Monday, June 27, 2011

A Place In The Sun

No matter what I am or what I have done, I am also just as human and just as flawed and vulnerable as anyone who thinks they are perfect, or stronger, or better than me. Nevertheless, it seems there are always people who think that because I am not straight like them, and not living the gender I was born in, that I am anti-social, have a persecution complex, a huge chip on my shoulder, and am either less intelligent than they are, or that I am just plain stupid.

All told, I had a pretty interesting week.

Friday night I attended a small informal event at a cosy straight-friendly pub in Central Port Elizabeth at which the new SA gay flag was being passed around, promoted and even sported as a clothing accessory. It was nice to see people embracing a symbol of our diversity, even as I noticed the stark absence of the lesbian component of our community at events in this city. As usual I was drowning in testosterone, albeit pink.

Where were the lesbians? Where were the trannies? "Who cares?" Someone said - reminding me of the saying "out of sight, out of mind". And isn't that the truth? Our different groups socialize apart from the rest, forming little cliques. And then we sometimes have the audacity to wonder what happened to the "community"? Some people later wonder why they have been excluded from any of the planning of x, y, and z. What a cheek.

And then I looked at the item being billed as the "gay flag" for South Africa. Gay flag. Says everything, doesn't it? It has stripes of all the colors which represent each group making up the Pink Community, but somehow it winds up getting called the "Gay Flag". How did that happen? And why didn't I get the memo?

A friend told me of his frustrations at getting people in this burg to actually show up for anything without booze, smokes or some other form of entertainment laid on for free, gratis and for nothing. I empathized. Having had a hand in the planning of several under-attended and even cancelled-due-to-lack-of-interest events in the past, I knew exactly where he was coming from.

A few things were said at this event by some, about how fortunate we as the Pink Community are to live in South Africa, and about how "concerned" our government is with our welfare, about how important our well-being, dignity and protection is to the government and so on, and so on to the point where I wondered who they were working for. I cringed. "Are these guys for real?" I asked myself.

Jon Qwelane, athough he has been found guilty of hate-speech, is still sitting as South African High Commissioner to Uganda, in a pretty little office paid for in part by the tax-payers he reviled and demeaned in his article in 2008, occupying a post he was placed in by our president - a post we have been told, by the same government, he will remain in, "no matter what".

For the past four years I have been watching the South African government shooting down democratic process, dealing openly with human rights abusers, propping up despotic regimes in Africa, selling our civil rights up the river at the UN, and undermining the very constitution that grants us partial equality - and yes, I said partial - because that's all it is. I certainly don't feel the love, guys.

Sunday night I saw a TV insert about the national blood "service", bragging about providing safe blood to the public. The hypocrisy sickened me.

Earlier in the week, I had a lengthy argument on Facebook about the unfair discrimination by the SANBS. The argument came in when somebody who claimed to be open-minded and to have "plenty of gay friends" (don't they always?) asserted that the SANBS discriminating on a point of pure demographics against gay males as blood donors makes perfect sense. I couldn't understand the logic in his argument. He claimed that the well-being of the end-user of the blood products outweighs Joe X's human rights as an HIV- gay man willing to donate blood, or to not be discriminated against. In his view, being gay is a lifestyle, and therefore risky behavior. He couldn't explain how there are more straight people, and straight women infected with the disease than gay people in the world today, of course, but I don't think he liked my claim that it might be on account of their "straight lifestyle". HIV is no respecter of persons, and neither is bigotry - or apparently, ignorance.

Do the SANBS test your blood at the donation point for HIV before they accept your blood? No? - But they use a piece of paper to "guarantee" that you are not gay, do not have anal sex, and are not lying to them. That's a pretty smart piece of paper.

While they may actually test the blood they RECEIVE later in a lab, they completely exclude a portion of perfectly good blood donors BEFORE they can even donate blood, and without testing them first. Make sense?

They turn away perfectly good blood from perfectly healthy and willing donors without even ascertaining their HIV status, enforcing a policy decision based merely upon the ASSUMPTION that because they are gay, they are promiscuous and automatically also HIV+.

Clearly he didn't understand that who a person loves or is attracted to is not a "lifestyle". The simple fact is ANYONE can catch HIV. Are we to keep score as to which group that has it is bigger and then say it is a "straight disease" or a "gay disease"? HIV is a disease folks, and ANYONE can get it. Period. Regardless of all this - my POINT is that they should be relying on TESTING to provide safe blood, NOT little bits of paper, and NOT discrimination.

Despite our Constitution - which looks fantastic on paper - it is still being flagrantly ignored and violated by the SANBS and its policies and the prejudice within them. Yes, South Africa's a lovely place to live if you're not straight. There's is no discrimination and no hate-crime, just as there is no crime problem.

On another evening, I was called by a friend who needed someone to talk to about a few problems he had on his mind. My friend is a passionate Christian minister who as it happens is a very open-minded sort of fellow - a fact you will appreciate if you consider him chatting openly over coffee with someone who is a transsexual woman, a human rights activist and, for all intents and purposes, a practicing witch. Oh, the irony.

Still, we enjoy our regular chats, my minister friend and I, the Wiccan - broad debates about all manner of things relating to philosophy and religion, history and politics. My friend the reverend was concerned about his future in the Church - an institution he feels does a rotten job of representing Christ on Earth, and instead delights in oppressing minorities, sidelining those in need, expanding its worldly assets - and destroying lives.

Homophobia is not indigenous to Africa. It was imported by Christian missionaries, taught and enforced by them upon the native cultures in the Dark Continent. The result? In the 21st century we have a predominantly homophobic and even violently homophobic Christian portion of society in South Africa - and now we blame them for it. Is it any wonder we are having a hard time getting the Churches to recognize our existence, our right to co-exist with them, to bless our unions and to stop persecuting us? Ironic? You don't say.

My minister friend is disheartened by the rigidity and exclusive policies within the framework of the organization calling itself the body of Christ, but acting instead like the right arm of the Devil.

He wanted to quit. He wanted to leave his chosen field - after all that time in study, after all that hard work and passion - and he wanted to know from me what he should do. I answered his question with a question. I asked him to think of his church with him in it, as a reflector of the light of the Christ he holds dear, an agent of tolerance, acceptance and love for all people. I asked him to think of all the marginalized, outcast people he has ministered to in his time in the Church. He said he was doing that, a sober look on his face.

Then I leaned in close and asked him to think of the same church without him.

There may be other ministers out there who feel the same frustrations as my friend - other reverends out there who act as shining lights of goodness and grace in the name of their faith to all people - but what if they all just walked off the job? Where would that leave the excluded, the outcasts, the rejected and persecuted? Where would that leave those who are not part of the cookie-cutter society, stubbornly resisting being pigeon-holed and neatly filed away out of sight? If he were replaced by someone who felt different, a zealot, a fanatic bent on oppressing diversity, uniqueness, individuality... would that not be worse?

My friend thinks so too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Blood Feud Continues...

I keep hearing the SA blood "service" whining about another blood shortage - but at the same time they continue to refuse to accept blood from people who are gay. They won't accept the perfectly good blood that the Pink Community willingly offers - so as far as I'm concerned, they can just whine and whine till they run dry.

They have no reason to not accept our blood. None. Only the terminally stupid or ignorant believes that blanket discrimination is the best way to protect people from receiving HIV infected blood. The problem here is their clear refusal to screen for HIV infected blood - but they clearly have no problem with discriminating against people. And surprisingly, they are allowed by SA's government to continue blatantly thumbing their bigoted little noses at the non-discrimination clauses in our Constitution. What gives?

Every complaint against their unjustifiable bigotry and prejudices has been met with skepticism, regurgitation of right-wing rhetoric asserting the deluded opinion that HIV is caused and spread exclusively by gay people - and that mainstay of South African culture - apathy.

The SA National Blood "Service" bans all gay people who are not sexually inactive for less than 6 months from donating blood.

They also ban blood from males on the grounds of anal sex - as if straight people and women don't indulge in anal sex. Uhuh. Right. Clearly these retards should watch a little of the pornography they take a so-called moral stand against - they would be educated quite quickly into abandoning this little fantasy of theirs - and naturally I am referring to the heterosexual variety.

Then they discriminate against married and faithful same sex couples. How does HIV somehow miraculously develop between two committed and faithful people who are HIV negative?

And the worst, most shocking fact of all is that they make around 2-300 ZAR per pint of blood they SELL to the hospital or medical aid - but won't even spare a mere 12 ZAR to test each donor before the time, or the blood before it goes out to the hospitals. They rely SOLELY on that little form the prospective donors fill out before the time, to supposedly keep the end user safe from infection. As if people never lie - or just don't know their HIV status. And of course there will be a disclaimer in the small-print to protect them from legal action should someone become infected as a result of their negligence.

Despite the facts which show the highest risk group for HIV infection today is not gay men, but black females under 25, it is the Pink Community that gets targeted for their very public prejudice. What more proof do you need that the people behind this charade still believe that HIV/AIDS is a GAY DISEASE?

Dear SANBS - the solution to obtaining safe blood is not by discriminating - but to TEST the donors, AND the blood products before they are used.

It's better for the blood service, it's better for the donors, it's better for the end user - it's better for everyone.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Woke Up This Morning

I woke up this morning, alone. The space beside me, cold and empty. You should have been there, but you weren't. Your pride was too strong and you were too good for me, remember? Well, I do. How could I ever forget?

You said you could handle my past, you said you could face the future by my side. But somehow both issues became just too steep for you to climb over. What I am and what I was before was just too much for you to accept or deal with, your misplaced faith that I could be anything else just too much for me to give in to, or capitulate.

Nothing in this universe could stop the process I went through to become who I am, nor turn it back to what I was, nor make me perfect enough for me to be acceptable to you. And so here we are, two opposites in a world of opposing forces, assigned labels like 'good' and 'evil' simply for how we come into this world, how we cope with it, and how we go out from it. In a world where we are taught too much that it matters, how can I blame you any further?

Facing each other across a great divide of what is called moral and acceptable by opposing camps, and what isn't, about what defines us as good or evil - no matter who we hurt, or how many, or how we hurt them, or how deeply. Considering the paradox of the society we live in, you and I - where someone who helps others, sacrifices of themselves and gives unselfishly can be judged immoral and evil, while someone who judges others, deprives them of the right to live and to find the happiness they themselves sometimes lack or miss, can be deemed moral and good. And all this just because of what we have - or had - between our legs, or between our ears, or in our hearts.

It's not right, but it is what it is - a fact as undeniable as the hollow in your pillow, or the extra room on your bed to sleep in. I often wonder if those who hate us so much wonder if their efforts have any effect on us? If they ever hear our cries, the mournful cries of loss, sorrow and pain inflicted by those who think they do good, or what they would even think or say or feel, if anything, if they ever did. And then I realize that while the loss of one is another's gain, and that sometimes what I lose now, I may regain in future, or not need again.

I woke up this morning, alone. I opened my eyes upon cold blank linen and stretched into the vacant space around me - and found it warmer without your condemnation, the silence - free of your criticism and insults, that much more pleasing. The realization dawned that sometimes it is more than just love or need that makes us who and what we are, or drives us apart, or brings us together - it is the cold facts and reality - that cold equation that decides things for us, no matter our feelings. And the understanding that there are plenty more fish in the sea, more oceans to explore than I dare dream, and that in the depths of these dark seas of the soul, filled with minnows and sharks - I am a whale.

I woke up this morning, fulfilled.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Christo-fascism Anti-fun Police At Work In SA

In recent times I began pondering more deeply about religious matters. Having come from a Christian background, I am more familiar with the way things work in what Pagans tend to describe as a "book religion" - by this is meant - a religion which is defined by a set of rules in a book, and a dogma which is taught and enforced in its temples, homes and wherever its adherents go.

The concept is firmly aimed at extending control over its adherents. You're not allowed to question or challenge anything. You're not supposed to innovate or find your own path or "cherry-pick" which principles in the book you're going to adhere to, and which not - which oddly enough is precisely what the fundamentalists do, even though they certainly won't admit to it. You're not supposed to think, argue or challenge anything - and least of all, to test it for yourself. You're supposed to do nothing but follow, keep your mouth shut, trust, have faith - and above all, to obey the doctrine.

Anyone who doesn't comply is outside the church, outside the law and out of "the grace of god" - or so they clam. When you begin to pick at the stitching holding this bag of nuts together of course, it begins to unravel somewhat dramatically.

The entire concept of a book religion is a house of cards - built on the foundation of the book itself. Therefore it can never be more firm than the foundation upon which it is set. It is claimed that the book is the work or writing of the foundational god of the book religion itself - and once you realize that "hang on a minute, some blokes wrote all this stuff down" - it's pretty much a domino effect from there. That's right - for a book to be entirely produced by the central deity of the religion - i.e. a set of laws given by it to Humanity itself, would amount to tantamount proof of the existence of that deity. Unfortunately, not one single copy of the Christian bible (or any other holy book) has been found with any signs that it was written by anything other than ordinary mortal men - no matter what their adherents claim. Oops.

Of course, most evangelists and missionaries today try to skirt the issue by claiming that the Bible is "inspired by God" - but of course this little argument can also be neatly torpedoed by pointing out the detail not every telephone directory in the world today is the Word of Alexander Graham Bell either. Oops again. Of course, when they go so far as to claim that this book is "inerrant", they are really saying that those who wrote it were perfect - and the document written entirely by the ancestors of the Human beings who designed the Hindenburg and built the Titanic, and invented the A-bomb were incapable of making any mistakes. Riiight.

Now before I begin to generate accusations that I am anti-Christian and "persecuting the Church" (again, lol) let me continue to say that this is an exercise in logic - and an argument about the validity of certain groups claim to have the "right" to force their views on other people. They claim they have this right because it is written down in a book, which was written down - by other people. Convenient.

Dogma. Dogmatic. According the freedictionary.com, "1. Relating to, characteristic of, or resulting from dogma. 2. Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles. See Synonyms at dictatorial." Dictatorial? Hmm. Somehow I'm not surprised.

Let's look at how some modern figures apply dogma today: The current action against ETV on the matter of "Naked News" simply demonstrates a few things to me: 1) That a man who runs practically a one man show such as the FPI can claim to represent "the People" as well as "all Christians" as he so often does (particularly when speaking against gay rights) is a demonstration of his supreme arrogance - and 2) that he can show the temerity to decide he is going to prevent other people from watching something he doesn't want to watch, instead of pressing a button to skip over to GodTV. 3) Some people clearly have too much time on their hands to focus on trivial little things. Imagine if they had actual problems to occupy their time? Bliss.

According to the Family Policy Institute run by homophobe and human rights opponent Errol Naidoo, "ETV is no longer welcome in my home" and "E-tv has defiantly dismissed the valid concerns of tens of thousands of SA citizens." Well, good for ETV. Funny, I don't see anyone holding a gun to the heads of "tens of thousands" of Christians with "valid concerns" and forcing them to watch it?

But of course, there is no room on TV for adults anymore - everything these Big Brother wannabe's don't agree with is randomly labeled as "exposing children to pornography on television". Naked news isn't on the kiddy shows time-slot, it's done late at night - why are your kids up that late? Of course, we could hold a debate on which is more damaging to the mind of a child - watching naked people read the news, or killing each other, blowing blood and guts up in an action movie? Funny, I never thought seeing people of the same sex kissing, or reading the news naked amounted to "pornography", at least not until some conservative wanker tried to wrap its mind around the concept of creativity and self-expression, and failed. I wonder if Naidoo would protest an exhibition of "the Thinker" or Michelangelo's "David" if it ever came this far South?

I don't see anyone holding a funnel in John and Jane Q. Conservative's clenched jaws and pouring a liberal dose of - um, liberalism down their all too parched conservative and authoritarian throats? Though, I admit, having been a long-time critic of basement religious fundamentalist conspirators, human rights opponents and christo-fascist Pinky and the Brain imitators, the idea does have its own appeal to me.

Not too long ago, Naidoo was bragging in his newsletters from the FPI about the extent of his influence over the department of Home Affairs in that he was steam-rolling an anti-pornography bill through Parliament, in order to prevent people from watching what they choose to on their own paid-for TV, internet and mobile phone services - but which would also give the government the excuse it badly needs to extend censorship laws over all electronic communications - which would probably happen anyway if the POI, currently under debate, comes to fruition.

It seems Naidoo doesn't like people having the freedom to ignore his dictatorial message of control. His intentions seem rather transparent when you look at his past efforts to limit freedoms of speech, expression and religion in the media and in society in general - and in our own homes. It seems remarkably like the ANC's Protection Of Information Bill - to control what YOU see, read, do and think - to be allowed to dictate to YOU what they want YOU to find acceptable, and to be allowed to THINK for YOU.

How about that new song by Lady Gaga? The Judas song of course. Due to religious fundamentalist outrage, all the radio stations in my area have banned it. Lol - is this the Old Regime of the apartheid years where songs were banned simply because one or two people didn't like them? Ironically enough the "Give me hope" song still made it through that, even though it basically thumbed it's nose at the Apartheid regime. At least 5fm still plays it. Some people have too little real actual serious problems to worry about. Whatever happened to "if it offends you, just don't listen to it"? After all, I had to change stations every time that bloated homophobic fossil and know-it-all James Dobson came on in the mornings, and they didn't remove the show just because I complained - or because he has been waging an anti-human rights war on people like me for the past 40 years. Nobody gave a continental shit about my feelings.

Thus we have people of just a few of the major religions in the world who are perpetually at each other's throats - not just because of disagreement - but because of dogma and the rigidity it brings, and the refusal to allow free or independent thought, expression, speech, conscience and so on.

People who think and act as these religious extremists would not be satisfied with minor victories over human and civil rights, in fact I don't think they will ever be satisfied until they rip our Constitution to shreds and replace it with a Southern Baptist-approved copy of the Levitican bible.

And let's not forget about the folks who really fly off the handle and blow shit up because they disagree with people not sticking to their dogma - the folks who blow up cars, trains, planes, buildings, other people - and themselves out of sheer rage, hatred, faith - and face it, brute stupidity. But at least they seem slightly more interesting and probably wouldn't bore us to death watching Benny Hinn, or Ray McCaulley asking for more money - or another risqué episode of the Golden Girls.

Go back to your basement, Pinky and The Brain. Leave us tax-paying, law-abiding citizens in peace to decide for ourselves what we want to read, watch or listen to - or not. Nobody died and made you God.