Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End 2009

So here we come to the end of another year - and what a year this was! Over this past year a great many things have happened around the world as well as in South Africa.

We have seen the South African General Elections in April - and we have seen, for various reasons, both cause for concern - and hope for the future. Over this past year, with all the threats against our civil rights both in South Africa and around the world, we have seen a renewed interest in the affairs which affect us - namely politics and religion. It goes without saying that apathy is a deadly trap which we must be careful not to fall into. Over the past two years since I first started getting involved in activism I have seen steady increase in awareness and participation, and have been trying very hard to encourage GLBTIQ participation.

"Get involved" I have been telling you, "Get off your ass - before somebody who hates you kicks it." It is very encouraging to me to see that some people finally seem to be getting it.

More people seem to be either paying attention to current events, or getting involved by supporting pink groups than before. Perhaps I am being blunt by saying that life is not just all about parties and the cliquey society we live in - if we like freedom and equality, we will have to work to preserve it as well.

Our rights are not safe just because they are written down on a piece of paper called "the Constitution". Our rights are not safe, if people are conspiring to remove those rights from that piece of paper and if the people whose rights are threatened couldn't be bothered to stand up and prevent it. Our rights are not safe if we are indifferent or apathetic. Apathy = death. Case in point, Uganda. Our rights are not safe.

Our Constitutional equality in South Africa is not perfect, but it is unique and stands above all others on Earth today in terms of granting civil equality to the pink community. Sad to say, if you don't appreciate something, you will lose it. Start appreciating it - and if need be, defend it.

Internationally, the situation in Uganda has exposed something I and others have been warning against for years now - the clandestine involvement of the US religious right in Africa, and the poisonous infusion of religious conservatism and so-called "ex-gay" propaganda into local politics. For the US religious right and the Republican Party and the Bush administration, Uganda has long been the knob on the end of their staff - availing them of a modicum of credibility when they claimed facetious religious-based "abstinence only" sex-education actually works to combat the spread of HIV infection. Uganda has in effect now also become their undoing as well. Suddenly all those conservative political and religious figures are furiously back-pedaling, distancing themselves from their direct involvement in Ugandan affairs in a manner which reminds me of a desperate criminal in search of an alibi. Too late.

Uganda has been described as something of a "proving ground" or "social experiment" of the US religious right, and for good reason. Top level religious figures in the American conservative evangelical arena have been revealed as being implicated in inciting hatred against gay people for years - and now, the result: The pending genocide in Uganda - should their vaunted Bill be passed - will stain their hands with pink blood. They are in it to the hilt. As it is now, it has revealed conclusively that their strategies and tactics and their plans to create a "perfect" African society sans the "blight" of natural sexual and gender diversity, as a blueprint for the rest of the world - will irrevocably result in THIS. It has also forever destroyed whatever credibility the "ex-gay" fallacy still had left.

What does Uganda have to do with us in South Africa? For one thing it has served to confirm beyond any doubt that our "human-rights oriented" government in South Africa has yet again failed to react to calls by human rights groups to condemn human rights violations in Africa - specifically against the pink community. Once again I have the pleasure of referring to their refusal to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality in December 2008 - on the basis of "having principles" as their feeble and yet revealing excuse. If they disagreed with what has been happening in Uganda, would they not stand up and say so? If they had any honor they would.

2009 is at an end, 2010 is looming ahead. Whether you are straight or not, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or unsure, if you take an interest in your human rights, because I assure you - if you are human, tampering with human rights affects everyone. Let 2010 be the year we all stand up for our human rights and give those who wish to tamper with them a firm clear message - DON'T!

On a personal note, I have been pleased to see SA GLAAD - the advocacy group I helped found in 2008, grow by leaps and bounds in terms of contacts - national and international, seeing its name being held high in news coverage of matters from the elections and matters affecting the human rights of the pink community, to the NILC and its underhanded attack on those rights - and the deplorable situation in Uganda.

Also a high point for me this year was my involvement with a more local pink community advocacy group, ECGLA. Together we are growing by leaps and bounds and I am immensely proud, and humble to be associated with these two noble organizations, and I'm really looking forward to the next year with them. To my associates at SA GLAAD and ECGLA and our affiliates, thank you so much for your co-operation and support during 2009 - over the past year we have become friends instead of just allies and colleagues, and it's great to know that when the chips are down we stand shoulder to shoulder with our sleeves rolled up!

Over this year I have been invited to post my articles on various websites, such as SexGenderBody (Chicago), Blue Orbs (SA), Gnet (SA) - with occasional postings on Gay Speak (SA), Cape Town Lesbians (SA) and Truth Wins Out in the USA as well. This year I was honored to get my first column at Litnet (SA) called "Fundamentally Speaking", where I now post weekly. A very sincere thanks and appreciation to Coenie Kukkuk (Gay Speak), Arvan Reese (SGB), Rory of Gnet, Lara Aucamp (CTL), Deborah of Blue Orbs, Mike Airhart and Wayne Besen of TWO, Melt Myburgh and Shane' Kleyn of Litnet - and all the people who power and support these community-focused websites and who helped me to get my human rights message out there this past year. You are the communications backbone in the fight for our human rights.

I am immensely grateful to the folks out there who are reading these articles, your feedback is encouraging. Over the past year I have added a lot of hate mail to my archive, which means that I am doing my job! I said it is encouraging because the hate mail comes from exactly the sort of people I am warning against. On the bright side, this year there were no actual death threats! (The night is young, and the year still has a few hours left in it!) In fact, I have received far more positive messages from supporters (almost twice as much than the amount of hate mail) and I thank you for that - your support means a lot to me. Let's keep getting the message out there, let's keep on making a difference.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rubber Room With A View

Despite clear and easily understood press releases, explanations and statements released by eminent scientists to explain that diverse sexual orientation and gender identity is perfectly natural, and despite their attempts to simplify the explanations - some people, typically narrow minded religious fundamentalists, refuse to accept that gay people are born gay and transgender people, transgender.

"No, that's not it - it has to be a sin! These perverts like it - they're choose to be gay."

Really? Is it nice to get fired because your playboy boss finally figured out you're actually into girls? Is it fun to be chased down a dark alley by a gang of rough-necks who figured out you're trans? Do they really think this is fun to us? Is being gay or transsexual THAT good?

No, they are "sinners who make a sinful lifestyle choice", or they are tragic "victims of child abuse", "examples of bad parenting" or (my personal favorite) they are "mentally ill".

They insist that although they made no conscious choice to be straight, get married and make lots of little rug rats, some people inexplicably woke up one morning and chose to be gay. Despite all the answers being clear and easily available (can you spell "plain as the nose on your face"?) they stubbornly and consistently reject facts which they CANNOT argue against in favor of rhetoric, propaganda and junk-science.

They complain about us having surgery (which we pay for by the way) and being allowed to dress as "women" (note the quotation marks!) when we "are and always will be 'men'" and insist that gay people or transsexuals who marry are "not recognised by God" and are "guaranteed" to burn in hell!

Oh yes?

First thing to ask people like that is "what makes a man?" If they say "genitals" then you ask them, "suppose you lost yours in an accident - will you stop being a man?" If they then back into a corner and say "that's different" then you can say "well, no it's not - being a man or a woman is between your ears, not your legs - but our operations just help us to live in the bodies that don't match who we are".

And if they continue the slurs, you could always tell them that just such an "accident" can be arranged and that you would be happy to facilitate. *wink*

In the meantime, coming back to my favorite little slur about transgender people and mental illness, this nice little situation is rapidly coming to a head. During this last year France declassified being transgender from the list of "treatable mental disorders", and it is not going to end there. Homosexuality was first removed from the same list of "disorders" back in 1973, so excuse me if I say "it's about fucking time!"

Heaven knows how many times I've had that little gem thrown at me, coming from people so hell-bent, fanatical and paranoid that if some wally walked past them carrying a hand-painted sign reading: "World to end at 12, details at 1", they would give away their house and contents and go look for a good spot on the nearest hilltop to watch. Yes, indeedy.

"A report, called 'Moving from Intentions to Action', has now been published and calls for change in how trans people are treated. It argues that trans people would then escape the stigma of mental illness that is frequently attached to them.

The report said: "Gender identity variance (transgenderism) should be reclassified from its current classification as a mental health disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the World Health Organisation’s International Classification Of Diseases (ICD).

"Instead it should be classified as a medical condition. This would provide a diagnostic category in the ICD that would accommodate the needs of those gender identity variant people who require medical care for their condition, but without the stigma attached to mental disorder.""

To continue my point on the issue of mental health and the benefits of surgery, I refer to the following article: "Quality of Life for Transsexuals after Surgery December 20, 2009 Posted by Geekgirl in Gender Identity, Sex reassignment, psychology."

"A while ago, I reported a study showing that individuals who had undergone sex reassignment surgery had no regrets. Here is another study, this time from France.

"Study of quality of life for transsexuals after hormonal and surgical reassignment (Summary)

The main objective of this work is to provide a more detailed assessment of the impactof surgical reassignment on the most important aspects of daily life for these patients. Our secondary objective was to establish the influence of various factors likely to have an impact on the quality of life (QoL), such as biological gender and the subject’s personality.

A personality study was conducted using Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI) so asto analyze two aspects of the personality (extraversion and neuroticism). Thirty-eight subjects who had undergone hormonal surgical reassignment were included in the study.

The results show that gender reassignment surgery improves the QoL for transsexuals in several different important areas: most are satisfied of their sexual reassignment (28/30),their social (21/30) and sexual QoL (25/30) are improved. However, there are differences between male-to-female (MtF) and female-to-male (FtM) transsexuals in terms of QoL: FtM have a better social, professional, friendly lifestyles than MtF. Finally, the results of this study did not evidence any influence by certain aspects of the personality, such as extraversion and neuroticism, on the QoL for reassigned subjects.© 2009 Published by Elsevier Masson SAS."

Quite a well-deserved slap in the face to people like Julie Bindel, a rabid rad-fem transphobe who crusades against access to surgery and other treatments for transsexuals, claiming that transsexuals "don't know what they want" and are "misled by doctors into having sex-change surgery" - and should face "reparative therapy" instead - which she figures lesbians like herself should be spared. Yeah, right.

Strange that a supposed "mental illness" can be apparently cured so successfully by a little plastic surgery and a little paper-work? Mental illness, huh? Hmm, I wonder if there is any plastic surgery available for those other folks sitting on that thar hill?

I should send these articles to that tansphobic bigot, and to rub her nose in it till it either bleeds, or she gets it. Personally, I hope she's a slow reader.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bad Apples

Just a week or so ago, I sent out a request from a pink community related religious organization to the supporters of another pink advocacy group, asking for support in speaking out against the pending Genocide Bill in Uganda. Surprisingly, I got a barrage of outrage from one of the recipients on the mailing list, letting me have both barrels because I dared to associate Christianity with the pink community! Most confusing of all, this was from a gay man!

It seems, from the lengthy and somewhat disjointed rant, (including a little gem about some pastor who threw him out of church for his sexuality and that he had now embraced Wicca) that this person hates everything to do with Christianity and sees it as an implacable enemy to gay and human rights and cannot in any way comprehend how any gay person could have anything to do with Christianity - even going so far as to label those brave and outstanding GLBTIQ folks who are also clerics, ministers and pastors preaching moderation from a religious perspective, as "traitors" and "enemies"!


Dear Mr "P".

I understand your anger. First let me tell you that I am not a preacher or a clergyman, I am a human rights activist. I too have my issues with religion, specifically Christianity. The other two representatives of [the group] are both reverends, and both gay themselves, and connected to gay inclusive churches which support the community in every way possible.

There are GLBTIQ people in the ministry too, and straight people who really care about us, and they put themselves at risk standing up for our rights and humanity, and I think they should at least enjoy our support instead of us just grouping them with those who hate them as much as us. I don't think that is fair, or helps our common cause, do you?

Next, let me tell you that there are Christians and then there are also "Christians". I am sure you know that not everybody is the same, or feels the same and you will always find those who would rather persecute us instead of thinking and feeling first. This doesn't make all Christians bad, just as it doesn't make all GLBTIQ people bad - or good.

People like the pastor you mentioned are the ones who have issues and have a lot to learn about their own faith, and it is they who need to take a long hard look at themselves.

In the end, while there are those people who call themselves Christians who persecute us, we have to ask ourselves if we care about them and the horrible un-Christian things they say, or about who we believe God to be - the monster they worship, or the loving creator who made us as well.

We all have scars and bad experiences, and we all had to run through the mill with folks who think they are better than us.

Just like there are good and bad Christians, there are good and bad Muslims and also good and bad gay and trans people. No social group is all good or all bad just by being part of that group.

Generalizing as you are doing here is exactly what those people you speak about do with all of us. It doesn't make either them or you right in this case. It is the same as condemning ALL German people because of what the Nazis did during WW2. Is that fair?

I have had much trouble with Christians - but fundamentalist Christians (they are the ones who, funnily enough, agree with you by saying that Christian and gay are mutually exclusive), while I have many friends who are loving Christians who do not condemn or judge me in any way for being who I am and who I know I can count on as friends. They do the same even for the two Muslim gents and the Pagan lady that are their colleagues. These are the people we need to befriend and support in order to build a tolerant society.

Indiscriminately blasting everybody just for being Christian (regardless of their feelings on GLBTIQ people) will alienate even those who support us. Of course, the other question you need to ask is whether they are attacking you for your sexuality or your religion - neither of which is adequate reason for any actual Christian to attack you. Or do they also find themselves facing your rather obvious and alarmingly direct aggression?

About your point on democrats and non democrats (IE a democratic system allowing the participation of anti-democratic groups in the democratic process, while the anti-democratic system would not reciprocate) that is what defines democratic politics and the opposite of it, and I hope, the benefits of democracy. I just don't understand what your point is here by comparing this to religion and the pink community?

Religious right and conservative religious groups are the ones trying to rob us of our rights, and they certainly do not have a monopoly or a majority on religion or authority. The aggressive conservative voices are by far outweighed by the moderates. The defense of our equality and human rights is what the civil rights movement - including the groups you are attacking - is all about."

That is just my personal take on the matter. Use it, don't use it - but I hope you will come to see the difference between people who only talk the talk and those who really walk it.

Sun Stroke

Everybody have a nice Christmas? Ever think about the tradition and where it comes from? I did, and decided to find out. I must say, what I found reinforced my misgivings about organized religion, after all, Christmas is a good time to point out Christian hypocrisy - "peace on Earth and goodwill to all 'men'" soon turns to "take all you can" and "hang 'em high!" and "it's God's will".

This could be the pink folks in Uganda's last Christmas before getting herded into camps and exterminated by folks calling themselves "Christians" - but hey, let's all enjoy the peace while it lasts.. 'Tis the season to be jolly, after all. Anyway, I hate to be a wet blanket - so, in the spirit of a religion that can't even invent its own festivals, I wish you all a very happy Saturnalia (and ask you to remember that Santa's red hat you're wearing is the symbol of a freed slave in ancient Roman times. Interesting symbolism... and don't forget the decorated trees and sprigs of holly and greenery about the house... AND the celebration of anyone's birth - were all considered PAGAN traditions by the early Christians - who apparently knew a lot more than we give them credit for in modern times. Now how about that? Seems to me this all indicates something modern evangelicals tend to fanatically deny - that like a living language, a living faith is subject to CHANGE...and things that are unable to adapt to change die. Sweet.

So, Saturnalia... a Roman holiday festival held over seven days annually from December 17 to 23, in which gifts (particularly candles) were exchanged, and shops closed and people partied and relaxed. Sounds quite modern, except they had dancing in the street, which sounds pretty good to me. Lovely. There was a tradition of "family" including the slaves and servants - and yes, people wore those silly woolen pointy hats remarkably similar to the one we see on the modern Santa Claus, a bearded figure strikingly similar to the effigy of the Roman God Saturn. Ho, ho, holy shit.

Doomsday scholars and theologians have long been warning of the day when ecumenism would become the order of the day, with all faiths working together - and they get twitchy when things such as the World Council of Churches does anything. I think, considering they are still waiting for this "merger" to happen, they are far too late - about two thousand years too late - because Constantine was the engineer of this very thing. As an amateur historian, I find it very interesting that a Roman emperor founded the Roman Catholic Church. The emperor Constantine was actually a sun-worshiper, who proceeded to blend early Christianity with the pagan religions of the day.

Religion is such a confusing dangerous subject - funny that most people think it is so simple and even boring. It has shaped the world we live in - even the modern world. We tend to think of the concept of "universalism" as a new thing, and yet "catholic" in effect means the very same thing. In Constantine's case, it meant the blending of pagan faiths with the early Christian church and bending both to his own will to strengthen his ailing political power base. Remarkably, this is a trend which continues to this very day.

Read especially the first paragraph of this article - (included below) especially the part about "pistis" and gnosticism - very interesting. It shows how and why the culture of obedience came into play to suppress the questioning of authority, in order to enforce state control, with "Christianity" of course being the "state" religion.

"In 325 A.D. the Roman Catholic Church was created by a pagan emperor named Constantine. It was only superficially a Christian Church. The First Nicean Council as assembled to work out the details. While it was supposed to have been made up of Christian elders from five major Christian centers (Rome, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch), it also included elders of all the major Pagan religions of Rome. Bishops from the cults of Mithras, Tammuz, Oannes (Dagon), Ceres, Janus, Bacchus, Apollo, Osiris, Jupiter, and Constantine's own religion: Sol Invictus, were invited. It was Constantine's wish that all of the Pagan religions, then at odds with each other, creating unnecessary conflicts, be unified into one "Catholic" church. "Catholic" means universal. The proceedings of that council were conducted by Constantine with an iron hand, and one of the positions which he insisted upon, and got, was to make Pistis a doctrine of the new church. Gnosticism could not be tolerated, because it encouraged its members to question authority. Pistis was thus politically expedient, because it forbade questioning."

"Pistis" is a Greek word, meaning "faith", in no way related to the word "piston" - although a good friend gave it to me on good faith that it is far better to be pist off, than to be pist on.

Furthermore, the days of the week in use in the western world are still named after pagan Roman, Greek and Germanic gods. To me, this is not really a problem because I suppose you have to call them something - or people will just keep missing appointments or get sozzled on a workday instead of over a weekend. Be that as it may, here they are:

"Monday - Dies lunae (from which comes the word lunar), means moon day, from which we get the shortened version, Monday.

Tuesday - Dies Martis, means mars day, after Mars, the Roman god of war. The day was known to the pagan Germans after their own god of war, Tiw (pronounced too) as Tiw’s (pronounced tooz) day, from which we get Tuesday.

Wednesday - Dies mercuri, means mercury day. Woden (pronounced woe-den) was the Germanic version of the pagan god mercury, and they named the day Woden’s day, from which we get Wednesday.

Thursday - Dies Jovis means Jove’s day, or Jupiter’s day. Thor was the Germanic version of the god Jupiter, so they called the day Thor’s Day, from which we got Thursday.

Friday - Dies Veneris means Venus Day. The Germanic version of this female god was Frigg, or Freyja (pronounced fry-yah), so they called the day Freyja day, from which we got Friday.

Saturday - Dies Saturni means Saturn day, from which came Saturday. The pagans also observed their Saturnalia festival in the last week of December, a time when work ceased, gifts were exchanged, and slaves feasted with their masters.

Sunday - Dies solis (Latin) which means “day of the sun” from which we get Sunday. Sun worship was marked by the use of the halo, or nimbus, which originated with the pagan Greeks and Romans to represent their sun god, Helios. It was later on that artists then adopted it for use in Christian images."

The Sabbath as few people - not even the bible-punchers set on "biblical worldviews" and supposed "biblical inerrancy" - are aware, is STILL Saturday, and NOT Sunday - which as the rather obvious name (duh) SHOULD give away - is actually the day set aside (by Constantine's edicts) for SUN worship. Scholars have shown how Christ supposedly rose from the dead at the end of the Sabbath day - which is actually SATURDAY, and not Sunday. Big deal, but anyway, some people make a big thing about which day they want to rest on, and which day they want to go to church on and the order of the business at hand. And the term "the Lord's Day" believe it or not, actually harks back to Roman times and refers to Baal, not Christ. Inneresting.

It really amuses me that whenever you allude to anything of pagan origin to a fanatical Christian (and I do mean fanatical, not the usual tree-hugging every day variety) they invariably get hot under the collar about it and start muttering something about "the end times" (to add insult to injury, you could always ask them if that would be on a Thor's Day or a Tiw's Day).

Then there's Easter, the Christian celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ - or so we are led to believe. Even the name is derived from the ancient festival of Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of fertility. We all know her symbol - the Easter bunny, accompanied by the "Eostre eggs" as symbols of fertility, painted in bright, festive colors. "Even today, when Easter has supposedly been "Christianized", the date of the holiday falls according to rather pagan reckonings, i.e. on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Even hot cross buns, associated with Lent, derived from the ancient Greeks and Romans, who baked “magic” wheat cakes with crosses scored in the top." And in keeping with pagan traditions of Greece, Rome and ancient Germanic peoples, the holiday is about renewal, rebirth - and a return from the dead.

How about Lent? Many mainstream churches - even my own Methodist one, observe Lent to this day, but this too comes directly from pagan origins. "Coming from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning “spring,” Lent originated in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. “The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess…Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz”" (Remember the name Tammuz for later.)

How about Advent? Advent is yet another example of a pagan festival tradition adapted to "Christian tradition", also celebrated widely by mainstream churches today. Examples of Advent influence include, the Yule Log and the wreaths people hang on their doors come Saturnalia, - mean, Christmas - both incidentally symbols of the Sun. The Catholic tradition of candles too comes from this pagan festival.

To muddy the waters still further, you have the symbolism of the cult of Semiramis and Nimrod aka Isis and baby Horus (and a host of others) aka Mary and the baby Jesus in the form of statues and such at Catholic churches - straight from the ancient Babylonian religion of the "Queen of Heaven" herself - complete with the tradition of secret confessionals and all. Nice. To add to it, Semiramis had another son called - wait for it - Tammuz (remember him?) whom she claimed was immaculately conceived from the spirit of her dead husband/son Nimrod - and who was Nimrod reborn! And if you were under the impression that the fish was a "Christian" symbol, take a look at what adorns the statue of the virgin Isis and the immaculately conceived baby Horus above's head. But it doesn't end there - the legendary date of birth of Nimrod? December 25th. Mary Christmas, folks.


Things like this make me wonder if there is anything in Christianity at all which is actually true, unique or even "Christian" at all. I mean, they have plagiarised all their traditions from earlier pre-existing religions, from beliefs of ressurection, from symbols, to dates of festivals and even the meanings of the festivals themselves. Even the Protestants copied most of their traditions from the Catholics when they broke away, perpetuating many of the things which undermine the very foundations of their - um, protest. "Now wait a minute" you might say - "Christianity has Christ - who died and rose from the dead - now that has to be unique?" It certainly seems to be taken for granted - but is it? After all, it seems to me that there is about as much proof that Christ rose from the dead as any of the others did.

"The Phrygians celebrated a spring festival honoring Cybele, a fertility goddess. Cybele had a consort god named Attis, who was born of a virgin, and who died and was resurrected after three days, an occurrence commemorated sometime around the vernal equinox. Worshippers of Attis mourned the god’s death on Black Friday, then celebrated his rebirth on the following Sunday. Attis was simply the latest manifestation of earlier resurrection myths, like those of Osiris, Orpheus, Tammuz and Dionysus, who were likewise said to have been born of virgins and resurrected three days after their deaths." Incredible, isn't it? But wait, there's more.

Christianity - the last in a long line of previous religions to claim 1) immaculate conception, 2) messiah and 3) resurrection. Confused? I am. ...not to mention disappointed.

Let's look at the institution of marriage, which has been fought over so bitterly of late - claimed to be a "God-given" covenant "between one man and one woman for life" - and ostensibly a "Christian" invention to boot. Ummm... is it? And which god are they referring to?

As it turns out, the concept and ritual of marriage is not only far older than Christianity, or even the Hebrew faith - but not even the modern Christian traditional marriage ceremony in use today is unique to Christianity, or even heterosexuality. Not even the vows differ much - "with this ring I thee wed" and "in sickness and in health" - and others, can be traced to ancient Egypt - as can the tradition of even HAVING a wedding ring, a best man and bridesmaids! Even the tradition of having them dress the same as the bride, and throwing the flower boquet is the same! As a matter of personal interest, from the description given here, I think the Egyptian words are more beautiful, describing the wedding ring as a symbol of mutual love, as "without beginning, without end." Beautiful! And add to that, the symbolism of the equality of Egyptian society, where rings were exchanged equally - and not solely given to the woman by the man as a mark of his "ownership" of her. Amazing - and this began over 6000 years ago! And lastly, the minor detail that same gender marriage was quite commonplace in Egypt also, in fact it is even claimed that the first official marriage ceremony in ancient Egypt was specifically lesbian! Surprised? I certainly was. Especially when, in the fight for marriage equality everywhere, right wing "Christians" audaciously claim that gay marriage is a new invention!

In fact, I am rather disappointed that Hebrew and Christian religions, as it turned out, only cherry-picked things which suited them - doubtlessly the openness and equality of the sexes didn't fit that description. Ironically, open societies of the ancient world vanished over time, while more oppressive, controlling - and what we should today consider "backward" societies, prevailed. Quite worrying, actually - as the rise of Catholicism, masquerading as Christianity, coincided with the period known for very good reason, as the Dark Ages.

That's all very interesting... and not what they tell you in high school history. Yes, high school history is all about dates - Lord Such-n-such fought the Battle of Who Really Cares on the field of Who-Knows-Where on the 42nd of Octember 98 BP (Before Plumbing)... and who all signed the Treaty of Why Bother to end Some Forgotten Dispute about the taxation of trade routes between X and Y. It is more interesting and rewarding to scratch a bit and see the history they don't want you to know - because, history as they keep telling us, is WRITTEN (or re-written) BY THE VICTORS - and thinking for yourself just doesn't make for obedient little plebs.

All this and more written between the lines of the Hidden History of the great Christian faith's doctrine of "just believe what we tell you to, and do what you're told like a good little lemming".

Somehow, after all this, we are still somehow expected to "just accept" Church authority and the authenticity of the bible as is, even after it has languished under the control of these devious folks all this time - even after finding out all this and this. Well, not I. If I cannot trust it, then how can I consult it?

With all these sources confusing the issue, how are you supposed to know WHO this God is? The modern church is built on nothing but lies - and stolen lies at that. The "bible" is incomplete and corrupted, and clerics equally misled and opinionated. All of this leads me to believe that nobody really knows anything about this God - that they are guessing, or they are simply falling for the claims made by earlier people - whether their intent was to mislead or perpetuate these deceptions.

In fact, it seems Christ may not have been the very "perfect" and even "boring" two-dimensional character these people would have us believe he was today. Go figure. No wonder they called the Nag Hamadi texts "heretical" and tried very hard to destroy them - because they encouraged free thought, free will and essentially weakened their control. And so they formulated their own "orthodox" (meaning "right-thinking") version and cut it all down to something they could manage, manipulate and use to suit their own nefarious purposes, passing it off as the "Word of God" - whichever god that may be.

No wonder the RCC directly opposed and discouraged (through intimidation, torture and executions) the medieval efforts to translate its in-house version of the bible (the Latin Vulgate) from Latin to English or any other language - because in using original Greek and Hebrew texts, a host of inaccuracies and deliberate errors are found. Even today correcting such errors are misrepresented and opposed by conservative supposedly "right-thinking" scholars as somehow "editing the Word of God" rather than welcomed as correcting the mistakes and deliberate works of Man!

It is rather refreshing and comforting for me to know that I am an agnostic - which means "I don't know", but what I do know is this:

"Christian" holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and Lent are false misrepresentations, and just like everything else, based wholly on un-Christian foundations stemming from the doings of Constantine and the RCC. For all intents and purposes, the entire Christian Church, both Catholic, Protestant and even charismatic evangelical - is false too, based on and blended with the same Paganism and its traditions. In short, it pretends to be what it is not, and even tries to hide the fact that it has absolutely nothing to offer people in terms of actual faith and Christian salvation in the true sense of the word - but empty ritual, CONTROL and perpetuated lies and misplaced trust.

It amuses me no end these days, hearing Christians complain that the commercialization of Christmas is hijacking the "true spirit" of the holiday - and when they throw "family values" into the mix as they do with everything else (including depriving people of equality) - especially when the "true spirit" of Christmas is not even remotely Christian at all and never has been!

As for "Christians" complaining about pagan festivals or religious groups, or some kids traipsing around the neighborhood in Halloween costumes trick-or-treating, let's not even go there.

This whole organized religion structure is sick and twisted and full of lies and deceit - and so inflexible and judgmental - and so very full of things that have nothing to do with what it claims to - Christ. Current events in Uganda demonstrate that this is exactly what would happen if the conservative "right-thinking" element have their way everywhere else in the world - enforced ignorance, blind obedience to doctrine, organized hatred, encouraged paranoia and prized religious piety - based on falsehood and lies.

I have even wondered if it would not have been better for Christ to have been born into the Islamic world instead - his message might have survived untarnished and uncorrupted there. But then, we might have only had a different set of overly-religious folks flying planes into buildings and blowing themselves up in public places in order to get into Paradise, or is that Elysium?

They (the Christian Church) have poisoned the well we are supposed to drink from in good faith - and then they have the nerve to blame people for not wanting to drink from it! But then, as human rights activists we often face such hypocrisy, it is par for the course.

"In God We Trust", the American slogan goes - well then, trust in God - not so implicitly in the works of Humankind. It seems to me that if you want to learn about, believe in, worship or follow Christ, or stand for what he stood for - then you need to go directly to the source, to consult Christ in your own way, without some interfering middle-man trying to deliberately mislead you along the way or perpetuate things they themselves do not know or understand, with false doctrines - whose origins are well hidden and obscured in the mists of time.

At the end of this article, I am not not even sure what the term "Christian" really means anymore, and since it seems at least a third of the Earth is unwittingly and implicitly involved in some form of illicit Baal worship lightly veneered with Christianity - who it does or should apply to. In fact, though I still feel an abiding fondness for Christ and his message, whatever that was, I feel increasingly justified and even vindicated in calling myself an agnostic.

In the end, the "Christian" principles of "goodwill to all people" (not just 'men') and peace on Earth should apply to all days and not just Saturnalia - I mean, Christmas. Pistis and gnosticism they say - faith, obedience and to forbid questioning authority. Well, nobody is ever going to "forbid" me to question authority - I question their authority to do that also. I question the authority of anyone who claims they have authority over me without me having given them express permission to say so. In fact, I now question everything ever taught to me that I didn't learn for myself - and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Let that be the new Renaissance of our time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Price Freedom?

It seems almost undeniable that every modern religion has to have an enemy or a scapegoat. Without something to fear, clerics would have nothing to warn against, nothing to unite people under them with. No Bogie Man or big bad wolf to keep the flock encircling the camp fire in the dark night of the soul, so to speak. Without some threat, real or imaginary, they would have nothing to point fingers at and say THAT is why WE are God's chosen people and THEY are NOT.

An old saying which puts it "just so" for me, goes: "If you believe in God, it is because of the Devil".

Islamic fundamentalists for example, use the USA as their favorite enemy - even though many of the problems they blame on others are of their own making. Likewise, countries like Uganda, suffering from rampant Christian fundamentalism, see fit to blame unbelievable things on the pink community - things which considering the influence and role of American evangelicals there of late, sound exactly like the rhetoric of the US religious right.

In Africa, foreign evangelicals have been active for many years now, but over the years it has become apparent that their “mission” is more one of control than of “liberation”. Let’s take an example: In 2007, Uganda’s highest court struck down a law that made adultery a crime. Religious leaders took to their pulpits the next Sunday, which was Easter, to denounce the ruling. Gary Skinner, the Canadian founder and pastor at Watoto Church in Kampala, was among them.

We condemn all inhuman practices including homosexuality, prostitution which people are pushing for their legalisation,” the Monitor, a Ugandan news outlet, reported Skinner saying.

Inhuman? I wonder what this man has to say on the topic of genocide and how it relates to his work as a “man of God”?

This problem of religious fundamentalism exists right across Africa and not just in Uganda or Rwanda. This of course, is not exactly a new thing, but it has seen a recent upsurge in action and support.

In South Africa for example, right up until the fall of the NP government, being gay was a criminal offence. We still hear horror stories of what the military did to pink folks under the old regime, from stories about the "blue pill" they dropped in the troopies coffee to the aversion "therapy" and forced gender reassignments carried out at military hospitals. What most people today don't know, is that more harsh laws - laws similar to some of those in the Ugandan Bill, were about to be passed in the early nineties when the apartheid government fell. GASA was one group which campaigned against it at the time and many of the older generation GLBT folk can tell us some interesting tales about those days.

There are many anti-gay groups active in South Africa today, who are religious-based, way off the deep end as far as fundamentalism is concerned - and most of whom have direct links to the US religious right. Some of these have been mentored directly (ie Family Policy institute and Focus on the Family. Even Exodus International, now infamous for its direct involvement in Ugandan atrocities, has affiliates here).

I am convinced that if not for our Constitution, things in SA would be quite different today. It is positively frightening that some of these same groups today openly state their intentions to change the Constitution in order to strip GLBTI people of equality and our civil and human rights.

Ray Mc Caulley, the NILC and Jacob Zuma are not alone in wanting to change the SA Constitution - they are backed by many others, such as Erroll Naidoo and his Family Policy Institute, Peter Hammond and his Christian Action Network and a host of religious fundamentalist crusaders, including wannabe political parties such as the ACDP and CDA trying to defend humanity against itself.

In Rwanda a bill criminalizing homosexuality was tabled yesterday. There is still no notice of the outcome, but less than 48 hours notice was given and it can be surmised that activists only learned of its existence at the last minute. This if nothing else, should serve as motivation to keep informed about matters affecting us in our own country.

Over the past few years I have joined with other activists in warning about matters which adversely affect us as a community, and I know this is December, and Christmas is coming and people are not in the mood for somber warnings and doom and gloom. I have been trying to encourage the pink community to be proud of who they are, to be aware and informed and to stand up and participate in society, in politics, in religion - in everything in the straight world which affects us. Because if we do not, and we remain apathetic, then we really will end up facing our doom like the community in Uganda, Rwanda or Jamaica who have no-one left in politics to speak out for them. If we follow such a trend of apathy and disinterest, that is what awaits us.

That aside, 2009 was a fairly good year in South Africa for the pink community. We survived thus far with our civil rights intact. We survive to face another year with new challenges. I look forward to facing them with you.

We cannot rely on others to stand up for us, we cannot afford to sit back and think we are safe. Current events around the world have shown us that freedom and equality have to be constantly defended and fought for. That is the cost of freedom. What you need to decide is whether it is worth the price or not.