Spending quality time with the people you love - and who love you - is more than just goofing off or finding ways to spend time not actually doing anything useful. Many activists feel that taking such time is risky and wasteful and could be put to better use promoting the cause of human rights. After all, we are greatly outnumbered - and our enemies have no shortage of volunteers eager to drive another nail into the coffin of our human rights while our backs may be turned.
However, it does serve a very important purpose. Aside from reducing or countering the stress we as activists are met with in the world, it helps to remind us what it is we are fighting for - and why we are fighting in the first place.
We are out there fighting for the freedom and equality of GLBT folk, true enough, but after a while, facing the unbelievable hate out there, which can be really confusing, even the strongest of us can become cynical, worn down and worn out. I say it is confusing because many folk claiming to be loving Christians who brag they supposedly follow a loving god will diresct an enormous amount of un-christian hate at us from the religious corner. This can be rather demoralizing, because a great many GLBT people, as well as activists - find their strength in the very same religion - and god - whom these vicious folk have blatantly hijacked in their crusade against diversity and free will. This in effect causes them to lose their own faith and to doubt themselves.
I know several people who have been invaluable allies in the fight against bigotry, heterosexism and homophobia who have worked so very hard to make a difference, and who have succumbed to the stresses and strains of keeping up the fight. Some feel they dare not take a break in case something else will happen when their backs are turned - and the fear that there is nobody else to take their place. After all, activism is a calling. It is a stressful, self-appointed voluntary task, poorly paid (if at all) and the only reward is when the enemies of diversity and equality curse and revile you - because then you know you are onto a good thing and are doing something right.
I find seldom a week passes without at least one amusing email or snotty wall-post from some disgruntled bigot with a human rights chip on his or her shoulder popping into my mail box. (It has been some time however since my last death threat, so perhaps I am losing my edge.) I sometimes file the more amusing ones for later, just to have a good laugh.
So therefore it is imperative that more people get off their complacent asses and join the fight for equality. Regardless of who wins this election in SA, GLBT are going to still find themselves in a battle - either to hang on to the civil rights we do have - or to get them back after the bigots take them away.
The strain of keeping track of current events, writing press releases and letters, managing a newsletter and co-ordinating the affairs of a GLBT advocacy group - while balancing the above with a day job - can only be described as taxing.
Time spent with loved ones serves to refresh and renew our determination to fight to keep the rights we already have, to present a hard fight for those who would take them away - and to continue to really get up the noses of those who would play god with the lives of others. Activists are the voices which speak out for the rest of us, they are the tip of the sword. And a broken sword isn't much good, is it?
Today I spent another day on the beach with my wonderful girlfriend, walking hand in hand in the waves, feeling the stress sink away into the sand beneath our feet and not even noticing if anybody stared or not. This is the "new" SA after all, and there are mixed couples of all description in public these days, of all races, religions and genders. Nobody says "Haai sies, kyk die lessies!" in public anymore and to average ordinary folk, it's just old news and nothing to write home about. And that is one of the things that is still truly wonderful about this otherwise volatile country we live in. Hopefulness, and strength and unity in diversity.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.