Monday, August 31, 2009

Truth Stranger Than Fiction

On Saturday night I watched District 9 and I am still completely blown away and speechless! What an amazing, action packed, convincing, serious, poignant, funny, relevant movie! It is hard to believe it was low-budget - even harder to believe it comes from here - what can I say? For me it was all those things - and for once, it makes me actually proud to be a Souf Efrikin - TREMENDOUSLY enjoyable!

For all the action, humor, emotion, thought provoking scenes and disturbingly familiar scenery, you could at first mistake it for yet another big-budget Hollywood production. This flight of fancy is immediately brought crashing down by the local Afrikaans accent of the unlikely hero of the piece, Wikus van de Merwe - who is about as much Terminator or action hero material as I am a ballet dancer or a chef, naked or otherwise. This is a watershed event. It tells the world that South Africa has arrived, in the field of cinema, as well as in other arenas where it is now taken for granted. These days it has become common place to hear local SA band's music on the international charts. Local actors have been making it in the UK and USA for some decades now, albeit controversially. But this is a significant achievement. Seldom have I watched a Hollywood offering where I couldn't predict the ending or wish it wasn't over yet - but any movie that leaves you already wondering when the sequel is coming out as you leave the cinema, has got to be good.

And yes, I got this all out of my experience of watching that movie. Hard to believe, but I got far more out of it than I did from the latest "Terminator", "X-Men" and "Harry Potter" offerings - all of which I enjoyed, incidentally. I think if there is an Oscar category for "most relevant movie of 2009", this one deserves it. Beyond a doubt.

Gone are the days where South African characters were portrayed as cardboard cut-outs with funny accents, often played by foreign actors, and controversial political hot-potato's of the Apartheid years. I can still remember watching a corny US TV show where the Soviet spies were supposed to be speaking Hungarian - and spoke perfect Afrikaans to each other! The action scenes and CGI were convincing, passable and realistic. About the most annoying thing for me in the entire movie was Wikus's kugel wife - who seemed to me a cross between a hippie-wannabe and a space cadet. Quite believable - she just needed a shiny 4x4 to clinch the deal. The bad guys are very believable too - and no, I wasn't referring to the equally convincing aliens, but the security force dudes who bragged that they actually get paid to kill "prawns" when they would gladly do it for free. The character accents - which admittedly make my Souf Efrikin ear cringe - compared to other stage-accents when speaking English, local-is-lekker Afrikaans accents have always raised my hackles a bit, ek se - probably because we are used to hearing people rip South Africans off for it. But not this time. And I suspect for the future, there will be quite a few people out there in Hollywood land now, who will have a different take on that oke from Jozi with his funny hairstyle and different manner of speaking. Ag, this is GREAT, man!

Mr van de Merwe starts out being "one of the okes", brow-bashing the "prawns" and not generally being a very nice guy. Although he doesn't actually kill any of them himself, and even objects to rough tactics, he certainly is part of the machine which reinforces the perception that they are not, nor deserving of, being equal. This all changes for him of course when he is exposed to a bio-chemical agent which causes his DNA to start converting him into one of them - and the whole machine turns on him. Of course, this inoffensive unintentionally bigoted Inspector Clueseau lookalike soon shows his true colors as a good sort deep down, who decides to help the aliens and even make some personal sacrifices along the way. At this point he now has the MNU security battalion and some pissed off (and convincing) Nigerian cat-food dealers after him. The only people not out to get him now are the aliens - and there is something particularly significant in this. Ironic? Weird? definitely - but now that he can actually use the aliens weapons and techno gear it becomes way cool! I heard one of the okes in my row giggle like a school-girl every time the microwave gun zapped one of the bad guys and he just went pfff! Just like that. Splat. Yes, it was good. Very good.

On a more serious level, District 9 makes me wonder how would people today deal with real alien refugees? I mean not just from Nigeria or Somalia, but from another world. Especially here in SA where we have emerged from Apartheid and segregation and our recent bout of xenophobia - how would those who survived these less admirable paragraphs in human history emerge - wiser? Or none the wiser? In the movie this thought is explored in gritty detail. The depths of our decency and moral goodness - or the lack of it - are explored to the point where you begin to realize that the term "humanity" or "inhumanity" are related more to the terms "good" and "bad" instead - and that goodness transcends language, culture, religion, color, race, sexuality, gender, species - and "humanity" - and there is the relevance.

I think modern society gives itself far too much credit for their enlightenment with the term "humanity". In essence society today is still the same as the earlier savage manifestations that committed mass murder and other savage acts and went to war over idiotic disagreements on religion or territory. You only have to look at ancient, medieval and modern European history to see how full of humanity we actually are, especially after the rise of religion as a political power. When it should have brought enlightenment and peace, it enacted oppression, superstition and war. It widened divisions between people in a way that only hatred and distrust can. Funny how modern adherents fail to recognize this connection between erasing the line separating church and state and violent oppression of individuality and freedom. But then, they are prone to fanaticism.

Despite this, there is much potential to outgrow such childishness - but we are not there yet - and then how will future generations remember us in two thousand years time? Will they laugh at us, for our arrogance and two dimensional lack of compassion or depth? Or cry over our shame, our stupidity, cruelty and folly, and for what might have been?

We crow about our technological advancement, our ability to split the atom and prowess to derive energy from it - or to make terrible weapons that flatter our destructive nature. We have the ability today to traverse the planets in our own star system, but where could we go to escape our dark nature without taking it with us? If we cannot even contain our inherent capacity for evil in our own playground, should we take our mayhem and vice with us into the universe?

Advanced weaponry, victories in battle and space travel do not an advanced species or civilization make.

If we cannot even understand the concept of all people being equal in the eyes of our own laws, if we cannot co-exist peacefully with each other now, how can we consider our species worthy of being called "civilized"? For we are not all equal. Some parts of society today - the backward and primitive parts, still insist on fostering a culture of "us" and "them" and on polarizing society around issues that belong in the cave-dwelling days of previous incarnations of our race. And they are the parts that hold us back, stubborn anchors stuck in the mire and drudgery of dark ages past, trying very, very hard to drag us back with them.

The old saying about "man's inhumanity to man" makes me think further about the relevance of the term "humanity". It is perfectly human to do bad things to each other, even typical. Animals will typically only do this to survive, to eat, to defend themselves, but they are not what we might call "sentient". What makes sentient beings special is the ability to act out of malice towards other beings - or to rise above such base behavior, and reach out in friendship, to care about other people whose lives do not affect them personally. To rise above being just human. To make a choice and strive to be good - the spark of the divine in all of us. This too is a human characteristic, and if anything, our one saving grace.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

If a gay community leader began preaching "reparative therapy" how long would he or she remain a gay community leader? Interesting question.

It seems people choose their leaders because they agree with their own views - or because they feel these leaders have their best interests at heart. Clearly the above example illustrates my point. A gay leader preaching "ex-gay" dogma and "reparative therapy" clearly does not have the best interests of the gay community at heart - but the complete polar opposite. In fact, I would say this person would be ostracized from their community as a traitor - and with good reason.

Likewise, if a woman begins preaching on behalf of the patriarchy - against feminism - for me, all sorts of warning bells and alarms go off.

Hmm. Parrot indeed.

Such a question arose when I saw the following material, quoted from the blog "Feministing - Thousands in Mali protest equal rights marriage law."

"This is pretty distressing:

Tens of thousands of people in Mali's capital, Bamako, have been protesting against a new law which gives women equal rights in marriage. The law, passed earlier this month, also strengthens inheritance rights for women and children born out of wedlock."

Also included is this quote from Hadja Sapiato Dembele of the National Union of Muslim Women's Associations: "A man must protect his wife, a wife must obey her husband...It's a tiny minority of women here that wants this new law - the intellectuals. The poor and illiterate women of this country - the real Muslims - are against it."

My, my - it seems some people are really afraid of women being equal to men in the eyes of the law. I wonder why?

On closer inspection of this matter, a few things stand out to me.

1) A woman - a female leader - is protesting against the victory - no doubt hard won - by her sex or gender in the courts of her oppressive country. She is therefore against equal rights for women - including presumably, herself. (I wonder what her husband has to say about that?)

2) She touts the archaic view that men must protect women and that women must obey men, effectively turning women into a commodity with no free will, and perpetuating the backward notion that women are nothing more than property or talking blow-up dolls which is all the rage in idiot countries such as Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan etc where women are even murdered for daring to choose their own marriage partners - and defying the will of those supposed to love and protect them. (Unsurprisingly there is a similar belief in Christian fundy circles.) In effect, submitting and obeying - and protecting - also includes the right to say whether or not a woman has any right to life.

3) She blames this victory on a "tiny minority" of - in her own words - "intellectuals". This surely means that the rest of the female population of her country are an incapable flock of idiot sheep to be willingly led to the slaughter - and that she is only too willing to play Little Bo-Peep.

4) She then goes further to call the poor illiterate women REAL Muslims - logically because they are against this new liberating law. By this logic, education and being intelligent are therefore disqualifying factors for being "real Muslims". In short, such a revealing remark does little more than confirm my opinion that it takes pretty stupid people to believe and blindly accept everything they are told just because it is wrapped in "scripture" and blind faith - or tradition. And of course "religion says" - and because "religion says", we must all obey.

We are told that religion says: "God gave us brains" - and then they also quickly add: " - but God doesn't want us to use them". Ridiculous.

5) Tens of thousands of people protested with her against their new-found legal equality. Tens of thousands. Now that's a lot. Aside from the obvious, I have to wonder if these tens of thousands were men or women. Obviously the majority of men in that country would have something to moan about - their slaves are about to acquire some domestic rights and legal protection. Damn - not even allowed to beat her no more... Tens of thousands. That's more even than the mobs demanding the end of marriage equality in States across the USA. More than the mobs marching to protest the same thing here in the whole of South Africa.

So not only do these poor and illiterate women have to contend with the patriarchy - they now have to contend with this sort of narrow-minded female anti-feminist agreement with it. I have little choice to conclude that this woman is one of them, because of her illogical statements and self-oppressive tendencies.

I can understand such backward patriarchal reasoning coming from a male, but from a woman - and of all people, a leader of women? It says something profound about leadership - and, if anything - what it says about followers is not very flattering at all.

I have to question the motives of this woman - who reportedly leads masses of women - not out of a land of slavery and servitude and disenfranchisement - but who waylays them on the road to progress and liberty, and somehow convinces them that it is "wrong" to be equal to men and that they should turn around and skulk back to their masters with their tails tucked between their legs. Hmm. Some leader.

I wonder how she keeps her following? Look at it this way - if a gay community leader started preaching "reparitive therapy", he wouldn't be entertained for very long, would he? People would definitely question his motives - or probably tar and feather him in pink - so why do these women not question hers? Oh, wait - I remember - they are not intellectuals. But it seems this woman is leading other women whom she is helping to subjugate to the will of men, in effect, leading them into submission and slavery - and they clearly love her for it. Something is wrong with this picture. Way wrong.

Distressing? I agree.

I think it takes a special kind of stupid to love your oppressor and to want to be oppressed - especially when you have just been handed the keys to your freedom and equality. The doctors at the loony bin have a term for that special kind of stupid - it's called masochism - and that is still in the DSM.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

March Hares And April Fools

Since the April 22 Election in which it got its chronometers soundly cleaned, the right wing Christian Democratic Alliance has been quiet - dare I say "silent as a tomb"? No press statements since April. No more boisterous squawking in nauseating radio ads about gay people being "enemies of Christianity" and a "threat to the family" or rabid press releases aimed at the government for the folly of including human rights of gay people in the Constitution and "dethroning almighty God" in favor of the rule of mere human law. In fact, short of one or two blog posts by one of its fearless leaders, Colin Fibiger - obviously on the inseparable issues of religion and politics, and suggestions on training the youth to "know better” next time, there has been no visible activity on their part. I'm thinking they ran out of a lot more than cash at the end of the elections - they ran out of supporters, interest and credibility as well.

It seems most of its supporters have skittered back to the ACDC, - I mean, P - or cast their votes elsewhere, since even that slightly larger party had its conservative voter support decimated by half.

Since having its nose rubbed in its’ own misogyny and anti-diversity utterances, the ACDP has over the past week or so been (very surprisingly) commenting favorably on Caster Semenya’s gender test ordeal, presumably only because every other political party has been doing so as well - and it has realized that agreeing with everybody else tends to make them less bad. It's called PR, I believe - aka brown-nosing. I wonder what they would have to say should her tests, due out soon, show her to be a transgender or transsexual person? Considering the things their reps have had to say about gay and trans people in the past, I should expect one of them to drop a political clanger over it.

Back to the larger party’s smaller relation – the CDA. Despite the silence, it seems the defiant support for fundy politics is not quite dead yet. Last week there was the following post on the CDA Facebook group, presumably from one of the brighter bulbs on the tree: "If the older generation are showing they wish to be disobedient to God and not vote for Biblical governance why do we allow them to still lead the way - maybe they do not understand the dynamics - maybe we should have more youth in leadership to take us forward."

Why? Hmm. Where should I start?

Because voting for a party with a cross stuck on it doesn’t mean it reflects true Christianity (at least not how Christ intended it) nor does "biblical governance" guarantee Christian governance. And I would expect having a few years more on the clock would provide the youth the wisdom to know the difference.

Aside from that I have to wonder what this smart girl meant by "allowing" the older generation to lead the way? What is she suggesting anyway - a coup to supplant older party leaders with vibrant and violently fanatical youth? This is revealing of the fundy respect for democratic process! This sort of talk reminds me of the part in “Keeping Mum” where the prospect of a coup in the church’s Flower Arranging Committee rears its ugly head. Equally ridiculous, many CDA and ACDP supporters were champing at the bit to start placing laws to outlaw homosexuality, divorce and freedom of religion as soon as they swept that annoying little line separating church and state out of Parliament. I can imagine their disappointment. After all, these fanatics are clearly intent on using democracy to come to power - in effect using democracy as a means to end itself - a pawn to replace democracy with theonomy. What is to come? Will we see friend Colin and his ageing colleagues supplanted by younger, more enthusiastic (and more militant) fundamentalist leaders? What's a little bloodless coup between friends? Then again, what's a bloody coup between adversaries? Nothing, as long as you get to be the one to rewrite the history books afterwards. Hmm. Perhaps nice uncle Colin should be watching his back.

As I have noted recently with the release of (yet another) new bible version in the USA, http://amconmag.com/article/2009/sep/01/00040/ accuracy is not really of prime concern, is it - just so long as the authors get people to believe and do whatever it is they or their masters want them to.

Isn't it interesting how malleable the "word of God" can be? I wonder if the nice folks at FPI or CAN will be producing a copy of it for SA? Why not, they copy everything the US religious right wing-nuts do. In 2001 they copied the 1987 "Homosexual Agenda" and produced a venom-soaked compendium of lies and propaganda called "The Pink Agenda" to inspire home-grown bigots here. Hmm. Most original. I am pretty sure that had there been a fundy victory at the polls this April, the new government would have followed suit and released a similar South African Patriot Bible, intended to re-educate the youth that South Africa was (like the USA version tells it) founded on Christian reconstructionist principles – just as the ANC bragged about its own “deeply religious” origins recently, despite its very hefty (and obvious) connections with its political backbone - the SA Communist Party.

Perhaps she just doesn't understand the dynamics of propaganda and censorship - or politics - and their relation to indoctrination. People generally don’t like to be told by a bunch of snot-nosed brats how they should live. For that matter, people don't like to be told by a bunch of rigid old fossils how to go about their lives either, (just which category I fit into is unclear at this point) but that is pretty much the same thing if the younger generation has their heads stuck so far up the ass of ancient ritual and obsolete doctrine that they can see the light. And for another thing, it is clear by now that people are far too gullible and will believe any old thing if it is wrapped in religious scripture, announced with "it is written..." or rolled up and used to beat them over the brainpan.

Ok, so it is written that you are to stop lying, spreading hate, pointing fingers and bad-mouthing gay and trans people. Clear? Whack! Now scram and don’t do it again!

As for me, I need more assurance than "Vote for our party, because we have a pretty cross in our logo and because God says so" to choose which party I will support. Do they address my concerns? How do they do so? Do they make good on their promises? And do they make sense? Or do they sound like a bunch of stale recycled old religious fascists who frown on diversity, spit on gaiety and stomp on opposition? For real-world problems, they need to offer me real-world solutions - and they had better put their money where their pie-holes are - and if it happens to be pink - or at least rainbow colored, then so much the better.

Religion, Deadly Contagion And Other Afflictions

Imagine a pandemic which claims a death toll so high it staggers the mind. Millions upon millions dead, suffering and dying from a plague which knows no cure. Every single human being touched personally by the hand of death, suffering and tragedy. Everyone who survives, perhaps the last remaining member of a large and happy family, standing alone and wondering where to go from here? Far fetched? 

Not really. It already happened once in recorded history. In Medieval times, bubonic plague took nearly half the population of Europe, some scholars postulate up to two thirds. And what could medicine do about it at the time? Nothing. They couldn't even ease the suffering of the victims. The contemporary art reflects the ever present um, presence - of death in the conscious and sub-conscious, particularly in portraits and other art of the day. The fabled Dans Macabre is just one example. At the time, the science of medicine was in its infancy. With hardly any contrast at all, the prognosis for such a massive and virulent outbreak of some new or resilient disease today is not much better.

A week or so ago I watched an interesting doccy about the Black Death. It was pretty relevant, considering that if anything similar were to happen today, the global medical capacity to handle such a crisis would be nil anyway. Hospitals would be swamped. Handling capacity would be overwhelmed. In recent weeks, medical testing to confirm such cases as "swine flu" or H1M1 blah, blah, blah take anything up to a week - and some cases were even misdiagnosed completely. The death toll today even in so-called advanced countries stands at a total in excess of 1000. Oddly enough, the spread of this disease seems to have affected modern countries more - where transportation is far more effective than in rural non-urbanized places.

The thing that interested me most though was the way such a pandemic affected human civilization and culture from that time. Particularly interesting is the religious perspective. People at the time in Catholic Europe had confidence in God and in the Church to save them, and to do something to thwart this disaster - and instead, God wasn't answering any calls either; I suppose they just got some kind of divine busy signal and the Church found itself powerless to do anything. And don't think people did not notice. In fact, soon after the epidemic hit, church authorities began (not un-typically) passing the buck by claiming that it was because of the sinfulness of the people that such a "divine judgment" had been handed down by god. In short, "God is angry and it must be YOUR fault", and on came a liturgy of "turn from sin", "repent", the meteoric rise and fall of the Flagellant movement and the purges of the scapegoats that go hand-in-hand with the religious hysteria of a civilization on the edge of total collapse.

The Plague passed after a few deadly years, but not long after, there were religious nut cases running around burning people at the stake to satisfy God's obvious anger as the reason behind their being "punished". People viewed to be "sinful" were accused of "witchcraft" and murdered wholesale – including, prominently – Jews and gay people.

I wonder how indeed modern religion would handle a similar plague? We already know how much the religious right hates gay people - would they focus on the pink community as the "cause" for global misfortune? Well, they already do that. During the last big storms in the USA the religious right there blamed the devastation of New Orleans by hurricane on the gay community there. Oddly enough, as it was pointed out afterwards, the "gay village" was the ONE area spared the utter devastation visited on the rest of the city. Now how about that? Either their conservative right-wing version of God has really lousy aim - or exceptionally good aim. They sure can't have it both ways.

Would we see similar situations in a post-Plague 21st century as those who survived the anguish and horror of the last Plague a thousand years ago? Would gay people be rounded up, accused of all sorts of rubbish - and murdered? 

Seventy years ago the Nazis accused gay people of "weakening the Master race", rounded the up and put them into forced labor and extermination camps along with all the other people they saw as a threat or as "undesirable". That is the story of the pink and black triangles which have become symbols of our battle for human rights and equality. It can be argued that the mystical aspects of Nazism and the influence of Nordic mythology and how it became willingly intertwined with Christian doctrine under Nazi rule in itself constituted a form of religious cult on its own. Even today in places around the world there are similar ideologies and theologies practiced by pseudo-religious groups such as the "White Power" movement which infuse racist theories originated by the Nazis with misapplied Christian teaching. It comes as no surprise that they don't like Jews - or gay people either.

A scant twenty five years ago the AIDS pandemic broke, and the world began to descend into a blind panic. 
They called it a "homosexual disease", and they claimed it was "punishment from God". In the USA self-proclaimed "experts" on homosexuality and darlings of the right wing anti-gay establishment such as "Dr" Paul Cameron advised Congress that "it may become necessary to exterminate all homosexuals" in order to bring the pandemic under control. As an interesting point, Cameron is heavily influenced by Nazi pseudo-science and principles of eugenics - and an ardent gay-hater famous for his "studies" which "prove" gay people live shorter lives, are unhygienic, are prone to pedophilia and a host of other slanderous fallacies. One of his pet projects was suggesting that gay people be marked with a facial tattoo to make identification easier. In fact, Mr Cameron earned the displeasure of the psychiatric authorities in the USA and was turfed out on his derriere for his prejudice and consistent misrepresentation of science. I dare say he got off lightly.

Currently in Iran and Iraq people are being murdered for the "crime" of being gay or transgender. Yet the West still openly and unashamedly does business with these two blatant human rights abusers. In Iran gay people are hung publicly. In Iraq they are abducted by specialist militia, tortured to reveal the names and whereabouts of others, and brutally killed. According to the US State Department Stanton Report, this can already be classified as genocide – and yet has any government yet even used this word to describe what is happening today, right now, despite prior knowledge of that genocide seventy years ago and more recent examples such as Rwanda? These people either do not know about history, its judgment, or they do not care - or they know history only too well.

Even today ultra far-right religious groups around the world vie for the opportunity to mete out what they see as "biblical" justice - the extermination of gay people. That'll teach them to be born homosexual! How about the far-right groups in the USA and European Union (of all places), and of course, right here at home in South Africa, where cowardly people claim "morality" and innocence by pointing fingers at their holy scriptures saying "It isn't I who says so, but the bible..."?

It seems some people have learned nothing from history, except how to go about committing atrocities more efficiently. And what have we as a race learned in the intervening millennium? A greater appreciation for diversity and life? Or have we just devised better ways to end it?

What would happen if a far-right ultra-religious movement at the head of a technologically advanced and highly mechanized society had a free hand in the aftermath of such a devastating pandemic in this century? 

We can only wonder.

“It” Is For Objects, Not People!

Recently I engaged in a private debate with representatives of international GLBTIQ advocacy groups online. Actually it started out as a call to action, to launch protests to affirm opposition to transphobia and the pathologicization of transsexuality - then one of them launched into a scathing criticism of trans people who wanted to have transgender classification removed from the coming DSM-V manual.

Presumably she would prefer transsexuals to continue to be classified as mentally ill - as they are deemed currently by world health professional groupings. Presumably she likes the stigma attached to being transgender and the rigmarole involved in getting the goodwill of the "gate-keepers" who hold the keys to their future happiness, assuming of course that they jump through all the hoops and barrels like good little freaks should.

This person, supposedly a director of a group involved in transgender education, proceeded to state that "any transsexual person" wanting to abolish this current system "clearly does not speak for the community" - and then pointedly referred to trans people as "he/she/it".

"He/she/it" - "IT" ??? Excuse me? Did I read that right?

This person just called transsexual people "it"? The email address title of the writer said "Transgender Education"?? Needless to say, I could not believe my eyes.

Let me get this straight (no pun intended) - a transgender activist just referred to transsexual people as "it". I wonder if this person is in the right line of work for a start? I shouldn't have to tell you how insulting and transphobic that is - being in "transgender education", this person should already know!

I can remember the many times I as a transsexual have been called that hateful derogatory term in real life - "it". Are you a boy or a girl? No, you're neither - so you must be an "it" - come here, "it". Where's Tina? "It's" over there. Grr.

One expects a degree of hate mail and hate speech coming from the bigots we encounter in the run of daily activism - especially when standing up to bigots attacking the civil rights of the pink community and trying their level best to demolish all vestiges of humanity we have. Some revel in their discovery that I am trans and like to reveal their discovery online, as if it was some closely guarded secret - and then delight in trying to strip me of my dignity and to attempt to discredit me in that way. Of course this fails, but the hurt is in the attempt - and the sting is in that qualifying term - "it". Being referred as such by a fellow human rights advocate is a special kind of betrayal.

Until now I have personally never encountered any transsexual person online or otherwise who prefers to be addressed as "it". In fact, the only people I have ever encountered who use such a form of address towards another human being, are bigots and conservatives who are ignorant of and insensitive to transgender issues - and who do not even view us as human beings - and who intend to make this feeling crystal clear. Even an intersex person who technically may not fall within either male or female pronouns should be offended by such a description. It is simply not acceptable to address people as "it" - why, we do not even call those oppressing us that!

Being a transsexual woman myself I find this highly offensive and can only wonder what sort of person would like to be called "it" like an inanimate - or inhuman object.

"It" is for objects, not people.

Until now I had never met anyone who prefers to be referred to as "it". Except for this one person who apparently likes to be called "it". So - you like to be called "it", do you?

Okay.

I am sure you know what kind of people like to call people like us "it"?

Word of this gets around and pretty soon ALL of us get called "it" and it becomes "acceptable" because some of us have no better judgment and don't realize the implications. After a while we wonder why society views us like talking cattle, talking their way into the abattoir.

It is dehumanizing to all of us, because when they think of YOU as "it", they think of US as "it".

This is obviously contrary to the spirit of the civil rights movement. At least, it is to the one I signed up for. If we start calling our own people "it" like the bigots do, I should quit human rights advocacy and take up farming cats instead. At least cat's don't mind being called "it" (a habit I detest too), as long as they get a fish shaped treat and a friendly scratch behind the ears.

Our biggest problem today - especially in South Africa is that the people and groups who work for the pink community and civil rights either do not - or cannot co-operate or work together. Our opponents clearly do not have that problem. They are united by their ideologies or religious prejudice, but they are united. We seem to still be arguing about who we are and who is a so-called "HBS" and who is a "true transsexual" and who doesn't want to be associated with who.

Our opponents are all about EXclusivity - we are about INclusivity. Or at least, I thought we were.

It's quite simple, if we can't stand together then we're doomed.

When there are calls to protest a lack of gay rights there doesn't seem to be an issue of when where or how - it just happens. It seems that when there is a call to tackle trans rights then conveniently we're just not "gay enough". Even from as far away as SA we see the hypocrisy and antagonism of groups such as Stonewall UK which refuses to include trans rights with gay rights advocacy, even though they cover much of the same ground.

I am humbled and honored when I see gay rights activists taking up the cause of transgender people - they are living the principle of "an injury to one is an injury to all" - and if we as a community want to make a bright future for ourselves, then this is what we must do.

Firstly, as human rights advocates, we serve the pink community, we speak for them, we defend them, we also guide them. What we do or choose to do - or choose to use in our work, be it good or bad, influences them positively or negatively and lays the ground for the future of our community.

Secondly, If we as transgender or gay rights advocates offend our supporters, they won't be our supporters for long. And if we were to resort to the same misogyny that bigots indulge in using against us against our own community, then they would be quite right to doubt us. And no matter how you look at it, being called "it" is an insult to the dignity of any person - whether they like being called "it" or not.

I hope you can see that this line of thinking if followed to its logical conclusion - is a dangerous one leading to the dehumanization of intersex and trans people - and ultimately the whole pink community.

Ms X, are you a transsexual? If so then may I ask what is the point of changing gender if you don't like being called "he" or "she"? To some degree the gender binary, as troublesome as it may be, is still applicable in our personal lives. If you are not transsexual then are you what they call genderqueer perhaps? In either case, most people I know - and certainly any transsexual I know, would take exception to being addressed as "it" - including myself.

In either case we seem to be stepping on each others toes on this subject - what may suit transsexuals may not suit genderqueer people or gay people and vice versa. There are alternatives in some languages to using "he", "she" or "it" to address people. Some languages have no word for masculine or feminine. In many it is like in English - but even so there are alternatives such as "hir", "himme" and "ze". I dislike the social implications of the gender binary myself. I too detest it when people call me "he" instead of "she" - but let somebody call me "it" to my face and they had better hope their life insurance is up to date. In the same way people take offense if somebody calls them "homosexual" instead of "gay", perhaps as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, misogyny is in the ears of the hearer - or "object"?

I will leave you with that thought.