Watch | Lesbian couple chart new path for love

Lesbian couple Nelisiwe Mankahla and Purity Mvelase having fun in balmy Mauritius. /Emmanuel Tjiya
Lesbian couple Nelisiwe Mankahla and Purity Mvelase having fun in balmy Mauritius. /Emmanuel Tjiya

Pride Month is always a perfect time to celebrate love.

But what exactly does it mean to be free to love as an openly lesbian couple in modern SA?

While lesbian stories in SA are often marred by a crime of corrective rape and other homophobic violence, there are many lesbian couples who experience romantic freedom and passionate love.

One such couple is Nelisiwe Mankahla, 33, and Purity Mvelase, 23, who share a home in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal. The couple has been together for a year-and-a-half.

They met on Facebook but Mankahla friend-zoned Mvelase for three years. Their stars finally aligned three weeks after Mankahla got out of a previous relationship and they hooked up.

For the couple, a rebound turned into the real deal. "Being free to love for me means not having to hide it," Mvelase explained.

"We are free to love because we're open about who we are and have an understanding of our relationship and where it's going. We don't care if you love us or not, what matters is what we have," Mvelase said.

The couple said in certain instances they minimise showing affection in public, especially if they feel that the space is not receptive to who they are.

Lesbian couple Nelisiwe Mankahla and Purity Mvelase recently went to the island of Mauritius after winning a #FreeToLove trip. This a glimpse into their getaway.

Posted by Sowetan LIVE on Monday, October 14, 2019

"I don't think we have been in a situation where we felt threatened over being lesbians. But it goes with the fact that we know that being lesbian is not something that everyone accepts and understands. We choose places where we go to and don't want to make ourselves targets," Mvelase said.

"If we feel like the place is not safe, we will not hold hands," Mankahla added.

"It does get to us; I think it will get to anyone if you are not free to express your love everywhere that you want to. But you can't fight everyone, it's more important to be safe."

With a 10-year age difference, their coming-out story has been distinct.

Mankahla had more of a tough time because her 70-year-old mother is conservative. Although she has always been openly lesbian, she feels like her family only fully embraced her when she was in her 20s.

"People are more accepting in 2019. When I look back to when I was a teenager, my parents and community had this idea about you. You go to school, you get a job and husband," Mankahla recalled.

"But now parents are starting to understand more because once you are understood at home, it's better to not care about what anyone else thinks. My family has been a great support," Mankahla said.

For Mvelase, she was embraced by her mother, who is much younger.

Mankahla said one of her biggest frustrations about being lesbian is the assumption that just because she is a tomboy and lesbian, she wants to be a man.

"They judge you about what you wear. But what you wear is what you are comfortable in; it doesn't mean you are trying to be a man," Mankahla said.

"I will keep shopping in the men's sections, that's my right. You have hetero tomboys that shop in that section and date men. If you are Gothic and wear black, it doesn't mean you are a witch. It's just self expression."

The couple's inspirational story of loving without boundaries recently won them an all-expenses paid vacation to balmy Mauritius courtesy of closeup. It was their first baecation.

Mvelase and Mankahla plan to get married next year and want to have children in the near future.

X