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.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.