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Gay South African local tells us about gay life in Johannesburg

Gay South African local tells us about gay life in Johannesburg

Our friend Sebo from Johannesburg tells us about gay life in South Africa and what it's like growing up gay there.

The more content we've been publishing on our website about gay friendly places in the world, the more we realize that Africa and the Middle East just ain't our best friend! These parts of the world harbor some of the most dangerous places in the world for LGBTQ travelers.

South Africa is the big shining exception!

Gay couple travel book Nomadic Boys Out in the World

In a continent with some of the scariest anti-gay laws you can imagine (here's looking at you Uganda, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan…), South Africa shines proud like a fabulous star. It is the only place on the continent that has progressive LGBTQ laws. For example, the LGBTQ laws of South Africa include gay marriage, adoption, and progressive laws for transgender people.

The gay scene in Cape Town is one of the best in Africa, and the LGBTQ community of Johannesburg is one of the largest, with a terrific Pride in October, aptly nicknamed, The Pride of Africa'. When we were in Johannesburg we connected with the affable Sebo, a queer local, who gave us the full lowdown on what gay life is like in South Africa and what it's really like for LGBTQ locals.

Heads up: We just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links. That means if you book something through one of those links, we'll get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. It helps us keep our blog going – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥

Sebo smiling in downtown Johannesburg.
Sebo spreading love with his beautiful smile!

Hey Sebo, introduce yourself:

Howzit Stef and Seby! I am Sebo Marobela, a black queer creative based in Johannesburg.

I was born in 1991 in Phalaborwa, a small town in the Limpopo province, east of South Africa, close to the Mozambique border. I grew up in Phalaborwa and later moved to Johannesburg in 2010, where I have been living and working ever since.

It was here in the bright lights of Downtown Johannesburg in 2020 that I set up my company, Caraci Clothing.

Tell us about Caraci Clothing

Caraci Clothing is my Johannesburg-based custom-made clothing brand. We create clothes from scratch for different bodies and every gender. Inclusion and representation are at the heart of everything we do.

I take my guests around Johannesburg to the local market where they pick out the African-style fabric they resonate strongly with. Then back at my workshop, we pop the fabrics through the sewing machines and start to curate them. The most popular item we make is a jacket.

I get a mix of both straight and gay customers. I'm happy that a lot of different people (both straight and gay) find Caraci as a place to not only express themselves through clothing but to also try new styles and gender-non-conforming clothing.

Gay couple modelling the Caraci Clothing African jackets.
Proudly showing off our beautiful Caraci Clothing jackets

What’s it like being an openly gay man in Johannesburg?


Not only is Johannesburg one of the most progressive cities in all of Africa, but it's also one of the gayest – we even nickname it, ‘The Diversity Gay Capital of Africa'.

The reason Johannesburg is so progressive and accepting is that it has such a large LGBTQ community, a melting pot of queer people from all over the continent who call Joburg home and cannot express themselves openly in their own countries. We also call it the creative hub of South Africa.

Any kind of gay party or queer event you're looking for, you'll find it in Joburg!

What is gay life like in Johannesburg?

The first thing I'd say is you have options here, LOL – we have the largest open LGBTQ community in Africa here so naturally your Grindr grid is going to keep you busy(!)

Beyond the Grid, there is so much for LGBTQ people in Joburg, from dazzling ballroom events to queer hiking groups and LGBTQ game nights. When it comes to the gay scene, I love the Liquid Blue gay bar in Melville, and the Babylon gay club in Illovo – especially the drag shows on weekends.

Sebo gay local in Johannesburg tells us about gay life in South Africa.
Sebo giving us the lowdown of what gay life is like in Johannesburg

What is the best queer event in Johannesburg?

The biggest and best queer event in not only Joburg but in all of Africa is our annual Pride. Johannesburg Pride takes place every October, which is the official South African Pride Month in October.

We celebrate in October instead of June because this was when the first South African pride parade was held back in October 1990 – at a time when the Apartheid era was coming to a welcome end. I make a point to go every year. I love it and am so proud of it. It also gets bigger and better each year.


Mister B&B is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.

Have you ever experienced any homophobia in Johannesburg?

Sadly, yes I have. When I moved to Johannesburg from my small town in 2010 I had a lot of catcalling in public and some idiots shouting nasty names at me, particularly in the public transport areas.

At the time, I also experienced homophobia from taxi drivers who would kick me out of their cabs saying they don't transport gay people!

THANKFULLY, a lot has changed since 2010. Homophobic outbursts like this have reduced. We now have more visibility than ever before as well as more education about gay people and the positive impact we have had on society.

Nomadic Boys with Sebo of Caraci Clothing in the Maboneng district of Johannesburg with beautiful street art background.
Sebo gives us the lowdown on what gay life is like in Johannesburg

What advice do you have for LGBTQ travelers visiting Johannesburg?

You'll no doubt hear lots of horror stories about Joburg, but ultimately it's like any big city where you have to have your wits about you. Don't flash your valuables in public, especially your iPhone! Better leave valuables locked away in your hotel safe.

The same common sense applies when it comes to cruising or meeting up with Grindr dates in public. We have a lot of queer-baiting: people who go on apps using fake profiles to then meet and rob gay people, so please be safe! There are several practical safety tips for using gay apps, in particular, insist on seeing a face pic and then check their social media profiles, also ask for a quick video call to check it is actually them. Always insist on meeting first in a public safe space like a busy cafe and most importantly, trust your gut instinct. If it feels wrong, then it probably is!

There are also lots of small petty crimes in Joburg which you should be wary of, in particular, pickpocketing and snatching your phone, which is why I advised keeping your valuables out of sight or locked in your hotel safe.

Should anything happen to you, our police system is protective of human and LGBTQ rights so you should feel safe and protected if for whatever reason you need to go to our police stations. 

Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys with rainbow fan.

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Gay couple walking with Sebo gay local from Johannesburg.
Invaluable advice and practical safety tips from Sebo

What are your top 3 Must-Sees in Johannesburg?

The top thing I advise all my friends to do when they visit Joburg is to see the city through its history by taking a tour of the Soweto Township. This was where Nelson Mandela lived between 1942 and 1962. Townships are also a sad reminder of life during the Apartheid era when black people were separated into these mini-cities called ‘townships' and kept away from city centers. As a result, townships were neglected by the authorities and therefore ridden with violence and poverty.

The Apartheid Museum is another must-see. It is a harrowing but super important place that I think everyone needs to visit. It tells the story of the effect of apartheid when it was implemented in 1948, which turned 20 million South Africans into 2nd class citizens. I also love the museum's unique architectural design.

I love visiting Constitutional Hill, especially during Pride Month when they host LGBTQ exhibitions and events. It is a former military fort-turned-prison that's most famous for having incarcerated people like Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. Today it's a museum and also home to the country's Constitutional Court. 

And, of course, The Caraci Experience, which I personally host, is a must (We definitely second that!)

Gay couple in Caraci Clothing jackets at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
Proudly showing off our Caraci Clothing jackets at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg

Where would you take a date for a romantic weekend in South Africa?

I would take a romantic date into the nature and wildlife, which South Africa is so famous for. In fact, the city I grew up in, Phalaborwa, is right next to the Kruger National Park, which I love visiting.

Beautiful sunsets and local food whilst discussing the Big 5 we spotted on our safari – that's the ultimate romantic date for me!

Are there any gay slang South African words you can teach us?

There are a few we use locally between us:

  • chomie – which means ‘friend', but only gay people say this to each other 
  • haibo – this is an exclamation, like ‘What the fuck?!' 
  • sharp sharp – we use this for saying ‘which you use for saying ‘okay' to anything! ‘Sharp' by itself is like saying ‘Okay', but ‘Sharp Sharp' is like ‘Yes I really get you!'
Sebo gay local from Johannesburg smiling and posing at a table in Johannesburg.
Best smile EVER!

Finally, where can people connect with you?

You can connect with me privately on Instagram.

If you're interested in my Caraci experience then check out my Caraci Clothing Insta account. Remember to quote NomadiCaraci to claim a 15% discount!

Nomadic Boys wearing they Caraci custom made jackets in J-burg

A unique souvenir from South Africa…

Your very own tailor-made jacket by Caraci Clothing – this is THE best souvenir from our South Africa trip.

First, we selected the material from a bustling downtown market in Johannesburg. Then we were involved in making it from scratch with the Caraci team on their sewing machines. We're now ripe and ready for any Drag Race sewing challenge!

Find out more

Gay couple dancing wearing their Caraci Clothing African jackets in Johannesburg.
Dancing on the Johannesburg rooftops in our beautiful Caraci Clothing jackets

Gay tours in South Africa

If you're searching for a gay group trip to visit South Africa, we list some of the best ones here:

If you've ever wanted to explore the wilds of South Africa you can on a gay tour with Out Adventures

Go wild in South Africa

Check out this South Africa gay tour by Out Adventures. It begins in Zimbabwe where you'll witness the power and beauty of Victoria Falls. Then it's off to Botswana and South Africa for authentic safaris in private game reserves. Finally, you'll spend four full days soaking up the culture and cuisine of gorgeous gay Cape Town.

Find out more

Seby and Stefan leaning out of their jeep during a safari near Johannesburg.

Don't miss this Gay Africa Tour!

Treat yourself to this Brand g Vacations 11-day LGBT+ all-inclusive African adventure every November/December. From exotic game drives to wine tours, enjoy the finest luxury accommodations as you explore Zimbabwe’s acclaimed Victoria Falls, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, and vibrant Cape Town, South Africa.

Claim a 5% discount by quoting NOMADICBG when booking.

Find out more

Read more travel stories like this in our book!

Like what you read?

We've got more stories and practical tips like this in our gay travel book, Out in the World, available to order now.

Click on the book to order:

Gay couple travel book Nomadic Boys Out in the World

For more inspiration:

Sebo posing with gay couple Stefan and Seby of Nomadic Boys in Downtown Johannesburg.
Posing with Sebo in our gorgeous Caraci jackets
Stefan Arestis

Hey everyone, I'm Stefan, the curly-haired Greek flavor behind the gay travel blog Nomadic Boys. Together with my other half, I have explored more than 90 countries across 5 continents. What I love most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, learning new cultures. I've written about LGBTQ travel in numerous online publications such as Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times and Pink News as well as for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Check my full bio here.

Buju Yollarda

Monday 6th of May 2024

It was a very informative content. It would be nice to see more content like this. Thanks for your efforts.

Stefan Arestis

Tuesday 7th of May 2024

Thank you :)