CHURCH STILL SAYS NO TO GAYS


Driving to town today newspaper posters on the lampposts announced: The church says no to gay persons. On reading this caption, my soul floods with many different emotions: anger, deepness, frustration and gratefulness.

Anger because of the short-slightness of many churches and believers in terms of how they engage with their faith and the Bible with regards to sexuality. Such believers often employ a very legalistic reading of the Scriptures, that is might I add, of selected verses. Thus those verses which serve their purposes and support their beliefs, whilst other texts are ignored or interpreted with much greater hermeneutic freedom.

Why the deep sadness that moved me to tears? Great sadness about the thousands of gay and gay related people, whose souls have been wounded, trampled on and raped by the imprudent actions of churches all over the world. Sorrow about  churches’ seemingly inability to understand what Christ love means and how to extend that to all persons. Affliction because the church continues to sexualise being gay, just as it does with marriage. This sexualisation of the constitution of marriage is evident when the symbol of marriage is seen as heterosexual sex. How deeply sad that we trivialize a marriage to that of the physical and outward expression of love and passion. In my mind, a marriage union: heterosexual or gay, should imply and entail so much more than just physical love. It is a monogamous partnership in which two people can thrive as equals in the presence of commitment, trust, exclusivity, love, dignity and reciprocated respect. Should this not be the definition of a marriage instead of in what way a couple have sexual intercourse?

Frustration because so many people still do not understand that for the vast majority of gay people, being homo- inter- or transsexual are not a choice but a given. Their gayness is not rooted in the way they have sex, but in  their beings. This is their personhood. A gay person once summarized it so concisely for me: “I am a person who happens to be gay, not a gay who happens to be a person”.

To say to a gay person, you may be gay, but just don’t practice your gayness – live a celibate life – is as good as to say to a person: You are allowed to be a person, but you are not allowed to live. Or maybe the converse is also accurate: You are allowed to live just not to be a person. To love, to be in partnership with another human being, to attach, to share, to touch, to hold, to kiss and yes to enjoy emotional, physical and sexual intimacy is to be human.

You might wonder what it is that I am grateful for in the midst of this injustice. I am grateful that I left the formal church structures some years ago as I was no longer able to be part of an institution which is inherently unjust towards people due to their sexual orientation. I thank God that I no longer have to contravene my conscience because I participate in a structure which forsake and judge people because of their sexuality. Unjust, unreasonable and un-Christ-like.

I continue to lament: How long God, how long will this terrible injustice continue? O Lord be merciful as humanity do not what it does and that in the name of our Gracious God?

DIE VERENIGENDE GEREFORMEERDE KERKE VAN SUIDER-AFIKA (VGK) Sê NEE VIR GAYS!


In die ry sien ek vandag die koerantplakkaat op die paal wat aankondig: “VGK sê steeds nee vir gays”. Dit vul my met soveel verskillende emosies: woede, hartseer, frustrasie en dankbaarheid. Woede oor die kortsigtige manier waarmee mense met die Bybel en hul geloof omgaan, of dalk is dit glad nie kortsigtig nie, maar juis calculated. Pharos vertaal calculated as “bereken(d), voorbedag, koelbloedig en as mens die sinsnede sou verbreed na “with calculated cruelty”, vertaal dit na voorbedagte wreedheid. So ja, nou pas die term baie beter by die kerk se optrede. Mense maak mos die Bybel en hul geloof pas – by dit tot wat hulle pas, en hul einddoel dien. Dalk is dit wat geloof eintlik beteken: om dit te glo wat nie gestaaf kan word nie, maar wat op eie manier van verstaan en interpretasie berus?

Waarom hartseer voel? Hartseer oor die derduisende mense (gay en gay-verwant) wie se siele deur die kerk se onbesonneheid gekwes, vertrap en verkrag is. Hartseer oor dat die kerk steeds nie verstaan wat Jesus-liefde beteken nie. Hartseer dat die kerk steeds gay-wees verseksualiseer, net soos dit die huwelik verseksualiseer deurdat hulle heteroseksuele seks as die maatstaf van ʼn goddelike verbintenis soos ʼn huwelik gebruik. ʼn Huwelik, heteroseksueel of andersyds, is soveel meer as net die seksuele daad. Dit gaan oor ʼn vennootskap tussen twee mense wat hulself op ʼn geestelike, emosionele, intellektuele en fisiese vlak aan mekaar verbind. Hierdie genootskap behoort geken te word aan liefde, gelykheid, respek en menswaardigheid. Dit is wat ʼn huwelik behoort te definieer en nie op watter manier ʼn paartjie seks beoefen nie.

Frustrasie omdat hulle nie verstaan dat die oorgrootte meerderheid van gay mense se gay-wees nie net is seks gesetel is nie, maar dit is wie hulle is. Dit is hoe hulle geskape is. ʼn Gay persoon het eendag dit so mooi verwoord toe sy die volgende vir my gesê het: “I am a person who happens to be gay, not a gay how happens to be a person.”
Om vir ʼn gay mens te sê dat hy of sy mag gay wees, maar moet dit net nie praktiseer nie, is om vir ʼn persoon te sê: jy mag leef, maar moet net nie mens wees nie, of dalk jy mag mens wees, maar moet net nie leef nie. Om lief te hê, om aan iemand te verbind, om te deel, om aan te raak, te soen, vas te hou, en ja seksuele genot en vervulling te ervaar, is om mens te wees.
Jy mag nou wonder nou waar pas dankbaarheid in hierdie donker prentjie in. Ek is dankbaar dat ek reeds vir baie jare nie meer deel van kerklike strukture is wat mense so liefdeloos versaak op grond van hul seksualiteit nie. Ek is Goddank bly dat ek nie meer my siel Sondag na Sondag hoef te verkrag nie omdat ek deel het aan ʼn kerklike struktuur, wat in terme van sy beleid aangaande gay mense, inherent veroordelend, onbillik, onregverdigbaar en versakend is. Godverlate.

Steeds ego my klaaglied: Hoe lank nog Here, hoe lank nog gaan hierdie verskriklike onreg voortgaan? O God, wees die mensdom genadig, want God-weet ons weet nie wat ons doen nie – in dit in Christus se naam!

“CORRECTIVE RAPE”


Two days ago I met with two Swedish researchers for a discussion about their research. Their research is about “corrective rape”, thus the rape of lesbian women because they are gay. The focus of their research is on how therapists and caregivers do hope in the absence of safety and any guarantee that the rape survivors will not have to endure again such violence against.

Sarah and Calle wanted to speak to me about how South Africans understand sexuality, sex and sexual violence. During our discussion I had a profound realisation which I want to share with you.

Ever since I heard the term “corrective rape” it made me extremely uncomfortable. At first I thought it was about the incredible injustice of this violent act, but soon realised it was not only about that. There was more to my discomfort and anger with this term. In my conversation with Sarah and Calle it dawned on me what my discomfort was about.

It was about the term “corrective” rape. This term implied that there was something to be “corrected”. Men rape lesbian women to punish and to “correct” them. Such perpetrators believe that being lesbian is a choice and therefore it can be change. “They just need to have a real man, and then these gay women will change.” Thinking about this made me realise that if we continue to use the term “corrective rape” we are using the language of the perpetrator and therefore give credibility to this mindset. We should reject the term “corrective rape” outright. This kind of rape is not about “correcting” but intends to humiliate, violating and harm another human being. There is nothing “corrective” about this.

I came to the conclusion that this kind of rape is not only about supposedly “correction.” I believe that this kind of rape is rooted in fear and the indignant anger which results from patriarchal discourse. How could a woman even think of rejecting a man by wanting to be with another man? How can a women challenge the system of what is “acceptable” – thus that a women would want to be with a man?

I then thought about what other term could be used. The term needs to portray what this rape is actually about. I thought about the term “unjust rape”, but all rapes are unjust! It left me with the question: “Why do men rape lesbians?” It was not only about power: there is more to it – it is specifically because they are lesbian. It is because lesbians women are judged and find “guilty”. Maybe one should speak of judgmental rape, but this again might imply that there is something to judge. The same goes for discriminating rape.

Maybe we need to use the term homophobic rape, because that is what it is. A hideous and repulsive act of violence based on an irrational phobia of gay people!

We need to be aware that language is powerful. Words can give legitimacy to and even rationalise horrific acts. In future, when you hear the term “corrective rape” you have a choice, you can just accept it, or you can challenge it.

PRIDE 2012 – Celebration of the wonderful LGBT diversity in South Africa’s Mother City!


Last week-end I participated in the Cape Town Pride walk. The first question that might spring to most heterosexual minds is: What is PRIDE?

Pride is a yearly event that is celebrated all over the world when LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-, trans- and inter) sexual orientations are honored and celebrated. It is important to understand the history behind this walk of activism. In the late 1960’s, gay men and women used to be terrorized by the police, often beat, jailed, raped and victimized in every possibly way. Gay people congregated in “safe” places to socialized, but these places were often raided and police brutality was in the order of the day. In 1969, after yet one such incident of police brutality, the LGBTI community responded with the Stonewall riots, which in turn led to a yearly protest march against the discrimination towards LGBTI people. It also became a walk of pride, thus being proud (and not ashamed) of their sexual orientation. And yes, sometimes gay people do flaunt their sexuality in these marches in order to say to the world :THERE, SEE MY SEXUALITY, RAW, EXPLICIT AND IN YOUR FACE, DEAL WITH IT, I WILL NO LONGER HIDE! Sadly, It is often only these images that are portrayed in the media in order to create sensationalism, which in turn perpetuate many of the negative stereotypes regarding gay sexuality. However, it is my experience that the vast majority of participants are average men and women who walk with joy and tolerance without being “over the top” or extremist.  (http://gaylife.about.com/od/stonewall/a/stonewallhistory.htm)

The second question you might have, is possibly: Why do I, as a heterosexual person, participate in this walk? Well, for me personally there are many reasons. However, I will only share one of these with you, namely that I choose to celebrate the wonderful sexual diversity with which we are created and I stand and walk in solidarity with like-minded people.

In South Africa the gay “issue” has always been a highly contentious, especially within our faith communities, but also within the secular community. Gay people have been demonized and vilified and were (and still are) often labelled / judged as sinful, unnatural, perverse and even abnormal.

As Kinsley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale), I too believe that sexual orientation is found on a scale, thus on the one end we have heterosexuality and the other end homosexuality. In between these two positions we have millions of variations of sexual orientation. Too illustrate: I know very effeminate heterosexual men and I know very masculine gay men. This speaks of the enormous variety and diversity with which we were created and how we express our sexuality. Interestingly, this variety is also found within the animal world and the higher in development (closer to humans) the species are, the higher the incidence of homosexuality.

After all, sexology is one of the youngest sciences and was only founded en developed in the 1960’s. It is also only recently, since MRI brain scan technology, that we get a glimpse of how our brain work. Sexuality is seated within our brain and not in our pants as was previously believed.

Our sexuality is part of our being – it is not something that we can separate out of the rest of our psyche. I therefore find it extremely offensive when some churches prescribe: “you may be gay, but just not be a “practicing” gay, thus you have to live celibate”. It is as good as saying you may be a human, but just not a practicing human. In other words, you may be alive, but please do not live as a human (In Afrikaans: jy mag lewe, maar jy mag nie menswees nie). Part of being human is to make social connections, to love, to express our feelings, to seek intimacy and to engage in relationships. To expect of people to live without such connection and intimacy, is inhumane!

I believe that many people find have an issue with gay people because they sexualize the person. In other words, they do not see being gay as the essence of a person, but rather equate being gay to having sex with a person of the same sex. Being gay become for them just about same-sex sex and the person is dehumanized in the process. Sexual orientation is not just about sex, it is about each and every fibre of a person’s being and consciousnesses.

I celebrate our sexual diversity and urge each and every person to be very careful with judgments, intolerance and condemnation of those people who are not heterosexual. Let us be mindful of the complexity with which we are created and let us respect diversity instead of judging that which we do not understand or that which we fear.

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For my Afrikaans speaking readers, please listen to Dr Dave Pepler’s talk  on Homoseksualiteit in die diereryk:  http://www.rsg.co.za/images/upload/sound/klanke/20120307_TJAILA_Dink_Groen.mp3