Trevor Kleinhans (1962 - ) was born and raised in Durban. His debut novel, Secrets Make You Sick, is an intimate and brutally graphic exploration of his life in a conservative and segregated South Africa. Kleinhans grew up under the care of an alcoholic father and at a young age was sexually abused by his older brother. During the Apartheid era, homosexuality was frowned upon by society and he was arrested twice (in his late teens) by policemen who arrested gay men at popular cruising sites by posing as gay men. Under Apartheid law, Kleinhans was forced to serve two years of compulsory national military service where he witnessed horrific events in townships.
The traumatic experiences of his youth would continue to haunt him and when allegations of corruption threatened his successful life as a Managing Director, the emotionally-crippled Kleinhans became involved in an emotionally-abusive relationship. In this relationship he was introduced to crack cocaine. From this point his life became a downward spiral of addiction, debt and depression. It was during this time he would contract HIV.
The biography began as part of his rehabilitation therapy and took five years to complete due to the difficulties of openly admitting his hiv-positive status and the potential impact the sensitive content would have on the gay community. In 2012, Kleinhans eventually launched the novel during Durban’s Gay Pride Week with the hope that others in a similar position might benefit from his experiences.
Secrets Make You Sick has been commercially and critically successful. It was a US best seller upon release. Justice Edwin Cameron, Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and author of Witness to AIDS, hailed the novel as a “brave and inspiring” account that “teaches us important lessons about healing our own lives”. Additionally, the novel was listed as one of LitNet’s “Top 11 Best Books of 2011” and featured as Mahala magazine’s “Best of 2012”.
Kleinhans currently operates as a businessman and motivational speaker at corporate companies. He gives educational talks at schools, tertiary institutions, and rehabilitation centres regarding sexual abuse and the dangers of drug abuse. In his capacity as a speaker he has appeared on Morning Live as well as Varsity College in Durban North. Kleinhans is deeply committed to social upliftment; in 2011 he started the “Secret Trust Fund” which provides financial aid to children from underprivileged backgrounds and allocates 10% of the profits from each copy of his novel to this fund. Kleinhans is also in the process of writing Secrets Make You Sick Too, a follow-up to his first novel.
Facebook Page: Secrets Make You Sick
Excerpt from Secrets Make You Sick (2011:5):
My parents loved going out to a hotel in Durban called The Edward, which had a Chinese restaurant. They used to make this sweet dessert, which I called "birdie sweet". The waiters knew my mother and father well, and knew that they had this troop waiting at home. The waiters would always pack a special package of "birdie sweet" in white serviettes for us at home. If I woke up when my parents arrived home, I would rush out to see how much they had been given. Then I would sit and pull off the pieces of serviette which had now stuck to the "birdie sweet", and then devour the lot. It was always such a treat. It had sesame seed and rice and lots of syrup in it, hence the name we gave it.
However on this particular night, my eldest brother Mark came across to my bed. My other two brothers, Garth and Andrew, were already sleeping; well, I think they were sleeping. He asked me to climb into his bed with him. I was scared of the boogieman, so I was happy to be in bed with my big brother. As I was lying there he took my hand and placed it on his willie. I could feel it was different from mine. It was hard, very hard. Mark was sixteen years old. Then he pushed my head underneath the blankets. "What is he doing now?" I thought to myself. He slowly pulled off his sleeping shorts and exposed his rock-hard penis to me. He took his hands and pushed my head towards it. It's strange, at the time I felt a little excited about what was happening. I had never touched another boy before: I was only six years old. Especially not like this! Now my eldest brother who up to that point I had idolised, was showing me his willie and letting me play with it. It made me feel rather special at the time, yet I knew I was doing something bad. Something so bad that I couldn't share or tell anyone else about this experience.
2011. Secrets Make You Sick. South Africa: Trevor Kleinhans