It seems that advocacy groups always leave somebody out somewhere. All these groups names just say "gay" and "lesbian" but few seem to include "intersex", "bisexual" or "transgender" in the name. I know the GLBTIQ acronym is a royal pain in the butt, and even that omits several other emerging groups such as asexuals. We need a global name to describe the community as a whole. And we need to make sure no group gets left out - or feels left out.
For some time I have been using the term "the Pink Community" to describe us - because to me, that is all-inclusive, no matter what sub-part you belong to, if you are not strictly heterosexual or are in any way gender-variant, you can be sure that you are included in there, somewhere.
The thing that bothers me is how divided the pink community is. Gay males and gay females prefer to have separate social events, and the ground between them is littered with the dirty mess left by in-fighting over differences in musical taste, dress-sense and other nitty-gritty nonsense. The UK group called Stonewall is a prime example of going about things the wrong way. They only concern themselves with the gay aspect - screw the trans and intersex, they can just get their own groups and fight their own battles for their rights. Never mind the probability that many trans people live as gay people in terms of their relationship as well. Never mind the detail that the bigots and ignorant public view us ALL as "gay" anyway, because they don't know any better. Never mind the fact that many trans and intersex rights overlap with gay rights. Never mind the fact that increased numbers mean a louder voice in the battle for equality.
It is a simple fact that if we stop socializing together, we soon stop co-operating and standing together as well. Pretty soon we stop thinking of ourselves as being part of the same community - and not long after that, we start acting like competitors - or worse yet, rivals.
Here in South Africa, we are further divided, even along color lines. You know how hard it is to get white and black lesbians to even sit and chat to each other around the same table? Believe me, I can tell you from experience - it's hard - and that we've managed to get it to happen once or twice is equal to an achievement like putting a satellite in orbit!
To make things more interesting, how many people know what it means to be transgender or transsexual - or intersex? It took the Caster Semenya saga for people to take any kind of interest in finding out what intersex is - and even then, they mostly got it wrong, with pointed references to "hermaphrodites". And to prove my point, how many of our OWN community knows what transgender is? How many, if asked, will tell you that sexual orientation and gender identity are separate concepts and issues? How many know that while sexual orientation is included in most legalese these days, gender identity is quite clearly omitted. That's right - while gay people have many legal protections here in South Africa, we trans people very often have to take shelter under various clauses and paragraphs which do not specifically pertain to us.
I am a transsexual woman and I am involved with two primarily gay-focused groups - even leading the one - but I am technically neither gay, nor lesbian. I am quite often amused by transgender people complaining about how they are being left out and trans issues being ignored by "mainstream" gay rights groups. I think given that, it is quite something. Both that gay people would trust me to that degree, and that I could make it that far. Of course, I am greatly honored by this trust, but this article is certainly not intended for me to sit here polish my laurel wreath.
The apathy out there is the worst thing. Sometimes I think all our people want is to party, party, party. Sometimes I think I should just leave it all until they change the Constitution and only then sit up and take notice, and I can say "I told you so".
Why don't we have straight supporters involved in our advocacy groups and leadership structures? Don't we trust them? Or do we subconsciously view all straight people as a threat to our rights, as we do the bigots, usurpers and pretenders? Why don't we accept offers of help and support from religious figures and groups that genuinely want to stand with us in our fight for acceptance, recognition and equality? I would think that a community as beleaguered as ours, would take help where we can get it. But no, affirming and welcoming churches remain empty, their offers unanswered even by the religious among us.
I think the fear is that the community wants to be represented by itself, and I suppose they don't trust their fate being left in the hands of people who aren't GLBTI themselves. I have faced the same thing from them too. They say I have had my surgery, I pass as a woman now, so why don't I just STFU and go back into my closet and keep quiet? Even my mother has suggested this. I suppose I could do it, but my conscience would never let me rest.
Some advocacy groups around the world (such as Stonewall again) don't want trans people involved. Some again, don't even want any straight people involved. Others will allow them to attend events and join as members - but they don't want them in leadership positions. No, it is a gay only affair - and "FI or FO" applies. Sometimes it seems our groups can be just as prejudiced and biased as what we're fighting against. And yet it seems to me that the truth is slowly dawning that we need each other, our straight allies and us - we need their voices and their numbers to speak out with us in our defence. Without them, we simply do not have enough volume to be heard alone.
The fight for human rights for the Pink Community in South Africa is increasingly being made to resemble the battleground in the USA. In my view, this is due to the increasing involvement of foreign groups in local issues and in supporting local homophobic groups – which are leading the fight against our legal protections in the SA Constitution.
Examples of such groups are the Family Policy Institute, Christian Action Network, and the Rhema cult (and its NILC group being assisted by the SA government), which are all using exactly the same strategies as right wing bigot groups in the USA – and which in most cases, are receiving DIRECT support from these groups.
WHO is attacking our human rights?
The Patriarchy (anti-feminist, anti losing male power and privilege), religious fundamentalists (whether Christian, Muslim or other) and conservatives (non-religious, but usually religious). To keep it simple, let’s call them BIGOTS - a turd by any other name would smell just as rancid. Below is a list of some of the major personalities:
Peter Hammond – Christian Action Network (CAN). At last count this group boasted of 128 member groups and affiliate organizations in SA and the Netherlands, including Africa Christian Action, Frontline Fellowship (FF), Doctors For Life, Nurses For Life, Gospel Defence League (GDL), Christians For Truth (CFT), Homosexuality.co.za, Kwasazibantu Mission, Christian Liberty Books, Reformation SA.org (the Reformation Society), In Touch Mission International, Today Magazine, Restoring Wholeness Ministries (Ex-Gay), Life Matters (Ex-Gay), Christian Vision Network, Defend Marriage, Family Alliance International, Justice Alliance of SA (JASA) which is currently involved in reintroducing censorship laws in SA, JOY! Magazine, Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA).
Hammond is a religious minister and leads this group in attacking specifically gay rights, abortion and feminism. He and no2 man Charl van Wyk are also leaders of the pro gun/survivalist movement in SA and have close ties to similar groups all over the world, but especially in the USA. In 2005-6 Hammond helped lead the fight against marriage equality, often with vicious and defamatory disinformation. Speaking of disinformation, who of you remember the book "The Pink Agenda" which was nothing more than blatant lies and hate speech against our community? That's right - he was one of the authors, along with the spokesman of the ACDP at the time.
Hammond is linked to and is or has been a member of at least one radical US fundamentalist group along with high profile figures such as the late JR Rushdoony. He earned the nickname of the “paintball pastor” for "allegedly" shooting a child in the face with a paintball gun for trick-or-treating on Halloween in Cape Town and has adopted a low profile since the case disappeared from the radar, with no mention of an outcome. CAN's voice these days seems to be that of "international co-ordinator" Taryn Hodgeson, who speaks for the group in SA as well as in the Netherlands.
Last year Hammond and Naidoo attempted to coerce all “Christian” political parties in SA to unite before the elections into what they called a "Republican Party for South Africa". Yes, that bombed - this time - but as they say, "watch this space".
Erroll Naidoo - and his Family Policy Institute (FPI) (CAN) are supported by Family Research Council (USA) – a registered hate group, directly tied to Focus On The Family. FPI is part of the Christian Action network, and is one of the editors of “Joy!” Magazine, also part of CAN. He has freely admitted to hating GLBTI people in press. He has been campaigning to ban Pride events all over SA since 1993. He has a “parliament watch” function to report on liberal activities in Parliament and to call fundamentalist action on items they disagree on. He sends out newsletters, gives presentations, raises funds. He networks with religious and political figures local and abroad, including MPs of various parties and brags of increasing fundamentalist influence in government. He is currently engaged, with the assistance of government ministers (at least according to him) in setting up anti-pornography and media censorship laws to bring the public media in line with "Christian" fundamentalist values. I wonder if he is also busy finding jobs or money to feed all the prostitutes and "abused women" he intends putting out of work to "protect" their dignity and human rights?
Homosexuality.org.za is a website operated by a certain Dr Peet Botha who was a frequent guest speaker at CAN (a.k.a. "Christians For Truth" - haha LOL) anti-gay meets, a self-proclaimed "expert" on homosexuality. This site belts out the supposed "biblical" message that gay people are cursed and hated by the Christian God (and Dr Peet Botha, naturally) and are damned to hell - yes, a very loving, inclusive and Christ-like message indeed.
It appears to be undergoing maintenance at the moment - but before, there were downloadable articles penned by the good doctor - articles which I still have to this day, which pin this "expert" as nothing more than a religious fundamentalist bigot and charlatan of the lowest order, whose veins must pulsate with the thick blood of hatred -topped only by the acerbic utterances of Peter Hammond and the silk-veiled, seductive poison of Errol Naidoo.
He is the former head of the Kwasazibuntu Mission in KZN (also a member group of CAN), which unsurprisingly also used to push a notably anti-diversity message of heterosexist intolerance. I am surprised that the Department of Education allows people such as this to have anything to do with the youth, people who would do little more than to foster hatred and intolerance in a country which has already seen too much of both.
Ray McCaulley – leader of the Rhema cult, is unpopular with other conservative religious groups in SA because he is seen as a hypocrite (even by them, which points me to the old saying about honor among thieves). He is winning their support because of his recent moves to attack pro gay rights and abortion laws and the Constitution. Rhema has recently “lost” several key employees in their PR and media departments to the employ of the ANC - and to the office of the Presidency. Rhema’s sub-group the NILC receives DIRECT government support and is now engaged in finding ways to extend conservative religious influence further into SA government under the guise of “moral regeneration” and with close involvement of various government figures. The NILC leadership includes several ANC MP’s, including the Chief Whip of Parliament, and several of these are also lay preachers or pastors.
Recently more new groups have been formed to attack gay rights, along with an upsurge in activity from existing ones. This overall movement appears to be getting some support from the SA government, whether direct or tacit. Homophobia is appearing in society, in public, in the media, in the press. Disinformation campaigns are mounting. The "ex-gay" industry is gaining favor with the right wing, which is increasingly waging a media and disinformation campaign against freedom, diversity, democracy and equality, and this campaign is becoming increasingly coordinated and is also gaining momentum.
Since this is primarily a religious war being waged on us, we should enlist the positive/affirming religious groups to speak out on the religious attack on our community and human rights. In terms of social or civic aspects, we need to enlist the positive political and civic groups to speak out on the religious attack on our community and human rights. With regard to the disinformation campaign against us, we need to counter disinformation with credible and true information. As for education, we should enlist as far as possible the progressive educational centers willing to aid education in truth and fact rather than conjecture, lies and propaganda.
Enlist the heterosexual and cisgender sector, form alliances with the straight sector human rights groups, and if they don’t exist, help people to establish them. This includes religious, civic, and political groups. The right wing likes to claim GLBTI people are unpatriotic, anti-social, anti-religious, “immoral" and “anti-family” - because they exclude us from these things in order to claim, rather conveniently, that we are "not interested in being involved". The best way to prove them wrong is by INVOLVEMENT.
The right wing’s biggest weapon against us is their biggest weakness. …………Care to guess what it is? FAMILY
Because as everyone knows, WE ARE Family.
Statistically, we occur in EVERY family. That’s right, every single family out there is likely to have one of us, either GLBTI or Q. Aside from that, each and every one of us HAS a FAMILY – people who know us, people we can educate, enlighten and enlist to the cause of human rights. This represents a vast and as yet untapped resource in terms of the battle for human rights in SA. Bigots in SA are increasingly using the same tactics and disinformation about us as those employed in the USA – uneducated people fall for their lies and fallacies and support them. WE MUST EDUCATE THEM FIRST!
How do we do this? Well, in the USA there is a group called PFLAG - which stands for Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays, and it consists of not only members of the pink community - but also straight friends and relatives - all united in the goal of standing against opression and bigotry on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It means for each of the statistical one in ten people who are GLBT or I, there are several straight family members or friends - and if you educate them and set even a few of them to work, you effectively increase your voice and influence. In South Africa, there are already a few groups with PFLAG initiatives and programs - some of them are even calling them "PFLAG". Examples are OUT LGBT Wellbeing and IAM. ECGLA in Port Elizabeth is already in the process of setting one up, and SA GLAAD is considering it.
This brings me to what I call "the Harvey Milk principle": If they know one of us, then they will know who we are. If they know who we are, they will know they are being fed lies by our enemies. This also means…… COMING OUT. Yes, I know the black community fears this part the most, since they are the ones most affected by this hatred and ignorance, expressed in the form of rape and violent crime. But where it is safe to do so on a personal basis, I urge you all to do so.
And so, in conclusion - building up broader community support will lessen the effectiveness of the right wing’s disinformation campaign and recruiting drive, increase public awareness of the facts around GLBTI people, increase the support base for our inclusion in general human rights values, encourage other groups to assist our fight for equality and to defend the Constitution, and expose the dangers posed by the radical groups and their motives.
I cannot stress enough how much WE NEED TO DO THIS.