Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End 2009

So here we come to the end of another year - and what a year this was! Over this past year a great many things have happened around the world as well as in South Africa.

We have seen the South African General Elections in April - and we have seen, for various reasons, both cause for concern - and hope for the future. Over this past year, with all the threats against our civil rights both in South Africa and around the world, we have seen a renewed interest in the affairs which affect us - namely politics and religion. It goes without saying that apathy is a deadly trap which we must be careful not to fall into. Over the past two years since I first started getting involved in activism I have seen steady increase in awareness and participation, and have been trying very hard to encourage GLBTIQ participation.

"Get involved" I have been telling you, "Get off your ass - before somebody who hates you kicks it." It is very encouraging to me to see that some people finally seem to be getting it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rubber Room With A View

Despite clear and easily understood press releases, explanations and statements released by eminent scientists to explain that diverse sexual orientation and gender identity is perfectly natural, and despite their attempts to simplify the explanations - some people, typically narrow minded religious fundamentalists, refuse to accept that gay people are born gay and transgender people, transgender.

"No, that's not it - it has to be a sin! These perverts like it - they're choose to be gay."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bad Apples

Just a week or so ago, I sent out a request from a pink community related religious organization to the supporters of another pink advocacy group, asking for support in speaking out against the pending Genocide Bill in Uganda. Surprisingly, I got a barrage of outrage from one of the recipients on the mailing list, letting me have both barrels because I dared to associate Christianity with the pink community! Most confusing of all, this was from a gay man!

Sun Stroke

Everybody have a nice Christmas? Ever think about the tradition and where it comes from? I did, and decided to find out. I must say, what I found reinforced my misgivings about organized religion, after all, Christmas is a good time to point out Christian hypocrisy - "peace on Earth and goodwill to all 'men'" soon turns to "take all you can" and "hang 'em high!" and "it's God's will".

This could be the pink folks in Uganda's last Christmas before getting herded into camps and exterminated by folks calling themselves "Christians" - but hey, let's all enjoy the peace while it lasts.. 'Tis the season to be jolly, after all. Anyway, I hate to be a wet blanket - so, in the spirit of a religion that can't even invent its own festivals, I wish you all a very happy Saturnalia (and ask you to remember that Santa's red hat you're wearing is the symbol of a freed slave in ancient Roman times. Interesting symbolism... and don't forget the decorated trees and sprigs of holly and greenery about the house... AND the celebration of anyone's birth - were all considered PAGAN traditions by the early Christians - who apparently knew a lot more than we give them credit for in modern times. Now how about that? Seems to me this all indicates something modern evangelicals tend to fanatically deny - that like a living language, a living faith is subject to CHANGE...and things that are unable to adapt to change die. Sweet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Price Freedom?

It seems almost undeniable that every modern religion has to have an enemy or a scapegoat. Without something to fear, clerics would have nothing to warn against, nothing to unite people under them with. No Bogie Man or big bad wolf to keep the flock encircling the camp fire in the dark night of the soul, so to speak. Without some threat, real or imaginary, they would have nothing to point fingers at and say THAT is why WE are God's chosen people and THEY are NOT.

An old saying which puts it "just so" for me, goes: "If you believe in God, it is because of the Devil".

Islamic fundamentalists for example, use the USA as their favorite enemy - even though many of the problems they blame on others are of their own making. Likewise, countries like Uganda, suffering from rampant Christian fundamentalism, see fit to blame unbelievable things on the pink community - things which considering the influence and role of American evangelicals there of late, sound exactly like the rhetoric of the US religious right.

In Africa, foreign evangelicals have been active for many years now, but over the years it has become apparent that their “mission” is more one of control than of “liberation”. Let’s take an example: In 2007, Uganda’s highest court struck down a law that made adultery a crime. Religious leaders took to their pulpits the next Sunday, which was Easter, to denounce the ruling. Gary Skinner, the Canadian founder and pastor at Watoto Church in Kampala, was among them.

“We condemn all inhuman practices including homosexuality, prostitution which people are pushing for their legalisation,” the Monitor, a Ugandan news outlet, reported Skinner saying.

Inhuman? I wonder what this man has to say on the topic of genocide and how it relates to his work as a “man of God”?

This problem of religious fundamentalism exists right across Africa and not just in Uganda or Rwanda. This of course, is not exactly a new thing, but it has seen a recent upsurge in action and support.

In South Africa for example, right up until the fall of the NP government, being gay was a criminal offence. We still hear horror stories of what the military did to pink folks under the old regime, from stories about the "blue pill" they dropped in the troopies coffee to the aversion "therapy" and forced gender reassignments carried out at military hospitals. What most people today don't know, is that more harsh laws - laws similar to some of those in the Ugandan Bill, were about to be passed in the early nineties when the apartheid government fell. GASA was one group which campaigned against it at the time and many of the older generation GLBT folk can tell us some interesting tales about those days.

There are many anti-gay groups active in South Africa today, who are religious-based, way off the deep end as far as fundamentalism is concerned - and most of whom have direct links to the US religious right. Some of these have been mentored directly (ie Family Policy institute and Focus on the Family. Even Exodus International, now infamous for its direct involvement in Ugandan atrocities, has affiliates here).

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I am convinced that if not for our Constitution, things in SA would be quite different today. It is positively frightening that some of these same groups today openly state their intentions to change the Constitution in order to strip GLBTI people of equality and our civil and human rights.

Ray Mc Caulley, the NILC and Jacob Zuma are not alone in wanting to change the SA Constitution - they are backed by many others, such as Erroll Naidoo and his Family Policy Institute, Peter Hammond and his Christian Action Network and a host of religious fundamentalist crusaders, including wannabe political parties such as the ACDP and CDA trying to defend humanity against itself.

In Rwanda a bill criminalizing homosexuality was tabled yesterday. There is still no notice of the outcome, but less than 48 hours notice was given and it can be surmised that activists only learned of its existence at the last minute. This if nothing else, should serve as motivation to keep informed about matters affecting us in our own country.

Over the past few years I have joined with other activists in warning about matters which adversely affect us as a community, and I know this is December, and Christmas is coming and people are not in the mood for somber warnings and doom and gloom. I have been trying to encourage the pink community to be proud of who they are, to be aware and informed and to stand up and participate in society, in politics, in religion - in everything in the straight world which affects us. Because if we do not, and we remain apathetic, then we really will end up facing our doom like the community in Uganda, Rwanda or Jamaica who have no-one left in politics to speak out for them. If we follow such a trend of apathy and disinterest, that is what awaits us.

That aside, 2009 was a fairly good year in South Africa for the pink community. We survived thus far with our civil rights intact. We survive to face another year with new challenges. I look forward to facing them with you.

We cannot rely on others to stand up for us, we cannot afford to sit back and think we are safe. Current events around the world have shown us that freedom and equality have to be constantly defended and fought for. That is the cost of freedom. What you need to decide is whether it is worth the price or not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Double Take

South Africa as yet, has remained completely silent on the issue of pink human rights in Africa, specifically Uganda - presumably on the "head-in-the-sand" principle employed by the ostrich - if you ignore it long enough, it will probably go away. Perhaps they are right, but then who am I to criticize? I live in a country which seems increasingly desperate to imitate that other bastion of third-world lunacy, Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kill The Bill

I have great respect for GLBTI pastors and ministers - and straight clerics, who support their faith's central ethos of love, peace and tolerance - surely they have to bite their tongues a lot! I doubt I could manage it, but then as an activist I am not expected to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

From The Squeak To The Tail

Have you seen the Uganda issue is finally making the news in SA? Finally? After more than a month of international protests and campaigning by human rights bodies? A month and a half? A month and a half of a complete mainstream news blackout?

Three whole mentions on 5fm news this past Friday morning, plus an enjoyable and lengthy rant on the topic by DJ Gareth Cliff - in the Mail & Guardian and one tiny paragraph I found buried somewhere in the middle of the Herald. What continues to upset me is the broad lack of interest in SA. No official comment, no acknowledgment of objections or petitions and no protests either. Over in the US and UK groups are calling for protest action - and gathering outside Ugandan embassies. That's right, people actually pitch up when you call a protest over there. I have to wonder how many people would turn up for a protest in SA anyway with all the pervasive apathy? Past experience tends to make me cautious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Put Up Or Shut Up


Yet another festive season filled with things sweet and nice - friendship, family and good memories. A time often laced, for some - with a bitter undertone of loneliness, sorrow and loss. Some people find the "silly season" significant in terms of religious meaning. I find it laced with hypocrisy, shallow commercialism, false piety and genuine arrogance. What am I referring to? I will tell you:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Separate, Less Equal

Despite the passing of marriage laws in South Africa in 2006, true marriage equality is still elusive in South Africa. Yes, gay and transgender people can and do marry, but how many people are aware that marriage for gay people is still codified under a separate act?

Ministers, even those willing to officiate at gay marriages, have to apply for SEPARATE registration to do so. Thus, while a heterosexual couple can freely marry unhindered at virtually any church, Home Affairs office, court of law, or before any ship's captain - same gender couples very often are left with just the Home Affairs option.

Even as recently as last year there were reports of certain Home Affairs offices refusing to facilitate gay marriages and passing the buck to others. Gay couples who want to make their faith a part of their marriage ceremony often have to travel to other cities to get married, or have to pay for a willing minister's travel and accommodation. Some ministers who are willing to officiate cannot, because if they were to do so - they would risk dismissal by their church.

Yes, I can see how equal marriage is in South Africa - very equal indeed. SEPARATE but equal, it seems, is still applicable in our country where divisions still loom at every turn.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sin Tax Error


As I said last week in an article about a gay pageant in South Africa and the lack of mainstream (straight) media coverage for the event, "gay + controversy = mainstream media coverage". Now it seems somebody else has gone one better to publicly redefine the nature gay people. But then, it is an old accusation, one which has been made many times, and this certainly will not be the last. Just a pity it comes from "one of our own".

A Purpose Driven Genocide


Finally this news breaks on SA media. Well it's about bloody time! And I do mean bloody. Another article also made it into the mainstream media, this time in the Citizen. I still have to gauge the SA public response to it, but I have an idea there will be quite a few comments in favor of the bill coming from the whack-jobs and wing-nuts.

It seems to me that current events in Uganda influenced by the US religious right are in fact no more than a virulent symptom of problems at home - that these things being said and used by proponents of this "Bill" and the genocide it would ignite, in fact have their origins in the backward deep south "bible belt" of the country most people naively think of as the most liberal and democratic place on Earth. Why would I say this? Let's take a look:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seeing Is Believing

Last weekend we saw the first Mr. Gay South Africa™ pageant - or rather, didn't. 

Those of us who were not fortunate enough to attend the main event, or the semi-final ocean cruise, or the other events which took place around the country, read about it. We saw articles and photos in local pink news services such as Gayspeak and Mambaonline - but that was pretty much the only mention the event received. Did we see any attention given to this event - which the gay community found to be of some import, in any mainstream newspapers or hear radio coverage or see any TV features? I certainly didn't. Apparently the Mr. Gay South Africa™ pageant (I keep writing it out in full because it is a completely different animal to the former "Mr Gay SA" pageant of years ago) did manage to make the News24 front page - online. Twice. It also made The Times once, but that was long ago, and somehow it made Die Volksblad in Bloem - I don't know HOW it got it in. But about the actual final event, only News24 - oh - and although displayed on the front page, the actual article was under "GoTravel" and not anything in the main news section. But otherwise, that was it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

False Witness

I would like to bring up a widely publicized case of a Ugandan man - a gay man, who was paid by the religious right to claim that he had been "cured of homosexuality" was feted across his country, and propelled to fame for his talks on how he had "recruited" children into a "homosexual lifestyle" at schools and otherwise made false claims which confirmed the rhetoric of his homophobic handlers - and helped fuel the fire which threatens to consume those for which he helped vilify.