, or being with usually a working man that can offer you a life outside of your own. It is more of a transaction than a relationship. It’s a culture of using someone for what they can offer you while you can and before you’re replaced by another pretty young gay.

Quote me when I say “securing the bag” will be the death of black South African gays. It breeds a culture of ‘each to their own’ and a world where you always feel unsafe if you find yourself dating someone who is well off.  Well off would be idealistically but not limited to someone who can afford that you drink expensive alcohol, fine dining, and maybe buy you luxury goods.

The idea of securing the bag has led to people being fickle and cold. Not only are young gay men pitting themselves against each other but they are allowing men to do the same for their own entertainment. I’ll never forget an acquaintance of mine pre-warning, “don’t catch feelings because we’ll snatch him from you either way”.

Back to the securing of bags which has allowed many to live lives beyond their means. I mean who doesn’t want to be spoilt rotten and live a flashy life? Even I a struggle creative and student would love this. No one likes spending money on a budget. Therefore, it makes sense why people would strive to “secure a bag” to make their lives easier. But does securing the bag really mean that you have to hurt other people in the process?

The ”fake elite gays” as we are called have normalised a culture of toxicity. Placing our worth on material things and neglecting the value of peace. You’ll find the fake elite gays know of each other because they either have dated the same people, occupy the same social spaces, and share mutual friends. But no one likes nor trusts no one. Everyone is looking to show their ‘power’ through snatching someone’s man and being bitchy to one another in public.

I really think all this drama is really unnecessary.  There is really no need. I’d love to find out about your experiences. You can leave your comments below or via my social media platforms.

Love and queer light!

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Ajay says:

    This is not only found in Cape Town . It’s actually found everywhere really . . . I’m from Durban and I’ve noticed this firsthand . Enough with the infighting guys ! It’s enough that we get a lot of grief from the outside world . Love one another , not hate on each other !!


    1. ali tyhilana says:

      Thank you for reading and sharing this with me, Ajay!


  2. Devi C says:

    This is such an amazing piece! I read it from start to finish… TWICE! Such relatable content


  3. Ndabenhle says:

    Wow This is so sad but so true and we as gays have literally made it somewhat of a cultural necessity to live the way that we do when we can be so much more than what people perceive us to be, reason being they don’t understand us but this piece is so honest and so inspiring. Thank you. I hope you’ll continue speaking the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ali tyhilana says:

      Thank you very much! I will try love


  4. Thabang says:

    This is an incredible piece. I relate to most of the points made and I’ve seen such happen.


    1. ali tyhilana says:

      Thank you for reading Thabang and sharing because writing this I felt like maybe I’m the only one who saw and went through the things I mentioned.


  5. Thando says:

    I’m still in astonishment. This is an incredible piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ali tyhilana says:

      Thank you for reading Thando


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