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!

OUR SEXUAL HERITAGE


I was invited to participate in this year’s Cape Town Open Book Festival, as organised by The Book Lounge and staged at The Fugard Theatre. What a great privileged it was to participate on specifically Heritage Day in the discussion: Is Afrikaners plesierig? (Are Afrikaners joyous?), which referred to how Afrikaans-speaking South Africans define, express and experience their sexuality.

The discussion centred on my recently published book: Seks nou wat is die eintlike storie? (Sex, what is the actual story?) and the literary work, Bloots, which is a collection of short stories with its focus on sensuality and sexuality. The title Bloots was an excellent choice, as it means to go bare-back on a horse or to experience something undiluted.

We found many connections between the intention of these two publications, even though mine was rooted in academia and the other in literature. The intention of both these publications was to portray sexuality in its diverse complexity as being multi-levelled and multi-storied. This reminded me of the constructions we hold in terms of sexuality and how these are formed. The meanings we put to sexuality, are socially constructed, yet many continue to believe there is only one sexual reality to which we should prescribe and accept.

I reason that the expression of sexuality should include and accept a multitude of realities and multiple story lines. However, it is often portrayed as a single line story with predictable outcomes. If one should accept such a single story line, what would this be for South Africa, in other words what is South Africa’s heritage in terms of sexuality?

Sadly, I must admit that this is not a heritage to be proud of, as for many the most constituting factors are that of fear, shame, suppression, but most of all violence and silence. Sexual violence seems endemic to our society, nevertheless, with the exception of a few annual campaigns, there is mostly a persistent silence – even in literary works –  which enables it to continue to breed and prosper pervasively.

It was interesting to note that Bloots included stories which spanned beyond heteronormativity, race and class, yet did not included stories about sexual violence.  Even in this groundbreaking literary work the silence regarding sexual violence pervaded, despite the fact that South Africa holds the invidious title of the rape capital of the world. Rape being the reality of so many, I postulate that it will reflect in people’s stories about sexuality. Does the absence of stories about sexual  violence speak of how power politics and gender prescriptions continue to restrict, censor and determine what is  spoken with regards to gender and sexuality in South Africa?

Looking to the future we need ask ourselves, what heritage and legacy are we busy creating in terms of sexuality in the South African context? Furthermore what role should we as writers, academics and social commentators play in creating a live-giving sexual heritage for our children and their children?

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Seks-Nou-wat-is-die-eintlike-storie/397437996953753?ref=hl

http://openbookfestival.co.za/

http://www.nb.co.za/Books/12437

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!

NAKED BODIES: WHAT DOES IT SAY?


 I am in the process of creating a concept for my, soon to be published book, that will deal with how we understand sexuality and the effects thereof. In my discussions with the publisher, I suggested that we consider having an outline of naked bodies for the cover page.

What transpired from this brief was very interesting and telling. It confirmed my understanding of how many people view sexuality and the gender discrepancies that we experience. Most of the examples with body figures that we could find, presented women. I then requested that both the male and female form should be portrayed. This idea transpired in a design in which the naked male outline was so subtle that you could barely see that it was a man next to the very distinct naked female figure.

I realized that I was not conveying the idea in my head with much success. I then decided to ask a young female artist friend of mine to compile my brief visually, in the hope that an illustration of my idea would advance mutual understanding and greater clarity. As my young friend is not that familiar with the naked male body, she did what all young people do – she used Google images to find a realistic image to guide her in her creation. Here’s the thing – she really battled to find naked, non-pornographic male images, whilst the female naked form was plentiful.

This made me think about why this might be so. I am sure that there are many reasons. One could possibly be because of the dominant discourse that women do not sexually respond to visual stimulation and therefore there is no need for such images. This idea circulated for so many decades that people are not even aware of the discrepancy in how the female body and male body are used and exploited in the media. The female body became the marketing tool and is often seen as a commodity. We have become so desensitised to this because it became the dominant discourse.

Professor Bronwyn Davis (1993:153) uses the metaphor of a pane of glass to describe the invisibility of discourses. Discourses take on the qualities of a pane of glass through which one observes the world. It is only when the glass fractures or breaks that one’s attention is drawn to the glass. Discourses are thus usually invisible to people and we have little or no conscious awareness of discourses. This might explains why we continue to accept the use of women and their naked bodies (out of context) as a marketing tool, whilst the use of male bodies are mostly excluded. However, I believe that there might be another coinciding discourse present.

Being naked holds a vulnerability, especially if others can view our naked body. Maybe in our gender indoctrinated minds, this vulnerable position is only reserved for women. Maybe naked images of men are not as available because men are not supposed to be vulnerable, but are portrayed as strong, in control and invincible? Your thoughts on the matter?

Reference:

Davies, B 1993. Shards of glass: Children reading and writing beyond gendered identities. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin.

Cleaning up the bloody mess after violence


Today I listened to an interview on the radio about a book called: Bloedsusters (Blood sisters) by Ilse Salzwedelwhich. It deals with the work of two sisters, who are crime scene clean-up specialists. They are called in after the fact, after the violence: to clean-up the mess.

Sisters, Eileen de Jager and Roelien Schutte from Pretoria, South Africa, see their work as a service to the families of the victims and to society in general. In their book they share that they find emotionally, the most difficult to clean-up violent deaths due to family murders and attacks on farmers. Maybe it is because we are supposed to be safe in our homes and when we are with those we love?

Their work reminded me of my own work as a narrative therapist where I often work with sexual and gender violence. I, as many of my colleagues, are ‘call in’ after the fact. We witness the aftermath of emotional violence. We see the emotional blood and guts that economic, verbal, sexual and physical violence leave. The details of the ‘crime scene’ differ, but there is often a common factor: gender inequality and it leaves a legacy of shattered dreams and lives.

There is one main difference between an actual physical crime scene and that of gender-based emotional violence. A bloody crime scene shock most people and they will properly, if present when the violence is perpetrated, try to intervene. However, each and every day we all see acts of gender-based violence, without intervening. It might be as subtle as a demeaning comment about women, or as violent as a rape – yet we do not intervene or challenge it. Societies continue to turn a blind eye. Men and women continue to laugh at demeaning gender jokes, especially about women. We continue to support structures and products which depict women as less than men. We continue to accept the all too familiar life-denying gender stereotypes about men and women. We should not tolerate any form of gender-based violence whether it is a snide remark, economic abuse or the beating and eventual killing of a wife. By not taking a stand against the most subtle to the most violent gender-based acts, we contribute towards making violence against women and children an acceptable phenomena in societies.

Cleaning up the shocking mess …. this made me think: If all forms of emotional abuse left a physical bloody mess as physical violence do, will we still be so complacent and tolerant of it. If we could see the bloody, smelly horrible mess that gender-based violence cause, would we still need 16 days of no violence against women and children or will every day be a day in which this violence is irradiated from our society?