Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sleeper Awake!

Sometimes it feels like you are the only one who sees the world for what it is, while it seems that all those around you are blissfully unaware - not knowing and not caring to know things that could make a difference in solving problems or bringing about changes necessary to improve things. One of the catch phrases I remember from the original Dune movie in 1984 was "sleeper awake!" and it describes exactly how I feel today.

Why?

Despite appearances presented to the outside world, South Africa - and Africa - is a human rights mess, and especially so on the front of Pink rights.

Yes, there are massive shortcomings and omissions and failures on the part of Government to act on domestic issues - but while SA's government may not have de facto "obligations" to advance Pink human rights around the world or in Africa, our government has been active in efforts to assist and buddy up to governments known to be breaking down the human rights of the Pink community in those countries - and complicit in causing the downfall of human rights by it's continued failure to act.

What should we as the Pink Community do? Sit on the sidelines and let them continue to do so unhindered? Or should we be pressuring the SA government to live up to its obligations to uphold the SA Constitution both locally and internationally?

Too often LGBTI rights and interests are sidelines on thinly veiled excuses of diplomacy while all too visibly other more conventional interests are tackled head on, and with full media coverage. Of course, defending gay or trans rights simply isn't considered "moral" enough for our government - while it is in apparent agreement with the notion that homosexuality and transgender is "un-African" and not deserving of their attention.

The stony silence of our government on these matters while it grins broadly and shakes hands with the enemies of human rights, speaks volumes.

A shroud of silence covers the mounting death toll of the slaughter of lesbians of color in the "corrective rape" genocide, and in Uganda, a country which is building up momentum to resume its genocidal campaign to exterminate all non-heterosexual residents - a xenophobic former columnist who committed hate speech and incitement to violence against women and the Pink Community represents South Africa and the very Constitution he called for people to rip to shreds. In Zimbabwe, a besieged Opposition flouts its own claims to support democracy and equal rights for all by denying the right to fair and equal treatment to the Pink Community in the draft of their new Constitution - and South Africa who has been brokering negotiations there for a decade, says nothing against this monstrous betrayal. At the UN, South Africa's representatives repeatedly embarrass our country - and our Constitution - by making homophobic and anti-human rights decisions and remarks.

We are activists for human rights and equality. Pressuring the government and society into acting on these things is what we are about. And in our personal lives, we affect how straight, cisgender people around us see us - and can be activists in our own right - as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex person, you should know this.

If you sleep around, have a different partner every night, or if you have a drug habit, or have sticky fingers - then your straight buddies are going to get the impression that we are "all the same", even though it isn't true. We can to a degree be responsible for our own stereotyping. What we cannot help, is the senseless hatred of some organized groups for us, and the viciousness of the slanderous propaganda they create. What we can, is to know the facts, speak out in the face of bigotry - and know our enemies - rest assured, there is no shortage of them.

One of the things we've noticed and have been working against is the prevailing apathy in the community - this needs to be addressed, so if you want to do anything worthwhile, you could work to raise awareness in your circles. Talk about it, know it, be aware.

SA GLAAD is a non-funded non-profit group. All our efforts have been made at the members own expense and volunteers are scarce (there's that apathy word again). If you were to make an effort to research our activities as SA GLAAD since 2008, you will note that we have been pressuring government to act on local as well as international issues in countries where SA is involved in their domestic affairs. We do our best. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from getting off your ass and wading into the struggle to do better yourself. If you can.

People aren't interested in current events - they don't know about groups like the CDA, the ACDP, they don't know how much hate is in them for people like us, or in some surviving Afrikaner nationalist groups. They don't know anything about the lies told by groups like Exodus International, or their involvement in inciting homophobia in Uganda to the edge of genocide - or that they have offices and "ministries" right here in South Africa. They don't know who Errol naidoo is, or Peter Hammond, or the Christian Action Network. They don't care a toss about politics, or what they don't know. They get surprised when they hear of something happening, and angry that "nobody" did or said anything to stop it - whereas if they had been paying attention they would have known about it. Somehow we need to get them interested in affairs that affect them.

The "jol" mentality a.k.a. apathy is a cancer in the Pink Community in SA. And to some people, Pride is all about boozing, and cruising - not about securing our continued civil rights and hard-won pseudo-equality. These people enjoy the rights and privileges they have under the new Constitution - but could care less about protesting against prejudice or making an effort to stand up for themselves - they just expect "somebody else" to do it.

Whenever there is a party or event, Pink folks turn up in their thousands - but whenever a protest call is made, barely 50 people will turn up, including press and photographers. If the anti-apartheid struggle had been that poorly supported we would all still be living in the old SA, in the daily terror of being harassed or turned into political criminals with no Constitutional protection. Somehow this needs to be corrected, somehow we need to change that uninterested "let someone else do the hard work" mindset.

Politics and human rights is a numbers game. Who is going to care if only 20 people pitch for a protest?

There are loads of issues which the Pink and general communities need to be aware of - "corrective rape", the Jon Qwelane issue, SA's involvement in Uganda, SA's failure to push Zimbabwe to include Pink rights in their new constitution, the inequality in the Civil Unions Act, the impending challenge against Act no 4 of 2000 by Media24, the Protection of Information Bill, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, bullying of pink kids in schools, suicides, the lack of general knowledge of Pink issues, what it is to be g,l,b,t or i, anti-gay hate groups running rampant in SA, far-right propaganda, hate-mongering far-right political parties, the risks posed to freedom of expression by the Pornography Bill, the increase in religious fundamentalist influence over government, the number of religious ministers/pastors holding government offices, the threat against secular law and government etc, etc.

It's a mountain, and we need to climb it. Somehow we have to make them see it all. Somehow we have to make them care. Somehow I have to make YOU care.

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