Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blood Feud

I disagree with the University of the Free State for letting those four racist students off the hook - it is repulsive what they did, urinating in food and tricking people into eating it - and then posting videos of it all over the web. There is no excusing it, and they should be punished for it.

However, I disagree that this case gets so much urgent high profile attention while other preceding cases of heterosexism and homophobia are still on the back-burner after more than a year. After all, these "students" still have not apologized to the victims, just complained about the misfortunes they have suffered as a result of their offensive actions. What they did was a personal assault on their victim's bodies and their dignity as people, based entirely on race. It was an act which was unprovoked, inexcusable and unjustifiable.

Are the civil rights of the pink community less worthy than those of Black people? Is racism more of a public or moral outrage than homophobia or transphobia? What is good for one is good for all. That is equality. At least, to my understanding of the word.

On the topic of discrimination, gay males are still discriminated against by the SA National Blood Service. Oh yes, all sorts of "facts" are produced, including the fallacy that HIV is somehow a "gay disease" and that gay men are at "higher risk" of having the virus - despite the conclusive proof, which is even general knowledge - that more heterosexual females worldwide are HIV positive than gay people as a demographic.

A few years ago, the blood service still followed racist policies which dictated that black people were an "unacceptable risk" for HIV. Consequently, black people's blood was not accepted. This was highlighted in 2005 when President Mbeki donated blood - and a very embarrassed blood service hastily revised its policies, presumably to avoid litigation and further embarrassment. Following this, a few GLBTI advocacy groups climbed on the band wagon and achieved absolutely nothing. The SANBS believes it gave gay men a huge "concession" by allowing them to donate blood - but only if they remain celibate.

They call this "the six-month rule", which implies you can donate blood only after you have been celibate for six months and have not tested HIV positive. Obviously, this implies that in order to be a long term donor, a gay man should remain celibate. It further implies the fallacy that gay sex is any more risky than heterosexual sex, even factoring in sexual practices which straight couples may get up to that would cause the puritans in charge to choke on their cornflakes. This insult, despite radical advances in HIV testing which have made it so affordable and convenient as to completely invalidate any argument the SANBS could provide to continue this charade.

The message? It's okay for gay men to donate blood - but only if they "stop" being gay.

You could also argue that it implies discrimination is unacceptable - unless it is against gay males - or transsexuals. Some donation centers have also reportedly refused to accept blood from even post-operative male to female transsexuals. Ironically enough, if you take the trouble to dig a little deeper, you will usually find us trannies sharing the burden somewhere along the line.

Ask yourself this: Is the drive to refuse gay blood a fear of contracting HIV/AIDS, or is it an embodiment of the irrational right wing fear that receiving blood from gay people will somehow make them gay?

After all, there are blood tests for detecting HIV - but none for sexual orientation. Are many of the same folks who argue against gay blood donors not also the same folks who believe that you can "catch gay" from a toilet seat, or when children are "exposed" to gay people - so much so that they spend millions of dollars internationally to put this point of view across to a gullible and ignorant public?

As a female, try walking through a mall in Jozi one day, holding hands with a girl or kissing. Last year I did that, quite innocently, and suddenly saw people bouncing trolleys off walls and even falling up stairs while watching us. On one side it was hilarious - on the flip-side, it was disappointing because in retrospect, it is quite revealing of how conservative SA still is, in some places more than others.

Visit some fundie church or political party websites and read their policies on marriage equality and gay rights, examine the language. Investigate what other bodies they are linked to or receive support from. Examine their involvement in current politics, read what they say in press releases and news articles - why they say people should vote for them.

Take the CDA for example - this tiny and now insignificant party aired an offensive radio ad less than two weeks before election day and listed gay rights as an attack on the Christian faith and the root cause of moral degeneration and other problems in the country - and urged "true" Christians to vote for it on April 22nd. If that isn't incitement to intolerance or hatred, then I don't know what is. Now they are whining that their religious freedom is "under attack", now that they know they were reported for hate speech. Funny, I didn't know incitement to hate and hate speech was "freedom of religion" - or a "fundamental" part of any religion.

It is amazing that a word as innocent and commonplace as "family" can suddenly be turned into a threatening term. When an idealistic word like "equality" can be freely used by people to describe what you do not have, and labels like "Christianity" are used as if you could never be included as long as you are you.

What they are saying about us applies to all of us.

Families may be viewed by many as a "basic building block" of society, but in truth, even families are made up of individuals - and if individuals are unhappy or in various types of need or personal trauma, then this resulting state will be felt in the family which they form a part of.

Happy people make happy families.

There are diverse forms of family in modern society, the single-parent families, the families separated by distance or tragedy, the families with adopted children and adopted parents, the same gender parents, the families of different backgrounds, cultures, languages and religions - all the players on the field who know the same thing we all do - that love makes a family.

I want to be part of a society which ensures that all families are given the affirmation and the opportunities they deserve to be happy, accepted and to feel relevant - not one that sidelines people for who they are and labels them a "threat" to something they are an integral part of.Reveal to someone in conversation that you are gay or bi or even trans or intersex and watch the reaction. Sometimes I find people react as though you have just told them your little brother Timmy just died last week, and they are resisting the urge to say "I'm sorry".

Don't be sorry. Be considerate. I'm not ashamed of who I am - or sorry for it.

How does my gender or the gender of my partner affect you in any way? How can my civil right to marry who I love - the same way you do - ever affect your own marriage? How does sticking your finger up a gay man's nose in the street affirm your personal choice of religious life-style choice - or make you a better class of person than him?

Some people in the modern world cannot seem to grasp that people can be different AND equal at the same time. They clearly enjoy the benefits of democracy, but obviously do not understand the first thing about it.

To change this, we need to educate them - but we also need to make ourselves AWARE first.

Some people believe that if you go looking for bigots, you'll find them. This is probably true up to a certain point, of any society - however, just see how many bigots you can count in our present SA government and while you're at it, see how high up the pecking order they are perched.


Are they not the nice folks who make our laws - or unmake them?


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