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!

Empty nest syndrome


Recently our youngest child flew the nest. Towards the end of last year I started to prepare myself for this event, as many people warned me about the empty nest syndrome. I also reminded my husband to prepare himself for this new phase in our lives, but he felt that I was putting the cart before the horse and that there was no need to run ahead of ourselves. Even so, I decided to visualise what our lives would be like and what I needed to do to embrace all that might come with the impending empty nest.

During this process of preparation I went through a period where I felt a sense of loss, but also a sense of achievement and excitement. I was excited about my daughter having the ability and opportunity to study at a university. I experienced a sense of accomplishment as we were able to guide and support towards her dreams, as we did for our eldest, her brother. She achieved her own goals and is now on her way to prepare herself for her adult life and an independent economic future. I realized that the home would be much quieter, but after twenty one years of sharing my space, being mom’s taxi, and organising my days in such a way that I would be available to my home and my family, whilst juggling post graduate studies and a practice, I was looking forward to the freedom that the empty nest would bring to my daily routine.

The big day arrived and we helped our daughter settle in her new living space. On our way home, both my husband and I experienced sadness, some anxiousness but also excitement about her prospects and the future ahead of her.

The next day I continued with my life and though I missed my daughter dearly, I really enjoyed and cherished the arrival of this new phase of my life. For the first time in twenty one years it was just my husband and I in our home. Our couple-hood had the opportunity to take centre stage, without interruptions or competition for shared energy and time or the needs of our children. BLISS! I could honestly exclaim: ‘Empty nest syndrome, what empty nest syndrome?’

About a week after our daughter’s departure, my husband started to really struggle. I often found him in our daughter’s room, stroking her cat, staring into space with tears in his eyes. Eventually he shared: ‘This is so much harder than what I ever thought it would be. I miss them terribly and feel without direction and purpose’. My husband has always been a very involved dad and used to do things like the kids’ breakfast, packing their lunch boxes and helping with other chores. Suddenly he came home with no one to engage with but me, who was quite happy with the void, I must add.

His sense of usefulness diminished and he felt without purpose. After two weeks of tears and deep sadness, he engaged with me in a long discussion about his experiences. He shared that for so many years his sole purpose (to his mind) was to provide financially. As a white South African Christian man he was indoctrinated from a very early age that he was supposed to be the primary breadwinner, he needed to take care of and protect his family. Suddenly this purpose seemed fulfilled and what now? The children were on their way to independence … what was his purpose now?

Was his response due to a midlife crises or indicative of the patriarchal society we life in? Why did everyone expected me to experience the empty nest syndrome but not my husband?

Often so much emphasis is placed on men’s role as the financial provider, that providing on other levels are ignored. My husband did so much more than just provided financially, yet he could not see this. He was unable to see that he will continue to provide in many other ways in our children’s and their children’s lives!

You might wonder in what other ways did my husband provide. He provided and supported on an emotional level in terms of co-parenting by co-creating an environment in which the following could thrive: stability and safety, encouragement, companionship, wisdom, emotional comfort and physical presence. He was also the handy man, fixing stuff and the one who knew how to do things. He gave hugs, read bedtime stories, had dad and son talks, dad and daughter talks. He contributed by loving me as the mother of our children. They saw him treating his wife with respect and equality, creating positive ways-of-being, living with integrity and honouring his personal moral compass.

Looking at the multiple ways in which my husband provided made me wonder why it is so difficult for men to see beyond their contributions other than just financial provider? Did patriarchal ideas become so internalized that men (and women) are unable to see their own worth in terms of their contributions to their families? Why do men (and women) buy into the discourse that the most important function in a family is that of breadwinner? Did the church, with its rigid gender role prescriptions regarding the man as breadwinner and the woman as caretaker and nurturer, create a society which values financial contribution of a man more than emotional and spiritual partnership? Did these patriarchal ideas, as often promoted by churches, contributed to a materialistic mindset which undermines men’s constructions of themselves as fathers and husbands and even as human beings? Did this turn men into walking purses with no apparent other function?

 

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.

_____________________________

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

Our fixation with classification: The root of most social injustice?


Have you ever thought about the human race’s obsession with classification? We tend to classify every possible and impossible concept: race, sex, social status, sexual orientation, mental state, physical state, financial state, spiritual state and the list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time we pit these dualities as binaries. Binaries seen as one against the other. One is thus right and the other wrong. Why do we feel the need to hold on to these classifications?

Believer versus non-believer       sane versus insane     male versus female

heterosexuality versus homosexuality                 rich versus poor

I have come to believe that these binaries allow for injustices to breed, as we exclude or include with it by default. Who decides which of these so called “states” should be the norm? Why is it that we still use  heteronormative and often patriarchal measuring sticks? I believe that when we prescribe to a specific group and then tell each other how right we are, we are busy with a mass masturbation session! It is not about honoring other people or the appreciations of others, but about making ourselves feel secure and justified. Our way become the “right” way and those who understand or believe differently, becomes the “other”, the wrong and the enemy!

I believe that the only way how we can address this is, to move beyond classifications. Let us see a PERSON instead of a black or a white, man or a woman, a gay or a straight, a poor or a rich! We are at all times firstly a person when then happens to be male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, church goer or non-church goer or whatever other classification might spring to mind. The classification should not define personhood but rather the fact that we share one commonality, namely we are human beings – we are all firstly a PERSON!

Discourses regarding penis size


Within a patriarchal ideology men are often portrayed as the hunter with power and physical ability as the mark of a man. Since biblical times a man’s worth was often linked to his penis size and ability to perform sexually. The discourse of penile penetration for satisfactory sexual intercourse is often associated with another discourse: namely, that penis size – and by implication the size of the erection – is directly coupled to the pleasure afforded. Erections have always been important to men: the discourse regarding the size of the male penis was circulating even in biblical times. In 1 Kings 12:10, King Rehoboam boasts that his little finger is thicker than his father’s waist to indicate that he – Rehoboam – was a more capable and powerful king than his father. The Hebrew word that was translated as ‘little finger’ could have referred to his penis, as in antiquity a man’s penis size was seen as an indication of his power and abilities.

Dr Abraham Morgentaler (2009), Professor of Urology at Harvard Medical School and a medical doctor who specializes in male reproductive and sexual health, also comments on the discourse of penis size. He states that man’s obsession with penis size is nothing new. Ancient drawings in the ruins of Pompeii provide clear evidence of this obsession:

“Painted on the wall, with only minor decay since the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in the year 79 AD, was the picture of a nobleman with an enormous erect penis, the length and girth larger than a man’s leg, placed on an ancient scale, with sacks of gold balanced on the other side. Some time ago I rediscovered that image on the Internet and have occasionally used it in lectures, with the quip that men have always viewed a large penis as worth its weight in gold” (Morgentaler 2009).

Closely linked to these ideas of strength and virility are the dominant discourses which see a man’s sexuality as instinctive and natural, as well as the idea that men are always ready for sex. Research shows that erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem: up to 52% of men older than forty are affected by it. Moreover, 50% of men will at one stage or another struggle with impotency due to varied factors. Finally, when men have challenges regarding their sexual function it influences their self confidence as well as their self esteem. I suggest that if discourses which link maleness to sexual functioning are internalised, sexual challenges will have an exponentially greater effect. The implications of these discourses are that if a man does not conform and perform to these standards, he is ‘unnatural’ or not a man.

Patriarchal discourses which symbolise men with strength and power can be very damaging to the male sexual experience. Discourses of strength and power portray men as unfailing. Therefore, if a man should ‘fail’ sexually, he has ‘failed’ as a man. Since this implication is often too overwhelming for men to acknowledge, many men find it almost impossible to speak about their sexual challenges. It is not only men that are exposed to discourse regarding male sexual functioning: many women have also internalised these discourses regarding male potency.

Extract adjusted from my doctoral study: Spies, N 2011. Exploring and storying Protestant Christian women/s experiences living in sexually unhappy marriages. DTh thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria. 

http://hdl.handle.net/10500/4823

Seks, plesier en geloof: hoe meisies gesosialiseer word ten opsigte van seksualiteit


ENGLISH BLOGGERS – PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO PARAGRAPH 5 FOR THE ENGLISH SUMMARY.

Die sosialiseringproses van meisies ten opsigte van hul seksualiteit is onlosmaakbaar van hulle gender rol wat ‘n sosiale konstruksie is.

Met sosiale konstruksie bedoel ek die manier hoe ons iets verstaan en die waarde wat ons aan iets heg word bepaal deur die dominante diskoerse in daardie gemeenskap. ‘n Voorbeeld van so ‘n dominante diskoers in die Christelike psige van meeste Suid-Afrikaners, is dat mans die hoof van die huis is. Julle mag nou dadelik wonder hoekom ek hier van ‘n diskoers uit die Christelike tradisie aangaande sosialisering praat. In die 2001 Suid-Afrikaanse bevolkingsensus het die oorweldigende meerderheid van Suid-Afrikaners hulself beskryf as Christene beskryf, om die waarheid te sê, 79,8% waarvan 42,8% van die Wit deelnemers aangedui het dat hulle in die Gereformeerde kerke is. Ek maak dus die aanname dat die manier hoe die gereformeerde kerke die rol van mans en vroue sien, ‘n groot impak het op hoe die verskillende geslagte gesosialiseer word.

Een van die mees dominante diskoerse in die kerk was en in sommige gevalle is steeds dat mans die hoof van die huis is en dat vroue ongeskik of onderdanig moet wees aan hulle mans. Saam met hierdie diskoers vind ons die idee dat mans die broodwinner of ten minste die primêre broodwinner moet wees en dat vroue die versorgers van die gesin is. Uit my navorsing het dit geblyk dat hierdie diskoers ‘n groot impak het op hoe vroue hul seksualiteit ervaar.

Vir dekades was vroue se seksualiteit gekoppel aan voortplanting. Met die ontwikkeling van  veilige gesinsbeplanning het die klem van seks begin skuif van voortplanting tot dit van plesier en ‘n spesiale vorm van intimiteit. In my navorsing, wat meestal met ouer vroue was, het dit egter duidelik geblyk dat baie vroue steeds sukkel om hul seksualiteit te skei van die voorgeskrewe gender rolle en daarom dikwels hul seksuele behoeftes onderskik stel aan hulle intieme partner of eggenoot sin.

Uittreksel uit my doktorale tesis:

Mayer and Mayer (cited by Mager 1996:19) believe that it is important to acknowledge that women, like men, have sexual desires that require fulfillment. Nevertheless, there is a distinct difference in how men and women’s sexuality is defined. McFadden (2003:1-3) argues in Sexual pleasure as a feminist choice that, for many years, African women’s sexual and erotic inclinations have been suppressed by the patriarchal system which merged female sexuality with reproduction within a hetero-normative culture and society. In my experience, this is also true for westernised White Protestant women. McFadden links the suppression of female sexuality by tradition and religion with being a mother and a nurturer. Isherwood and McEwan (1994:18) concur, arguing that patriarchy established the role of the woman as nurturer with the aid of religion: ‘[r]eligions have reinforced…. [and] prescribed roles of wife and mother [to women]’. For many centuries the Bible was used to justify and maintain the construction of the wife within the nurturing role (Landman 2002:25).

The discourse of woman as the nurturer is reinforced by the way in which girls are socialised to be complaisant and accommodating (Fredman & Potgieter 1996:52). In their interaction with others and in gender discourses, girls soon learn that their worlds are much more limited than boys. The effects of the socialisation process are often seen in how women view their sexuality: they focus on their partners’ sexual needs instead of focusing on their own. Fredman and Potgieter (1996:52) conclude that girls tend to experience their sexuality as something that others do to them and define for them rather than something they can initiate and define. Buys (2010:2), a well known and ‘modern’ South African sexologist, confirm the belief that men and women are created differently:

Men were created as the ‘hunters’, the providers, and the protectors. They need physical strength. Women were created as the nurturers and the carers. They need emotional strength….Another big difference between men and women is the ways in [which] we perceive love and affection. Women often see kind deeds – like her husband washing the dishes without being asked – as acts of love. Men feel loved when they are intimate with their partners.

I argue that the conditioning of women to be sexually accommodating and/or complaisant can set them up for sexual disappointment and disillusionment, especially in the presence of the expectation of marital sexual fulfilment. Although women might expect a sexually happy marriage, they are often reluctant to pursue this actively in their marriages, especially in the early stages of the marriage. Within Christian marriages sexuality is often shrouded in silence due to many of the discourses as explored earlier in this chapter. All these factors contribute towards women becoming sexually frustrated in their marriages and the establishment of patterns that undermines sexual happiness for both partners. Due to a variety of reasons (which will be explored in the following chapters) many women in sexually unhappy marriages are not able to leave such marriages. This causes great predicaments, dilemmas, relational complexities and challenges, especially for Christian women.

Extract adjusted from my doctoral study: Spies, N 2011. Exploring and storying Protestant Christian women/s experiences living in sexually unhappy marriages. DTh thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria. 

Electronic version available at – http://hdl.handle.net/10500/4823