Thursday, April 29, 2010

20 Things I Take For Granted As A Heterosexual Couple Getting Married

Lists have been on my mind lately, so I thought I would run with it. Today's list is about things I can expect or take for granted as a heterosexual couple getting married:

1) I can expect to get the marriage contract (in or out of community of property) I decide upon.

2) I can walk into any jewelery shop and expect to not get shocked, disapproving or funny looks when I and my partner ask to see their selection of wedding rings.

3) I can walk into any jewelery shop and expect to not be ripped off and charged inflated prices when they find out the rings are for a heterosexual couple.

4) I can approach almost any church/religious institution to host my wedding and expect to be accepted.

5) I can approach almost any minister about performing my wedding ceremony without experiencing rejection or discomfort because of who I am marrying, or their gender.

6) I can expect to have joyful reactions on the announcement of our wedding date, with invitations to the ceremony and reception eagerly accepted.

7) I can expect people to not question my faith, decency or morals because of the gender of the person I want to marry.

8) I can expect to not be asked silly questions such as "which of you is the bride?"

9) I can expect to be treated with respect and shown consideration when I call any church office to find out whether they will perform my wedding ceremony or to arrange to see the minister without being turned away just because of my sexuality or the gender of my partner.

10) I can arrange for catering/ a wedding photographer/ reception venue without fear of rejection or refusal when they find out about my sexuality/ the gender of my partner.

11) I can expect to have complete silence from the congregation when the minister asks if there are any objections to the wedding.

12) I can expect to book a honeymoon suite in a BnB/guest house/hotel of my choosing anywhere in the country without facing discrimination from the management/owner because of my sexuality or the gender of my partner.

13) I can expect to see most of our friends and family at the wedding and reception.

14) I can expect to enter my wedding pictures in bridal competitions with reasonable expectations that they will be published/accepted in local newspapers or magazines.

15) I can expect to tell people I am married and who I am married to without experiencing adverse reactions.

16) I can expect to be treated just like any other married couple by businesses, hospitals, insurance or medical facilities or church or other bodies, without any discrimination or prejudice.

17) I can expect to have children, or adopt children and not have my worthiness as a parent or guardian called into dispute simply because of my sexuality or the gender of my partner.

18) When people see my wedding ring, they will automatically make accurate assumptions about my sexuality.

19) When people see us walking hand in hand or kissing during window-shopping, people do not point fingers, laugh, or walk into things while staring.

20) I don't see any of these things as straight privilege.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

40 Myths, Busted

I thought today I might make a short list of things that expose the shaky foundations of most stereotypical anti-gay myths being peddled by anti-equality groups. In doing so, I found a list, upon which I based my list. You can view the original here.

1) Being gay is not natural. Good, moral people and God-fearing Christians always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2) Being gay is un-African. Real Africans obviously reject unnatural un-African things like clothing, shoes, cars, cel-phones, soccer and of course, Christianity.

3) Marriage equality for gay people will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall - or hanging around politicians will make people like Juliaaas smart.

4) Marriage equality for gay people will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even want to marry their pets or underage children because everyone knows dogs and children have legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

5) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, men can still marry as many women as they like, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

6) Gay marriage is a new invention, no matter what the ancient histories of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Japan, China, Africa, Medieval Europe - and Wikipedia say about it.

7) Straight marriage will be less meaningful because marriage equality for gay people is allowed; the sanctity of Britney Spears's 55-hour just-for-fun straight marriage would be destroyed.

8) Gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry because then we can't go on criticizing them for living together "in sin".

9) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

10) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children. Duh.

11) Marriage equality for gay people is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country, no matter what people believe. That's why we have only have one religion in South Africa.

12) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

13) Gay people shouldn't be allowed to adopt, teach or look after children because gay people are pedophiles and pedophiles belong in institutions - like the Catholic Church.

14) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, air-travel or cellphones.

15) Gay marriage shouldn't be allowed because the sanctity of straight marriage would be threatened by gay divorce.

16) Because gay marriage is now legal, it means straight people will have to get married to same-sex partners too. It's all part of that terrifying homosexual agenda to turn the whole world gay and latch onto our children.

17) Gay people shouldn't be allowed in churches because God - and the liars, hypocrites, gamblers, alcoholics, philanderers and adulterers - who outnumber them ten to one, would be offended.

18) Gay people are not born that way, they choose to be gay - just like straight people choose to be straight.

19) Like everything sinful, being gay is way too much fun. They must really enjoy getting beaten up and victimized - because we all know how much fun it is to be picked on, isolated and miserable - when they could simply choose to live the straight lifestyle, conform and fit in - which shows just how messed up they really are.

20) Homosexuality is a suicidal lifestyle choice - and we will keep on making their lives as miserable as possible, so that they go on proving us right.

21) Gay people commit suicide because their lifestyle choice makes them miserable and unhappy, not because of the social pressure to conform, rejection, persecution, criticism and victimization forced upon them by straight people who are simply using these methods to try to correct them.

22) HIV/AIDS is a gay disease, and that is why so many straight people pass it on and die from it each year.

23) Gay kids "come out" just to get back at their parents for revenge or spite. That's right folks, as always, it's all about you.

24) If kids are gay, it reflects on the parents. Parents of people like Adam Lambert, Martina Navratilova, Jody Foster, Caroline Cossey, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Alexander the Great should be ashamed.

25) To prevent your children from turning gay, it is important to raise boys as boys, with discipline - and girls as girls, to know their place - and that is why today there are no gay people - or women, in the armed services of the world.

26) What consenting adults do behind closed doors and in the privacy of their own relationships, IS everybody's business because it affects us - and let's face it, a good deal more interesting than anything we see in public.

27) Gay men are not REAL men, and gay women are not REAL women - which is precisely why human rights and equality do not apply to them.

28) Gay and trans people are simply "confused" because they haven't found the "right one" yet. Once they do, they will stop this silly nonsense, settle down and have children like everybody else.

29) The only purpose of life, love, sex and marriage is to make lots of babies. The only purpose of a good career, is to have the money to pay for it all.

30) A transsexual woman is not a woman, we all know it takes a uterus and ovaries to make a woman, which is why we treat women who have had hysterectomies like men.

31) A transsexual may look like a woman, sound like a woman, feel like a woman and have female documentation, but will always be a man because he was born with male equipment, even though none of it is there anymore. For this exact same reason, any man who has lost his testes because of illness or accident is no longer entitled to be treated like a man.

32) Transsexuals should not be allowed to marry, because they are neither real men nor real women, no matter what their identity documents say.

33) Transsexuals threaten the family and society because they reject the Patriarchy, blur the gender lines and confuse people with a low IQ. And besides, the Pope says so.

34) Transsexuals are perverts in women's clothing who prey on little boys - because we all know that gay people are pedophiles and straight men are expected to defend weak, vulnerable women against them.

35) Allowing transsexual women to use the ladies room will expose REAL women to sexual harassment, because transsexuals are all into women, are that desperate, and have nowhere better to find dates.

36) God hates gay and trans people, that's why He made them gay and trans - and all those gay animals on Discovery Channel too.

37) The Christian bible is the "inerrant" word of God - that is why it has been changed, edited, mistranslated - and had whole books ripped out of it in the last 2000 years because they were "heretical" and not truly written by God.

38) Changing your gender is a sin and it says so in the bible because we all know they did gender reassignment surgery 2000 years ago.

39) The book Leviticus describes homosexuality as an "abomination", and we should stone and burn these people along with all those who eat pork, shellfish or get tattoos. The detail that Christ scrapped these laws, should not be seen as relevant to modern day Christians.

And lastly,

40) "The army will make a man out of your gay son" - which is quite amusing, considering how I came to be the woman I am today. Haha.

While this list is largely tongue-in-cheek, it is in fact quite serious in challenging exactly what many people actually believe about gay, bi and trans people.

Most anti-gay and anti-trans sentiments seem to make some sort of sense, until you start looking deeper and seeing between the lines which people who support this sort of rubbish like to draw. Pretty soon you see this garbage for what it is - garbage. The scent of what you thought was truth turns out to be a stinking morass of rot and decay, the appalling stench of bigotry, lies and deceit.

I hope, whether you are GLBT or I, or not, that you will see the funny side of this - and that it will make you think, and see the lies people present to you dressed up as cold, hard facts, for what they are.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Duck Blind

It was Constantine, the false Christian and Emperor of Rome, who founded the Catholic Church. He supposedly saw a message in the heavens, a blazing cross in the sky, which was said to be a promise from god to give him victory in his battle for political power in the Roman Senate. "In this sign conquer" it said, and so he went off to quickly convert his thousands of soldiers with a flick of his wrist and a quick sprinkle of water - and conquered his own country by violence in what was essentially a coup. It's funny how sometimes we miss the blatantly obvious, but it finally occurred to me today that "conquest" is not a Christ-ian value.

Christ worked for peace, not war. He preached love and forgiveness, not picking up a sword and marching off to sow death and destruction. Yes, as "Commissionists" like to point out, he is quoted as saying "I bring not peace, but a sword" - but never once is Christ reported to have killed, incited hatred, persecuted, indulged in hate-speech, oppressed, promoted war - or brought death and destruction - or done any of the things these people claim "God" or "Christ" told them to do or say. And yes, earlier Hebrew scriptures tell of the God that led Israel into war and battle after battle - even destroying whole cities and nations and even infants with fire and steel. Hey, isn't God supposed to have flooded the earth and wiped out every living thing. Things that make you go "Hmm"... But the arrival of Christ marked a complete change - and I see this as another reason why Christ is called the "New Covenant".

The Romans were not bumbling oafs, they were smart. Not many civilizations left waterways, roads and buildings built before the time of Christ that survive and are in use even to this day. Their language is the language of history, modern law, biology, science and medicine, and the root and foundation of many European languages today. Their system of laws and government can be seen in modern governments and court rooms, and their culture is the foundation of Western society.

Rome built an empire that spanned the known world, and they ruled it for 1200 years - and they did so with amazing efficiency - a notable feat in a time without satellites, internet and modern technologies we today view as essential for administration purposes. They were cunning politicians, and military strategists, who knew a threat when they saw one - and the new religion coming from Judea was exactly that. It was not keeping to the rules, it was not keeping to itself, in fact it was spreading - and it threatened the stability of Roman society, which threatened the existence of Rome itself. And attempts, even brutal attempts to stamp it out, only made it grow faster. What were they to do? So they hijacked it and made it their own - and the beauty of it is, that despite the availability of this information today, people still just don't care about how false their religion really is. They refuse to believe it, they don't want to know. No - they just keep on blindly following the lead of this man Constantine and his successors, who know all about this and sit watching the world like predators - like hunters watching their prey from the anonymity of their duck-blind in the wild.

Since that day, when Constantine painted crosses on the shields of his legions of battle-hardened soldiers, and mockingly baptised them all as "Christians", and marched them into battle for his own personal glory and power, the cross has been used by many nations as a symbol of war, which has too often been claimed by both sides in any conflict. That's right, God only chooses one side in a war, didn't you know? It doesn't matter how many good people are on each side, or how many bad - God only chooses one, and that is the one that toes the line as far as his Church is concerned - and God sits in Rome, of course. And drives an Alfa Omega.

The fish, the symbol of "true", de facto, original Christianity - the gnostic Christianity left behind by Christ when he supposedly ascended to Heaven, was also usurped by the cross when the Catholic Church tried so hard to destroy the original church in the early years. The Christianity whose gospels and scriptures the Catholic Church tried to destroy for all time, and which wound up on the cutting room floor with the birth of the Latin Vulgate and were hidden away in caves and other ingenious hiding places. It would seem that since it's very beginning, Christianity has been at war with not only the world - but also with itself. In fact, is war not all the Christian faith has been about for the past two millennia? Oh, whether is it is spiritual war, or physical, war is still war. It may not kill your body right away, but it will start with your soul.

How very like humans to pervert a message of love and peace to make it into an ideology of war to serve their own ends.

Not many people are aware of the fact that Christ - Jesus of Nazareth, a Nazarene - was from a part of Israel where gnosticism was widespread - and that this formed a pretty strong basis for original Christian teachings and doctrine - which was undeniably gnostic in nature. It isn't a far stretch to realize that people who rely on the ignorance, compliance and obedience of the masses, don't view people who think for themselves and challenge the status quo in a friendly light.

The Roman Emperor Constantine was, as the founder of the Catholic (meaning Universal) Church, the first Pope - not Peter, as tradition holds. Peter was long dead at the time of the founding of the Catholic Church. Constantine, who documentary evidence suggests, remained a secret sun-worshipper throughout his life, and fathered the bastardized pagan-pseudo Christian monstrosity that today clings to the remnants of social influence and political power it once held in Medieval times - and which claims it pompous, former Hitler Youth, human-rights-abusing head is "God on Earth".

The Roman Catholic Church still adheres to its position that gay people are perverts, sinners and deviants, who somehow pose a "threat to God", the so-called "natural order", whatever that is - and of course, the rain forest. (That one really boggled my mind.) And let's not forget the RCC's official position that transsexuals are "dangerous", "disturbed" and "should be locked away for their own protection". Yes, indeedy.

But let's not be too hard on the Catholic Church - after all, Catholicism gave us many things, including the Dark Ages, heterosexual-only marriage, witch hunts, the Inquisition, the Crusades - and a legacy of Christian-Muslim friction which has brought the world to the brink of another global war on several occasions recently. Its arcane doctrines and warped Latin Vulgate version of religious scriptures gave rise to the Protestant Reformation, and gave all of us a legacy of perpetuated scriptural misunderstandings, a liturgy of persecution politics and empty rituals, as well as a plethora of fake holy days still celebrated as "Christian" to this very day, among them Christmas, Easter, Lent and others.

In more recent years, Catholicism has bestowed upon the world the gift of pedophile priests - or at least, finally - the knowledge of this "gift", and also over this past month, tried to blame their part in the conspiracy of covering up the crimes of their clergy against children under their care - on homosexuality and sex education. That's right folks, God says that opening your kids minds up to facts and knowledge will cause them to tempt priests and nuns into pedophilia - which is naturally to blame on those darn homosexuals and their pesky agenda. Uhuh, yeah - and if stupidity was meant to fly, God would have made assholes with wings. I seriously doubt they will convince even the most stupid of their supporters in this deception - almost as much as I doubt they will survive this century intact as an institution.

In fact, I live in hope.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tick Tock

As some of you may have heard by now, Media24 - the former employer of South Africa's new Ambassador (excuse, me - "High Commissioner") to Uganda - is challenging the constitutionality of section 10 of Act 4 of 2000.

Why am I still talking about this? Yes, still - because some of you who have been paying attention will already know this - but the sad thing is, many of you now reading this will not even know what it is all about. And it is for your benefit that this is the topic of discussion for today as well. I am hoping this will get through to you - and that the message with get out there, that we as a community are facing a serious threat to our civil rights.

Why? Because Act no 4 of 2000 is a vital piece of legislation. It fills the gap in sec 16.2 c of the SA Constitution. Yes, that nice gap that would allow people to incite hatred or express hate speech against others on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender (which is not mentioned in that specific section) - were it not for this Act, of course, which provides protection for everyone.

Because, along with their former employee - a "journalist" who has been anything but objective, has expressed hate speech and incited harm and promoted hatred against women, gay people, and white people - they face charges in the Equality Court. Obviously, the easiest way to fight such charges - which they know it is highly likely they will be found guilty on - is to fight dirty by trying to change the laws describing the charges to begin with. If the law is changed so it doesn't describe their crime, how can there be charges? Simple.

See section 10 here:

"Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (4 of 2000)

Chapter 2 Prevention, Prohibition and Elimination of Unfair Discrimination, Hate Speech and Harassment
10. Prohibition of hate speech

1) Subject to the proviso in section 12, no person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to-

a) be hurtful;

b) be harmful or to incite harm;

c) promote or propagate hatred.

2) Without prejudice to any remedies of a civil nature under this Act, the court may, in accordance with section 21(2)(n) and where appropriate, refer any case dealing with the publication, advocacy, propagation or communication of hate speech as contemplated in subsection (1), to the Director of Public Prosecutions having jurisdiction for the institution of criminal proceedings in terms of the common law or relevant legislation."

Do you remember how the religious-right performed back in 2000, when the ACDP and fundamentalist church groups started campaigning against this law? Just do a search online to see the kind of opposition this Act faced - simply on the grounds of the hate crime and hate speech protection it offered us. People were saying it "threatened their faith", "persecuted the church" to force them to stop venting hatred against people on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender, blah, blah, fish-paste. Funny, despite their very rational reasoning - it was passed, signed by Mbeki - and funnily enough, their fundamentalist churches are all still standing and still just as narrow-minded and reactionary as before. How about that? It makes me wonder what all the fuss was about.

What does Media24 want to change in the Act? Does Media24 want the freedom to rip whole communities to pieces in their publications? Surely their issue with Act No 4 of 2000 is not to seek the freedom to promote racism? I doubt it, because "of course" it is morally reprehensible to air racist hatred in public media, so racism shouldn't be the issue. So why then?

Who else would they want the freedom to target? As far as South Africa is concerned, while racism is taboo - the jury is still out on homophobia and transphobia - probably on extended lunches with lots of gravy. Perhaps they disagree with the idea set out in the Act that inciting hatred against people should be defined as hate speech? Or that encouraging violence against them here, by praising violent demagogues such as Mugabe for the way they oppressed the pink community in Zim - or asking people to rip gay rights out of the SA Constitution is perfectly acceptable? Or promoting defamatory and inaccurate stereotypes that allowing same gender marriage will open the way to legalized pedophilia and bestiality? Or that religion is of any standing to cast aspersions on the moral character of people based on how they are born? Who knows? They aren't exactly saying, and as they own most of the print-news media, none of their publications have yet either. I find it particularly disturbing that nobody else seems to be.

Aside from the communique from the Human Rights Commission, I have not seen any mention of it anywhere. I don't like the implications, but the words "media blackout" leap to mind.

You can't convince me that this issue of taking on the Act suddenly arose because Media24 wants to freely publish racist comments in the media. No, I am pretty sure it is because of homophobia - because this whole matter arose when their columnist, Jon Qwelane, expressed hate speech and incited hatred and harm against the pink community in his article "Call me names, but gay is NOT okay". The same week that Qwelane's article appeared, another Media24 paper published a reader's poem which described gay people as "children of the Devil". It seems pretty clear to me why they would want to this - because they target the pink community, because they have done so in the past, and because they want to continue to do so. That's what I think - and you're going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

It seems to me they feel that if a disgruntled journalist with a mouth almost as big as his ego, wants to compare gay people getting married to bestiality and pedophilia, and to advocate hatred or harm coming to them - then it "should" be up to them to publish it if they feel like it, regardless of the negative fallout - which of course, will just give them something else to write nasty stories about.

It seems reasonable to deduce that they may see facilitating public attacks on the dignity and civil rights of people based on in-born characteristics, such as their sexual orientation or gender identity - while happily adhering to the same rules preventing the very same sentiments being vented on the basis of race, as "freedom of the press". Does this attack on protection against hate speech and incitement to harm, not show a desire for the freedom to do exactly this, unhindered, unimpaired and with both hands free?

It seems to me they view their need to vent hurtful and hateful rhetoric and to incite harm - and the "right" to generate money from it in order to continue to do so - as more important than the Constitutional rights of the ordinary people of this country to dignity, equality - and protection against them.

Let's recap:

In Dec 2008, South Africa refused to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality, and cryptically cited "having principles" as their reason. Subsequent inquiries by lobby groups were ignored and we still are unsure of what that was supposed to mean - although we are starting to get a pretty good idea.

Since the Sunday Sun published his infamous article in July 2008, Jon Qwelane has been evading the Equality Court for two years. He has been smuggled out of the country and appointed by the President as Ambassador to Uganda. It took the HRC almost 2 years to get to a point where a seemingly open-and-shut case was ready to go to court, only to be stymied by government interference with Qwelane's appointment as SA Ambassador to Uganda. Oddly enough, racist issues, such as the Reitz Four case, which occurred some time after this one, were speedily resolved with high-profile press coverage and a decisive outcome. This creates the impression, rightly or wrongly, that homophobia is perfectly acceptable and not as offensive as racism. In fact, it is perfectly clear in South Africa today that if you commit an offense involving racism, your goose is cooked, but in the case of homophobia, you will get away with it, and maybe even get rewarded for it.

Furthermore, the Reitz Four are struggling to find employment - and are social outcasts, while Jon Qwelane has been seemingly rewarded by the State for his hatred.

Since the 2009 General Elections, the President's collusion with conservative and fundamentalist religious groups (such as the NILC and Rhema) with clear intentions to attack gay rights in the Constitution, has been of grave concern. The close involvement of ANC MP's in these groups, as exposed by the Mail & Guardian, and with groups such as Errol Naidoo's FPI - indicates and emphasizes the slow creep of fundamentalism into our government.

In October 2009, a protest campaign which focused on calling the new Presidential Hotline on the Ugandan matter went completely ignored. Various email campaigns to government offices also went unacknowledged. The SA government's continued refusal to engage with gay rights lobby groups on matters concerning human and civil rights creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, worry and speculation.

The Arts & Culture Minister's shocking behavior at an art exhibition this year, in which she stormed out, describing it as "pornographic" and "detrimental to nation building" shows both an alarming ignorance of her portfolio, as well as a notable fundamentalist bent and disgraceful un-professionalism.

President Zuma's state visit to Uganda last month presented a golden opportunity to speak out on the Ugandan Genocide Bill which threatens state-sponsored killing of the GLBTI community in Uganda - instead Zuma ignored this matter entirely and spoke about strengthening political and economic ties with Uganda and increasing the already massive investment by South African businesses in the country. President Zuma and the government's continued silence on the abuses of human rights in Uganda, despite international pressure to speak out, is a major point of concern.

The Human Rights Commission announced that its case against Qwelane and Media24 would be put on hold pending the outcome of the Media24 interlocutory application to challenge Act no 4 of 2000 in the Constitutional Court. If their case is successful, it could result in the removal of one of the most important hate crime/hate speech protections of the pink community and possibly even open the way for a direct challenge to the SA Constitution. I have to point out that the separate hate crime/hate speech law which was supposed to have been tabled a year or so ago, has completely disappeared, without so much as a trace. And we thought that it was only crime dockets that disappeared so efficiently in South Africa?

In April 2010, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission declared a complaint about the use of the word "gay" to mean "bad" or "stupid" invalid, in effect creating a precedent which could allow the further abuse of human rights and erode the dignity of gay South Africans.

Currently, South Africa seems to be considering introducing media censorship laws, ostensibly to combat child pornography, but which will open the field to blanket censorship of anything the government deems undesirable - and it doesn't seem far-fetched to think that this is part of the broader influence of religious fundamentalist groups with which the government has been increasingly engaging.

It seems very clear to me that the bodies intended to protect the dignity, civil and human rights of South Africans are failing - or at the very least, that they are failing us - the pink community.

Coupled with these events, it seems clear that the state is taking a very conservative and hostile stance against the human and civil rights of GLBTI people. I think we have much cause for concern.

Putting all this aside, the biggest issue for me is apathy. You see, back in 2008 when I first started waving my arms and squawking like a crazy hen about Uganda, I noted the following: If the pink community in Uganda had been paying attention to current affairs and politics, they would have been prepared. If the pink community in Uganda had got off their asses and got involved in politics and local and national government, they would have had voices in government when these repulsive laws were tabled in Parliament. They didn't - and so they were passed - thus, it became a crime to be born GLBTI in Uganda, punishable by jail-terms and what-not - and the new, harsher law which will condemn gay, bi and trans people to death, is still pending passage. And - repeat after me: "If there were pink representatives in Uganda's political bodies, these laws wouldn't stand a chance!" But now there aren't any pink voices in Uganda's government - and now it is unlikely they will find their way inside at all. As they say in Afrikaans, dear - "Spyt kom altyd te laat" (Regret always comes too late). I recall warning back then, that if we did not get involved, we would face the same dangers in the not too distant future. The result? At best, I was laughed at and labelled an "alarmist" - at worst, completely ignored.

See where I'm going with this? Today we are are well on the way to being in almost the same position, but we aren't quite there yet. I have long been saying that "silence =death", my friends - and apathy is a killer.

The pink community needs to get involved in politics. It HAS TO - or our futures will be decided by people who do not know us, or want to know us, or care about our well-being - and by those who hate and despise us, with a fairly predictable result.

The clock is ticking.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"It's Okay To Say "Gay = Stupid" - BCCSA

This is yet another case in point of human rights and equality laws not being adhered to and misinterpreted according to personal bias - and made to fail those whom they were intended to protect:

"The BCCSA refused to uphold the complaint, saying that "the word gay was not used to refer to homosexuality, but according to widespread current usage of the word amongst young people, to a carefree attitude and unjustifiable statements."

It added that it was of the opinion that "although the word 'gay' was used (and even if it carried a negative connotation), there was nothing that could be described as the advocacy of hatred or incitement to cause harm to homosexuals in the programme."

The BCCSA further stated that "the broadcast was not intended to injure, that it was not malicious or mala fide" and that "the right to freedom of expression includes the right to offend within reasonable limits.""

A term which is used to describe homosexuality - "gay", which has been used as such since the 1960's - almost forty years - and which is described and defined clearly in the Oxford dictionary - is suddenly "not used to refer to homosexuality".

Below is a pretty clear definition of the word "gay"

• adjective (gayer, gayest) 1 (especially of a man) homosexual. 2 relating to homosexuals. 3 dated light-hearted and carefree. 4 dated brightly coloured; showy.

• noun a homosexual person, especially a man.

— DERIVATIVES gayness noun.

— USAGE Gay is now a standard term for ‘homosexual’, and is the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves. As a result, it is now very difficult to use gay in its earlier meanings ‘carefree’ or ‘bright and showy’ without arousing a sense of double entendre. Gay in its modern sense typically refers to men, lesbian being the standard term for homosexual women.

— ORIGIN Old French gai."

Um... excuse me, but I have to ask - which dictionary are they using over at the BCCSA? Can they read? Or do they just want to see what they want to see? Are they not just allowing their prejudices and biases to interfere with their reasoning? Let's break down their statement to see what they infer, shall we?

"The BCCSA refused to uphold the complaint, saying that "the word gay was not used to refer to homosexuality, but according to widespread current usage of the word amongst young people, to a carefree attitude and unjustifiable statements." - Except that anybody with a modicum of intelligence can tell the difference between a "care-free attitude" and linking a word describing a community of people to mean negative and derogatory things. And let's not forget the harm done in terms of hate speech and offense caused by inferring that a person is "stupid" by attempting to change the meaning of a term used to describe an entire community of people to mean "stupid" - or worse. No, of course not, why would that offend?

There are many people out there struggling to accept their own identities - and trying to find acceptance in an already prejudiced and hostile society without the added pressure of having more negative connotations added to the term which describes them and the community they form a part of. This verdict of the BCCSA is another very irresponsible and insensitive slap in the face to our community.

"It [the BCCSA] added that it was of the opinion that "although the word 'gay' was used (and even if it carried a negative connotation), there was nothing that could be described as the advocacy of hatred or incitement to cause harm to homosexuals in the programme." - No, of course not - referring to people or things as "gay", meaning "stupid" should be no more or less offensive than say, calling people "black" or "African" to mean "stupid". Same difference - only, one they would care about - the other, obviously not.

"The BCCSA further stated that "the broadcast was not intended to injure, that it was not malicious or mala fide" and that "the right to freedom of expression includes the right to offend within reasonable limits."" - "Reasonable" meaning "it's only homophobia, not racism, and we really don't give a toss if you find it offensive or not".

Read between these lines, BCCSA.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Portent Pending

I am not qualified to say what God wants - or what God says - and I don't believe anybody else is either. In fact, all I know is what I feel and what I want and what I need - that is what it is to be human and mortal - and fallible. Some people would do well to realize this and put down their sharpened books, get off their pedestals and stop waving their fingers down at us, as though they are somehow special and have a hot line to God.

There is a disturbing trend developing in parts of the modern world, to connect good morals (called "morality") and Christianity, as if people who are not fundamentalist Christians are somehow automatically exempted from being people of good moral character. Feminists, even when Christian, are described as "backsliding" or "misled" simply because they believe, somewhat controversially - that women are equal to their male counterparts - and thus disagree with the Patriarchy, which has appointed itself, somewhat arrogantly and presumptuously, as a middle-man between humanity and the divine.

I still cannot quite understand what makes some people think that their faith or even their fanatical belief in a religion or deity makes some people "better" or more "worthy" than others, qualifies them to sit in judgment of others, and somehow elevates their own personal view of the world - or "morality" above that of the rest of us mere mortals. The fact that this unenlightened sectarian point of view seems to be steadily creeping into South Africa's young democratic government however, while undeniable - is frightening.

We have government ministers who are also religious ministers - and not just ordinary pastors - but fundamentalist clergy - people who have a distinctly conservative agenda - people like the Chief Whip of Parliament and several ANC MP's who are also leading members of Ray Macaulay and Jacob Zuma's "God Squad" - people who run a group which has openly announced its intentions to attack the SA Constitution to remove the civil rights of the pink community. Clearly the infiltration of religious fundamentalism into government and organs of state is a conflict of interests, and can be compared to a slow, creeping cancer.

To my understanding, a government of the people, by the people and for the people should represent and care for ALL the people - not just the elite, or the upper echelons of society, but also the poor, the down-trodden and protect the civil and human rights of each and every person. As much as those pushing South Africa's progress in terms of human rights over the past two decades like to brag, they still cannot hide the fact that South Africa is falling far short of the promises made by its leadership, and its advanced Constitution.

There are many signs in South African internal affairs of late which indicate that the part of the state - and ancillary bodies - which should be enforcing the provisions of the SA Constitution which gives us equality and protection against hate crime, hate speech, persecution, oppression and which guarantee us equality - is not doing it's job. We, as a portion of South African society, are being let down and failed by the state.

Let's look at a few examples:

Aubrey Levin and his sidekicks in the state-sponsored GLBTI torture program, slipped through the legal cracks during the 1990's, when the TRC somehow managed to let them off the hook and let them slip through their net - and nothing has been done about it in South Africa right up to this very day. As a matter of interest, some of Levin's colleagues still practice psychology and medicine in South Africa. The records show that no serious effort was made to round these people up and bring them to justice. Rather, it was allowed to slip through the cracks and now lies in the hands of Canadian Justice to right some of the wrongs done to our community by the Apartheid regime, because as we all know by now, racism is a far more serious crime than insignificant little homophobia.

Is our blood not as red as straight people, our tragedies not as tragic or as meaningful, our joys as rewarding, our lives as valuable?

That homophobic Media24 journalist, Jon Qwelane, who should have already appeared in the Equality Court to face charges brought against him for inciting harm and hate speech against women priests and gay people for wanting to marry - has instead been rewarded by our state President, who spirited him out of SA and into a job as SA Ambassador to Uganda - where their government is involved in gross human rights violations against the pink community. Of course, he is the right man for the job, being a racist, anti-feminist and homophobe in a country that views these qualities as "patriotic". And let's not forget that Uganda threatened to boycott SA interests in their country if Zuma acceded to our wishes, and recalled Qwelane. Well, guess what?

Our government is not engaging with us in dialog - and when I say "us", I mean the pink community. We send them emails, we call the presidential hot line, we send press releases, requests and objections and complaints - and they ignore us completely. If that isn't a clear sign, then I don't know what is.

Religious groups are freely setting up billboards attacking diversity and specifically the pink community - the so-called "Real Men" campaign in Johannesburg is just one example (using a slogan of "Men be men, women be women, pansies be flowers" - as is the similar program of the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA). And yet nobody says or does anything about it. How did this get by the Advertising Standards Authority? We have lodged complaints, several weeks ago and eagerly await an outcome.

The recent case of the Rev Ecclesia de Lange - who was fired from the Methodist Church of South Africa - simply for marrying her partner, even in another church - demonstrates the latent level of hostility and intolerance manifest in South African churches - even those which supposedly welcome diversity. This is yet another upcoming court case which we as a community should be watching - and most keenly indeed.

Many advocacy groups are concerned about the rising frequency of attacks on gay and trans people in the black community - with so-called "corrective rapes" claiming several lives this year already, it is clear that the pink community is facing increasing hostility. The fact that the SA government and SAPS seem to be saying and doing nothing to address this issue in terms of education campaigns or improving relations with the pink community and CBO's, speaks volumes and is most distressing.

The fact that Media24 has asked for a stay in proceedings in the Jon Qwelane case pending the outcome of their challenge of Act no 4 of 2000 (The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (4 of 2000) - and that this has gone virtually unreported in the media is very, very worrying indeed. This Act is the only real hate crimes law we have protecting our community, it is the front line of what seems rapidly to be a war which has been declared on us by conservatives - it blocks a loophole in the SA Constitution, which failed to mention "sexual orientation" in it - and if it is removed or altered, it will allow media companies and their homophobic journalists to target the pink community freely without fear of facing legal redress for their actions. Media24 has done this in reaction to the charges brought against Media24 and Qwelane - the journalist who wrote that hateful article in 2008 "Call me names but gay is not okay" by the Human Rights Commission. This means simply, that if the law is changed, no charges can be brought against Qwelane or Media24. This will in effect, exonerate Media24 and Jon Qwelane of their crimes - and also clear the way for unprincipled, prejudiced and misogynistic journalism to go completely unchallenged in the future.

I say this, because it also means that if the law is changed to allow hate speech against people on the basis of sexual orientation, we will no longer have any grounds to lodge complaints - and they will be able to publish and incite hate speech freely. It will also undermine what little authority the HRC still has in terms of human rights protection, if any. As it is, it seems the Human Rights Commission only has EFFECTIVE authority over matters regarding racism, which are handled very expediently with full and vocal government interest and support - and when it comes to matters of homophobia, its hands are tied by bureaucratic bungles, government interference and interlocutory applications by powerful media conglomerates.

While it is bad enough trying to get convictions and action taken against homophobia and transphobia with laws already in place that are simply not being supported or enforced - imagine what we will face if even these laws are cancelled or overturned?

Do we write to Media24 to tell them what arrogant cocky s.o.b's they are? Do we still buy their products and give them our money? Did you watch DSTV this morning? That's right, that "YOU" magazine or "Beeld" newspaper you just bought didn't cost much, but it will help fund their war on our community. Where is our pride? Where is our solidarity? Where is our outrage at the way these people treat us like second class citizens and objects of ridicule and derision? Where is our anger at their challenge to the one piece of legislation that protects our dignity?

If it were up to me, I would do one or all of the following: 1) Write to Media24 and let them know how you feel about their attack on our rights. 2) Boycott Media24 products, goods and services 3) Write to the government to let them know how you feel about their failure to act on our objections to appointing Qwelane as Ambassador to Uganda 4) Pay attention to current events and stay informed - and inform others 5) Get involved in advocacy organizations, even if you just join them or get onto their mailing lists 6) Write to advocacy organizations and ask them to speak out in these matters 7) Write to Opposition political parties and ask them to speak out in defense of Act no 4 of 2000 and the SA Constitution. 8) Talk about this to friends, family, colleagues - people in the community need to know what is happening around them and how it affects them.

That's what I would do. But hey, that's just me, and I'm only an activist. I really feel that all human rights advocacy groups - and not just gay community groups - should be taking these matters up far more vocally - these incidents are on the increase and the community is still generally apathetic...but that's okay folks - partying is far more exciting than paying attention to politics, right? This is potentially a very dangerous time for us in SA - and we all know how cool it is to say "I'm not interested in politics", don't we? Yes, very cool indeed.