Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mob Rule

Unfortunately, it is human nature for people to hate and despise what they don't understand, and to torture and kill those whom they don't want to understand. When such groups of people are presented to larger groups as a threat, or a scapegoat, they often seize the opportunity to point out that "there are more of us, so you must be wrong, unnatural and evil". It also needs to be said that such people, when placed in control of a government - certainly don't need to understand. They just need someone to blame.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Enough Is Enough

Dear Mr Ssempe lays it all on the line for SA - send Jon to Uganda - or else face protests and a boycott of SA businesses in Uganda.

"We take this letter to remind you that South Africa has vast strategic economic interests in Uganda in the areas of communications, energy, banking, food and mineral sectors. These include household names such as MTN, Eskom, Stanbic, Nandos, and many others. The de-selection of Mr. Jon Qwelane and sending to Uganda someone who pleases the homosexual groups in South Africa threatens the good social standing of these companies in light of our nations values. You need to carefully weigh what is South Africa’s strategic interest in our nation and region. Is it business or sodomy?" "Cancelling Mr. Jon Qwelane appointment and sending someone else due to the pressure of the homosexuals will trigger a widespread civil society protest which stands to affect the South African businesses in Uganda."

A big, burning question I would like answered is: Why is SA even trading with those fascists in the first place - and why is SA still - after two years - refusing to speak out against Uganda's laws which abuse human rights?

Why is Eskom - that's right, our own struggling Eskom - supplying electricity to tyrants in another country, probably at a lower cost, when South Africans are facing a drastic electricity shortage and a massive increase in costs? Surely this is unjustifiable?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Friendly Advice

I find the older one gets, the harder it is to find and make true friends. Some time ago I had many real life friends, some with whom I had kept relationships going since junior school, people that I shared and did everything with - even until long after high school. And then one day, about ten years ago - I lost every single one of them, every single one - including a best friend I had known 14 years.

The event that precipitated this? My coming out as transgender. It seems that suddenly people didn't know me anymore (or want to know me) and were suddenly far too busy to call, talk, or socialize. Suddenly, everybody was a workaholic. Suddenly, people weren't talking to me as much as at or about me. Even my best friend at the time - a guy I had known since starting high school, who was as a brother to me, and who had been quite comfortable with the thought of me being bisexual (as long as it was closeted) - was suddenly afraid to be around me in case people started doubting his manhood.

It seems that when you keep your nature a secret, and when you lie about who you are, people love you - and when you reveal yourself and live honestly, they despise you and even fear you for it.

Hiding In Plain Sight

I sincerely hope Mr Shapiro doesn't mind my including his brilliant cartoon of the issue with my article, it is remarkably apt and fitting to the situation, it puts in one picture all the words I could write a hundred articles about this subject! Kudos to him!

Last week, the storm around the appointment of the homophobic News24 columnist Jon Qwelane broke mainstream news. Immediately, there was an outcry by human rights organizations, specifically from the Pink Community, even resulting in some advocacy bodies in other countries lodging objections. Why did they object?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mentally Ill

Assume for a moment that I were to commit a crime of passion - say in true Colombine fashion I were to walk into a shopping mall or a high school carrying a shotgun, and start pumping - or if I were to start playing "Carmageddon" for real. Would I be considered "sane"? What do you think, huh? Would I make a good case for a shrink to make his career with? Would I be justified in making an insanity plea in court?

Would I?

What do you think my chances are?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On The Spot

This morning I lost my virginity... my TV interview virginity, that is.

Those who know me, know me as a fairly quiet person, so the last place they would expect to see me is on a live TV broadcast on ETV morning news, talking about international matters. Come to think of it, that's the last place I would expect to see me. Never the less, I found myself there this morning, a bundle of nerves, like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

As press and media liaison for the group, I had written and distributed the press release sent out this week, and was invited to answer a few questions, which I did. Bearing in mind that it is a bit harder to articulate words as well live, unprepared and in one take than it is to write articles such as I do every day, I did the best I could - considering it was my first time in front of a live TV camera. I had participated in a live radio interview before, but this was a bit different as all the instructions were given to me via a headset and the sounds in the background were a little confusing.

Also, I was tense and had a dry mouth - and as people who know me are aware, I have issues with my voice. And there I was, live on ETV morning news, dressed to the nines and afraid I was going to sound like Bea Arthur in front of the whole nation. Well, at least that part of it that was awake at 7am and watching ETV news. So many people were going see a woman on screen, and give the box a smack thinking it was getting the wrong audio channel. I drew comfort from my rather warped sense of humor and a wry grin spread across my face as we went live. Donovan, the video journalist/cameraman/receptionist and resident psychologist, had done his best to make me relax and feel comfortable. He smiled at me and gave me an "OK" sign behind the camera.

To hell with it, I reasoned. I was there for the community, not for myself. I have a voice, whether I like the sound of it or not, and I'm going to use it to do good. "Just do the job", I told myself.

The topic? The appointment of homophobic journalist Jon Qwelane as South African Ambassador to Uganda, which is why this matter is so topical at the moment. Qwelane makes no attempt to hide his prejudice and intolerance for gays, women, or White people - particularly Afrikaans speaking White people. In his infamous column article of 2008 "Call me names but gay is NOT ok..." he called the need for inclusion of gay rights in the SA Constitution "ridiculous", said he would disown his children if they were gay. He also praised Robert Mugabe for his violent oppression of gay Zimbabweans - AND encouraged South African politicians who have "the balls" to rewrite the constitution to remove gay rights from it. I find it quite ironic that in the mean time, there has been an increase in the incidence of politicians and public figures who are trying very hard to do just that. And let's not forget the politicians who are facilitating their efforts.

In Uganda, gay people face increasing homophobia, hatred, intolerance, prejudice and tightening restrictions which strip them of their human rights - simply because of who they are and how they were born. What they need to hear is South Africa condemning Uganda's harsh inhuman laws which turn them into criminals with a death sentence hovering over their heads, not showing tacit approval for it by this appointment and their continued silence on the issue.

The last thing the pink community in Uganda needs is a homophobic, racist and sexist Ambassador from South Africa. The last thing the pink community in South Africa needs is their own government appointing such a man who is currently still facing charges of hate speech and incitement to hate against them and affirming a country with an appalling and rapidly decaying human rights record.

This appointment is a slap in the face to me, to my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex friends; an insult to the ideal of a non-discriminatory, equal-opportunity South Africa - and a blight on the human rights record of this country.

At the end of the interview, I realized that my voice had held firm, and that I had kept my wits about me and it was all over. I hope I managed to get the point across and I hope I did justice to the cause of the human rights and dignity of the pink community in South Africa - and Uganda. I hope critics will remember this if they have anything to say about it, and if they feel they have to make negative comments, they should save it for the sound of my voice - and not for what I was saying.

Hatred and prejudice is based on fear and the loathing of that which is perceived to be unknown and different. We all understand and need love and the freedom to be ourselves. Everyone is the same. Everyone is different. If you know us as people, as we know you - then what does anyone have to fear?

We as the Pink Community - as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people - are your friends, your colleagues, your family , the stranger who lends you a helping hand, the friends you don't know yet. We are human, we are born of straight parents, we give rise to straight children. We are one.

We feel just like you do, we dream like you do, we hurt like you do - we love like you do.

How is love "inhuman"? How is love "un-African"?

Why does South Africa's government still not condemn the Ugandan Bill which will enforce state-sponsored genocide against people like us in Uganda? Why does South Africa's government not support the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality? Why does South Africa's government think it appropriate to appoint a bigot and a homophobe to the post of Ambassador to a country which is boiling over with a gay-hating frenzy?

I call on this government to act responsibly and to justify the confidence their supporters showed in them on election day last year:

Equality and dignity for all of us in our sameness and our diversity. No more hate - and no more tolerating or rewarding of hatred.

Speak out against injustice and wrongdoing, not only because it is the "moral" thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Immoral Support

Like others in South Africa over the past few years, I have long been asking the South African government for an explanation for not signing the UN Statement to Decriminalize Homosexuality in 2008 and what they meant when they said they did so on the grounds of "having principles". It seems they have been answering my question in increments.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Right, Wrong and Justified

I don't know why some people just seem to get their jollies on hate speech, I really don't - and add to the insult and injury caused to those who are targeted by these people, they seem to lack the courage of their convictions - or at the very least, courage - to post their hatred to Face book groups or newspaper websites under their real names. No, "Witwolf" or "Boerseun" sounds far more impressive. And a lot less likely to carry consequences.

Aside from that, it also tends to taint good, decent Afrikaans people with that horrible shade of bigotry reminiscent of the bad old days in this country. Indeed, when I see posts like that, I have to wonder how far have we come in the last 15 years - and how far we still have to go before we live up to claims of being a "true" democracy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cross Purposes

The issue of same-gender marriage is a hot topic at present around the world. The USA, the "bastion" of liberal society - at least in theory - is watching closely the current legal review of the Constitutional validity of the Proposition 8 vote which rescinded marriage equality for same-gender couples in California in December 2008. Proponents of Proposition 8 also pushed for the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) to redefine the legal concept of marriage to mean "one man, one woman".

At present, the trial is filled with emotional appeals of the gay community for the State to recognize human rights, dignity and equality, and opposing statements from the defenders of marriage against the nasty, inhuman gay people - whose existence "threatens" religion, society and "the family" - that marriage "always has been" between males and females - and that this inequality somehow justifies the enforced continuation of this inequality.

Apparently some people seem to think that marriage "always has been" between males and females - and that this inequality somehow justifies the enforced continuation of this inequality.

Growing Pains

Over the past few months a war of words has been raging over the activities of "ex-gay" groups in the USA and around the world wherever they have set up affiliates or branches of their own - including in my own country, South Africa. The "ex-gay" movement operates on a purely religious basis and claims solely out of a misinterpretation of religious dogma, that gay (or trans) people can and should either deny their nature - or "change". They claim all sorts of "studies" and "proof" exist to support their theories, but the truth is that no such evidence exists - and that every reputable medical, scientific and psychological institute, authority or body asserts that "conversion therapy" - IE attempts to change sexual orientation by "ex-gay" industry, is dangerous, risky and harmful to those it affects.

All this has prompted me to look back - and inwards, to a time when I was struggling for self-acceptance, and to find my own identity.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Feeling Threatened?

Later today, Ecclesia de Lange, an ordained minister of the Methodist church, who is a lesbian - goes on trial for being married. If it weren't heartless and inhuman, it would be laughable. A day or two ago I received notification of the drama unfolding in a South African Methodist church. Let me start off by quoting from the Facebook support group:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Shifting Blame

The "culture war", now more than 30 years old - today is far from the obscure reference cloaked and made fun of by the little quotation marks which try to create the impression that the culture war is a euphemism and not really a war at all. The truth is very different, because when people's lives are destroyed through the actions of other people - even people on the other side of the planet, even without the use of conventional weapons - and when people die - it is a war in every real sense of the word.


Ok, today is a Sunday, and I don't normally post articles on a Sunday because I post articles from Monday to Thursday and take the rest of the week off to recover! But this past day or so I have seen a few things that really upset me and quite frankly, leave me appalled and utterly disgusted. So I did what I always do about things that have that effect on me - I write about them. And today, for once, it isn't about gay rights, or about religion - it is nevertheless about something else which should by its very nature, touch both of these.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blood Feud

Every year around December the South African National Blood Service starts shouting frantically that blood stocks are low and that they are desperately in need of donors. This past month I have seen the familiar call on lamp post advertising and in newspaper headings, heard their plaintive whining for blood on the radio and on TV - and cursed the SANBS under my breath every single time.

And every year around this time, many people will answer this call - whether out of civic duty or simply out of helpfulness and love for their fellow human beings, they will go to donation centers to answer this call to satiate South Africa's lust for blood.

What I find both sad and hypocritical in this scenario, is the fact that every year this time, many people who do so, will find themselves turned away and indirectly told that neither they, nor their blood - are good enough for the high and mighty standards of the SANBS.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Genocide In Eight Easy Steps

"Never again", the world says - and yet genocide has occurred numerous times since 1945. The most infamous recent example is in Rwanda, but Saddam Hussein also dabbled in genocide against the Kurds in Iraq back in the 1980's. And it still goes on today - with the state-sponsored murders of gay people in Iran, the religious fundamentalist militias in Iraq, the mob violence and murders of gay people in Jamaica and Uganda. The laws being passed in numerous countries which turn ordinary people into criminals and fugitives based solely on their sexuality or gender identity are a precursor to genocide. They put it in people's minds that such people are a threat and are in fact criminals.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hate Speech - The Gospel Of Genocide

Let's focus on hate speech today, shall we?

A petition on the "Petition Spot" website, a service which allows the creation of online petitions caught my attention - it is creatively entitled "Sign to kill all the gays". The subtitle of the petition says "Gays are gross and do not have the right to live. This is a petition to get the government to kill them all. Please sign if you support my cause."

It has been up there since September 14 2009, and so far it has a whole 39 signatures. Stop the press. Perhaps they should have advertised it in Uganda, Jamaica, Iraq and Iran to meet their target of 1 million signatures. Shame, poor deluded little psychotics.

It isn't the only "petition" of its kind though, apparently you can see the others listed on the same screen under innovative names like "Kill Gays","Kill All Gays". All of which have equally psychotic rantings by signatories such as "I support this petition. We should kill the niggers too while we're at it! White POWER!", "I support this petition. ****ING GAYS.", "KILL ALL THESE ****ERS!!!"

Judging by the low quality comments of the people supporting this affront to decency, I can only conclude that these are either petulant children with too much time on their hands or a bunch of half-wits of the order of the KKK - except that I now feel I owe an apology to village idiots everywhere as well.

Now I know the USA has a "freedom of speech" clause somewhere in its Bill of Rights - as do most countries - at least, those considered "civilized", but to my mind this is far beyond freedom of speech and way out somewhere in the territory of hate speech and incitement to do harm and to commit violence. In fact, this "petition to kill all gay people" is firmly in the terrain of genocide. And Petition Spot actually allows these pitiable insane, adolescent wankers to post this rubbish? Oh well, it is their website after all, and it is their reputation. Too bad.

I mentioned Uganda earlier - and what has transpired in Uganda over the past few years, resulting in the tabling of the highly conservative, religious fundamentalist supported Bill being fought tooth and nail over right now - has been as a direct result of the allowance of hate speech.

Let me say that again: Hate speech is the root cause of the current Bill which calls for the murder IE state-sponsored execution of GLBTIQ Ugandans. And yes, I will repeat that it is based entirely in the mud and sludge of conservatism, the sticky tar of religious fundamentalist propaganda, and the bloody mess of sheer and utter hatred.

Speaking of petitions, an American Baptist who objects to this Bill approached her pastor and church to sign an international petition against it. She reported that the pastor refused, and added his support for the Bill, calling it "God's will." Needless to say, she no longer attends that church.

For a decade or longer, foreign evangelicals - including some from South Africa - have been conducting a social experiment in Uganda, infiltrating the country's churches, influencing their society and thought, telling them what to believe, how to live - and who to hate. Leading US religious right figures have paid special attention to grooming local religious conservative leaders to believe as they do, that gay people are "evil", "dangerous", "threatening" Ugandan society, "recruit in schools", are a "threat to 'the family" - and should be killed.

In their speeches and newsletters these "men of God" have been sprinkling hate speech in their churches, from their pulpits. In their Sunday sermons, these hate-mongers have been pouring napalm onto a bonfire of simmering hatred which has now exploded into something which they now suddenly claim to not have desired - an initiative to legalize a wave of persecution culminating in a gay genocide. Suddenly they are acutely embarrassed to be linked to the gradual escalation of hatred, persecution and intolerance. Suddenly they are afraid to take credit for their years of hard work and dedication to what they call "obedience to the Word of God". Suddenly they find they have created a monster which they can no longer control. Fred Phelps would be proud.

That purpose-driven pastor, Rick Warren from Saddleback Church in the USA, who has been instrumental in schooling Martin Ssempe in his hatred of sexual and gender diversity, and has mentored one of the leading figures in promoting this disaster which may yet prove to be a purpose-driven genocide after all. The other day he made two seemingly desperate press statements, including a five minute video which was addressed to Ssempe and other Ugandan religious and government leaders, appealing to them to make a u-turn on the Bill.

I find it ironic and rather telling that several Ugandan Ministers dismissed the video as fake, calling it misleading "homosexual propaganda". Why wouldn't they believe him? Did it seem too unlikely that their mentor could request them to start honoring human life? Martin Ssempe, his prodigy, was reportedly so outraged by his former master's apparent betrayal that he sent a video response more than 15 minutes long back to Warren.

Warren himself has been involved in so-called "ministry" in Uganda as well as several other countries in Africa, including Rwanda - which has also started talking about passing strict anti-gay laws. I have to express doubt that he, like other "missionaries" active in Uganda, would preach love and tolerance in one country while preaching against love, equality, tolerance and human rights in another.

Exodus International, the home of debunked "ex-gay" junk-science, which has branches, affiliates and offices in virtually every country on Earth, apparently agreed with every hateful thing said by anti-gay activists at the Ugandan Conference on Homosexuality held in Kampala in early 2009 - in fact, they even patted themselves on the back for their participation.

Even that nest of vipers, NARTH has come out of the shadows to suggest what we have all known for thirty years - that "Forced ["conversion"] Therapy Is “Unethical and Unworkable”" - not to mention dangerous and harmful to the victim.

"Ex-gay" pseudo-science is the religious fundamentalist delusion that gay people can be forced to be straight through prayer and self-denial - instead, the record shows that "ex-gay" is actually highly effective in turning healthy gay people into broken and distraught and even suicidal gay people who hate themselves - small wonder that they weren't particularly concerned about their propaganda causing harm to gay people in a small African country half-way round the world. Clearly, they underestimated the media coverage and attention they got.

Instead of trying to calm the situation down or defusing the very clear hatred they were presented with and reinforcing the supposedly "Christian" message of love and tolerance, they fanned the flames by encouraging it with their "ex-gay" propaganda, telling the Ugandans how gay people "choose a sinful lifestyle", "recruit in schools" and are "after their children". Of course, their friend Scott Lively really got them going when he pedaled his book "the Pink Swastika" and told them, incredibly, how gay people were behind the Holocaust in the Second World War - and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And no, they didn't bother to try and set the record - um, straight then either.

But this whole thing is not solely the fault of the "ex-gay" groups - it is something we can drop firmly at the feet of them along with other evangelical Christian groups who have been purveying a message of puritanical, fanatical and fundamentalist intolerance and hatred. A repeat of similar social disasters elsewhere in the name of Christianity seems all too likely unless a way can be found to cut away this message of hatred that seems to lie, festering, at the root of this religion.

I think it is really funny that these religious folks who claim that churches should be immune to regulations on hate speech - in effect saying that hate speech actually belongs in the church and coming from the pulpit - and who freely criticise general laws on hate speech - have themselves here just demonstrated for the whole world to see - EXACTLY why we need hate speech laws.

I find it disconcerting that people who claim to be loving Christians and representatives of what is supposedly a loving God can act so blatantly to stir hatred and violence against other people simply for existing, and who have done them no harm. It is also amazing that reasonably intelligent people could participate in such negative actions, pour gasoline on a bonfire - and then react with such complete surprise after having lost their eyebrows. What did they think would happen? In short, I think these people got exactly what they want - they're just afraid to take the credit for it - which millions of people who they didn't realize were watching, are now all too eager to hand to them, as the debate around this Bill continues.

What will happen in Uganda? I don't know yet, but I do know that this single tragic episode has opened the eyes of millions of people on both sides of the debate, who are now starting to uncover the hidden spider-web of which groups are connected to which, and the extent to which "evangelical" and so-called "Christian" organizations are involved in African countries, spreading the gospels of Hatred and Intolerance - and even Genocide.

Misplaced Blame

Many fundamentalist Christians today are calling for a return to what they call "biblical values", which in essence ignores the New Testament and even Christ's existence altogether - thus discarding the New Covenant entirely. They focus almost completely on Old Testament ritual laws and cry for the death penalty to be reinstated (apparently this is a "biblical value") as a so-called "deterrent" against crime - crimes which many of them feel should include adultery, divorce, "blasphemy", lying and their personal favorite, homosexuality.