Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“The homosexuals are coming! The homosexuals are coming!”

Yesterday I received an incredibly long-winded and frantic response from Errol Naidoo - it seems the email campaign to demonstrate our objection to his attack on Cape Town Tourism for supporting the city as a gay and gay-friendly tourist destination must have struck a nerve somewhere. For one thing, in the space of two A4 pages, he used the word "homosexual" no less than 22 times!

In the same note, he used the word “family” a whole 6 times, most often with the word "anti-" preceding it, or "friendly" following. A pattern emerges, indicating that Mr. Naidoo seems to be obsessed with gay people and "families" – and for some unfathomable reason, views them as opponents on a chess board. Which piece he plays, is anybody’s guess - but since he seems to be such an adept drama queen, your guess is as good as mine.

He might as well have called his letter “The homosexuals are coming! The homosexuals are coming!” Perhaps he imagines he is the Paul Revere of his right wing religious extremist tribe of Leviticans? Perhaps, like Paul Revere, someone will name a brand of drugs after him? Who knows? But, speaking of advertising, the advertising slant calling Cape Town the gay capital of South Africa, or even of Africa - which he is waxing hysterical about, is by far nothing new. In fact, it has been called such for the better part of the last decade. It is quite strange that our friend Naidoo has suddenly got his knickers in a knot over old news – but that is hardly out of character I think.

Not once in his lengthy diatribe did he use the word "gay" – which is because he hates gay people and would sooner bend over to pick up soap in a prison shower before he would use an inoffensive term like "gay" - and because we chose it for ourselves. I'm not saying that he hates gay people just because I don't like him, I'm saying that because he was quoted as saying such in a newspaper article last year. Such hateful people prefer to use the "H" word because it is precisely what riles us, and it probably rolls so nicely off the tongue when you’re foaming at the mouth in a pulpit and working up to the bit where you pass the collection plate.

As a community, we Pink folks are quite used to the slurs, insults and name-calling directed at us by arrogant, cocky people who seem to have their underpants on too tight and a few screws loose or missing. Very often there are attempts to strip us of our human rights and dignity, and certain legal provisions which grant us equality and freedom regularly come under attack from such shallow and narrow-minded individuals who demonstrate a penchant for hate-mongering, arm-chair criticism and abusing human rights. Unsurprisingly, it is Mr Naidoo who is most often standing out front, cheering them on, directing their otherwise futile rage at anything which they belligerently squint at through a very narrow and puritanical worldview, and pointing out “enemies” for them to vent their generally pointless hatred and frustration at. As a part-time pastor, it is his self-appointed job to give his flock of sheeple a wolf to unite against, and where one does not exist, to invent one.

But who is Errol Naidoo, and why all the fuss?

He started out as a pastor for the "His People" church in Greenpoint, Cape Town - a notoriously homophobic community. He has also been closely associated with people like Peter Hammond and the "Christian Action Network" - whose group in 2000 published the insidious piece of propaganda and blatant fantasy called "The Pink Agenda". This book, written by Hammond and the then Press Officer for the ACDP, Christine McCafferty - in which gay people were made out to be a vile enemy of democracy, Christianity and "the family", with an 'agenda' likened by Paul Cameron, (one of the sources the book drew on) to the Nazis. Cameron meanwhile, who once was a psychologist and keen student of Nazi eugenics, was banned from practicing in the USA in 1983 for manufacturing fraudulent “studies” designed to indicate that gay people spread disease, are more prone to suicide, more likely to die before the age of 40, molest children – and who also advised President Reagan to exterminate all gay people in the USA to prevent the spread of AIDS in 1985. I kid you not. Many right wing groups who hate and target the Pink Community refer to Cameron’s work, even today – including the US based “Family Research Council”, whom friend Naidoo visits every six months for inspiration. The actual scientific community refers to his "studies" as "essentially a waste of paper".

Naidoo brags of his visits in his Family Policy Institute newsletters (and in "Joy!" magazine) to spend time with his mentors, the Colorado Springs based "Family Research Council", to draw inspiration from them for his "Family Policy Institute" in Parliament St, Cape Town. I wonder if he even cares that the FRC was recently declared a hate-group in the USA, after decades of vilifying and intimidating the Pink Community? The FRC regularly bullies companies who dare to treat their GLBTI employees with some respect or humanity, with boycotts, and calls for gay people to be imprisoned. Sound familiar?

Our Mr Naidoo spent a great deal of time in the 90's speaking for the "CAN" and its subsidiaries, against gay people, presenting homophobic talks at universities, "pro-life" events and such, vilifying our community and using nothing - nothing - but the fake “studies” of discredited charlatans like Cameron, and his own twisted personal interpretation of his religion to do so. It seems he isn't called the "High priest of hysteria" for nothing.

Naidoo’s friends at CAN still spend a great deal of time and effort campaigning against gay rights, picketing abortion clinics Westboro Baptist-style, and writing nasty letters to editors and strident articles on a variety of topics including the evils of secularism, gay rights, communism and Islam. They are famed for coining the terms "homofascism" and "Christophobia" despite not being able to point out a single case of persecution of Christianity in post-Apartheid South African history. On its website, CAN advocates home-schooling as a safe and convenient method for people to indoctrinate their children and to keep them free of unhealthy influences such as free thought and the liberal cancer. Another affiliate of the CAN, Doctors For Life, proliferates Paul Cameron’s garbage as “medical advice” on homosexuality and plays the role of “amicus curiae” whenever it gets the chance to stab gay rights or abortion in the neck.

Hammond, a missionary "reverend" and former special ops Rambo-type for the Apartheid government, heads up the western traveling circus that is the CAN – and has been very quiet since he faced charges in 2005 over an incident in Cape Town, where a trick-or-treating child was shot in the face at point blank range with a paint-ball gun to "teach them a lesson" about the evils of Halloween. (This earned him the nick-name of "the Paintball Pastor".) He was reportedly arrested for gun-smuggling in Sudan in the early 2000's, and his organization is involved with the far-right pro-gun movements in the USA – you know, the folks who hoard tinned food, gasoline and candles in their homestead basements and have para-military training on weekends with the uncle-cousins because Armageddon is coming.

In 2005-6 Naidoo appeared in the papers on several occasions while crusading against marriage equality, and whipping up the crazies into a frenzy. At this time he represented the "Marriage Alliance of South Africa", and was best known for claiming that “gay marriage is a new thing” and "never existed in the past" – flying in the face of historical evidence which shows that same sex marriage occurred as far back as 6000 years ago in Egypt, in the East, through the Greek and Roman periods, right until some bigot in a dress in the RCC in medieval Europe, made it illegal. Whoops.

Naidoo’s pet project, the "Family Policy Institute", presumably named so that it can sound really impressive when you say the acronym really fast, isn’t based so close to Parliament simply for the good view of Table Mountain, or so he can wave at the MP's as they drive past. No, the FPI is intended to watch Parliament, like Trevor Noah watches Cell C – like a hawk, cac-aa. This is of course, just in case Parliament dares to sneak any crafty liberal “anti-Christian” pro-gay bills across their table without checking with him first.

Last year before the elections, Naidoo and Hammond tried unsuccessfully to broker a merger between all the Christian fundamentalist political parties in South Africa, in order to create a "Republican Party for South Africa" – and to institute a theocracy. Virtually every single one of these parties includes homophobic policies in its charters or manifesto's and makes it a point to discriminate against our community - should they ever make any gains in some future election, of course. I suppose the supreme irony that these religious political parties advertise their hate as a way to win votes, completely eludes them.

Why am I focusing so much on Mr Naidoo’s associates? Well, because it goes to show where he’s coming from. These people are the kind of right wing fundamentalist who views human rights as being "anti-God" – especially where they believe God commands death in the old testament for various silly little things like tattoos and eating shellfish - and loving someone of the same gender. This of course defines people like him not as Christians, but as Leviticans. Leviticans reject the forgiving, tolerant and loving Christ in favor of the Old testament laws in the book of Leviticus. They despise secularism, calling the absence of religion a religion (what?) and see secular government as an affront to their faith.

Leviticans view gay people as a perversion and as a "lifestyle choice", not a natural occurrence - and therefore, through the lens of religious fundamentalism - an abomination. Many of them want gay and transgender people killed, and unsurprisingly, want the death penalty returned in order to do it. They would be very popular in places like Uganda, which views gay-bashing and genocide as a national sport. Like all Leviticans, Naidoo and Hammond reject all medical and scientific evidence that people are born gay or transgender and that such inborn traits cannot be changed - despite the fact that such evidence is no longer generally disputed by anyone other than religious fundamentalists who don't like gay people and believe the Earth is flat and was created in six days.

Naidoo describes every expression of our civil and human rights and equality as an affront to his puritanical view that South Africa, being made up of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, pagans, atheists and agnostics - is somehow a "Christian nation" under siege. He has spent a great deal of time trying to dress his own hate and extremist views up with the respectability and "morality" of Christian tradition, but clearly the opposite is true. By claiming South Africa is a "Christian nation" all that such people are doing, is copying the Roman emperor Constantine (founder of the RCC) who sprinkled a little water over a few thousand battle-hardened pagan Roman soldiers and told them "Okay, you're all Christians now - so follow me and kill those people!" It is surprising indeed that the hordes of people out there who are Christian but do not agree with his hatefulness do not tell this upstart embarrassment to their faith to STFU and sit down.

He has campaigned vociferously against pink pride events around the country - chiefly in Knysna, trying to get them banned. He has used all kinds of insulting, offensive and false claims about public sexual acts, full nudity, child abuse and public indecency at pride events to try and smear the constitutional, fully legal and free expression of our existence into oblivion. For ten long years he has campaigned against the Pink Loerie - and for ten long years, to his chagrin, he has failed.

Over the past year he has been extending his influence over government, schmoozing Ministers and MP's of various parties in trying to get controversial, anti-gay and anti-democratic bills passed - one of which is the so-called "porn" bill, which he hopes will allow people who share his fundamentalist views to censor what people use their mobile phones for, and what goes on TV, radio and into the media. He regularly criticizes TV stations for what he calls their "attack" on Christianity, and what he expressively calls "blasphemy". Just recently he threatened to launch a boycott against Woolworths and several other privately owned chain stores if they dared to stop selling "Christian" fundamentalist material - such as "JOY!" magazine - a right wing publication of which he is one of the editors. Poor Woolworths it seems will have to continue stocking reams of wastepaper that don't move much, sooner than risk the ire of so many conservative South Africans who can't see past their own eyelids.

Mr Naidoo clearly does not like living in a democracy, because he doesn’t like people being able to express themselves, to watch or listen to whatever entertainment suits them, or to exercise their right to love, life and the pursuit of happiness. He seems far too interested in the events which unfold behind the closed doors of private homes, or what adults occupy their minds with or spend their money or free time on, even with other consenting adults. He obviously doesn’t care a toss for the dignity of the Pink Community either because he has spent his entire career claiming that we don’t have any, and is obviously taking great pains to make sure that becomes true.

What stands out to me in Mr Naidoos rantings in response to the consequences of his bullying tactics, is the overwhelmingly obvious fact that while the Pink Community is fighting for equality, he is crying wolf about our "onslaught" on his "Christian civil rights" - to live without having to share the world with us. I guess it is really typical of the aggressor to cry foul and to blame everything on their victims, when an actual persecuted minority stands up to those who vilify and conspire against them. But that, like their hate, is not a new thing.

With all the real problems facing us in South Africa (some of which are of Mr Naidoo’s own making I might add), I find it surprising to see that he can make a song-and-dance about an advertising campaign designed to bring more income to Cape Town businesses – and to South Africa, and expect rational South Africans with more important things to occupy their time, to take his ludicrous yarn seriously.

Naidoo is of the persuasion that denies the estimate that ten percent of the human population identifies as GLBTI, but on the same note uses numbers to define the worth of our human rights and equality. In his mind, there are fewer of us, so our needs for equalities and human rights are not as relevant as his. As someone recently pointed out, equality does not exist on a sliding scale. Either all people have equality, or there is no equality.

He calls the advertising campaign naming Cape Town “the gay capital of SA” - “divisive, anti-family and pandering to the homosexual lobby” – and yet he would have the City pander to his own divisive, anti-human rights, anti-family (we’re part of every family too) agenda. He calls the “concerns” of the homophobes “valid” – thereby asserting that our concerns are invalid. And yet he is the only fanatic sweeping the mob into an anti-gay frenzy, screaming “the homosexuals are coming! The homosexuals are coming!” Divisive? Hmm.

His hysterical arm-waving about gay people and gay rights being “anti-family” – and a “threat” to morality – and now the economy as well - has been, time and again proven nothing more than a manufactured and infantile fantasy by decades of research conducted in countries in Europe as well as in the USA. This research shows that children are in no way negatively affected by gay parents, a gay presence or by the color pink, nor are pedophiles any more likely to be gay than straight. Funny how these countries have experienced none of the ill effects over the past thirty years which Naidoo and his friends have been "warning" about. And no, Spongebob isn’t gay, Erroll – it’s a cartoon character. Get over it.

Despite his posturing and roaring like a lion, Mr Naidoo - like all homophobes, is afraid of us. He fears our similarities rather than our differences, which is why he chooses to focus on how unlike him we are. They fear us because they don’t understand us, and this fear is exacerbated by their steadfast almost maniacal refusal to try – because it may tempt them into the unthinkable – realizing how wrong they are, and actually not hating us anymore.

"Ironically, those who attack and demonise anybody with a different viewpoint to their own are the very people who bleat incessantly about tolerance and constitutional rights." Says Naidoo, completely missing the irony in his own statement. It is our friend who has spent the past 16-plus years attacking and "demonizing" our entire community - and "bleating incessantly" about the so-called "homosexual agenda" - an effort by an oppressed minority group to attain equal civil rights - with him and his "family" - and to end the persecution directed against us by people just like him.

We didn't start this "culture-war" of yours, Mr Naidoo - you did. Why? Because we exist and because you hate us for that. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but we're not going anywhere - so you may as well just suck it up, or just hold your breath till you explode - whatever floats your boat.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading Between The Lines

Apparently South Africa has gained a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council - for the second time. I can only imagine the kind of mayhem they could wreak if they ever got a permanent seat. As a South African of mixed sexual orientation and gender identity, it makes me shudder. No, really. I love my home, and I love my country - but lately I cannot help but to be ashamed of it.

In the past 20 years I have seen this country rise from the depths of racist, heterosexist and theocratic abuse of power, to become an inspiring young democracy - only to become once again mired by the same flaws and failings which characterized the Apartheid state, only in slightly different shades of neo-fascist red and totalitarian purple.

According to an article in the latest Pink Tongue, SA International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says that "SA will be too busy dealing with African issues on the UN Security Council next year to worry about who goes to bed with who" - this when asked whether SA would use its non-permanent seat on the Security Council to address gay rights and other human rights issues.

This flippant and insensitive response demonstrates at best a cavalier approach to very real and very serious human rights issues faced by our community in Africa. Delegates concerning themselves with saving Pink lives and working to cancel out prejudice and oppression is a) reduced to a matter of bed-partners, b) not an African issue, and c) obviously not important, duh what are you thinking? At worst it demonstrates a callous disregard for the plight of human rights of gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people on the continent - a continent on which South Africa is a major role-player and economic power.

All of this, coupled with the appalling record South Africa has in terms of sabotaging or ignoring human rights issues over the past few years, proves to me that our government is hostile to the Pink Community - no matter what the Constitution says.

Most African states have no civil rights for the Pink Community - NONE - with accompanying poor human rights records. Again, most African states list jail terms - some life sentences - for the "crime" of being gay. Several countries on the continent have made overtures of indulging in state-sponsored genocide of gay people - chiefly among them, Uganda - a country which to this day enjoys major political and economical support of South Africa. Rwanda and Burundi echoed these sentiments, but quickly backed down when they saw the international weight being brought to bear on Uganda. And indeed, today the news headlines featured Kenya - a country with a fairly liberal constitution, whose PM has called for all gay people to be arrested.

Back in 2007-8 according to the article, the last time SA held a non-permanent seat on this council, it voted against some human rights resolutions, excusing this action by saying that such issues should be decided by the Human Rights Council instead. I suppose I shouldn't find that surprising - passing the buck is after all a national pastime here.

The minister is also quoted as saying that because human rights are enshrined in the Constitution, "there shouldn't be any fears" about the government defending human rights at the UN. Right - well, we're still waiting for the SA government to live up to that increasingly apparent empty promise.

Apartheid era military doctor Aubrey Levine, who performed forced gender reassignment operations on national servicemen in the 1980's was allowed to leave the country scott-free, never being extradited or put on trial for his numerous crimes - leaving him free to cause harm in Canada - where he was caught red-handed by a patient who captured his abusive behavior on his mobile phone. You see, as far as our community is concerned, other countries have to clean up South Africa's bungles and fumbles. And while people can run to Canada and request refugee status on the basis of racism, and delegations are sent to set matters right, issues which affect the Pink Community on the international stage just aren't bothered with.

Over the past 5 years SA has done nothing, zip, nada, zilch to alleviate the suffering of the Pink Community in Africa. In fact, if memory serves, in the debacle around marriage equality here 4 years ago, it was not the government which sanctioned it - it was the Supreme Court which had to order the government to ratify it a year after the fact. And the same old example repeats once again - SA refused to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality in 2008. The USA also at first refused - under the homophobic Bush administration, an affront to human rights corrected soon after the elections. What was South Africa's excuse? Last week's vote against the human rights of the pink community was just another case in point.

The government has in the past decade shared initiatives with groups such as Focus on the Family in KZN, which purveyed ineffective abstinence-only "education" programs in rural areas - and also their infamous "Love Won Out" ex-gay program, as well as the paradoxically named "Truth Project". The Mbeki Administration denied the clear links between HIV and AIDS, spoon-fed AIDS sufferers garlic and sweet-potatoes and then wondered why so many patients were dying. Granted, this was under the previous Administration, right? Okay - so let's review the current Prez and his performance.

In about 2006, Zuma made a PR blunder when he made homophobic remarks in the press. Back in 2009 just before the elections, he practically put gay rights on the bargaining table when he made his pre-election speech in the Rhema cult's temple, schmoozing the Levitican fundamentalist vote with offers to "debate" abortion and marriage equality with them. Shortly after that the "God Squad" which consists of Ray MacCauley and primarily ANC MP's who are also lay pastors - and presumably the product of that promise - started making noises about challenging the marriage equality ruling in court.

Cases of so-called "corrective rape" against lesbians and violence and intimidation against transgender and gay men in the black community continue to rage unabated - and unaddressed by the government. In fact, the only people making a noise about it in South Africa are NGO's, the community - and the victims themselves.

This year, Zuma appointed Jon Qwelane, a visceral homophobe who wrote hateful remarks in a newspaper column against gay people and women priests in 2008, inciting violence against them as well as threatening the SA Constitution - as Ambassador to Uganda. The court action against Qwelane remains suspended in limbo pending a challenge to Act No 4 of 2000 (our sole protection against hate-speech in the media), by Media24 who aims to change this law in order to allow just this sort of hate-speech against the Pink Community, leaving us without legal recourse to challenge hate-speech in the media. Zuma's new presidential hotline was inundated with phone calls from the Pink Community to protest Qwelane's appointment, but to no avail.

Qwelane was claimed to have been sneaked into Uganda on the quiet when Zumas delegation popped over to address the Ugandan parliament to discuss even closer trade between the two countries. Despite the fact that this visit took place while the whole outrage about the gay genocide bill was raging internationally, Zuma didn't utter a word about it at the time. The President finally muttered a few words of objection about the Ugandan bill after the issue had been raging internationally for months - presumably because South Africa's involvement in Uganda, and failure to speak out against Ugandan human rights abuses had made the news and we didn't want to spoil things for the Soccer World Cup.

In the meantime, we have had Ministers of Art and Culture who know stuff-all about either art or culture and who view artistic expression as threats to "nation-building" and "family values", religious fundamentalist pastors-cum-Home Affairs ministers and the Pornography Bill, the Protection of Information Bill and various other censorship measures intended to turn South Africa into a police state which would be a democracy in name only.

South African mediators have been coaching Zimbabwe in setting up agreements between the Zanu-PF and MDC factions for years now, and assisting them in setting up a new Constitution - from which the human rights of the Pink Community are conspicuously absent. Neither the Zanu-PF or MDC seem to understand the concept of democracy or human rights, except where it doesn't apply to them of course - and nor did the South African mediators seem to make any effort to help them right. In a country where the illegitmate president (he never won that last election fairly, remember?) calls human beings "worse than pigs and dogs", several gay rights activists are on trial on trumped-up charges of possession of drugs and pornography when the whole world knows it is because they are gay and refuse to cower in fear in a basement, that they are on trial.

The SA government clearly wont admit to homophobia, but its actions (and in-actions) are outright and undeniably homophobic. In the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, it denies that there is a problem in Africa with regard to human rights - but acts to oppose, stymy, hamstring and sabotage UN resolutions intended to address human rights issues involving the Pink Community.

And now a SA government minister at the UN states that human rights issues affecting the Pink Community are solely concerned with "who goes to bed with whom", clearly "un-African" and "unimportant". Oh, but we needn't worry because the government will defend human rights ala the Constitution at the UN. Sure. Just like they have been doing all along. Uhuh.

I am once again reminded of Mugabe's comment about gay people being "worse than pigs and dogs" - because that may explain why South Africa claims to be protecting "human rights" while completely omitting a whole portion of human society from their efforts.

The minister is quoted saying "we should focus less on who goes to bed with who and more on peace and security." Perhaps I'm just stupid, but to me that statement implies that the human rights concerns of the Pink Community are only about sex and therefore unimportant - and peace and security issues do not include the Pink Community in the majority of African countries - where they currently have neither.

Somewhere between "x" and "y" the wheels are coming off. Either the people representing South Africa at the UN are working purposely to subvert the purpose of the UN, and to sabotage the cause of human rights specifically for the Pink Community - or they are just too plain obtuse or ignorant to understand the concept of human rights - and the UN should post the whole damn lot back to South Africa.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SA Government Betrays Human Rights Principles Set In The SA Constitution - Again

South Africa's government has once again shamed our nation before the free world by adding its vote to the voices of member nations of the UN who are oppressors of the human rights of the global Pink Community, in order to deny UN protection of the human rights of GLBTI individuals from hate crime specifically directed at LGBTI people.

In many countries around the world the Pink Community faces persecution and death at the hands of people who commit violent acts against us out of hatred simply for what and who we are. Examples of this slow genocide of our people are provided by countries such as Iran, Jamaica and Uganda, to say nothing of the countries where just being LGB or T is illegal and carries a stiff jail penalty for having theses immutable characteristics. Uganda wishes to include the death penalty for being LGBT, while Iran's government has been murdering LGBT people for decades, or forcing them to have gender reassignment as an alternative. Jamaica is known as the most homophobic place on Earth, with regular reports of lynchings of people suspected of being gay. Despite this, many countries (and South Africa) are still openly trading with these countries - and no punitive action is being taken against them, either by individual states, or the UN.

This week, the United Nations voted on a resolution calling on countries to protect the lives of all people and to investigate extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions that are motivated by prejudice and discrimination. The motion was altered, as a result of this vote, to remove the term "sexual orientation" from the list of factors identifying the victims of such acts, meaning that murder and persecution of people on the basis of sexual orientation will not be included within its scope. South Africa was reportedly one of the countries which voted against the inclusion of our community in this effort, along with 79 others.

It is shocking, unacceptable, and offensive to a human rights sensibility that the government of a country which has a Constitution that upholds principles of equality for all people - including us - continues to fail miserably in honoring those principles of human rights and freedom from hatred and persecution enshrined within it.

It is also reprehensible that South Africa has failed - once again - to speak out and take action against these human rights abusers and their atrocities, and in fact continues to conduct trade with such countries, despite their appalling human rights records. Much is made about the morality of blood-diamonds, but nothing is ever done about the immorality of state-sponsored persecution and murder of people based on who they are, or who they love.

Past excuses that the affairs of other countries are "not our business" are made suspect when we see how active South African representatives are as mediators in the affairs of other countries such as Zimbabwe and Uganda - who both have appalling records as far as the treatment of the Pink Community is concerned, and yet these pressing matters never seem to be addressed by them. It is disappointing indeed when we as South Africans see how little our dignity is worth, by the level of involvement and support our government provides to countries which act against us out of ignorance and religious fundamentalist hatred and cruelty.

South Africa's government has repeatedly demonstrated an appalling lack of support for the rights and well being of the Pink Community in its voting record in the UN. As a shocking example, in 2008 South Africa declined to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality and made the excuse that it did so on the grounds of "having principles". Three years later we still haven't been told what those "principles" are - but are as a community finding it easier and easier to guess. In the past year alone, homophobic newspaper columnist Jon Qwelane (who wrote an article in July 2008 inciting hatred and violence towards gay people and women and has so far evaded court action) was appointed High Commissioner to Uganda - the country that wants to make homosexuality punishable by death.

I also find it supremely ironic that these disappointing incidents always seem to occur around a day marking the remembrance of a minority being targeted on the basis of their inherent immutable traits - in this case, Transgender Day Of Remembrance, which was on Saturday. One has to wonder if we are expected to find some kind of message in that "coincidence"?

In South Africa there is still a high degree of homophobic and transphobic activity, and many people face justifiable fears of persecution on a daily basis. The still-present so-called "corrective rape" and murder of black lesbians and victimization of gay and trans people is but one facet of this issue, which appears to be going largely ignored by the government. It is clear from this and previous failures to live up to the responsibility it shoulders as an elected government, that it does not seem to feel that the Pink Community in South Africa deserves any such protection or acknowledgment of our equality, dignity or human rights.

I am again shamed by this latest outrage of the South African government's decision to stand with human rights abusers, murderers and despotic countries who conduct merciless actions against people on the basis of ignorance, cruelty and religious fundamentalist immorality - simply for being who they are.

I agree wholeheartedly with internationally renowned human rights activist Peter Tatchell's statement that South Africa should hang its head in shame and that this country's government cannot be considered friendly to the Pink Community, or our human rights. In fact, added to the recent assault on freedom of speech, freedom of expression and Media freedom, we feel this latest embarrassing and shameful incident demonstrates hostility to equality, freedom, democracy and the human rights of all people.

I express my thanks and gratitude to South Africa's main Opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, for showing support and for speaking out against this shameful trend which gives us pause regarding the future of human rights for the Pink Community and the nation in general. Especially when we listen to the things being said by Rev Jesse Jackson this past weekend about a "United States of Africa" - when he echoes what has been touted by people like Muammar al-Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya who speaks before the UN, SADC and AU not on the basis of democracy, but oppression.

Lastly - for all the states of Africa to work together in a union, with a common legal system, economy and society - when most African states have little or no human rights values, and who at best do not respect the rights of human beings to love who they will - I have to ask whose values and rights would be sacrificed in order to make this ill-conceived union work?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Driving While Blind

It is ironic in the extreme that there are people out there who are very vocal about their feelings or so-called "moral convictions" on what you or I do in our private lives, who we love, how we choose to express ourselves, about what makes us happy or how we differ from them in any way, shape or form - regardless of whether or not we cause any harm to anyone else or not.

The irony of course lies in the detail that the same folks can't stand the heat when others apply the same heat to them in the same kitchen.

I'm a firm believer in the principle that what you believe is your own business. That is because by implication it also means that what I believe is none of your business. Conversely, what we do out of our beliefs that affects other people - such as either good works or acts of bigotry or terror - are everybody's business.

So where people plan to blow up buildings, or themselves in order to kill and maim other people, because they believe it will "somehow" make a better world - then as far as I'm concerned, that is where these beliefs become my business. If people want to force private businesses to sell their beliefs by threatening them with boycott and closure, then I want to know about it. If people want to force TV and the media to report from a particular bias or to enforce a particular religious view on society, I want to know about it. When people want to force their personal beliefs on government and through government, onto society then we should all be alarmed. What I mean by this, is entrenching the religious beliefs of one group into law so that all people have to abide by them in their daily and private lives. (In case you haven't noticed, all the above has been happening here in SA lately.) Where people are put on the rack for who they happen to have a relationship with, or what gender their partner is (or was), or put on trial for what they believe where it doesn't harm anyone, then what business is it of mine (or yours) to sit in judgment of them? Are you that person? Am I? Have we lived that person's life, walked in their shoes? Have we rolled with the same punches they had to? Are they going to be the ones to hold them at night when they lie there, alone and unhappy, telling them "Thanks to me your life is shit - but it's ok, at least now you can go to heaven"? I didn't think so.

Some of you folks might have noticed I've been a little quiet lately. I have to say it would be nice to admit I've been feeling a little lazy lately - and after all, who should blame me if that were the case? After all, it's nearly year-end again - and for the last 2 years I have posted an article virtually per weekday. It was bound to catch me sooner or later, you could say. Recently I have been facing what is euphemistically called "writer's block", which in my case has mainly been about the realization that after three years, on the topic of GLBTIQ human rights in South Africa and in general - I have already said it all. For the past few months I have been dogged by the feeling that I have been repeating myself. In fact, all someone need do to get the whole picture, is to check all 325 articles on my Blogspot blog.

Now I'm not asking for a pat on the back by telling you this, but while I have been writing these articles, I have also kept the pot on the boil by having a regular day job, playing a role in SA GLAAD, being Director of ECGLA in my home town - a task which required serious commitment because of all the real life meetings and events that crop up, as they do. I also have an elderly mother to care for, who has poor health. Add to that the last year's tenure as a Ward Chairperson - which was a highly fruitless and frustrating experience. It is difficult enough to get a horse to drink when it's at the water - but nigh on impossible when the horse tries its best to throw you when you're still trying to lead it to the damned river.

In the past few years I've been through some pretty rough relationship dynamics too, and I admit I've grown to prefer being single, because quite honestly - that's when nobody can hurt me or use me or abuse me. Getting involved with someone opens me up to a world of hurt. There, I said it. Frank and to the point. Getting involved with someone brings all sorts of dynamic factors into the picture, which could have interesting results and cast different lights and shades on the subject. And anyone who plans on approaching me on the topic of a relationship had better be ready for it.

Color me embarrassed, for one - where people discreetly inform me that my partner is in the parking lot, motherlessly drunk and throwing up. Color me untrusting when different people confide in me on numerous occasions, that my partner has been inviting them to threesomes and foursomes - and I know it's true. Color me betrayed if my partner abuses me either physically or emotionally. And you can color me stupid if I were to stay with such a person or in such a situation. While this all may be juicy gossip for some - or passe' and boring to others, I really don't feel that any of this is anybody's business but my own.

However, I realize that when I enter a political arena, my private life becomes public property, and will have to adapt and act accordingly. I accept that I no longer have private thoughts or a private Facebook page. As it is, I can no longer have an opinion or a "personal rant" on my Facebook status without sparking a net-wide fight four pages long. So I keep it to myself. Let me just conclude this paragraph by saying that if all those straight folks who make bigots out of themselves by hating us for being "different" to them knew how "normal" or like their own relationships ours were - they would immediately lose interest in us and count their own blessings - or get lives of their own down at their local Walmart.

Now, on the subject of personal beliefs again, let me say a few things. I used to consider myself a Christian once, in fact, I was even "born-again" once upon a time. Funny enough, some folks like to insist defensively that if I can say that and say the things I do against fundamentalist and terrorist "Christianity" today, that I never was. Interesting point of view, that. Convenient too. (Isn't that like the Muslim concept that a Muslim who converts to any other faith is declared insane?) I used to be a Christian after all - I never claimed to be a fundamentalist or a terrorist, nor did I ever act like one by trying to justify my actions with a book written two thousand years ago by other people I never met. Hey, I even considered becoming a pastor or minister in my early 20's. How about that? I was so convinced this was my path that I used my "faith" to try and suppress my own nature, my gender issues and my sexuality.

I used my faith to lie to myself, the same way many religious leaders steadfastly lie to their followers every day they stand in front of them telling lies about how God hates anyone. And I was utterly bloody miserable lying to myself, least of all just to keep other people happy by perpetuating the lie about what a nice young man I was. Then I found a compromise when I was forced by my own misery and unhappiness to come out - and experienced all the prejudice, intolerance and hatred at the hands of people who called themselves Christians, and even former friends and associates. So I chose to come out and embrace myself and the truth instead of choosing death. So sue me. Granted, not all of them were as nasty - and granted, many people who call themselves by the name of Christ showed me the love and acceptance of the man who died on that Roman cross - but I have to say that it is a minority who do so.

Today caring, loving Christian churches are withering away, losing support - and laughable, fanatic gatherings of loonies calling themselves "Christians" are growing, with delusional rich folks throwing millions at them and facilitating their insanity. It's hard to believe that the selfless blood-sacrifice of the man Jesus could spawn such a movement that marches to conquer the world and grind the human race beneath its boots. Now I don't care what they believe of course. It's their business if they think gay or trans people are shit or the devil incarnate. Like the KKK, skinheads or the Black Panthers, they all have their own beliefs, and the right to them. Whatever floats their boat. But what they DO out of those beliefs is very much my business if they do harm to other people, specifically me, or those like me.

And many of these "charismatic" churches ARE doing harm to others. How? By sponsoring reactionary right wing churches and religious groups in other countries - specifically in countries where xenophobia (such as homophobia and transphobia) are rampant - and specifically of groups who like them preach hatred and intolerance of gay and trans people, and enforce these views in the political arena by spawning quasi-political parties such as the ACDP, CDA and "Christian this-or-that" groups that follow hateful exclusionary agendas. Countries such as Uganda and Rwanda and Burundi are pretty good examples. All in the name of "doing the Lord's work" and "advancing the Kingdom of God" of course. Because all us folks who don't believe what they believe - or do, but who happen to live a little differently, deserve to die so the world can be a better, more perfect place for them and their beliefs. Right.

Because the world is filled with lies in the name of religion, and they are spread with religious fervor and fundamentalist gusto - and swallowed out of willful ignorance and self-inflicted stupidity. Thinking is just too much damn trouble. God is love they say, but why does the Church act out of hatred and intolerance? If God is love, and the Church is the Body of the Church, then why are so many people driven out of it like a bacteria or virus not deserving of this love and acceptance? If Christ preached inclusiveness, humility and love, then why does the church elevate Christians above others it condemns and preachers hatred against? The truth to me is glaringly obvious. The Church as a whole is of this world, and not of Heaven as we understand it. It is trapped in politics, embroiled in ego and self-glorification and bogged down in generational lies reaching so far back it cannot unravel these without precipitating or hastening its own inevitable demise.

I have said time and again that I no longer see myself as Christian, and have called myself agnostic for some years now. And while I am still going by that label, I have to admit that certain other experiential belief systems are looking more appealing to me. And while I still feel this is nobody's business but my own, I have to say that I marvel at the chutzpah of people who drive around with bumper stickers on their cars, proclaiming "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." Don't they know it's dangerous to drive while blind?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yes, He Can

The last few days has given me some things to think about. The recent cabinet reshuffle in SA seems, so far at least, to be something to be glad about. Lulu was reposted somewhere else, away from arts and culture, presumably where she won't be able to criticize and condemn works of art as "pornography" and "anti-family", and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba was also "redeployed", hopefully where either of them could cause further trouble by pushing their xenophobic religious fundamentalist agendas.

I wonder if Errol Naidoo is happy with the cabinet reshuffle? I would love to be a fly on the wall in his office in Parliament Street! Since his main contact in Home Affairs has now been moved somewhere else, I mean. I guess getting all those juicy right wing homophobic Bills shoveled into Parliament will be a little harder now. Whoops.

On the other hand, there are already several Bills lying on the table in Parliament, Bills which threaten the civil rights of Joe Public and - like that other nasty piece of legislation in Uganda, they are awaiting legislation, pending the outcome of decisions which will presumably be made while taking media and international public reaction into account. Of course, certain kinds of people judge the morality of - well, a morality law - by how many lives can be destroyed, or by how many people they don't like can be killed by it.

We need to keep an eye on religious fundamentalists, you see, they bear watching. Close watching, or before you know it, they will legislate all kinds of nasty little religious laws into effect, and then claim they were legitimately passed even though they were never publicly approved, or even opened for public discussion or input. One morning you will wake up and suddenly you won't be allowed to open your shop on a Sunday, or hear or see anything but religious programming on TV and radio. The internet will be restricted, and possibly you might need a licence to access it, just like those ridiculous TV licenses the SA public still get ripped off with by the SABC. (Did you know you used to have to pay a radio license before that? Interesting fact. But wait, now I'm giving away my age.)

What better time to pass draconian laws in the under-developed world than when international attention will be deflected by events such as yesterday's Republican triumph in the USA? Lest we forget, Republican rule in the USA saw to the increase in religious fundamentalist "abstinence-only" education and homophobic social programs in the developing world, and for a decade or longer, Republican support saw to the devastation of human rights and equalities and the rise of xenophobia in countries like Uganda, whose homophobic leaders were wined and dined in the White House and praised for their efforts in "combatting HIV" - and given aid and support to do it. These heroes of the Bush administration are now, once again, on the verge of passing a law which will unleash a state-run Pink genocide in the central African state, and presumably, put this aid to work. But that's just my opinion.

The way the Teabaggers have been campaigning in the US lately, trying to unseat the Democrats, one is almost inclined to believe that the only issue they are riding on is the race of the President. Yes, he's black (in South Africa we would call him colored), but because of that and his unwillingness to elaborate on his religious convictions, and because he supports equality and sound social and economic policies - and because he opposes homophobia, he's a bad, bad president. And how can they blame the state of the economy on a government that has been working hard to rectify the mess they inherited from the Republican administration when George "Master of the Gaff" Bush took his exit cue? I have to wonder at the gullibility of some people, considering how easily they can run back to the same people for leadership.

I was quite surprised to learn the other day that the Republican Party wasn't always a bunch of mad, foaming-at-the-mouth religious fundamentalist loonies. Apparently that was a fairly recent development, from about the 1960's or so. Go figure. But yet again, I digress.

Okay, no government is perfect - I know because I spend a great deal of time criticising the government of my own country for the silly and sometimes brutally stupid things they get up to - but Obama should have acted more decisively to make good his promises he made at election time. For one thing, DADT should have been gone long ago. DOMA should have been scrapped long ago. There should have been a public health insurance system long ago. Discrimination on grounds of any immutable characteristics being illegal should have been in the Constitution years ago. Democracy is a popularity contest. If you don't live up to your promises, you stop being popular, you sink. Failure to live up to expectations can sink an administration.

If Obama wants to turn this thing around, if indeed he can, he can start putting his money where his mouth is.

In the past two years the cause of human rights and equality has advanced a lot in the USA. Imagine how the Republicans will try to undo all of that if they press home their attack? Imagine them resuming their attack on human rights and their Culture War in the third world with support of the US government, as it was under Bush? And with people like Sarah Palin wanting to run for the presidency in the next election, I feel pretty pale myself. Goodness knows what the future holds. Scary.