Taking on the immense hate there is out there for gay and transgender people is a very, very difficult thing to do. You open yourself up to all sorts of attack, both verbally and physically - in the online world and also in the real world.
In the past few years I have built up a small collection of what I call "fan mail" from "admirers" who have threatened - even from half the world away - to hurt me and even to kill me. Some of the lesser creative ones have even threatened legal action without any solid basis whatever for daring to tackle their unadulterated bigotry. Some of them would make pretty good one-liners, except they have no actual punchline. Just to cheer me up, I have also committed to memory the verbal threats and bullying I have been faced with in real life.
Once, I was even called the most unbelievably vile things by a teenager just because of my gender identity - and this young man actually had the gall to afterwards proudly claim that he was a "Christian", even though the below-the-bible-belt explatives he vented at me did not reflect that. There is something wrong with our collective view of what it is to be Christian - or even good people, because even an atheist - or an agnostic like me - can be a good person.
I have oft consoled myself that if the right people hate me enough to send me such flattering material, then I must logically be doing something, well - right. But even so, it is not really enough to just piss off the bad guys - you need to not actually piss off the good guys too.
Taking on people who can spout such blatant hatefulness in the name of what I always believed to be a loving god just makes me see red. Even more difficult than just taking on those who hate innocent people, is containing the anger one feels at the injustice of it all - and therein lies the problem.
The bigots really have it easy, because they claim to speak for all "true" Christians, and it is easy to sit back on their pedastals and point fingers down at people taking them on about their lies and hatred - and to claim that those who disagree with them are attacking all Christians and Christian teachings. Some people actually believe this.
For me the most difficult, complex and intricate challenges that face an activist is that in tackling those who hate gay people using the name of what is mostly a loving faith as a powerful weapon - the good and loving Christians are often tarred with the same brush as the bigots.
This is regrettable and not the intention of those standing in the way of people who would put words in the mouth of God and shed innocent blood in his name. At least it is not my intention. I know many people who are Christians and yet who refuse to judge me and who welcome me in the love of friendship and family. I even know the inside of a local church that welcomes and loves GLBT people - and I am among them.
What then is my intention?
To challenge bigotry and false teachings about gay and trans people, to oppose the hate permeating religious circles in South Africa today in the line of what is today being called "biblical literalism" and fundamentalism. To educate people and to challenge them to think for themselves and to exercise their free will to make their own decisions and choices and not to let blind faith in what other people have been bashing them over the heads with to further their own selfish aims prevent them from seeing the truth.
Education is the key. People fear what they do not know or understand. I have seen that first hand as a transgender person who transitioned in a male dominated macho military environment, how fear and ridicule gradually gave way to curiosity and then later, as questions were freely asked and answered, acceptance and even friendship.
I have mostly tried to follow this precedent when dealing with fundamentalist Christian gay-haters and those who I encountered campaigning to remove GLBT rights from the Constitution under the false impression that they are somehow "Christian soldiers" fighting for God.
For one thing I have tried to point out to them is that, if there is indeed a God, he is a powerful being who most certainly does not need specks of dust to fight insignificant battles for him - nor would he look very kindly upon those who have taken it upon themselves to spill innocent blood in his name.
It seems to me that this fear of education or enlightenment about GLBT matters and the campaign to prevent this from reaching people is manifestation that the bigots dont want people to stop fearing GLBT. Obviously this would stop them from hating GLBT, which would slightly derail their plans for uniting all of Christendom in voting certain small fundamentalist parties into theocratic government in SA, and uniting in stripping a minority group of its hard earned civil and human rights and equality.
And they want it so bad that right now, they can almost taste it.
In the past I may have even overstepped the mark and unwittingly offended loving and open minded Christians with 'friendly fire' along with the bigots. In the process I may have created the impression that I may be anti-christian, when this is not so. While I have my own views on religion and the closest I get to it these days is eating a hot-cross bun, this is not the case.
I have on occasion remarked that I am ashamed to be called a Christian - and if people like Jimmy Swaggart who claim to speak for God and said on video tape that if a gay man flirted with him he would "kill him and tell god he died" define the term "Christian" - then this is indeed so.
People like him and those who support him define the meaning of the word 'bigot' and spread hate and incitement to it - and such hate results in such awful tragedies as "corrective rape", murder and other crimes.
Were I ever to recover the faith in this god that I have lost because of people such as this who claim authoritatively that 'gays make god vomit' and that god hates his own creation, then I would most definitely never call myself a Christian again.
What I would like to point out to those starting out as activists is the following. Call it my humble two cents worth taken from my limited experience: The important thing when taking on bigots directly is to answer fallacy with fact and to educate the public in the process - hopefully without alienating all the other Christians in the process who might actually agree with you. After all, you can seldom argue a bigot into changing his mind (and yes, there is something wrong with the one he has, but you don't need to point it out) - but through your argument you can show those who read the argument what the bigot is, by his own words and the hate in them - and how wrong.
Through this, people can be educated. In all the time I fought bigotry on the forum called Minekey, only ONE person ever contacted me to apologize for his uneducated assumptions and to thank me for showing him the actual truth. While this is a small number, it is gratifying to know that at least there was one - and that uncounted others had also seen the debate and learned from it. This can be applied in public forums almost anywhere.
Some wall posts and letters remain available online on forums and websites for years after and can still prove useful, so you can save them or distibute them or even post links to them on other forums for others to see.
Knowledge is power - and evidence of hate is food for thought, and I think people are feeling a bit peckish.
Being gay or transgender is no joke in todays world. Even in civilized places - or places we consider to be civilized - like the USA, there is so much hatred for "the other" that gay and transgender people are brutalized and slain simply for being who they are. The fuel for this blazing inferno of hate? Christian fundamentalism combined with biblical literalism - the folk who cut their whole faith down to a book - and then take out what they consider the essence of it and then distill a cold hard hate out of it.
They are usually the folk who claim "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" - and then set about demanding the death penalty and judging others they would like to see stoned or hung and attack the equality of GLBT and anyone who happens to disagree.
If only they could see how wrong they are. And how arrogant. It is said by some that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Facing the hate we as GLBT do in this world today, I would say instead that the road to heaven is paved with hell.
If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.
If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to email@example.com or use the Contact form.
All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.