Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Death Becomes Us



It is often said that human civilization can be summed up by how people treat animals under their care.

If this is the case, there are people who love animals as companions, and those who like them deep-fried and crispy.

It is for the latter reason that I have been feeling very pressed of late to turn vegetarian.

Today I want to focus on something not that closely related to gay rights - but yet, also not wholly unrelated. You see, how people treat animals tends to reflect on what kind of people they are. It tends to shine through in how they treat other people as well, and in particular refers to their attitude towards people and groups of people whom they don't like.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doing Unto Others

Reports of a large billboard on the side of a busy public highway in a big city with the words "SOUTH AFRICA: TURN TO GOD" and some vague bible reference beneath it, makes me think deep thoughts.

Wow.

Isn't this illegal? If it isn't, it should be.

I can already hear the hackles raising on the necks of folks who would like very much to burn me at the stake for saying something like that, but wait - put down those matches, bro - and hear me out first.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Logic Bomb

There are a few things that have stood out to me in my campaign for equality for the pink community. Of these, one that stands out the most is the liturgy used by people who fight against gay rights - who call equal civil rights for GLBTI people "special rights". This is of course a horrific lie - made all the more so by the underlying hatred and malice concealed by the simplistic and exclusionary reasoning they employ.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blood Feud

I disagree with the University of the Free State for letting those four racist students off the hook - it is repulsive what they did, urinating in food and tricking people into eating it - and then posting videos of it all over the web. There is no excusing it, and they should be punished for it.

However, I disagree that this case gets so much urgent high profile attention while other preceding cases of heterosexism and homophobia are still on the back-burner after more than a year. After all, these "students" still have not apologized to the victims, just complained about the misfortunes they have suffered as a result of their offensive actions. What they did was a personal assault on their victim's bodies and their dignity as people, based entirely on race. It was an act which was unprovoked, inexcusable and unjustifiable.

Are the civil rights of the pink community less worthy than those of Black people? Is racism more of a public or moral outrage than homophobia or transphobia? What is good for one is good for all. That is equality. At least, to my understanding of the word.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sleeper, Awake!

I have been asked by someone living abroad if homophobia in SA is as bad as I seem to be saying it is. They have friends,they say, even gay friends living in SA who tell them they have noticed nothing. Perhaps I am an alarmist? Perhaps I am exaggerating?

I would say the answer to these questions, as with everything, depends on who you ask.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Headlines & Deadlines

I often marvel at news headlines like the examples I have listed below:

"Controversial Daily Mail journalist addresses gay event
Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips spoke last night about the danger of “criminalising religious beliefs” at an event debating the conflict between LGBT equality and freedom of speech."

Naturally, GLBTI people having equality is dangerous, especially if it is your religious beliefs to oppress them. Of course, we all know religious beliefs that destroy the lives of innocent people we just happen to dislike are far more important than the human rights of those people. That is, we all know religion needs to pin something on somebody and it might as well be those darn GLBTI folks, who are always objecting to being stepped on and made scapegoats of, don't they know their place? I mean, they should just accept that OUR God hates them and get on with life and quit wriggling when we put them on the hook.

By Their Fruits Shall You Know Them

The draft "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" was tabled in Uganda's parliament on 14 October 2009, and has been slated world-wide by human rights groups concerned for the well-being of gay and transgender people in Uganda. If passed, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will violate the internationally recognized human right to non-discrimination, to be free from violence and harassment, the right to life, the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, if passed, introduces the death penalty for the offence of "aggravated homosexuality" - which describes anyone who engages in same-sex relations with children under 18, disabled people, or who tests HIV-positive when arrested for homosexuality related "crimes".

Still, this disturbing development did not happen overnight. It has been coming for some time now - and only the brutally stupid or blatantly uninterested can claim complete surprise.

Half a year ago, Uganda brought the current law into effect, which makes any gay sex a criminal offence. As can be seen by the names of high profile people involved in exacerbating the Ugandan anti-gay hysteria, it is clear that religious fundamentalism is playing a leading role, which if unchecked, will lead to a major human tragedy, very soon.

"A prominent board member of the “ex-gay” group Exodus International spoke at a conference in Uganda last week (March 2009), where activists vowed to “wipe out” homosexuality through police action, forced re-education, life imprisonment, and vigilantism. Exodus President Alan Chambers enabled the hate by doing nothing to stop the conference."

Just a few month ago, that "Conference on Homosexuality" was held in Kampala, which featured notable anti-gay personalities from organizations such as Exodus International, and led to crowds of people baying for the blood of homosexuals. Please note the above link, which shows how deeply involved Exodus International is in this, showing blatant anti-gay video propaganda - to people who broadly lack the capacity and education to tell fact from fiction, which in my opinion is criminal to say the least.

One featured speaker at the "conference" was Scott Lively, author of "The Pink Swastika", who is a Holocaust revisionist who hates gay people so much that he goes so far as to blame the Holocaust and the deaths of millions - on gay people. While trying to peddle his hateful neo-Nazi book, Lively "equated same-sex attraction with pedophilia — the sexual abuse of children — and asserted that the gay equality movement consists largely of “predatory homosexuals who are always out to satisfy their sexual desires” with “young people.”"

Now, where have we seen that before? Is that not the very same rubbish argument claiming gay people are pedophiles presented by the very same people leading the attack against gay rights and equality in South Africa? To superstitious and devoutly religious and easily influenced people who have no idea what the facts are surrounding homosexuality, this is like dropping paraffin on an open fire. Unless their aims were to openly incite more violence against gay and trans people in Uganda, then these people could not possibly have acted more irresponsibly than that.

At the same "seminar", the Rwandan genocide was also inexplicably blamed on gay people. "Lively expanded upon his strategy of blame-shifting and scapegoating when, at the anti gay conference, he transferred blame for the 1994 Rwanda genocide from the tribal Hutu Power ideology (which sought the extermination of the Tutsi tribe) to the allegedly murderous impulse of all same-sex-attracted persons, who comprise a tiny, powerless, and irrelevant minority in Rwanda."

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin commented on Exodus’ collaboration with Lively: "This is particularly dangerous in an environment [Uganda] where gays and lesbians have been hunted, tortured, and forced into hiding during several spates of officially-sanctioned and media-led vigilantism — the very same dynamics, ironically, which led to the Rwandan genocide."

"Stephen Langa (organizer of the conference) said that homosexuality is a big problem and the existing laws that criminalize gay people [with a sentence of life in prison] are not good enough."

"The hate forum also featured Don Schmierer, a board member of the "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who works with discredited ex-gay "reorientation coach" Richard Cohen. These American "ex-gay" activists clearly left their stamp on this evil legislation, giving Ugandan officials a way to justify the abuse because they can claim that "sinful" gays can choose to change."

And there we have it - seven months later, the legislation is on the table awaiting approval. What is happening today in Uganda is extremely disturbing to anyone with a sense of humanity and the value of human life, democratic values and justice.

Is there a way to pressure the government of Uganda to see reason?

"Sadly, this witch-hunt has the blood stained fingerprints of leading American evangelicals. The Fellowship, (aka The Family) one of America's most powerful and secretive fundamentalist organization's, converted Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity, which is the "intellectual" impetus behind the anti-gay crackdown. The clandestine organization's leader, Doug Coe, calls Museveni The Fellowship's "key man" in Africa." "It is important for people to understand that The Fellowship and other anti-gay groups have longed viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy. For example, fundamentalist organizations recently undermined successful HIV programs in Uganda by demanding abstinence only education, over condom use, which had been working to reduce infection rates." "Uganda is a proxy in their culture war and we are witnessing exactly what these fanatics might do if they did not have the United States Constitution blocking their pious path to power. Let the record show that their "key man" controlled Uganda when a religious terror campaign was waged against an innocent minority - and these good Christians stood by and did not lift a finger to stop the horror."

If the points in this article of yesterday (last quote above) by American gay rights advocate Wayne Besen, reflect the true level of fundamentalism and paranoia in Uganda's government, they also serve to clarify the extent to which religious fundamentalism has permeated the country's government - and what the results would be should like-minded groups in other countries with similar policies come to power, or be allowed free reign.

I feel the only way to pressure Uganda to back down or even undo these oppressive laws and policies will be via international governmental pressure, perhaps coordinated by the UN, in terms of sanctions and trade bans.

When the Jamaican situation arose earlier this year, there were calls to ban Jamaican export goods. At the same time some groups denounced this form of international protest as "putting the Jamaican gay community at increased risk" as no doubt there would be a backlash and increase in hostile activity in Jamaica. Similarly, there are those who believe the same to be true for Uganda.

Yes, the GLBTI community in Uganda may suffer some more for it, as is usually the case, but I fear doing nothing will make things worse for them in the long term and for all of us as well. How?

Other homophobic states may see no action being taken and take encouragement from it to implement similar policies.

As it is, Uganda will claim that Iran does it already and no action has been taken against that country. We need to take an action that will address this matter globally - and that to my mind is enforcement of the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality. Signing and ratifying it should be made a mandatory condition for UN membership, as is sticking to the ethos of protecting human rights in the EU.

The UN should be asked to encourage free countries to provide refugee status for GLBTI people in Uganda and grant them asylum. I don't know where, because even the USA has problems with homophobia, but I suppose almost anywhere outside Uganda is better, where at least they won't face state sanctioned murder and terror just for existing.

As for us in South Africa, I find the sudden silence on the part of normally very vocal anti-gay groups and fundamentalist political parties rather odd.

This Ugandan situation puts them suddenly in a very uncomfortable and visible position. Suddenly a country in Africa is doing precisely what they have been campaigning for since 1994 and even before. Suddenly they get a chance to see it all unfolding from the outside, a chance to see if it will work out the way they want it to. Suddenly they see the potential for human disaster looming and are gauging the response of what is euphemistically called "the civilized world".

I am not surprised in the least that they haven't condemned the proposed Ugandan Bill, or even the hate conference in March this year - because to do so would contradict everything they have written in their open-and-shut policies on gay people - and everything they claim to stand for. Ironically, they also claim to be "Christians", who follow what many people believe is a loving God. Hmm. Feel the love, indeed.

However, I am surprised they haven't praised Uganda's government for this disgusting move as the ACDP's MP Cherrylyn Dudley praised Lithuania for passing a homophobic Section 28 style law last month. This move showed the party's sinister hand, which holds mystery cards which it is playing awfully close to its chest. Perhaps they now realize how bad this will make them look, that it will be immensely detrimental to their already battered public image and diminishing support base. Or perhaps they are simply taking notes and refining their strategy for the day they hope to rise to power in this country and can set about implementing similar laws.

Hopefully the religious right will never rise to power in South Africa, for surely if they do, what is happening and about to happen in Uganda, will happen here as well.

"By their fruit you shall know them" the biblical saying goes - and we know what their fruit looks like - it is growing in Uganda.

As for the international community, a clear message needs to be sent that nations which flagrantly abuse and disregard human rights and institute laws and policies and act to favor the development of situations where public violence and genocide are the natural and logical outcome, will not themselves be welcome among nations that respect human rights, equality, democracy, liberty, justice and rule of law.

They need to be told in no uncertain terms that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are people too - and that our lives mean as much as the Jews, the Rwandans, the Romany and other ethnic groups who have been oppressed, persecuted and murdered for who they were. That it is not okay to destroy the lives of our people just because they happen to dislike or disagree with us - and that if they persist in doing so, there will be unpleasant consequences for them.

Failure to do this gives them carte blanche' to do to us as they will.

Qui tacet consentit — silence implies consent.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fear & Loathing In Uganda

On Friday, news came to me that I didn’t like to see. What was it, you may wonder? It seems that a year after Uganda passed a new law to make criminals out of gay people, they are debating an upgrade to this law that will give them far greater power over the private lives of their own people, including the authority to murder people simply for who they are.

The Anti Homosexuality Bill ensures virtual complete authority of the Ugandan government over what people are, think, say, feel or do, where or why they do it, or who they do it with - or who knows about it and doesn't tell. It goes further to make people who do not act against gay people in a hostile fashion, criminals as well. It in effect makes being born gay, or not thinking the same way bigots do, a very, very dangerous fate indeed.

This obscene and outrageously inhuman law gives flesh to the bones of the meaning behind the saying: “People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments – governments should be afraid of their people.” Reading the wording of the proposed Bill, I cannot stress the irony behind this strongly enough.

Let’s take a look inside this monstrous device:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Transgender Is Not A Myth

Over the past week I was happy to report a few great news items from the UK and USA affecting the pink community there. Top of the list was that former "Terminator" actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California (who is a Republican, by the way) signed a bill into law that inaugurated "Harvey Milk Day", in memorial to the now world-famous gay rights campaigner immortalized in the movie "Milk".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quack Attack!

Quack Attack! Sounds like an old arcade game, doesn't it? Perhaps one of those old ones you used to play at the shop while waiting for your school bus in the mornings? You know the type, the multi-level adventure with stunningly lifelike cartoon characters and annoyingly simple sound effects, presented in the latest hi-tech 2-d format of the time. Yes, it sure does conjure up memories.

But no, I am not talking about arcade games, but the games people - specifically medical professionals, are playing with the lives of other people - their patients. There are a few of these in this spectrum, from the shrinks out there referring gay people to the fallacious "ex-gay" movement which falsely claims to turn gay people straight, to the quack surgeons who perform long-outdated gender reassignment surgery using bits of the victim's colon to form a vagina instead of the modern penile inversion technique - to the quacks sitting at the head of the DSM-V revision committee and doing their level best to screw it all up for everybody depending on it.

The keystone of this gripe for me is the revision to the classification of transsexuals from transsexuals to "HBS" - or "Harry Benjamin Syndrome".

Friends For Life

Friends?

A few times in my life I have had to pack bags of assorted crap with unpleasant sentimental value which I cleared out of my home - and send them to charities or give them away in order to get rid of them and have peace of mind.

These days I only choose friends who don't need anything from me - people who have no reason to want me around other than for my company, people who I cannot see any ulterior motives in, other than friendship and mutual interest and even compassion. It is sad that I have to penalize new friends - and even lovers - for the conduct of the ones who went before, who unwittingly made me a much wiser person. And I must add that having a dodgy memory can be a blessing in disguise. At least the things that formed me as a person, particularly the unpleasant ones, are no longer as clear as they once were, their edges less sharp and dulled by the passage of time.

In a more complicated sense, the similarities between interpersonal dependencies called "friendships" and the relations between political parties and the electorate are not as dissimilar as you may at first think.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In The Arms Of Morpheus

Who can remember the first "Matrix" movie? For me it was the best of the whole trilogy, which I felt was rather disappointing as a whole. I am particularly fond of the part in the first movie where Neo is offered a choice between taking the red pill and the blue pill. Blue, you go to sleep, everything goes back to the way it was. Red, you go down the rabbit hole, see where it leads. Either way, regardless of your choice, there is no going back.

Quite a fascinating concept, actually. And quite a fascinating movie! There are many analogies and hidden meanings referring to deeper philosophical concepts in its convoluted plot, but for me one thing stands out - the polar opposites of knowledge and ignorance. Discovering the truth leads to knowledge. Knowing of course, being the harder path. Being ignorant is easy - all you need to do is go with the flow, toe the party line and be a "yes" man - an echo.

Start thinking for yourself, ask "why?" and even venture to say "why should I?" and pretty soon you will have half the world at your throat for being a "trouble maker".

Thursday, October 8, 2009

White Noise

I saw an article yesterday about our friend Julius Malema - yes, him - the same genius who as President of the ANC Youth League, made the statement that because there is no such equivalent word in Sepedi, hermaphrodites do not exist and that the "concept" is being forced on African culture by "imperialists".

The originator of this gem of idiocy has just found out the cost of rushing into making ignorant statements like a bull in a china shop - adding fuel to an already roaring fire.

The Rapport newspaper yesterday ran an article which featured enlightening comments from some learned individuals who would dare to dispute this all-knowing oracle. According to one, who is a senior lecturer at the Wits School of Languages in Johannesburg - Ms. Thelma Tshebane, told The Star that the Sepedi word for hermaphrodite is - “setabane”.

Apparently this word is considered insulting or offensive and is "kept away from children".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bigoted By Birthright

Yesterday I came across a blog detailing much of the same prejudiced and skewed thinking as resides in the pages of James Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys", in which the writer laid out different ways to prevent her children from being "turned gay" by exposure to "gay TV programming" - which she referred to, most originally - as "furthering the homosexual agenda".

She clearly hates gay people and her hate simmers quite clearly on her blog. Well, she can say and think what she likes - after all, it is her blog. I wouldn't stop her from making herself look stupid, it's her right to do so and she does deserve it.

This woman proudly listed some items of questionable authenticity and even relevance in her lead article such as the following:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Human Soup

"DEMAND same rights and same opportunities as the heterosexual community. After all, Female, Black, Asian, Homosexual, Male, Jew, Muslim, Christian, we are all part of the soup that makes up HUMANITY. Our differences make us the same. We need to stop the atrocities than man puts on man."

This quote I found on a website is a comment on a very provocative concept today - human rights - and who is or isn't "human enough" to qualify. As always, it raises more questions for me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Careful What You Wish For...

We all know the things said about parents who don't care about their children or what happens to them. After all, parents are supposed to care about their children. When parents learn that their children are gay or transgender, they are quite right to be concerned and even worried - but how should parents react to being told by their teenage child that they are gay or transgender?

International groups like Focus on the Family advise parents to not give affirmation to these children, to not let them think for a moment that it is in any way "okay to be gay". They are in effect giving clear instructions on how to alienate parent and child, and how to destroy the self-esteem of their children.

This alone should indicate the level of Focus on the Family's concern for the actual well-being of "the family".

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Hermaphrodites Are An Imperialist Concept" - Julius Malema

Yesterday in an interview, the ANC Youth League president - a 28 year-old man called Julius Malema, often ribbed about his clearly ignorant and nonsensical statements, once again opened his mouth to let out a glorious clanger.

Julius Malema claimed "hermaphradites" do not exist because there is no word in Sepedi to describe the intersex condition. He also claimed the concept of hermaphroditism was an "imperialist" plot being "forced" onto South Africans.

Hehehe.