Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cause For Concern

In a country where in a poll taken earlier this year, 1 in 4 men admitted to raping a woman, an international study showing that women are becoming "increasingly violent" is somehow cause for concern? Excuse me? So it is perfectly fine for men to be violent - especially towards women - but just let women exhibit the same behavior as men - and even towards men - and it is suddenly "cause for concern".

I would say the typical patriarchal mindset is cause for concern. It should have been for centuries, but this simple point shows me the hypocritical, selfish and self-centered nature of the beast itself. Do you see it?

False Profits

Yesterday I received a newsletter sent out the previous day by Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute (FPI), a US religious-right-inspired right wing group based in Cape Town, which is trying very hard to impose religious law on the state. In it, he was careful to mention the dangers of having liberal laws which are "clearly" responsible for "moral corruption" in the country - and which also threaten his religion and of course, "the family" as if gay people and women are not a part of it. He also made the suggestion that this is perfect time to take advantage of Zuma's invitation to the religious conservatives to "work with government", whatever that means. I think you know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reja Vu - A Hair Of The Dog That's Going To Bite You

The newly elected president of the UN General Assembly has called homosexuality "unacceptable" for his own personal religious reasons. How could such a man with such a negative anti-human rights bias be elected to such a post with such hefty human rights responsibilities? What does this bode for the future of human rights regarding the UN? How will this effect the many rights battles in the UN for women and the pink community around the world - especially in areas directly affected by human rights abuses specifically directed against the pink community?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Goose

I notice many cis-feminists out there attacking trans-women and berating them as "male pretenders." It makes me mad. After all, what does it take to be a woman? How much must a trans-woman cut off before she isn't considered "male" by these hypocrites? Some are truly hateful in their argument, leading me to believe that they hate anything which is - or was - in any way, shape or form masculine - even in terms of origin, even if no trace at all of that remains.

As one who supports democracy and freedom of conscience, it is my firm belief that cis-feminists are entitled to their erroneous opinion that trans-women are "men" - even if it proves that they are insensitive, blithering idiots.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Nuclear Family" Goes Super-citical

It is scary to notice the ignorance and apathy out there, especially in the pink youth. Notice that I said "notice" and not "see"? After all, everybody sees it - but it has to be said that not many actually "notice".

A flamboyant young gay friend of mine - only 18, is a case in point. I try to make him aware of the dangers out there and the effects of apathy and compacency, but always get the response "oh, you're always so serious!" I have had the same experience with others his age whom I have engaged with socially. They seem utterly uninterested in and detached from current events.

Perhaps I am serious a lot of the time, but I have to say that these are serious times we are living in today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reconstruction Time Again

Having seen signs of a worldwide religious fundamentalist web spanning the globe, it is quite easy to start jumping to conclusions and formulating conspiracy theories. It is surprisingly quite easy to do, check a right-wing religious fundie group's website and see whose material they are using or propagating, which groups do they provide links to on their contacts page, who are their leaders and guest speakers and which other groups do they belong to? Who are they affiliated to? Go beyond that and research the ideologies they follow - such us "reconstructionism", "dominionism", "transformation" and see who is active in working for it. Start joining them up and I can promise you, after trying to draw a diagram of this sort, you will run out of space pretty fast!

I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but I am reminded by some in whom I have confided, that these are simply "religious groups co-operating with each other" and acting on the basis of similar beliefs - although to me, in my own limited lay-man sensibility, that forms a kind of network, doesn't it?

Let's take a group such as Christian Action Network as an example. They are a prime anti-gay, anti-human rights and anti diversity hate group in South Africa. If there is a press release or an email campaign, or a protest in South Africa about either abortion, gay rights or religious matters, or what X and Y are doing in the privacy of their own homes, odds are they are the ones behind it. CAN boasts that it has around 108 member groups and bodies fulfilling various roles in society, all Christian fundamentalist, and all aligned by nature. They don't like to say which groups are affiliated to CAN, but with a little smart detective work, a few mouse clicks and a lot of reading, you can piece together the puzzle. This is intriguing for one thing - the Franschoek Declaration. Another part of the group - Christian Liberty Books, works hard to peddle books on homosexuality, why feminism, communism and Islam are evil and how great it is to be a fundamentalist, all written by Hammond - the showpiece is the now infamous "the Pink Agenda" of 2001 which made extensive use of blatantly false "studies" and thumb-sucked "facts" intended to incite hatred against the pink community. The top member group is of course Frontline Fellowship, led by the man who fronts CAN - the "paintball pastor" himself, Peter Hammond.

Why do they call him that? Well, do a Google search for his name and "paintball pastor" and you will see for yourself. No wonder he has dropped off the radar since - I wouldn't want to show my face after that embarrassment either - nor would I take him seriously as a pastor or a "reverend".

So there we have the CAN, consisting of FF and its 100 or so member groups and bodies.

Closely tied to CAN is the largest fundie political party in SA - the ACDP. ACDP delegates have participated in CAN workshops and acted as guest speakers on itchy topics such as gay rights and the "threat of homosexuality" against the church and the almighty "nuclear family". I have spoken at length in the past about the ACDP and how it propagates anti-gay lies and propaganda based on fraudulent "scientific studies" and "research" performed by darlings of the US religious right such as Paul Cameron - which they devour hungrily along with a staple diet of fundamentalist scriptural misinterpretation. They believe gay people "choose" to be gay, "recruit" in schools (hence the press release this week to applaud Lithuania for passing laws banning discussion of gay topics in schools) and that being legally equal to gay people "oppresses" them.

Like the CAN, they also view secular government as a major threat to their faith and after a little thought, it seems to me their perception of religious freedom and equality is that everybody should be Christian and fundamentalist like them, and if you aren't, you shouldn't be equal. These beliefs they share with all members and bodies of the CAN and their affiliates. Since 1994 the ACDP has very vocally opposed every single move which gave the pink community in South Africa equality and civil rights. It opposes gay equality so much that it has made it the main focus of coming elections, starting with municipal by-elections in 2011 and the next general election in 2014.

ACDP groups on Facebook have been closed down by their new fundie propeller-head admin, who is trying to consolidate their membership on the social networking site into one big official ACDP group. This has been made private, so that people wanting to join have to request to join by producing their ID numbers and party membership numbers! This is obviously to keep out prying eyes - mostly liberal and pink, I would think - and to avoid being made to look foolish in arguments with human rights advocates who get them so angry that they admit things which cost them elections. And now they sit behind closed doors, complaining about that pesky gay pride festival in Johannesburg next month, gosh darn it - and wondering about what to do about it. And whining about "deluded" Christians who didn't vote them into government - and how to restructure their strategy for 2011 so they can win them over. Conspiracy? Just because its only a theory, does it mean they aren't actually conspiring?

Great, so now I have a line connecting the CAN and ACDP, representing co-operation and affiliation.

Then there is the new and vaunted Family Policy Institute, which has sprung up in Cape Town during last year, fronted by poster-boy Errol Naidoo - who has used his new platform to continue his crusade to get every Pride event in South Africa banned. Errol is almost famous, but particularly so for his nine-year-long war on the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras in Knysna. His bullying and brow-bashing is by now almost as much a part of the festival as the pink feathers and the parade along the main road, although not as frivolous. Coincidentally, Errol has appeared in many FF and CAN articles, as guest speaker on the topic of homosexuality - often together with Peter Hammond - and the two of them also appear together in the list of editorial staff for the fundie mouthpiece rag "JOY!" magazine.

Recently, and most telling of all, the ACDP made public an admission that Peter Hammond and Errol Naidoo had called all religious fundamentalist political parties together just before the April 22 elections in order to facilitate a political alliance - which some people at the ACDP have nicknamed a "Republican Party for South Africa"!

Great. Just what we need. A fundie super-party made up of conservative losers that will probably share a whole 6 seats in Parliament, fighting over who gets the spotlight first. Damn, but its getting crowded in there.

Fortunately this little plan flopped - that time, but I get the idea we can expect something like that to take place some time in future - if they can ever put aside their petty differences and stop fighting over who gets to use the comb first. To go up a step further, Mr Hammond is also on the Steering Committee for a group called the ICCP -International Church Council Project, which is both anti-feminist and virulently anti-gay. If you read a bit you may recognize some names featured in the article on Wikipedia about dominionism linked at the beginning of this article. One of them would be "Rushdooney". If I were a conspiracy theorist, I could easily draw a line between the CAN and the ICCP and claim they were up to no good. Whether or not they are up to no good, and whether or not to draw a line between them is a choice I will leave up to you after looking there, and here:

While you're at it, have a look at this: Fundie parties who formed the CDA (Christian Democratic Alliance) in 2008, signed a charter last year on the web. They cheekily called it the "Christian Charter", because they view all those whose rights they conspire to oppose as "un-Christian", and tried to use it as a rallying call to generate voter support for the April 22 election. That little sword-motif is getting monotonous, if not a little scary.

Perhaps now you can see how easy it is to join the dots between groups. Deciding whether these groups are all working together and conspiring together to the detriment of human rights, equality and freedom is a lot harder. Certainly the old concept of "one is a dissident, two a conspiracy" applies.

Isn't it odd that the God these people claim to follow, gave people free will - and that some people use their free will to take it away from others?

Seems some people don't like being made fools of in arguments of why some people should be treated equally and others not. Usually it is the religious fundamentalist types who like to flex their muscles in trying to force people to believe what they believe.

As far as I am concerned, I think it is a fear of upsetting the status quo - religion being at the core of the problem, not wishing to lose credibility in the mind of society - a euphemism for losing control.

Anything which invalidates their theocratic authority, which they cannot dismiss, explain or argue away is seen as a threat. Science and historical fact are seen as the top two. On the other hand, ignorance of the public - and consequent blind faith - is seen as their biggest ally.

It seems there are no depths too deep or dark for some people to sink to in order to promote their own hatred and intolerance - and the folly of this is outweighed only by the ignorance of masses of people only too keen to believe them - because they don't know any better.

Knowledge and education is the key to this human tragedy which is a bonfire of hate fueled by ignorance.

At any rate, I would encourage everyone to not just accept everything dished out to them at face value - go out there and dig up what you can and expose it to the light. Question everything. Ask "why?" more often. Spread fact and knowledge and present it as a challenge to those who speak or act out of ignorance and intolerance. But most importantly, ask what kind of a loving God would side with human rights abusers instead of those being abused?

I think that is where you will find your answer.

Exactly the same place where they lose their authority.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Storm Clouds Gather

One of my main arguments over the past few years has been that the pink community should involve itself in government, politics, religion etc so that those who act against our equality and human rights cannot make a move without it getting past us first. Few groups could embody or give form to my fears for South Africa than the ubiquitous ACDP.

Another strange (yet unrelated) thing I have noticed is the number of representatives of certain bigot religious groups who seem to want to "meet me for coffee" lately. I suppose they have figured out that threatening letters and hate mail don't work on me.

Beyond The Irony

Is God male?

Does God really belong to a single gender?

Men (the patriarchy) like to claim God as their own and also use “Him” as a tool to demand obedience and submission to them. If God has a sex, should it matter to his followers what that sex is? It’s a bit odd though that some people find the act of wondering if God is a “She” or even if God is without gender, or representing all genders, insulting and blasphemous.

Insulting and blasphemous? Insulting? What does this say about the male perception of women? Perhaps this is more revealing about the insecurity of God’s followers than the nature of God itself?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does Equality Of One = Oppression Of Another?

Groups such as Focus on the Family are not "family" organizations. They certainly claim to be, and they would dispute my statement beyond a doubt, but their claim can be proved false simply by analyzing their approach to family life. Are they intent on preserving family life as it is - or are they intent on enforcing an ideal which happens to suit their personal religious "world view"? Were their claim true, would they not be nurturing the families that happen to exist out there, supporting them, instead of cracking down on family types they happen to dislike, refuse to recognize as families, and drive wedges between family members?

Interesting Times

What an insane little world we live in. Just this past week a few things have popped up in the media that make me think the world is losing touch with reality. Indonesia has passed harsh laws - apparently adulterers can be stoned to death, and gay people face stiff jail sentences. Hmm. I'm surprised those "humanitarians" didn't get it the other way around.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How To "Mng" Hate Mail

Some of the bigots who make the effort to send me hate mail are really irate before they do so, and the more pissed off they get, usually the less sense they make. I have previously mentioned that I tend to file my hate mail. Far from being masochistic, I do this with good reason. You see, the more I know those folks hate me, the more I know I am doing the right thing. Apart from that, it is quite entertaining and motivational to occasionally take it all out and read it over a glass or two of good wine. 

Sometimes it is amusing to note the colorfulness of the content, or the rhyme, or even the imagery. The sense of outrage, injustice and paranoia on the part of the writer is often striking and ironic, and if anything the saddest and most surreal part of the whole business. Honestly, though my girlfriend isn't that amused by the things said in there about me, I find it rather amusing. I say it is motivating, because it helps inspire me to work towards a world free of hatred. I also have to admit I keep the compliments I receive too - and it's comforting that there is more than twice as much of that than there is hate mail.

Doing The "Told You So" Two-Step

There are people out there, who while being born with the same needs and feelings as everybody else, are not treated the same as everyone else. These are people who always have to fight bigotry and prejudice in order to get ahead and compete with other people on the world stage - just to have the same standing in life as others. There are people out there who want to do what everybody else out there takes for granted - they would like to marry the people they love.

While there are those who are quite happy to take their wedding vows in the dilapidated facilities at the local Home Affairs department, whose tiny wedding chapel (at least in my home town) has only one entrance - which is in the crowded and noisy foyer filled with bored and frustrated people standing in long queues all day (but I have to admit I am not one of them). A wedding is an occasion of personal significance and import, deserving of at least some dignity and respectability. Churches generally ask fees and monies for services rendered, there is no getting away from that - but it seems that no matter how much money you may have available to spend on your wedding - at some churches, if you are gay and want to get married, your money isn't good enough - and it seems, neither are you.

This often causes me to wonder how "Christian", or should I say "Christ-like" some churches really are?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Suffering In The Darkness Of Ignorance

Over the past weekend I received another taste of the hatred and intolerance which people hold against their fellow human beings. That this person sent their hate mail to me via an email address of the organization I represent in my home town, indicates to me that this person must live in the same place - and the timing of this, for various reasons which I will not go into here, even more so. It saddened me that much more, especially at a time while I have already been saddened by the loss of a particularly inspiring mentor and minister, who gave selflessly and worked for the inclusion of all people into the family of God. I am also sad to say that I was unsurprised that this hatred came from a person professing Christianity - a faith which holds a loving father-figure God as its tradition and core belief, as well as loving each other selflessly after the pattern set by Christ. This message seems all too rare in modern Christianity, doesn't it? Especially when you face hatred and intimidation such as this on a regular basis.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bypassing Death

Some might claim that like the secret of flying is missing the ground, the secret to immortality is simply not dying.

While this may seem like an over simplistic way of looking at the subject, it also happens to be true.

Censorship And The Demise Of Personal Liberty

For some time, religious fundamentalist groups in SA have been campaigning to ban various things in this country. A few months ago, a massive crowd - all of 18 people - picketed outside the Sexpo in Cape Town, demanding a return to "traditional" and "family values" and the banning of pornography - much to the amusement of the 20 odd thousand people drawn to the sexpo by their very negative press, which unintentionally turned out to be very positive for the sexpo instead. Such groups have held numerous protests and mounted email campaigns against "soft-porn" on E-TV, "blasphemy" in student "rag" magazines and of course, marches against abortion. And of course, who can forget the thousands who marched in South Africa some years ago to oppose marriage equality - because people falling in love and getting married is just way too bad for "the family", and will cause our fragile civilization to collapse?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beating Ploughshares Into Swords

Is religious fundamentalism fascist in nature? Are religious fundamentalists prone to it? I have heard them being called fascists and agreed with it simply because of the general perception - and my own personal experience - that fascists aren’t very nice people either. I have often drawn comparisons between them - and I find it surprising that I never realized that they seem to genuinely have so much in common with our totalitarian friends who like to march under flags sporting propeller-like symbols – and marginalizing sections of society they don't like very much - whom they delight in pointing out how much "better than" they are.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Cult Of Mud And Dirt

I have often wondered at the clear division between people who see the world as it is, and those who see it from inside a book written by other people.

Last week a person who described herself as a "metaphysical consultant" and I engaged in a stimulating short exchange of personal views. I have to say I liked the views she expressed and the discussion because my blogs and articles always tend to drift towards the religious and esoteric side of things - though "metaphysical consultant" sounds awfully impressive, if not a little intimidating!

The writer referred to Mary Douglas, a renowned anthropologist and her suggestion that "dirt is matter or place." "In other words," the writer explained, "Mud is fine in the garden, but called dirt when the dogs tramp it into the lounge. In other words, human beings consider what is out of place in any particular context dirty or impure."

There is a school of thought that says fundamentalists are "best left to their folly until such times as they see the light or the shift of consciousness leaves them in the same position as the dinosaurs."

Were it not for all the other people around them who they affect negatively through their folly, I would agree with that completely. Also, the comparison of mud being "mud" outside the home and "dirt" inside it, can itself be compared to gay and straight people both being sinners and children of God at the same time - and not necessarily only inside a church - but everywhere all the time.

I suppose you could say it would be an eye-opening experience indeed, to see the carpet or the lounge from the viewpoint of the mud/dirt - or the dog.

Identity Crisis

I read in the papers last Friday that an advocate - Zahir Omar - had publicly criticized a Judge solely on the basis of her sexuality. The title of the article was particularly amusing - "Lesbian judge lashed". This sounds very kinky. Can I join in?

Less amusing however, was the evident antagonism displayed by Omar, who seems to think a Judge unworthy of holding the position in the Constitutional Court simply because of who she loves. Omar is reported to have told the JSC: "Learned Judge Satchwell's unconventional lifestyle is not something that the majority of South Africans can relate to. The majority of South Africans are God-fearing and follow some or other religion. There is no religion that condones homosexuality. Therefore the major portion of the South African people will not be able to identify with the learned judge."

I wonder, who exactly is left in the world today that these "God-fearing South Africans" Mr Omar talks about can identify with?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Caster-gation Of The Rainbow Nation

For those who don't know me, my name is Christina Engela and I am a transwoman - or if you will, a transsexual woman. What does that mean exactly? Now that we have the support-group greeting out of the way, let me explain.

Once upon a time there was a little boy who always felt that - somehow, inside, he was actually a little girl... 

To the world I was a little boy, who liked dolls and girly things and who was awfully confused by the way girls were treated differently to boys - and who clearly did not want to be included with the boys. I learned very early on that little boys who were soft and effeminate were frowned upon - and were given a very hard time. The world didn't understand who I was, and quite honestly, for some time, neither did I. And that is the really sad part - because the subject of gender and transgender is so taboo in conservative society that the only way to find out who you are as a transgender person is to figure it out for yourself. I was 26 before I even really fully understood who and what I was. And when I learned the truth, I grabbed onto it with all that was in me.