Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shout Louder

In 2008 a journalist working for the Sunday Sun wrote an article which insulted gay people and women, encouraged conservatives to remove the rights of gay people from the SA Constitution, and also thumbed his nose at the Human Rights Commission by saying that he would refuse to apologize. More than two years later, it seems Jon Qwelane has been proved right.

Not only has it taken two years for this man to be charged for his offensive publications, but now that the Human Rights Commission has finally managed to get the process to the point where it can go to court, Mr Qwelane suddenly cannot be traced to be served with notice that he should appear in court - effectively holding up the whole process.

Where, I wonder, is Mr Qwelane? Perhaps the tracers diligently searching for him have been asking in the wrong places. Have they asked the Government?

Government should know - after all, they have just appointed this homophobe to the position of SA Ambassador to Uganda - that country now infamous for pushing a new law which will see Uganda's GLBTI population murdered - sorry, "executed" for the horrible immoral "crime" of being born under one of those letters which Ugandans ignorantly bundle together under the global description - gay. But then, maybe they don't - after all, if you consider the state of our government, you have to wonder if the left hand knows whose back it is scratching, or the right foor whose as- well, you get the idea.

Our government clearly is unaware that they have appointed Mr Qwelane, a man so full of racist remarks, scorn for women's equality and anti-Semitic and anti-gay hatred, to a position where he will do a great deal of harm to the situation in Uganda as Ambassador for South Africa.

Our government is somehow completly unaware that Uganda has been pushing an anti-human rights agenda for the past decade, by passing laws which turn people into criminals simply for the crime of existing - and of course, the new law - dubbed the Ugandan Genocide Bill - is a complete surprise to them - or at least, will be if they ever admit to its existence. This ignorance is puzzling considering that South Africa has been assisting Uganda in an official capacity for years in terms of infrastructure development, business investment and hey - we even supply electricity to them. And of course, nobodies like us have been sending letters, emails, faxes, pertions, phone calls to our wonderful government to complain about their persistent silence on the matter.

They have yet to utter one single word on the issue, even to acknowledge receipt of any correspondence or dialog on the issue.

Of course, how can you have plausible deniability if you admit to knowing something you later want to claim you didn't know about? I can see the President in a few years making an announcement on the state sanctioned genocide of GLBTI people in Uganda - which it clearly knew nothing about and was just as shocked and horrified as the rest of the world to learn about. Think it will fly? Or do I hear the sound of something crashing and burning?

Our government is placing policy and diplomacy with a murderous state above the value of human life. It is ignoring the will and voices of its own people. It is placing convenience above its own increasingly doubtful claims of "morality". And it is placing silent complicity above speaking out and saving lives - even the lives of people it doesn't approve of.

The answer is simple. If they cannot hear us, shout louder.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lead, Follow Or Get Out Of The Way

Herewith an exclusive special offer - Full Membership of the Methodist Church of South Africa - if you are straight, perfect and sinless - and 2nd Class Membership if you happen to be gay and desperate enough to put up with our hypocritical bullshit to enter the House of God (cough, cough) - but that's just because we can't actually ban you (on account of that annoying Constitution), so we'll just let you in and annoy you, exclude you while seeming to include everybody, keep you at a distance and shame you into eventually going away when you get sick of bashing your head on that well-placed glass ceiling. Welcome to the Methodist Church of South Africa, where we take the Christ out of Christianity.

Last night I posted an article on the dismissal of Ecclesia de Lange, a Methodist minister, for daring to marry her partner. It seems that her being lesbian and a minister was not really an issue here, but the fact that she chose to formalize her relationship with her partner over what the church still views generally as "living in sin", is. Such things force me to question the morality of the Church, the hypocrisy of Christians - and the precise definition of "living in sin".

Instead of grabbing this opportunity to make a real difference and to embrace our community, the leadership of the MCSA instead have just by this act alone, alienated every single GLBTI person in the country and effectively undone and sabotaged all the community building done by activists and inclusive ministers over the past few decades.

Seeing this inequity I can't blame anyone for not going to these houses of hypocrisy anymore. As an activist myself I can tell you stories of trying to help an inclusive Methodist church in my city trying to reach out to GLBTI people - and not finding more than a handful willing to take the risk of going to church openly. I can't tell you how much frustration and anger I hold back in writing articles and press releases on this topic - and yes, even this one. Some have told me that we don't need them - that we have God - and that God is not in a church - but everywhere. You're right, we don't need them - but we cannot let them get away with it.

They must acknowledge our equality and dignity before the law, or it is invalid.

Awareness is key - and if the leaders see that the chickens are restless and giving them stick, they will soon be shaken into doing the right thing. Bad press will have an effect - as will their congregants withholding funds. Money talks, especially in a "non-profit" business such as the church. Churches everywhere run on the B.O.S principle - Bums On Seats.

"The opportunity for reconciliation was within our grasp, hands were being stretched out, tentatively but hopeful. And then the hand was slapped away, the back was turned and the door slammed firmly shut. The all too familiar pain of rejection..."

It is time they felt that pain, these leaders. It is time THEY felt OUR pain.

At this stage I want to say that the wrong people do feel with us - the ministers, congregants and pastoral staff at many Methodist churches countrywide do feel this sleight with us. Even this morning I received a phone call from a minister to express his shock and disappointment at this verdict. But this is exactly where I would be wrong - because feeling someone else's pain is never wrong - and neither are those who feel it, the wrong people to do so. This does not lessen the crimes of those who refuse to be moved by the suffering and torment of those they exclude, persecute and oppress, but it lights the way for their removal. It highlights their obsolescence.

The ministers who do feel, those who have Christ as their conscience, and not some rigid man-made laws - will some day be the leaders of the very same Church those who oppress us now treat as their own personal kingdom. Things are changing - the world has changed around them and soon this change will catch up to them and sweep through their halls of power and throw open the doors they frantically try to seal up. Their barricades will fall, their walls shall crumble and their hearts and minds will be freed. If leaders cannot tell right from wrong, then it is time they were shown their hearts. If people stop following leaders, then what are they other than seat warmers? If leaders fail us as leaders, then it is up to us to show them the way.

Show them the way.

The Judas Church

In a shameful turn of events, the Methodist Church of South Africa has today betrayed the trust of all its non heterosexual members and supporters - and its foundational message of inclusive worship - by upholding the guilty verdict handed down at an earlier internal hearing which discontinued the services of Methodist minister Ecclesia de Lange - a Methodist minister who is also a gay woman for daring to marry her partner albeit in another church.

The Methodist Church of South Africa has thus fumbled a perfect opportunity to right past wrongs, to truly show a meaningful welcome to the pink community in its ranks - and has instead chosen to compound them by affirming instead rejection and bigotry.

Now all GLBTI people know that the leadership of the Methodist Church of South Africa is not welcoming and affirming - but is merely tolerant - and only tolerant up to a point of law.

We now see that we are good enough to serve, but only as long as we leave our natures at the church door - while others may come to the table of Christ as they wish to. We know now that we should not expect to be treated like everyone else - with equality, dignity or respect. We see now that the Methodist Church of South Africa has chosen to turn its back on us - and on the message of Christ who died for everyone, all inclusively.

It is with indignation and revulsion that I strongly condemn this hateful act of discrimination which enforces prejudice and which seeks to overturn the very actions and sentiments which resulted in the very same organisation taking a heroic stand against Apartheid in the 1980's. I find the convenience of their morality and the hypocrisy evident in this, shocking and truly profound.

I am utterly disgusted by this display of prejudice on the part of the Methodist Church of South Africa, as it is not simply Ecclesia alone who is on the receiving end of this unjust and willful act of hatred and bigotry - it is ALL of us.

Organizers of the support group which has supported Ecclesia have announced plans for legal action. I support them wholeheartedly in this. It is time that churches found out that Constitutional rights and equalities for all people do not end at the church door. It is time these hypocrites and back stabbers learned that they too are subject to higher laws which grant equality to everyone - even those they do not like - and to laws which abolish persecution on unreasonable grounds. It is time they learned that, as employers - they are NOT above the laws of the land. It is time they learn that they are a church - and not the law.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bonfire Of The Diversities

A few very interesting things have grabbed my attention in the international news this week and I thought I would mention them here.

Right at the top of the list, possibly because I am transgender myself, I want to mention that "France has become the first country in the world to declassify transgenderism as a mental illness. A health minister signalled the change would be made last May and this was confirmed last week by a government decree." And about bloody time too! I can't wait to see which countries will follow this sterling example.

"South African man wins Mr Gay World 2010 A South African man has scooped the title of Mr Gay World 2010. Charl Van den Berg, a 28-year-old restaurateur from Cape Town, was named the winner at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, yesterday." Fantastic! This is one of the first good reasons I have had to feel proud of this country in ages!

"The European Parliament has confirmed that upholding LGBT rights is a condition for nations to join the European Union"- this is fantastic, and means that if any other country in Europe wishes to join the EU they WILL have to respect and uphold the civil rights and equality of the pink community within their borders." I only hope this will also apply retroactively to all countries ALREADY members of the EU, on pain of expulsion or other penalties should they go back on this principle.

"GAY COUPLES AS GOOD AS TRADITIONAL PARENTS A new study has concluded that children do just as well with parents of the same gender compared to children with a mother and father." Duh - what we have been telling the wing-nuts for how long now?

"Americans more supportive of 'gay men and lesbians' than 'homosexuals' A survey has found that the wording used when asking the public about their views on gay rights makes a substantial difference to the answers. Americans were far less likely to support gays in the military when the question mentioned 'homosexuals'." Aside from this pointing out the fact that those who use the term "homosexual" usually do so not in propriety, but intend it as a derogatory term. At the same time, DADT is still in force and has not yet been scrapped - although President Obama has made this promise repeatedly, and even as recently as 2 weeks ago. Despite this, "Petty Officer Second Class Lewis Breland is waiting to be discharged from the US military after an investigation into his sexuality forced him to come out last year. He confessed his sexual orientation to civilian investigators after rumours began flying around his unit about an alleged sexual partner." Go figure.

On the negative side, in Africa "Another man has been arrested on homosexuality charges in Malawi. Police spokesman Dave Chingwalu said a 60-year-old man was arrested on Monday and charged with sodomy." A 60 year old man? Is that the best those cowards can do? Shame on them. And let's not forget the sponsor of the bill that will institute a gay genocide in Uganda, who has now also openly and shamelessly advocated the murder of gay and trans children in the Ungandan boyscout movement. One of course has to wonder why Mr Bahati has such a say in the boy scout movement in the first place. The world is a crazy place, and these days it seems, the crazier the better.

These are the kind of things that should be disseminated as far as we can in our communities - straight and pink, to raise awareness - trans people are NOT mentally ill, GLBTI rights are human rights - disrespecting these rights carries real consequences, gay couples make just as good parents as mixed gender couples, and South Africans are a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

On the other hand, it also has to be noted that on the world stage, more than just our rights are threatened - our worth as human beings is called into question and our lives are at risk.

All this highlights a stark contrast in the world today - in some places there is progress and advancement and common sense and logic and reason prevail - while in others there is a clear descent into anarchy, violence, chaos, cruelty and disorder.

I take very seriously the threat posed by anyone who thinks that by killing another person he or she is somehow acting in a heroic fashion and doing good - when all they are doing is killing people and destroying lives to flatter their own cruel, over-inflated vanities and satisfying their own twisted moralities.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Local Is Lekker

"Where is the other sock?", "how much string is in a sweater?" and "how many homophobes does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Ah, the philosophical questions in life...

The maddening questions are as cryptic as the answers themselves, being: "not with the one you are holding", "all there is" and as for the homophobes, the answer is "two - it is difficult for one to screw by itself - even for a gifted homophobe".

Now that this little matter is all but cleared up, let's look at another. This weekend, our newly crowned Mr Gay South Africa (TM) was crowned Worldwide Mr Gay 2010. That's right, Charl van den Berg is now effectively Mr Gay World.

Some people might not see the significance in this, but to me it is simply astonishing. Not just because of Charl's stunning good looks, but because the Mr Gay South Africa (TM) pageant itself is very, very new - in fact, Charl is the very first person to bear this title for 2009-2010 - that's how new this is. Viewed in this context, it can only be seen as an astounding accomplishment to enter an existing pageant as a newcomer - and to effectively trounce competing countries who have been there before.

Others have of course criticized the need for such pageants, calling them derogatory and demeaning.

"How does this further the cause of human rights, cis gays (fairly sure there aren't any trans men there, right?) showing off themselves on stage?" They ask. No, I'm sure there weren't any transmen competing alongside him - something I think should be addressed by these competitions as a matter of course. Bearing in mind that if trans people (such as myself) are to be eligible for such contests, which are focused mainly on cis-gender groups, then we need to be realistic about the standards - if we are to be judged by the same standards, then we should expect to measure up to them as well, regardless of how hard that may be on us - and it is also no use crying that the rules may be unfair if we don't. That being said, the rules need to actually be fair. But the transgender thing is a separate matter, and I only mentioned it because I feel it needs to be mentioned.

Regardless of all this, pageants such as these still help to increase awareness of our community, and are therefore a good thing. It is a way to present ourselves in a positive light.

Speaking of the media, I have been so disappointed lately with the seemingly perpetual negative light that our community is reported on in the press - or not at all it seems, that I was actually very pleasantly surprised to see some mention of Charl's achievement in onse eie local press media this time. Thanks guys, it beats the socks off the disappointment I felt last year when Charl was crowned Mr Gay South Africa at a gala event in Pretoria - and the only place I saw anything about it was on Facebook - and in mentions of how upset I was in the media some time afterwards.

Just a pity it made such few front pages though, mostly inside middle pages, short terse articles - and no pictures, unless it was the swim wear shot of Charl on the runway. Other than that provocative photo, which could almost be taken as an attempt to provoke controversy (because we all know how nicely controversy sells). It was all very understated and quite nice to see. I still can't help wondering though, that, yes - if it had been Miss SA winning Miss World - it would probably be on every front page, with extras on page 2 and 4.

As a community, we regularly get a raw deal in this country - but I am happy to say, it seems to be getting better - at least, in some ways.

It is beginning to look like our complaints about the Mr Gay SA coverage didn't fall on deaf ears last year - and I can almost hear those editors saying "let's see them call us biased now!"

The highlight for me so far has been hearing about it being plastered all over the lamp posts in Pretoria, the Pretoria News, Citizen and Beeld, nogal - right in the heartland of Conservapolis itself - haai Dominee, die skande! Ai tog! And so far I haven't seen any hate speech in the comments lists yet. Oh well, the night is young.

Positive articles have appeared in most newspapers in the country, which to me indicates a shift in mindset and attitude. This is, obviously, a good thing.

Good for all you guys in the press for reporting on this - it's great to see something positive in the media about our community for a change! Keep it up!

Today the print media, tomorrow... the SABC? ETV? How about some positive coverage on the box? Hmm? C'mon guys - local is supposed to be lekker.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The South African Dream


South Africa is full of potential and possibility and hope. All we need to do is grasp it and realize it. Sitting on the sidelines will let others achieve their own corrupt desires unopposed - and make our nightmares come true.

It is so easy to be caught up in the negativity that says South Africa is a dangerous place, that it is a haven for crime and gangsterism and corrupt government officials and conniving self-interested politicians, a place where dreams suffocate and joining the rat race to greener pastures elsewhere is the solution.

It is so easy to overlook the obvious, that we are now 20 years post-Apartheid, we have weathered the worst of it, that despite the doomsayers and gloom merchants, people of all races, cultures and religions, genders and sexual orientations are living together side by side in relative harmony. People are working together, sharing office space and even sharing jokes and sorrows together in ways we never dreamed possible two decades ago.

This is my dream, the South African dream, an equal opportunity society, where we all can make our dreams come true.

.....Well, not quite yet.

There is still some way to go yet. There are still those prophets of doom, the naysayers and reactionaries who will not tolerate the existence of others different to themselves - nor grant them the same rights or chances to find their own happiness. They seek to step on the fingers of those struggling to climb the steep stairs of human rights to attain equality with them.

There are also those among the formerly disadvantaged who bear grudges and attitudes of entitlement and whose motto's are "the world owes me", who refuse to grant equality to others - and of course, those who need to feel superior to others, creating the new order of the currently disadvantaged, whether on the grounds of race, language, culture, gender or sexual orientation.

IF the world owes us ALL anything, it is EQUALITY - no more, no less. While that means no more "previously disadvantaged" it also means that there should be no "currently disadvantaged" to replace them.

There are those among us who don't care about politics, those who have no interest in voting, those who couldn't be bothered to get off their complaining asses and make an effort to vote for whatever changes they complain about or see lacking in the world around them. There are those among us who think it is quite clever and even intelligent to boast that they are "not interested in politics". If I were them, I would hang my ignorant, apathetic head in shame. How will changes ever come about if we sit idly by and withhold our voices from the one arena where we can make a difference? How long will these leeches sap and sabotage the efforts made by those who speak and act to bring change? How dare we sit and whine about inequality and injustice while we carelessly facilitate the continuation of those who maintain inequalities and injustices in their warm, cosy seat of power?

That is the beauty of democracy - the will of the people - and the apathetic do not exercise their will, they bury it.

Equality my friends, means no superior rights, no inferior treatment - no oppression of one by another. That is the South African dream I believe in. I can't believe so much was done, so much fought over in this country just to replace one oppressor with another. I won't believe it. And I won't accept it. I won't be oppressed by anyone, and I won't stand by in tacit silence while another is oppressed either.

It disturbs me that so many only stir to action when it is their specific human or civil rights that are affected, but shrug it off saying "Oh well, I'm fine - it's not my problem" when it affects only another. This is not correct - taking away or infringing on the rights of one group affects the rights of all of us.

Politicians have power to change things for good or bad. As the people who vote for them and support them, we are the ones who give them that power. If they infringe on human rights and liberties in our name, then we should be angered and outraged by this miscarriage of justice and take appropriate action by not supporting them anymore - and giving our power to somebody else come the next election.

That is the principle of democracy - not the mentality of a soccer team supporter - "my team is my team, no matter what". It is this bad judgment that has led us to this point in our history where fundamentalists are challenging the legitimacy of human rights, and where we have government fraught with corruption, wastefulness and mismanagement. In politics it should be: "my team is my team - if I agree with what they say and do in my name. If not, I'll find someone better who does."

I'm picky about who speaks for me and what I say. I'm careful about who I back and where I make my mark - but regardless of all that, you may be sure - come the next election day, I will make my mark somewhere.

You should too.

These Colors Don't Run

Considering the events of the past few days, weeks and months - it is quite easy for me to feel negative - but I am not going to.

Nope. Not me, not today.

If you're wondering why, I will tell you. Because there are folks out there who want us to fail, they want our community to be complacent and silent and happy with the way things are. They love our apathy and false sense of security. They love it when we sit quietly by and accept every slap in the face and every kick in the butt they deliver. And because being negative will play into their hands, I am inclined to not play along.

I dance to my own tune, folks, I drum my own beat.

There are folks out there now trying hard to undermine and destroy our rights, make radical changes to our constitution and to continue to enforce social bigotry and revel in institutionalized prejudice, but I'm not going to let that get me down, because their time is coming to an end. They know it too, which is why they are so paranoid and frantic about getting their reactionary movement established and formalized in South Africa.

Bigots ruled the roost in the Old South Africa, that Ancient Regime of the southern tip of this Darkest Africa - they shall not prevail in the New.

There are people in this country who are dedicated to preserving the civil and human rights of all people, whatever the cost. There are folks planning legal protests to demonstrate the outrage of the community on the matter of the appointment of a known hater to the post of Ambassador to Uganda, that reviled homophobe Jon Qwelane, whose anticipated presence as an official representing South Africa in a country such as Uganda, has been likened to pouring gasoline onto an already catastrophic situation. While I sincerely hope they will not be disappointed by the turnout for this protest, I won't let such things bring me down.

Even if nobody pitches up for that protest, we have the eyes and ears of the world firmly focused on South Africa, they watch, they see, they listen - and they talk as well. This is the 21st century, we have Stonewall 2.0. Somebody burps or farts - or makes a homophobic slur in Cape Town - and people in Serbia can read all about it almost immediately on a blog such as this one, or on Facebook or Twitter. So, if we screw up, it's live and on disk - for all the world to see.

The world is a much smaller place than it was a few years ago. People are closer, and governments are being relegated to the status of annoying little middle-men somewhere in the gray areas between them as they chat, email, sms and tweet about the doings and screwings of their leaders, elected or otherwise. People all over are talking, planning and building bridges.

Freedom is at the heart of it, freedom and liberty, because freedom and liberty and equality are as vital as breath - and we only notice their absence when we are left gasping for breath when the colors of diversity and individual liberty are drained from the world around us.

The rainbow flag is my flag. It has many colors in it, and there are many colors in me. And these colors don't run.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The "M" Word

Are we only gay, bi, trans or intersex when the good times are rolling?

Are we only pink at parties?

You may detect a note of bitterness in my article today, and I apologize for it - but I feel that by just covering it over with pretty wallpaper will just do more harm than good.

So here we go, here beginneth my rant.

We all know the TV series "The 'L' Word"... well today's subject is "the 'M' Word".

This morning I attended a prayer vigil for the Methodist minister who has been suspended recently, not specifically for being gay - but for being gay AND daring to get married. I find this telling of the times we live in, in South Africa - where almost any attempt by us to use that precious "M" word results in slant-eyed looks, or sudden embarrassing silences.

I took leave specially just for this event as I did not want to miss it. A friend called me at the last minute to attend and asked me for a lift, and even though it was in the opposite direction to the church where the vigil was being held, I said it was on my way and picked him up.

We walked into church together five minutes early, with about 3 people sitting inside, including the minister. We looked at each other half sheepishly, recognizing the significance. This, it seems was going to be yet another typical Port Elizabeth event for the apathetic Port Elizabeth pink community.

I waited at the door, with a bundle of programs - kindly printed by the church for the event, while shuffling my feet out of embarrassment - hoping that people would turn up at the last minute. Fortunately one or two more did. I called one or two people to find out if they were still coming. Nobody answered my calls. Oddly enough, everybody was far too busy to answer today. Having sent out hundreds of emails about this vigil over the past few weeks, I think you may understand why I am so deeply disappointed.

There, I'm not ashamed or shy to say it. I called and only the people who took the trouble to pitch up, answered.

Now of course, I understand that it's a Monday - a working day - and we all have jobs. We can't all just take off an hour to go and sit in a church looking fabulous for no good reason. But aside from those who absolutely could not risk taking that hour off - if you consider the number of people making up the pink community in PE - and their friends or family - and amazingly enough, only 12 could come? Think of the number of people you have seen at parties and clubs, and then try to understand why I am a little pissed off.

Where would the Civil Rights movement be if Martin Luther King Jr didn't bother to stand up? Where would we be now in South Africa? What if Stonewall never happened? What if Harvey Milk never went to San Francisco or didn't feel like running for city supervisor? Would we as a community have human rights today in South Africa? Or would we be living in a state chillingly like Uganda?

Now, you all know I am an agnostic, which means I do not consider myself a Christian - so why was I at a church on a horribly hot Monday morning? Why indeed.

I feel it was important for us as a community to show support for a minister who is dedicated to her calling, and also a part of the pink community - and who is currently on the receiving end of unfair discrimination and prejudice simply because she dared to legitimize her relationship by calling it what it is - marriage. That's right folks, I used the "M" word. And that being said, she did not even do so in the Methodist Church itself, but was married by another church of another denomination.

It was incredibly brave of her to do this, and to us as a community it should be significant that she was suspended for her trouble.

When the rights of one of us are called into question, it means the rights of all of us are threatened.

This vigil was a show of support and solidarity with this lesbian minster and her partner, and her congregation - and with us.

There were no speeches at the vigil, just a mention of what it was about, why we were there, punctuated by scripture readings and silent prayers. The atmosphere was quiet and dignified.

Forget what you think you know about all churches hating or discriminating against us. There are churches of every denomination that do, sure - just as there are ministers who discriminate - but there are also churches and ministers of the same denominations that do not. Such churches and ministers are like needles in a haystack, as precious as pure gold - because those who need them, often don't know where to find them. This particular church in Port Elizabeth supports us - and still does, even after this dismal performance - even if I, imperfect being that I am, am left wondering WTF I am bothering to fight for.

Where were all the people that see the hatred for us in the media and in politics and religion and who express their outrage? Where were all those firebrands who regularly demand that something be done - presumably as long as they are not asked to do anything about it themselves?

Yes, there is a note of bitterness and disappointment running through this article, as it runs through me - but even so, it does not prevent me from seeing the good that will come of today's event. And trust me, there will be some good coming out of it. Whether in terms of press exposure, increased awareness of the possibilities on the part of the community still bogged down in its comfort zone, or in the ass-kicking that follows.

Never the less, I give my sincere thanks and appreciation to the people who did attend today. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The sad part is that out of 12 people, most of them were not even gay, or any shade of the rainbow flag - and yet they were there to support us. I thank them also. One cannot build a strong house out of bricks that are all the exact same size or shape.

You may feel that I have been overly critical, and perhaps I have been. I hope you understand, I have been trying to build the support of the pink community in this city through one organization, whose events have also been poorly attended. I don't know what it is with the community here. Few show interest, unless it is a dark, dingy, low-class affair where we can easily find drugs or cheap sex - or if our cliquey-friends happen to be the DJ or the organizer at the event. This may not be the appropriate place to say this, I'm sorry - but honestly, after a year in the biz in this town, that's how I feel. People are asked to join newsletter mailing lists and they give false email addresses and false mobile numbers. Or they write back asking to be removed. That is the level of interest in my town.

Terry Pratchett says "Light a fire for a man and he will be warm for a night. Light a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life". While this may seem whimsical and reminiscent of the similar proverb about fishing, I think it speaks volumes of the kind of fire we are playing with in this country.

Some day, apathy is going to turn around and bite the asses of those resting on them. Some day, some entrepreneurs will try to take our rights out of that flimsy piece of paper they all think makes us secure and safe, and when they flip their little wrists at it in annoyance and demand "somebody should do something" - there may be nobody left to hear them. Nobody left but them. Perhaps, if you look at it in this light, you may understand why it is that I am a little disappointed. Perhaps if you see it in this light, you will see why it is a salivating nightmare just waiting for the lights to go out.

You want something done, honey? Here's some advice - don't wait for others - get off your ass and do it yourself.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bipolar Opposites

With all the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela, who became arguably the most important, if not the best President of South Africa - it occurred to me to look at the similarities and differences between this icon and our current Prez.
  • Supporters of Nelson Mandela plunged South Africa into a 20 year border war in order to bring an end to the monstrosity called Apartheid - which at its core was a noble fight for liberty.
  • Supporters of Jacob Zuma threatened to kill for him - as per ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema - in order to prevent him from going on trial to face corruption charges.
  • Nelson Mandela inspired his supporters and even changed the minds of his former enemies and united the country as never before.
  • Jacob Zuma inspires his supporters in the ANC and has done little more than be controversial and divisive and to embarrass South Africans before the world.
  • Nelson Mandela said: "Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement", "There is no such thing as part freedom" and "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another" - and his rule was marked by it.
  • Jacob Zuma said: "When I was growing up an ungqingili [a gay] would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out", "same-sex marriages are a disgrace to the nation and to God" and encouraged faith-based bodies to engage the government on such existing same sex marriage legislation - and his rule so far is marked by homophobic slurs and tacit support for bigotry and homophobia.
  • Nelson Mandela's trademark was colorful ethnic shirts and his smile.
  • Jacob Zuma's trademark is his song "um'shini'wam" (Bring me my machine-gun).
  • Nelson Mandela went to jail for 27 years, was released in 1990, went on to win an election and made a positive difference as President of South Africa, and is today regarded as a much respected world icon of freedom, equality, forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Jacob Zuma has been cleared of a rape charge, become infamous for his "HIV shower" gaffe, avoided going to trial for corruption charges, won an election - and as president, done little more than make excuses for his personal indiscretions as "a man".
  • Under Nelson Mandela, South Africans had a president they could be proud of.
  • Under Jacob Zuma, South Africans dread the next day's headlines to see what else our President has said, done or given approval to.
'Nuff said.

President Zuma will soon celebrate his first year in office and I wonder if at that time he will be able to report any actions on his part as President that have been done for the good of the country and not to excuse or justify his own immorality, prejudice, bigotry, polygamy, bigamy or infidelity.

I say this because his term so far seems primarily to have been all about HIM and not about actually making a positive difference to the country. He has been in the media a lot, denying things he said in Rhema about gay rights just before the Elections, denying that redeployment of cadres is a reward for supporting him (or that it undermines the independence of the judiciary or the underpinnings of the Constitution), affirming that lord of the gaffe - Julius Malema, as "a future leader" and undermining human rights, equality and the Constitution by assisting and giving approval to his "God Squad" - that "moral police" group run by his friend Ray McCauley, and which was recently reported in the Mail & Guardian as receiving logistical support from the ANC.

Has Zuma spoken out on any really important matters? Has he spoken out against he appalling human rights violations in Africa? Has he condemned the Ugandan government for their proposed new genocide bill to murder gay Ugandans? Funny though, he has not - but he has appointed Jon Qwelane - a homophobic hack-journalist still awaiting his turn at the Equality Court for hate speech charges - as SA Ambassador to that country.

Instead, I mostly hear him making excuses for clarifying what he meant to say as opposed to what he really said, for marrying multiple wives (and for cheating on them) - and now he has just been praised for owning up for making another woman pregnant out of wedlock and who has had his child. Is he going to marry her too? Is she going to be wife number six? Is this man in the President's Office just add to his harem and make excuses for his appalling behavior?

First sort your own sordid affairs out, Mr President, before you dare point fingers at other people and accuse them of being "immoral".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Man In White Speak With Forked Tongue

What message are we receiving when religious leaders consciously undermine and criticize human rights protections and equality laws?

This question presented itself to me when I read of the Pope's planned visit to the UK - upon which he has immediately criticized existing UK laws which protect the lives, equality, humanity and dignity of certain groups of people as violating "natural law" and is viewed as an attack on the legal rights granted to women and gay people. It is a de facto defence of faith-based discrimination. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that Benedict "objects to the fact that religious institutions in the UK can no longer lawfully discriminate at will on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation".

Are we to understand that the Pope feels that women, gay and transgender people should not have rights at all?

Does this example not attempt to completely redefine what it means to be Christian, godly, civilized or human? Does it not paint religion with a fresh coat of hypocrisy, tears and bloodshed?

Does this man feel that having such equalities is "unnatural"? Perhaps they are, but humans are far removed from the stone-age societal structures of the great apes - at least, I thought they were. Is homo sapiens not above this level of paternalism and primitive thinking? And yet, even the great apes do not engage in enforcing persecution. Even those we consider animals do not behave as badly as humans do to each other - and humans look down upon them?

Are we to believe that he thinks persecution and prejudice are in line with "the order of nature"? Is bigotry and oppression and injustice more "natural" than love - which is the one constant in a book they call the Word of God? As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, a rather sizable body - and as a supposed representative of Almighty God on Earth, be it self-appointed or no - does he think his narrow-minded, simplistic views match those of a God that created us all - including those same gay and transgender people? Does it not call into question the will of this God for creating people as He or She sees fit? Is he not in effect accusing the Potter of having a limp wrist?

Do his words not encourage those who hate easily and act rashly without thought or care? Do his sentiments not pour fuel onto the fires of bigotry and injustice? Does his influence not amount to spiritual violence?

One would think that such a man with such a burden of responsibility - and for responsible behavior - would act less recklessly. One would think he would try to measure up to the expectations set to him - by his fans and by the all-inclusive loving God whom he claims to represent.

This form of hypocrisy is not limited to the Pope - high ranking officials in various churches around the world are equally guilty - and few more so than those in Uganda, where they have been protesting in the streets of Kampala to have gay people executed for the "crime" of being born gay. In the USA for example, some religious figures have been showing support to the proposed law in Uganda which will further ruin the lives of millions of people whom they simply choose not to like.

I find it maddeningly ironic when these people claim that how people are born is a "sinful lifestyle choice" when their own behavior is far more indicative and symptomatic of such a state.

All this hatred, intolerance and marked hypocrisy tell me a few important things about some people who claim to follow God - and about the organized religion and the people that lead them. Chiefly of these things is the realization that it is far more honest or noble to be inhuman than human, to be agnostic or even atheist than to be one of "the faithful". That it is far better to be counted "out" than "in" - and far worse to be without sin than without conscience.

As Good As It Gets

Some like to claim that marriage equality for gay people will "increase the divorce rate" because "everybody knows" that gay people "cannot commit" and are promiscuous. Ironically, this claim often comes from people who have been divorced themselves, or are themselves in unhappy marriages. That is for them as good as it gets - and so they judge others by their own limited knowledge or jaded standards.

The fun part is where I get to point out the old gay couple living in my area who have been together for 40 years, and although they have not married, I have to wonder how many heterosexual marriages their relationship has outlasted?

And then there is the dubious claim that homosexuality is a "suicidal lifestyle" and that "most gay people die in their 40's". If these people were to open their eyes, they would see the numerous gay people around them, who are well over their 40's. I know several personally who are well into their 60's - and the reason these folks probably aren't seen much for who they are, is because they are used to being themselves in secret. Old habits die hard, they say.

All around the world now, advocacy and human rights organizations are facing the growing need for inclusive care for the aged and frail GLBTI people who have stubbornly resisted proving the religious right accusation that "there are no GLBTI senior citizens". Wrong, buddy. They exist, everywhere. Denying this won't make them simply vanish.

Let somebody ever again say in my presence that gay people "do not love like straights do", that they are "trapped in a lifestyle choice" or "risky behavior", that gay people are only interested in sex - and that sex is all that being gay is about - and I will point out to them the numerous examples which debunk their vicious lies - that I know and have seen with my own eyes.

One example stands out head and shoulders above the rest to me - the lovely young couple I have recently become a friend to, the two guys I spent Saturday night socializing with. One is a talented musician in his early 30's and his partner is a twenty-something music teacher - both are wonderful people in their own right.

They have been together more than a year now, and were recently engaged. When they are together, their love is plain to see. Even after a year, they are lit up like strobe lights, and are tender and loving to each other, and are such a sweet sight to behold. I have seen love in my friends many times, straight or gay - and let me tell you right now, that this is something unique and special that you don't see often. They really do have love, they really are happy.

This is the ideal to which all people aspire, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender. It just goes to show that love knows no race, no gender, no religion, no sexual orientation. Love is love, and for most of us, this is as good as it gets.

Be happy out there, live to the fullest, love to the max - whoever you are.