Monday, May 31, 2010

Community Building

Recently I wrote about cohesion in our pink community, and over the weekend I was again faced with the exact opposite. Some trans-women seem to feel that I have been remiss in campaigning for transgender rights and focusing only on gay rights. They feel, as I do - that there are some rather prominent advocacy groups, some of them advertising that they stand for all GLBTI rights, some not - and that these groups are abandoning trans people.

A prime examples of this is the ENDA (Employee Non Discrimination Act) in the USA, which has failed to pass in the past - and from which transgender rights were conveniently removed by some of our gay allies in order to see that the act had a "better chance" of passing. Hmm. I have to point out that (duh) this is not the act of an ally. The dust around this issue still has not settled, and I wait with bated breath to see how it goes down.

Another infamous example of exclusion and working against community unity is the UK group "Stonewall" which deigns to take the name of that holy grail of GLBTI rights and sullies it by excluding the transgender and intersex communities, and catering only for the benefit of gay rights. They do a very good job of gay rights advocacy, kudos to them for that - but shame on them for not caring a damn about the trans and intersex people - and refusing even to provide them a counseling service, information, or even to stand up for their rights while standing up for their own! Stonewall UK is a large group with a loud voice, and the T and I in GLBTI are left to fend for themselves. I am frequently disgusted whenever I am reminded of this by their one-dimensional advertising and informational campaigns.

And yet another example is the transphobic "journalist" and rad-fem lesbian activist Julie Bindell who hates transsexuals so much that she does radio and TV interviews smearing our name and advocating the same despicable "ex-gay" "reparative therapy" for us which she opposes for gay people. Talk about a hypocrite.

It is this sort of duality and internal strife and bickering which breaks down our community from the inside - and is just the sort of thing which I work against.

Most rad-fems (or radical feminists) like Bindell, oppose the butch-fem delineation in the gay community, hate effeminate gay males, loathe drag queens and kings, and utterly hate anything which appears remotely transgender, or dares to blur in any way the line between the genders. (Very much like the same folks who happen to hate them along with all of us for doing something remarkable similar - ironic, don't you think?) According to them, men should look and act "like men" and women should look and act "like women" - regardless of their sexuality. They also like to make derogatory and really nasty comments on people's blogs and articles about how trans-women will "never be 'real' women, no matter what they cut off".

Fortunately, the world does not turn on Julie Bindell's, or the rad-fem's axis, although some of us certainly would like to kick it.

Sorry, Julie, not all trans-women want to be "girly-girls" - and as she so clearly demonstrates - the average gay person might not understand that. Their experience of gender variance is generally limited to drag. And how can they know what transsexuals are if WE don't tell them? How can we blame them if we don't make every effort to educate those around us?

Some of my trans friends have been getting really hot under the collar about this topic lately, and they have been lashing out wildly at the rest of the community, instead of directing their justified (in my view) frustration at those in our community directly responsible for cutting us out of the fight for our community rights - and in fact, cutting us out of the community.

Getting all aggressive at the broader community and making careless generalizations certainly won't help them understand or make them "just know" what we are. Imagine if I had got aggro with all the people - gay and straight, who just wanted to know what my transition was all about? Yes, they would have learned a lot from me - that trans people are bitchy, nasty and even harder to understand, and possibly not worth the effort to.

I'm not saying that you need to walk up to every person you meet, saying "Hi - my name's Candy and I'm a transsexual...", but there are times when such things are appropriate to discuss, like when you can see someone staring, too nervous or shy to broach the subject, or when new introductions are made between friends etc. Sometimes it helps to make the first move. Imagine how you can break the ice when you see a new colleague at work wondering, and curious - and you just casually break that ice and let them know it's no big deal.

Immediately they know they can relax around you and not be concerned about awkward moments. Imagine the potential to educate. Most of the folks I worked with when I began to transition were only too relieved when I made it clear they could ask me anything and I would answer. And I did. Suddenly they realized I wasn't some kind of threat and they understood me better. In fact, suddenly my work environment became a lot nicer to work in, and I even made some new friends.

Life isn't all about us - why should they make the first move? Any relationship between people needs input from both sides. Give a little, get a little. Give and take. 50-50 etc, etc. If they don't know, tell them. Not everybody thinks they need to know. Some people actually think they know what we are - and they call us all "gay", thinking that being GLBTIQ is the same thing.

I agree with those saying that in some parts of the world, trans brothers and sisters are being abandoned and even sabotaged in their fight for equality, that in many cases it is the trans community that is doing all the work building bridges with the GLB community - but if you're on the side trying to build bridges, stopping the building and smashing the work done, in a fit of anger won't help, will it? If we want the bridges built, what can we do but keep on keeping on? Even if we end up doing all the work.

This kind of thing - fighting for equal rights, takes time - it is a generational war, fought across time. We're in this for the long haul, and should expect more gradual results instead of overnight victories.

Attacking what are our only allies (or would-be allies) is not the solution - because the only group of note that will side with you in that fight - is the same group that will hate us all along with them.

You can't expect people to care about the finer details around people they don't know or have never met or have no idea about what makes them tick. If you aren't involved in organizations that fight for or include (or are supposed to include) trans rights, how can you expect these groups to know what we are, who we are, and what we need - or to care?

So many trans-men and trans-women are also gay or bi or even pan-sexual as well, integrating and entrenching us even deeper into one single community.

Trans people hiding away and not being OUT even after transition, weaken our cause and make us all invisible and our voices weaker. In my book, those not living in mortal danger because of their trans status do not have any reasonable excuse for climbing back into the closet. We should all be out as well, instead of playing it safe and hiding away to pretend we were never trans to begin with. It's a pleasant fantasy, but the real world is not kind to fantasies.

Stop whinging about the odds stacked against you, and get involved in advocacy organizations, start helping to change the status quo from the inside. That is the only way to ensure inclusion - become a part of that machine and give it an overhaul.

Curiously enough, I am an openly post-op MtF trans-lesbian who not only mingles with the broad spectrum GLBTI community, but also head up two GLBTI bodies, one local and one national - and I don't seem to experience any discrimination or prejudice from cis-gay people. Although, I do live in South Africa, and that may have something to do with it. We are generally more open-minded here. Even so, we as a community still have a long way to go in building our community in terms of cohesion and equality.

GLBTI - and specifically T rights - are my passion. I can still see no better way to achieve Trans rights without seeking a global solution to GLBTIQ rights in general. Recognition and equality are not just handed out on street corners. They are fought for and they cost dearly. That is what makes them precious.

So many of our needs (in terms of acceptance, legal aspects, discrimination, employment) are the same as the GLB portion of our community - and can be addressed by supporting the whole. Few of our needs as trans-people are different to the rest of the community - and yes, we can address this by first educating the general public - and our allies. And yes, we have to treat each other as allies - if we start drawing lines and trying to "go it alone" or make enemies of the broader majority of our GLB friends - that will cut our support base and will get us nowhere super-fast. We need to open the eyes, hearts and minds of our allies, and show them the way to include us in the global fight for all our rights, without leaving anyone of us out in the cold.

We have to work towards a united cohesive pink community, because that is the only course of action that makes sense.

What can YOU do? Send out email alerts and blog notifications. Write your own blogs, get onto Facebook and build up a mailing list - and just keep sending the news and info out there. People see it, they take notice, even if you don't hear about it till later, even if you think it has no impact - it does. Even if you get more hate mail than compliments, do it - the more hate mail I get from right wingers and gay and trans haters, the more I know I am doing the right thing. The more I see our enemies discussing me in their articles and forums, the more I know I am having a positive impact for human rights in South Africa and around the world.

I have a job to do - a calling, which is human rights advocacy - which I do to the best of my abilities. If you like that, fine - if you don't, too bad. I am not competing - if you can do better, please do - it can only benefit the cause of human rights in the end.

If you're making loads of money out of human rights activism, then you're a lot smarter than I am. And while you're congratulating yourself, consider your dedication to the cause you have set your heart, mind and hands to.

If advocacy groups won't include you, then build your own groups - in Canada and Finland and anywhere else where the T and I are omitted from the GLB - build groups that include everyone and cater for the needs of everyone - and then shame by your example those that don't. But do not add to the shame and disgrace of individuals and groups that leave trans and intersex people out in the cold by reciprocating in kind and helping to break down the cohesion that we do have. Rather work to improve on it instead.

Build the Pink Community.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Making The Difference

I want to focus today on Africa, and African affairs. Of late, African countries all around us have been flaunting their peculiar brand of homophobia, laced with ignorance on matters of medicine, science, fact - and tasting remarkably of religious fundamentalism. Relating to this, an item came across my inbox today, which was forwarded to me by a friend. It was a message from an ACDP support group on Facebook, and it went as follows:

"Jo-Ann Downs May 27, 2010 at 2:28pm Subject: DRC visit

I am off to Lubumbashi in DRC tomorrow to teach about 1000 Church leaders about getting involved in improving the country. Need lots of prayer. There are so many terrible things happening to women and children I hope to really make a difference."

This of course, is Where the ACDP completely crosses the line between religion and politics, and works to blur the line separating church and state as well - which it does, simply by existing.

We all know the ACDP, or African Christian Democratic Party. At least, those of us with the inclination to take an interest in affairs which affect us, do.

The ACDP are to South Africa as the Republican Party is to the USA. They are partisan Christian religious fundamentalists, and as is typical of people of this persuasion, their political outlook cannot be separated from their religious outlook. For them, the two are as one and the same - and to that end, government should be inherently Christian and fundamentalist too. By that reasoning, people who commit ritual religious offences (a.k.a. "sin") should also face criminal charges under the law of the land, and in particular as described in the Old Testament - which is rather odd if you consider that the Christian faith is actually based on the New Testament.

The ACDP is on record for its homophobia ever since its founding in 1993 - when it was founded as a reactionary homophobic response to the then theoretical inclusion of gay rights in the new South African Constitution. The ACDP is today still resoundingly religious fundamentalist in terms of its nature, support and policy, and has bitterly opposed every single human rights victory we have won since 1993. Their media spokesperson at the time, Christine Mc Cafferty, co-wrote "the Pink Agenda" with Peter Hammond - which was released by his homophobic group "Christian Action Network" back in 2000. This book was filled with propaganda designed to spread bare-faced lies and gross exaggerations about gay people, and intended to incite opposition and hatred against their obtaining equal rights. The pair utilized as sources, "experts" on homosexuality such as Paul Cameron - a discredited former psychologist who drew on Nazi extermination masterminds for inspiration and even advocated the genocide of gay people as a "solution" for the AIDS pandemic in the 1980's. Nice folks. Nice book too. I have a copy, which so far I have managed to avoid tearing apart while using it as a reference. White-knuckled reading I can only describe as "gripping".

If you read through all the press releases and articles by the ACDP over the past 17 years, the resemblance between them and that little wingnut "church" in the USA headed by Fred Phelps becomes rather frightening. However, I have written ad nauseum about them in the past, and the last thing I want to do is to waste more space giving them undue free publicity here. Besides, if I ever get married, the last thing I need is them coming to South Africa to picket. And believe me, if they are crazy enough to go to the UK and Canada to picket a play about Matthew Shepperd and a funeral of a hate crime victim, I wouldn't put it past them.

To ask a legitimate question however - what will the deputy leader of the ACDP be talking about to a bunch of church leaders in the DRC? A while back she was also reportedly in Uganda, drinking tea and "praying" with the president's wife. Uganda has recently been made infamous as the country that wants to make "turning in the queer" a national sport - and to legalize the state-sponsored genocide of GLBTI people.

Religious fundamentalists, particularly from the USA and Canada have been shown to be key in influencing African nations with their paranoid brand of homophobia. One particular high-profile example is rampant "abstinence only" so-called "education" campaigns - a religious-right sponsored disaster which has been costing the continent dearly, and will for years to come.

So now I ask myself - what business could representatives of this South African minority political party have "visiting" political leaders and churches - particularly in countries which are proving themselves (coincidentally, I might add) more and more homophobic, religious extremist and anti-human rights, day by day - and to "improve" them? I have to wonder what she is going to "teach" them to do? What exactly do the ACDP intend to "improve" in the DRC, and how? And why exactly does it seem that despite the noble efforts of nice fundamentalist folks, things across Southern Africa are not exactly improving - but seem to be getting worse? Perhaps I am just looking at it from the wrong perspective - the wrong "world view", to borrow their favorite term?

According to Jo-ann Downs, she is going to a foreign country to intercede in foreign affairs by teaching church leaders how to "get involved in improving the country" and defend "women and children". How noble of the ACDP, standing up for the poor, weak, defenseless, voiceless people of Africa.

Yet, I also have to ask if representatives of the ACDP have been to Uganda to respond to the overwhelming hatred there? Have they made any appeals to Uganda's government to turn down the religious-fundamentalist hatred, and to rescind completely the Genocide Bill? Have they pushed for an end to homophobic colonial-era "morality laws" which criminalize people's own immutable natural sexual orientation and gender identity? Has Jo-ann been back to visit Museveni's wife to plead with her to intercede on behalf of those whose lives have been, and are threatened with destruction daily? Have they even once criticized President Zuma's appointment of homophobic journalist Jon Qwelane as South Africa's ambassador to Uganda - and the continued silence of the SA government on the human rights abuses in ANY country in Africa? No? Why not?

The ACDP seems very vocal in the press, sending out more press releases than any other party - but of course, I could be mistaken in thinking this, and appearances certainly can be deceiving. After all, these people claim to represent all "true" Christians in what they call "a Christian country", and yet they are still not winning any elections.

They have a lot to say about minor, trivial bullshit things which catch their fancy - like gambling, prostitution and pornography - and that annoying law that allows women to have a say over their own bodies and people the freedom to love each other without living in fear of them. Yes, I can see how that is much more critical an issue than the rampant crime, water and electrical crises we currently face in South Africa. A very topical party indeed, with the interests of the common people at heart.

Full points to them, I can really see them winning in the next election. And that's just it, isn't it? Perhaps they don't have to.

Funny how today I saw articles in a few papers reporting that emails in general circulation which claim that children are being abducted into child-prostitution in preparation for the World Cup, have been flatly debunked by the police. It seems that of all these "reports" - at least eight - the police could only verify one - marking the rest as "irresponsible" rumors being spread by a public eager to believe the worst. And why not? We are so often proven right - so when more bad news comes along, we automatically believe it. South Africans have become so desensitized that we only become stung into action when something personally affects us. It does however tend to make me wonder who would gain anything from starting a country-wide panic about prostitution? Hmm.

Again, moving on - the SA government is already leaning hard in the direction of conservative ideology - with ministers storming out of art exhibitions because of a few semi-nude photographs (or was that just because they happened to be pictures of gay people?) and tabling Bills to outlaw prostitution (as if it was ever actually legal in this country in the past 300 years) and to institute censorship under the cover of "protecting women and children" and "the Family" from the supposed scourges of pornography in the public media. I wonder - when have we EVER seen actual porn on TV and in the papers in this country? I haven't.

I smell a rat there, and frankly - with all due respect - if you don't, then you bloody well deserve to have your media censored by autocrats with a penchant for playing "Simon Sez".

Apparently the Minister of Home Affairs and FPI (Family Policy Institute) leader Errol Naidoo have been burning the midnight oil together over this one for months. That is, if you believe the newsletters Errol has been circulating lately. Ironically, this started out with concern about child-pornography - and has now somehow expanded to cover all pornography. I wonder if anyone else even noticed? Funny how things change when fundamentalists get involved, isn't it?

Also funny enough, I haven't seen any protests or letters in the press about this matter - except from the fruit loops of course, who like to mind other people's business for them. I have to wonder again, are you folks being cowed into not standing up to defend YOUR democratic right to freedom of expression and speech and access to information because you are afraid people will think you actually like pornography if you speak out against this move? Hmm. Makes me think about that.

It's a smart move on the right wing's part here, I think. Nobody wants to speak out to defend their freedom of speech because they are afraid it will make them look like "perverts" - but meanwhile back at the ranch, how many of you out there have a little stash of porn in that hidden folder on your PC? Or a collection of blue movies in your bedroom closet for when you and the missus feel a little frisky? So what if they make it illegal - nobody will know about it, right? Uhuh. I hear you.

Who knows what they will censor under whatever new law they pass to ban "pornography" in public places and media? These are religious extremists, so we should have a fairly good idea by now.

A rope-a-dope is a boxing term to describe fooling your opponent into thinking you're going left, when you're actually going right. And when they fall for your ploy and head left to cut you off, you circle right and deliver the knock-out blow. In hindsight, this is often referred to as someone having zigged when they should have zagged - and that one little word "hindsight" should enlighten you - as in once it's too late.

And as for the ACDP and Errol Naidoo, uncle Errol has had a close association with the party for years, in fact he and old associate Peter Hammond tried to convince them to form an alliance with all the other little crackpot God-hates-fags parties before the last elections. Lucky for us they couldn't stop arguing over logos and limelight and who was more holier-than-thou.

Once again, I am asking if they have made any attempt to work against the hatred behind the homophobic activity in Uganda's neighbor, the DRC? Has the ACDP made any appeals to the government of Malawi to free Steven and Tiwonge or to repeal the uncivilized, inhuman laws that put them in jail? No? Why not?

Have they ever written to Zimbabwe about the hate speech and incitement to violence against a minority group of that barnacle of a dictator, Mugabe? Have they written to Morgan Tsvangerai to protest his incredible agreement with Mugabe that the human rights and equalities of GLBTI people will not be included in the country's new Constitution and discussion on the matter will not be entered into? Why not? (I have to take this opportunity to point out that keeping the human rights of GLBTI people out of the Zimbabwean Constitution is so far, the ONLY thing the MDC and Mugabe have EVER agreed on. Based upon this principle, perhaps some bright spark peace-maker should approach the Israeli's and Palestinians with a new peace proposal - hate us Pink folks instead. Think it'll fly? Seems to work for most conservatives and right-wing politicians. It sounds like a bonus to me, and it will only cost them each ten percent of their populations, what a bonus!)

Has the ACDP ever ONCE admitted that they accept the conventional viewpoint held by the international medical and psychiatric profession that sexuality is a natural inborn trait which cannot be changed by ridiculous "pray-away-the-gay" so-called "therapies", or admitted to the overwhelming evidence supporting the mainstream view and the sheer lack of evidence supporting theirs? Have they accepted that there are mistranslations and historical and cultural contexts in original biblical scriptures which have been ignored by them, so that religious scriptures could be misapplied as weapons of hatred against GLBTI people? No? Why?

Another little question popped into my head just now, and that is: What would Jesus do? One thing is obvious, if there is one thing Jesus would NOT do - is to behave like they do.

It is odd to me that people who claim to uphold "Christian values", speak and act nothing at all like the person upon which their faith was founded. After all, Christ never worked to exclude anyone from society, or from the love of God, or to devaluate anyone's dignity, equality or worthiness. Christ never told his supporters to take government away from the people and to place it in the hands of a religious extremist few. He never preached hatred or persecution or even punishment for perceived crimes. He never once tried to make a scapegoat of any particular community for the ills of the whole - which seems to be a common trait among little right-wing parties such as this. In stark contrast, he preached inclusion, peace, tolerance, forgiveness and love.

It is odd to me that people who claim to uphold "family values" work so hard to exclude GLBTI people from the families they are an intimate part of, and make them out to be a threat to those very families - and a threat to their own religion and society as well. It is odd to me that people who claim to be "Christian" have done nothing at all to justify the name or to do honor to the person or the ideology they name themselves after - but instead, by their conduct, disgrace themselves and all others calling themselves "Christians".

Strangely enough, homophobic fundamentalist "Christian" figures are every so often reported visiting these funny little backward countries, whose church leaders always seem to appear in newspapers, dripping venom and looking for someone convenient to blame for their own self-inflicted troubles, someone who they think nobody will bother to defend. Strangely enough also, quite a few of them seem to be offering advice to and "making a difference" in these same countries. In closing, I think the track record of the ACDP in terms of its conservative and radical views on human rights as applied to GLBTI people, speaks for itself.

So I'm done for now - I already know what I think. The important thing for you should be what you think. Adding it all up, I am left to wonder just WHO exactly IS the real "threat" here? After all, homophobia just doesn't matter to most people if your human rights aren't considered as human as the rest of society, does it?

Perhaps you can answer these questions for me - or for yourselves. Perhaps sometime, the right people will be asking these questions too. And I hope then, at last, that will make a difference.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's A Small World, After All

When Uganda tabled its Bill which would effectively have instituted the death penalty for homosexuality and a pink genocide, many countries applied great pressure to Uganda to drop the Bill. So far this Bill has been put on hold, yet in Uganda gay people still face an existing law which prescribes a 14-year prison term simply for being gay - just as in Malawi and several other countries.

Malawi has just this week rewarded a gay couple with the maximum prison term for loving each other - 14 years hard labor, a potential - and even likely death sentence in such a prison. The world has begun to apply pressure on Malawi because of this human rights abuse, but the question remains - how much pressure will they apply, and what will happen if Malawi doesn't budge?

Will the outcome of this issue encourage other African states to say "oh well, Malawi didn't give the West what they wanted, they didn't give in - and nothing happened to them. They're still getting aid"? Will this encourage Uganda to pass the Bill and thumb their noses at their donors as if their bark is worse than their bite - as one does to a dog without teeth?

Gay people in Africa are living in fear. And why should gay people in Africa not be afraid? Today it is illegal to be gay in aproximately 38 countries in Africa, with many countries applying lengthy jail terms as well as a measure of draconian homphobia in laws and society. Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, as is the case in Malawi and most other African countries. The only country on the continent of Africa which has laws protecting the human and civil rights of sexual minorities, is South Africa - a country whose government, has to date not once spoken out against human rights abuses and violations in any other African state - and which continues to do business with and even to support their governments.

In some countries, rampant homophobia stemming from religious fundamentalist attitudes and archaic anti-homosexuality laws dating back to the British colonial era of the nineteenth century has been on the increase. While most scholars today dispute claims made by African homophobes, that homosexuality is "un-African" and "a result of Western influence" - the same cannot be said of homophobia. Much of this can be linked directly to foreign influence, particularly if one looks at Uganda, where most of the anti-gay sentiment stems from the influence of the US religious right - which has been very active there in the past 20 years. Of these religious fundamentalist groups, many are also active in other African states, with similar results.

Yes, gay and trans people are living in fear in Africa, and Malawi is no exception. And why should gay people not be afraid? If the Malawian government could imprison two men simply for being in a gay relationship - without concrete proof that any crime had been committed, why shouldn't gay people going to clinics for HIV testing, sex-education or counseling, or fear being arrested and imprisoned also? After all, they could claim anything they liked - that they contracted HIV through gay sex for example, making that a crime.

Promoting intolerance creates fear - and fearfulness will do no less than sabotage the efforts of governments and organizations to provide HIV prevention services and treatments by driving them further underground. Fear discourages people from using clinics and healthcare services, including HIV testing - and further erodes their fundamental human rights.

It is a vicious circle. Homophobes blame gay people for AIDS, so they oppress them - driving them underground, in turn limiting their access to education and services which would help stem the spread of the disease. Even more people then contract HIV and the homophobes again blame gay people for being gay, having sex (like homophobes don't have sex or don't spread HIV), and not adhering to sex education guidelines - so they crack down even harder. Yup. Vicious.

I wonder what those overzealous, ignorant homophobes in America - who have been active in Africa for the past half century - and who have been influencing the Ugandan government to table the Genocide Bill - have to say about their handiwork? They are probably happy as pigs in... mud. In fact, some of them are again taking up where they have left off. Scott Lively Initiates Renewed Push TO Pass Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill. Read how this "ex-gay" bigot and hypocrite is now rationalizing how to wage the global US-religious right led war on us more successfully in the long run. It is time the USA put a limit on the activities of its citizens abroad - particularly those who damage the cause of human rights - and act like terrorists.

I wonder what the UK has to say about their archaic colonial laws from more than a century ago still sowing misery in Africa? Not their problem, right? Talk about the "gift" that keeps on giving. They could try to help by apologizing publicly for this dark legacy and admonishing former colonies - and especially Commonwealth states - to update their laws to embrace human rights ethics. As givers of foreign aid, they could start playing hard-ball instead of making pathetic and cowardly statements like "Malawi gay conviction is shocking – but we cannot stop aid'". Uhuh. "Cannot"? Why ever not?

Some people feel that donor countries should stop sending their hard-earned tax money to help African countries because they seem to end up sponsoring homophobia and other human rights abuses instead. I think their fears are well founded and justified.

Recent examples of this include Uganda and Malawi. I think countries which receive foreign aid should be held accountable by donor countries for how they use this aid, and that they should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If they don't adhere to a workable human rights ethic, cut them off.

If an NGO receives sponsorship from a donor group, they not only need to account for how the money was spent, but when they apply for the funding to begin with, they need to specify what they need the money for and how the money WILL be spent. I fail to see why it should be different in this case.

Humanitarian aid is a prime concern, yes - but sending money to governments who show no regard for human rights or the well-being of their own people contradicts the humanitarian concern out of which the money is donated in the first place. It's just plain stupid.

While this may seem like blackmail, I would like to point out that it is after all the donor country's money - and if countries receiving foreign aid use it for purposes other than intended - it is not only fraud on a grand scale - but it also gives tacit approval for whatever the money is used for and further implicates the donor countries in whatever human rights abuses are committed by these governments using their foreign aid to fund these abuses - especially if the donor country is made aware of these cases - and simply goes on sending these fuckers more money anyway.

For example, the USA should say, "Okay, so you used our aid to fund pointless abstinence-only "education" programs instead of proper sex-education, your utterances, policies and social prejudice are sabotaging the work of groups trying to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, your human rights ethics are questionable, and you have laws which persecute sexual minorities - fix it, or no more aid for you."

Simple.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hook, Line And Stinker

In a new press release in which the Family Research Council (of Focus on the Family and James Dobson infamy) dragged an eight year old "study" out of mothballs and served it up with today's sauce, they once again misrepresent scientific data to undermine human rights and promote their own fascist agenda.

"WASHINGTON, D.C. - Family Research Council released a new analytic report today showing that women who did not grow up with their biological mother and father are much more likely to engage in homosexual conduct as adults than are women who grew up in an intact family."

"Oh, goody," Some people will be thinking. "A new study to show how nasty, immoral, un-patriotic, and hostile to "the family" gay people are. And how much of a threat they pose to "our" children!"

As somebody pointed out to me, all to rightly: "Before long, phony religious right experts will be citing this study as fact. It's best to refute the lies before they have a chance to spread." And among the things recklessly promoted in this libelous and poorly researched "study" is the claim that "Women who never attend religious worship are more than three times as likely to have homosexual relationships than are women who attend worship weekly." This is exactly the sort of thing that bigot preachers will seize upon and preach from their pulpits as "gospel truth" and "fact".

If you had to take this crap literally you would have to conclude that since the majority of people do not actually attend religious worship to have narrow-minded fantasy shoved down their throats, then the majority of the world's population would turn out as gay as a picnic basket. In fact, if there was any truth to this load of tripe, we would have been up to our arm-pits in lesbians years ago.

That, and the erroneous misconception that there are no gay people who are Christians, or that Christianity and homosexuality are mutually exclusive - a crudely disguised lie which these nice folks would love more people to fall for, like their fundamentalist dogma - hook, line and sinker.

I ask myself why do they and those who manufacture and disseminate blatant and malicious lies of this nature keep getting away with it?

And WTF is an "intact family"? La Cosa Nostra unbound?

And I would love to point out that our friends at the Family Research Council (declared a known hate group and monitored very closely by the US Southern Poverty Law Center) are the inspiration and mentors behind our very own "Family Policy Institute" based in Cape Town and run by a certain vociferous gay-hating bible-puncher called Errol Naidoo. They use the same "studies", the same sources, and say the same things, and hate the same people. Even their logos look similar. And yes, friend Naidoo has waged an all-out war on all things pink, frilly, and otherwise non-cisgender or non-heterosexist since before the adoption of our present Constitution. And the USA also has a "Christian Action Network" which makes war on sexual minorities, like the one in SA does - now how about that?

It seems to me that this culture war, which is being fought against people simply for how they are being born, is at its very core fueled by religious fanaticism and unspeakable ignorance - is based entirely on a set of manufactured lies - and people's immutable natures are being put on trial and judged by them. For example, let's take their favorite key-phrases, "the family" and "family values". What is this "the family", and where do these "family values" come from that are prized so highly by these people who would clearly murder some people in cold blood without a second thought, just for not adhering to them? Ask them, and they will claim, quite adamantly, that "God said so".

As Human beings, we are animals with roots in the animal kingdom. We have culture and society, yes - but this too had to evolve from somewhere. Most animals, whether insects, fish, reptiles or mammals are known to mate on a seasonal basis - pairing off with different mates each time, raising their offspring, and then moving on. The group of animals that choose mates for life are decidedly few by comparison, such as birds - and precious few mammals.

About those gay penguin couples at East London and Berlin zoos - remarkably, I have heard no comment from the homophobes who refuse to accept that sexuality is a natural in-born trait. I wonder why that is? Hmm.

Some species of insect, such as some fly species for example, have also demonstrated a propensity for homosexuality and gender variance. Yes, many insects also are monogamous and only mate once and for life (which should make people like James Dobson happy) - but then, strangely enough, in most cases, the unfortunate males die right after mating - or are even killed and eaten by their mates. Quite an interesting example provided by nature, don't you think? *wink*

Black-widow spiders and various other creepy-crawlies kill and eat their male suitors, so if you consider the terms "suicidal lifestyle", and "lifetime commitment" - I think certain folks take the charade about "morality" a bit far when criticising gay people.

Then there are certain species of fish and amphibian which actually change physical gender - an enlightening fact, which seems to go right over the heads of certain folks who say "If God wanted you to be a woman, he would have made you that way." Naughty fish, bad, bad! Uhuh. Yeah. Moving on.

How about those lions? The big cats serve a prime example of the patriarchy, where a small group of males has the services of a harem of females. And yes, even there, there have been cases of documented homosexuality among males and females. (And they thought "Pride" was a new thing?) Let's not forget the herd system, in which multiple animals basically make up one "family" or blood-line, which continue to interbreed into perpetuity. And how about the species where the father will kill it's own off-spring if the mother does not leave and go into hiding with them? Hmm. Perhaps like some Human fathers, Dad is afraid the kids would have been gay? Yup, a real inspiration in terms of morality, the natural family.

Apes and chimpanzees have societies with well-defined roles - which all too often, are "aped" ('scuse the pun) by their younger, less hairy, clothing-wearing Human relatives. Scientists recently demonstrated that chimpanzees bribe other chimpanzees for sexual favors with gifts and offers of food - proving the earliest most basic form of prostitution known to us. (Surprisingly, I haven't seen any articles from evangelists about the issue of potentially millions more souls to save, swinging from trees in the few remaining jungles around the world.) Even chimpanzees are not immune to being naturally gay or even bisexual. Chimpanzees were also recently shown using improvised tools, such as twigs and branches - and even rocks to perform certain tasks. Some apes, such as gorillas are known to use objects as weapons.

Let's recap, the ability to make and use tools, ordered society, ability to reason and to communicate and an innate ability to use these skills to make bribes and to make war. Are we really so sure that these apes are really such under-developed "animals"? They sound very Human to me. All they need to start doing now is inventing religions and polluting the planet.

And yes, suddenly human-kind came along and is expected by some to not have developed along similar lines? Suddenly a "family unit" consisting of a married-for-life, monogamous, heterosexual only, male and female couple, with children - is claimed to be the only legitimate form of family in existence. Despite the fact that NOWHERE in nature does this "perfect family" concept of theirs exist at all.

Isn't funny that in some far-distant time, some people came along and suggested that exclusive heterosexual monogamy for life, (aka marriage) is the "only right and proper" thing to do? It seems to me that the concept of the modern family is indeed more of a modern concept than anything else. Think about it, polygamy was a biblical standard - a man's wealth and power was judged by how many wives he had. Marriage was not a declaration of love, it was an expression of male dominion, control and ownership of property - which brings me to the point that modern marriage is a relic and descendant of this patriarchal system of status, power and control - which has been panel-beaten, refurbished over the past few decades - and is now being reapplied to the 21st century by people with a very narrow-minded view of the world.

Marriage, hmm - and "the family". It seems to me this is a manufactured principle, which largely flies in the face of nature - especially when viewed in the context of free will, freedom of choice and expression - and the lack of any evidence to show that not adhering to this artificial feature of Human society would cause any more harm than has been over the past 3 or 4000 years by those who made the rules - and flaunt the manner in which they themselves break them on a piece-meal basis.

Apparently not even they are all heterosexual - or even monogamous - and yes, even the most pious "God-fearing" and gay-hating bible-thumpers are often unmasked as raging pedophiles and adulterers (and not to mention, hypocrites). How often do we see news about these religious fundamentalists who come tumbling out of the closet?Yet another one of these gay-hating, bible-bashing "ex-gay" bull-shitters tumbled out last week, to the accompaniment of howls of laughter. (Read here, how an "ex-gay" poster-boy recently was caught out on holiday with a gay prostitute.)

Don't you also find it ironic that these are the people that want to teach us about marriage? Oh, I'm learning all right.

I'm not saying that everything that exists in nature is good and that it is bad to have morals. What I am saying is that when people go to the trouble of inventing morals, and choosing "morals" to live by - or to start waving fingers in other people's faces about their morals, they should understand that "moral standards" should make sense, and not contradict nature - and human nature - in such a way as to be unreasonable, unrealistic - and just plain vindictive.

I understand the USA has a law protecting freedom of expression and freedom of speech - and with good reason - but it's about time the USA also had a law against spreading malicious, harmful lies and committing fraud which claims innocent lives. After all, they have laws protecting freedom of expression, and yet walking up to someone you hate and punching them on the nose is still considered assault.

The American people should bear in mind that in most things, its culture, opinions (and "research" such as this) get spread around the world by people who agree with them.

If you analyze any given bigot group in South Africa for example, nine times out of ten, you will find ties and links to US churches, groups and homophobic leadership figures. A favorite is their published material - such as this "study".

Bigot groups in many countries, including South Africa, look to the West and especially the USA for material, guidance and "scientific research" to back them up.

I think it is time the US started taking responsibility for being the most influential society on Earth, and limiting the harm groups such as the Family Research Council can do to people around the world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hate The Sin, Hate The Sinner

Where I come from, being called a bigot used to be an insult, and being called bigoted was an accusation people used to take very seriously. Considering that I grew up in South Africa during the last years of the Apartheid regime, and was schooled under its influence, this is a revealing scenario.

In those days, liberals used to refer to people as bigots because they were supporting and defending racist policies, and were very enthusiastic about it. Very often, the same people used to "categorically deny" being bigoted and would take such accusations very personally while often going to extremes - very often religious extremes - to try to justify their bigotry.

The landscape has changed since then, both politically and socially. As we are so often reminded, queer is the new black. There are no true "conservative" parties in this country today of the same ilk as there is a Conservative Party in the UK for example. No, here we have some small minority parties which are called conservative only because they are staunchly religious fundamentalist in nature and cannot in their minds or in their policies separate the concepts of politics and their particular religions.

Such conservative parties, which despite their claims of speaking on behalf of all "true" Christian South Africans, only form a very small, very vocal minority in the country. Perhaps this is fortunate, because their policies are radical and their reactions to democratic ideals such as freedom, equality and liberty - well, reactionary - and they scare away the moderates. They hijack the stage and the microphone away from the moderate majority and take pride in blurring the lines between church and state, fact and fiction - and actively pursue their goals of spreading malicious myths and slanderous "ex-gay" propaganda in South African culture in order to cultivate their support base.

Surprisingly, the leading figures of these parties do not so much as flinch when they are called bigots, nor do they even deny it anymore. They make light of the name, they joke about it being applied to them, and laughingly embrace it, because they feel it reflects that they are sticking to the "true principles" of their faith - which is, sad to say - notably fundamentalist in nature.

Looking at life on a smaller scale, the sentiments expressed by the leaders of such groups carry across to the lowest level - "grass-roots level" it has been termed. Thus, we see the hatred, bigotry and prejudice espoused by these leader-figures given substance by their supporters and willing stooges on the ground.

As part of the pink community, we have all tasted bigotry, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and prejudice first-hand. We've heard it in "polite" company, in the "jokes" told in impolite company, the pastor's acidic sermons, in refusals to allow us to attend school or work dances or events with our partners, and in fearing for our jobs because of who we love. Am I right?

The whole issue of anti-gay and anti-trans bigotry a.k.a. homophobia and transphobia, stems from the misconception that being gay or trans is an "identity" - that gay and trans people only do gay and trans things and exist completely outside what they see as a purely heterosexual and cisgender society.

In their minds, gay people are so far removed from "normal" straight people that they do only gay things. Gay people wake up gay every morning, get out of their little gay beds, go have a little gay breakfast, have a little gay shower, get dressed in their little gay clothes and go to work to their little gay jobs and attend little gay meetings with little gay agendas. It never seems to cross their minds that gay people are just people who live life exactly the way they do. It never occurs to them that being gay isn't what gay people are or how they live - but simply WHO they love.

Why should these people try to get to know gay or transgender people? After all, they're not people in the "same way" as they are people, are they? They don't eat the same food, laugh at the same jokes, drive the same cars, or watch the same movies as they do. These people like to claim that it is impossible for us to worship the same Gods they do, or to be "true" Christians or Muslims, etcetera - as they obviously are, just because of their inborn sexual orientation and gender. Lucky them. Some would even like to pretend that our lives are not as precious as theirs, and that we don't breathe the same air or bleed the same color as they do.

And when I see reports of the protests in Uganda over the past year, and other places around the world - where people who claim to be good people simply because of what God they claim to follow (regardless of how they blatantly flout even the basic tenets of their faith) baying for the blood of people they do not even know, who have done them no wrong, I have to wonder if there is something in the water.

People hate gay and trans people because they do not know us. They reject offers of friendship because they don't know us - and because they don't know us, they are afraid to get to know us. It is a vicious circle - about as vicious as the incident reported in the Sunday papers where the "God-fearing Christian woman" got her rocks off kicking a gay woman in the crotch repeatedly "in the name of the Lord". I can guess she wasn't really trying to "kick her straight" as euphemistically claimed - but that she was kicking her out of pure, brutal, unadulterated, honest-to-God hatred. I find myself admitting that it is a refreshing change to see an example of this under-emphasized honesty. Don't you agree? I think it makes a change from the staid and restrained suit-and-tie bullshit rhetoric these folks recite on TV interviews, like "Hate the sin, but love the sinner", because the truth is, and we all know this - it is utterly impossible to not hate someone when you hate what they are. And someone who is gay, or trans IS gay or trans. Full stop.

I think that alone speaks volumes about these people. How can one separate a person from themselves? How can HATE ever come out of the same vessel that contains love? If we think of God, and are reminded of Christ who commanded people to forgive each other "seventy times seven" - how can we believe that we are expected by God to hate others, for whatever reason? Yes, I think the bible mentions God hating "sin" - but that is God, not us. It also says that "vengeance is mine, saith the Lord" - also not ours, funny enough. People do not seek vengeance out of love, they seek it out of hatred and anger. Vengeance and hatred is for God to deal with, not us. We are supposed to forgive, at least - we are, if you subscribe to the bible. I find it so odd that so many "Christian" fundamentalists repeatedly miss this point and view the trappings of their religion as weapons of war.

Good people do not do things like this. Demanding that people be marooned on an island and starved as punishment for how they are born and for who they love? When did that ever come out of Christ's mouth? Kicking somebody into a coma because of who she loves? People who do this sort of thing and claim to do it "because" they are followers of a man who symbolizes through his life and death the principles of self-sacrifice, selfless love, acceptance and pacifism - are not only liars, but malicious, deceitful frauds and hypocrites as well. They bring shame and embarrassment down on the people who really do believe in that God and who really do live close to the peaceful all-inclusive teachings of Christ.

This brings me to the point that since GLBTI people are born the way they are, and cannot help being what they are (and nor should they) - it is obvious that those persecuting them have made the choice to persecute - and to live a lifestyle which enables it. It is therefore not gay people who have chosen a "lifestyle" - but rather these fundamentalists.

I want to close with something I heard yesterday, and I love it: "Being gay isn't a choice, but living a fabulous lifestyle is!"

Being criticized over a matter of "choice" when you had none makes no sense until you look at the people persecuting you. They are the ones who at some time made a choice in their lives to (as they put it) live "a Christian lifestyle" - thus, since they have made a choice to live as they do, and are oblivious to the facts behind gender identity and sexual orientation, they assume that people just wake up one day and decide to be gay or transsexual. And since they have no idea what their scriptures really say or mean, they get it into their heads that being gay or trans is somehow a grave sin, an "abomination" and worthy of death and any other unspeakable things they can sneak past the censors. That, of course, and convincing other people to see things their way, because they are too lazy to go and find out the truth of things themselves. It is far easier to just give in to the fear and hatred brought about by ignorance.

If it comes down to choice, and I look at the lifestyle these people who claim to be "good" are living, and the lifestyle they would force upon me if they had the chance, I'm afraid I can't see they have a damned thing to offer me. I don't know what these bigots are putting in their corn flakes, but as a person who is wide-awake and has both eyes open, I can see the clear difference between a person - and a lifestyle.