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.
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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.

3 comments:

  1. I can only speak for myself... and as a person who quit high school, because I had "those" tendencies at a time it was considered taboo to be "Queer"(that is what we were called in the 1950's) or even to know someone who was gay. When I arrived in San Francisco in 1960 at 23 years old, there were laws on the S.F. City's books, that if you dressed in drag... you had to wear a lapel tag saying"I am a BOY", or you could be arrested,e even on Halloween. However, it too some courageous drag queens to fight back
    and change the laws.Drag Queen,Jose Sarrea ran for public office and received over 6,000 votes more than a decade before Harvey Milk, and begat gay politics.In the 1970's, gays started
    to get involve in sports and organized the first gay sponsored sports league... today nearly 50 American cities have them. Sometimes,
    overnight sensations take 20 years to be discovered or original ideas to be in the right time and place.I was a one man army... but I helped to win many anti-gay battles. I knew Harvey Milk as a friend and sadly even after he was assassinated... it took a movie about him 30 years later, to introduce him and that era to millions and millions of people young and old, gay and straight, here in the USA and around the world. It usually takes a non planed event, to help change things... for us it was Anita Bryant. She gave the S.F. gay rights movement...movement! She galvanized all segments of the gay community. In fact, she made it possible for Harvey to become the leader he was, when he spoke OUT against her and her fellow bigots months before he was elected.I would like to recommend a great web-site that is dedicated to the evolution of the Castro and that era... unlike the "Milk" movie, it is not a recreation, but the real thing as photographed by pioneers like myself.
    www.thecastro.net/ and take a peek at,my pages there: www.thecastro/net/street/memoriespage/pritikin/pritikin.html and you'll find many one man armies of that era.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jerry, thanks for your comment - I'm truly honored :)

    It was less than 20 years ago that drag queens in this country (South Africa) could still be arrested if they were found wearing women's underwear while in drag.

    I suppose we're still waiting for that one incident to galvanize our community here. I only hope nobody needs to die first before they pay attention, because sad to say, that has been happening here all along.

    Thanks again!

    Christina

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was that "friend" that was picked up at the last minute and I have to tell you people....You really let us down.

    ReplyDelete