“Corrective” Rape

Hate Crimes, Black Lesbians And Townships

One of the slang words for vagina is the Zulu word for cow (“inkomo”) which is also used to indicate a token in a game.  It’s a transactional term that describes gains and losses, credits and debits.  “When my card showed Ace and the dice rolled that way, I gained izinkomo”.

That’s important to know because when men pay cows (again, izinkomo) to the bride’s father’s family for lobola, it could be said they symbolically “win” or “buy” the female nkomo.  People of pleasant temperaments will discuss this cultural* phenomena with more taste than others but it’s effectively still a transaction and women’s genitals are still men’s real estate.

I’ve asked women why the word for vaginal penetration (“ukuhlaba”) is also the word used when a cow is slaughtered during traditional ceremonies like weddings.  If you’re a girl and you walk down a township street the boys will probably say, loud enough for you to hear it, “Ngizoyihlaba leyangane” which means, “I will penetrate that child”.  I’ve also asked many women why they think the men gather gleefully to slaughter that sacrificial cow during that type of ceremony.  Do women know it’s believed that slaughtering a cow using a sharpened blade symbolizes manhood and courage, but using their bare hands to tear a bull (inkunzi) apart is thought to harness the ancestors’ power channelled through the death of the animal, and empower the men?  Men gain power and ancestral approval by first exercising power over other objects – over izinkomo and izinkunzi – and like Viagra, that power is expected not to “go to waste”.  It must be used on something.

Or someone.

And it is the “duty” of all female someones to avail themselves to a man each.

Without exception, the women I’ve asked these questions have slumped into resigned postures.  There is no other way that life could be, they reply.  It’s always been like this and it’s our identity as black people.

The words nkomo and ukuhlaba, as well as their corresponding ritual symbols of a “cow” being sacrificed, cross paths at the insistence that vaginal penetrability must accompany a woman’s sexuality, and that this sexuality must be exercised in accordance with the system we’ll call heteropatriarchy.

The system awaits the woman’s submission, as though she were a sacrificial animal, to the religion of heteropatriarchy.  In this religion, the husband’s phallus – the idol that is the liturgical “weapon”, the“spear” and “warhead” of conquest – is used to open up and offer her body up on the altar of heterosexual marriage to the only place her sexuality can be completed, redeemed and vindicated before society.

Husbands make “honest women” of their wives.

Now I’m often told that I have a very cynical view of society and marriage.  In response I rattle off rape and domestic abuse statistics.  So on one hand we have people in cultures – white and black, all heteropatriarchal to some extent or another – that insist that they’re absolutely normal and beyond critique, and on the other, we have stories of stunning violence happening in our backyards.  Whose version of the truth do we accept?

In Zulu, rape is “ukudlwengula” which I imagine comes from the sound root “dlwe”.  This is pure guesswork on my part but sounds formed by the “dl-” sound are often active and they’re useful onomatopoeia for the sounds of tearing and breaking.  From words like “udlame”, “uyadlala,” “uyadla” (which mean “violence”, “playing” and “eating” respectively) I’ve heard many Zulu-speaking people instinctively extracting the “dli” syllable, distilling the sense of force in it, and using it as an adverb. “Wayithatha ngodli!”  “He seized it with violence”.

With this particular word “ukudlwengula”, there is the sense of something being wrenched from its rightful place.  That “rightful place” isn’t the woman’s consent, for in township and African cultures the locus of female consent is not only the woman’s will but the socio-cultural context it’s found in.  “Ukudlwengula” is when one man illegitimately takes a woman from where she belongs on the pipeline to mother- and wifehood to another man and household that would have followed the expected steps to procure her, and rapes her.  It is a violation against her but more importantly, against the community, custom and ancestry.

This sounds reassuring, how women’s rights and propriety seem to be woven into the fabric of African traditions.  The problem with having her individual rights stand conditionally beside the culture is that in some instances of rape, other factors obscure justice.  This is especially true in the custom of “ukuthwala” in which a woman is kidnapped, forced into a marriage with her abductor, and her family is given a choice and she is lastly given a “choice” after a long period of disorientation and “decision-making”.

More alarmingly, when individual rights are conditioned on conformance to culture, those rights may be violated to fulfil someone’s idea of cultural demands.  This was the case in July 2013, when Duduzile Zozo was found murdered with a toilet brush in her vagina.  That brush was her rapist’s way of asking, “Well what sort of nkomo is yours anyway?”  She did not have it available for his taking on the playing board, so he violently wrenched it – wamdlwengula – not from its rightful place in the scheme of things, but into it.  She’d strayed, and he was putting her back in place.

Now we have a problem again.  A lesbian claims individual human and sexual rights over her body.  A man claims that his “right” to enforce societal and cultural expectations on her trump her individual rights.  Whose right is right?  Whole societies and cultures say they’re normal, but the rape and murder statistics aren’t normal.  Who’s delusional and who’s in denial?

And by attacking her, her rapist has said there is no room for mere tolerance.  It’s all or nothing.  He forced to the surface all the dilemmas we’re too polite to address.

By putting a toilet brush in Zozo’s body, he spat at every female lover that Zozo had ever had and also told Zozo that unless it’s offered up to heteropatriarchy, her vagina is no better than a dirty toilet because she’s flushed society’s right to her penetrability down that “drain”.  A similar message was sent out at the funeral when her female friends tried to take over ceremonial duties that are normally left to men: the men balked.

Female power and independence from heteropatriarchy is terrifying for it says the men’s monopoly on the meaning of women’s lives is under threat.  If women can skip men and just enjoy sex without them, then the military conquest of men over women is rendered meaningless because a mere woman – that is, a lesbian without a penis, without a “sharpened blade” – can pull off the same feat men had gathered in their cow-slaughtering groups to celebrate. Tearing bulls apart with their hands was for nothing, for that power won’t be transferred on women or used anywhere meaningful (God forbid men ever sleep with men); the “Viagra” was taken for nothing because the lesbian has accomplished alone, without ever preparing for it, what whole armies of boys killing bulls, slaughtering cows and standing on the side of the street just talking about it but never getting it done have failed to do.  It’s an affront to their authority as men and it must be “corrected”.  The phallic gods are outraged that they have not personally overseen the sacrifice by which women’s sexual incompleteness is resolved.

Lesbianism doesn’t render the penis irrelevant but it does make it optional.  Optional penises are as good as castrated ones. Lesbians couldn’t be more threatening if they walked around with butchers’ knives in hands and skull-and-penis necklaces around their throats.

South Africa statistics indicate that one in every four men has raped and that one in every three women has been the victim of sexual assault.  That’s higher than our numbers for literacy.  To counter this, we create slogans like, “Real Men don’t rape”.  Local activist Sian Ferguson wrote: “My entire life, I’ve heard that real men don’t rape. But the man who raped me was not imaginary – he was indeed very real”.  What’s a real man?  I personally am desperate to know.  I was listening to the radio when I heard of an email written by a listener who said that whenever he heard Scissor Sister’s Don’t Feel Like Dancing and caught himself singing along, he questioned his heterosexuality.  The radio DJ laughed and remarked in agreement that liking that particular song could cause any man to question his masculinity.

​That’s how easily the word “heterosexuality” was swapped for the word “masculinity”.  So real men who don’t rape, but actually do, are expected to be heterosexual otherwise they’ll be symbolically castrated by society.  This unspoken demand to “perform” masculinity is powerful.  While there is nothing wrong with any particular expression of typical masculinity as such, there is plenty disturbing with the expectation that every biological male will conform to all that is typically associated with masculinity.  When we say, “Real men don’t rape”, failure and shame are still haunt the men receiving this message; those men are provoked to protecting and proving their masculinity (read: heterosexuality) in some way or another.  The Viagra needs to be used on someone.

​The fight against corrective rape isn’t limited to feminists, lesbians, or to people in academia.  It isn’t just for ministers and NGO-based activists.

​The issue touches on everyone.  The numbers say that 500 women are raped in Western Cape townships a year.  That’s the physical part of it, and it’s devastating.  A fellow Mr Gay South Africa finalist, Zander Barnard, is a medical doctor and he’s seen upfront the damage these crimes can inflict.  He’s used his voice and position to urge government to distinguish corrective rape as a hate crime and attach harsher penalties to it.

When we speak up on human rights, we’re trying to fix problems that are connected in invisible ways to the safety of your body, your finances, your family and your country.  That’s why I’ve been speaking to clergy, especially: depending on how they read their bibles and minister to people, they can shift the culture and make it more humane.

In principle, every single last person is violated by such a crime – including the perpetrator himself – because each person’s human rights are conditional on their playing the role expected of them.  In principle, then, corrective rapists violate not just women’s bodies but the entire body of human rights.

Rape, for whatever reason, is everyone’s battle.

Everyone needs to speak up.

This is why the finalists of Mr GSA 2015 are stepping up to that plate.

*Disclaimer: a nuanced explanation as to why no particular factor behind corrective rape is the decisive one is beyond the scope of this piece.  Culture is not necessarily evil.

#MrGSA2015
@SKhumalo1987
SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Dolce, Gabbana, Those Comments

Domenico Dolce said, “You are born to a mother and a father, or at least that’s how it should be.  I call children of chemistry, synthetic children.  Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

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Let’s start by mentioning the obvious: nothing about how a baby is conceived, or by whom it is raised, makes it more or less “synthetic” or chemical than any other kind of baby.

Let us also pull out the yarn of hypocrisy in the unimaginative term “rented uterus.”

It is entirely possible for a surrogate mother to have more depth to her character, as well as a richer personal story bonding her to the baby’s parents, than a couple that conceives accidentally, naturally, while high on drugs and booze. Nature doesn’t discriminate, helping along only those conceptions that will be followed up with loving attendant childcare; therefore, though nature may act as a reference point in our ethics, it is certainly not the foundation of all morality.  It never was and it never will be.

It is precisely that we don’t judge the quality of people’s choices by how “natural” they are that makes us human. Nature isn’t necessarily all-good; often, it’s red in tooth and claw and one of its rules is “eat or be eaten”. I’d personally rather be born to the family that plans every step of the “synthetic” conception, than to the family that is completely unprepared to care for me.

When the mother and the father are dirt-poor or unfit, will the “that’s how it should be” argument suddenly materialize as the provisions that are missing from life?

And don’t get me started about children conceived through rape.  If artificially inseminated children are synthetic children, are children conceived of rape “children of hate”?

What about children conceived in loveless marriages of convenience?  Are their mothers’ uteruses rented wombs too?

Where do we draw the line and stop the judgment?  At children born outside of wedlock?  But why stop there?  Why not hate every uterus and every child conceived and born into a world where natural resources are running out, greed confines many to poverty, greed spurns war and we’re all trapped in oppressions that are intimately linked to the very heterosexist system whereby children are conceived?  Where does the judgment end?

That said, I’d also like to advocate for something else.  In a world where it’s becoming easier to “design” babies, can we please adopt existing ones instead (I ask understanding that sometimes it’s a difficult process)?  Many people argue that people want their own flesh and blood to love.  But just as babies are not necessarily better off if conceived naturally, so, too, is love not measured or best contained by the traditionality of the particular family arrangement in which it’s found.

I personally believe there is more practical love expressed when someone takes an existing baby from desperate circumstances, than there is when someone brings a new baby into the world.  I believe there is more practical love expressed when someone cares for someone totally unrelated to them, to whom they have no obligation. “People want to spread their own DNA,” people often remind me. There is nothing wrong with that except that in a hundred years, your DNA won’t be yours anymore; it will be the earth’s, and you will belong to the Ages.
#DolceAndGabbana

@SKhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

The Black Swan Project: Timeliness, Relevance And Beauty

I watched this video from Christopher Olwage’s Black Swan Project after he told me the story behind it. 

In my view, the relevance of the Black Swan Project is that if it gets better for sexual minorities then it gets better for everyone.

In a world swimming in macho testosterone-oriented athleticisms (and suffering grandly for it), we need these courageous masculinities that pull power and grace together.  We need to hear stories of embracive personal truths.  We need to ease off our old heroes, our much-loved “men’s men”, and look for a new kind of man.

chrismolwage

Mr Gay World 2013, Christopher Olwage

 

Through the Black Swan Project, Olwage volunteers. 

This instance of Olwage’s craft depicts the “portable closet” carried around like a cross by young gay boys and other people who don’t fit heteronormative gender expectations.  “Do you remember the story of the Ugly Duckling?” he asks.  “The story goes that he was the last duckling to hatch from the nest.  Ugly and grey to behold, he was pecked at pushed about; made fun of by the other ducks and farm animals.

 “So tiresome he became of his wretched existence he decided to throw himself to the beautiful swans to be pecked to death. 

“Upon bowing his head to his fate, he glimpsed his reflection.  He wasn’t an ugly duckling at all, but a beautiful swan.”  He bridges the Brothers Grimm fairytale to his story with the succinct confession, “I was an Ugly Duckling.”

In an article titled, “Five Strategies to Prevent your Sensitive Son from Being Bullied”, author Ted Zeff states that 20% of men possess a “finely tuned nervous system” that makes them highly sensitive.  He also writes that 160,000 children “miss school every day in the United States for fear of being bullied and more than 50 suicides have been linked to prolonged bullying: “Societal values emphasize that males should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and emotionally self-controlled, which is the opposite of a sensitive boy.  When boys don’t conform to the ‘boy code’ and instead show their gentleness and emotions, they are often ostracized and humiliated.  Bullies tend to target kids who seem different from others.

“Bullies also target kids who don’t fight back and who react deeply to teasing.  Research shows that 85 percent of [highly sensitive boys] avoided fighting and most sensitive boys become more emotionally upset from bullying than other boys.”  Christianly turning the other cheek incites more violence.

Highly sensitive boys buffer violence but they pay a very high price for it.  Their experience of bullying is more personal and traumatizing than an innocent rite of passage, or a toughening up and formative experience.  But what if bullying never was anything but toxic malice for anyone?  In another piece, Zeff says, “We are at a turning point for the planet in which our male political leaders can either continue acting in an insensitive, belligerent manner, risking the destruction of humanity, or choose a new, collaborative, understanding approach to foreign, economic, and environmental policy.”

That’s an outside-in report.  The voice-over narration in Olwage’s tour de force gives an intimate insider’s look: “When I was a young boy I found myself at a new school.  My pretty face and red red lips made me an easy target as the new kid.  They called me a girly boy.  I didn’t know what I had done, nor what I could do to make it end.”

Rebecca Mao explains that the “male gaze” is how men are expected to territorially mark the distinction between their place and women’s.  This distinction has men as subjects and women as objects to be “owned” by the men that mark them as their own through looking at or hitting on them.  When a male dares to be beautiful, he unsettles this dynamic.  Encountering male prettiness confounds the insecure.  Depending on the depth of his anxiety, the bully will respond with varying degrees of hatred in his attempt to scratch that beauty out.  Some people hate the light and merely stay away from it; others fling mud at the heavens to blot out the sun.

I see the Project as Olwage’s insistence on subverting the objectification of (wo)men from beneath by offering us the human body at a level that hovers just beyond those of objects and subjects.  He dances at the very edge of the grasping exploitation attendant to the roles of both victimizer and victim, which heteronormative society unwittingly prescribes through its demands that all be unvaryingly, traditionally male or female.  Against demands that he be someone else, he is simply being who he is.

Through dance, he says “This is my body, which is given for you” and that body given is a way out of the small, dehumanizing world we’ve constructed in which we don’t know how to look at beauty without lusting to objectify it or fearing its effect on our exposed souls.  By inviting us to look and just “be”, with him, he makes it ennobling to look, be, and be breath-taken.  He makes it wholesome to be moved by aching desire without any way to resolve it or assure the insecurity within of our personal power and masculine invulnerability in relation to the weightless vision being looked at.  Like meditating on Michelangelo’s David, watching is humanizing and humbling.  A bully is someone who is very, very far from these existential milestones.

Or perhaps too close for his comfort.

Because it happens for reasons largely beyond its survivor’s control, bullying paralyzes children with a sense of helplessness.  “I found myself being a social fringe dweller, isolated and alone, a spit ball target, an easy name-calling dartboard.”  The bullying victim doesn’t know that he’s a beautiful swan surrounded by smaller, frightened birds; a sun mocked by mud-flingers. His helpless takes on a dimension of guilt when the victim discovers that not only is he defective before the heteronormative hypermasculine system but is its antithesis: “Soon the talk of girlfriends and boyfriends became rife.  Boys and girls, girls and boys… the only problem was that I wasn’t fantasizing about the girls.  “Girly boy changed to gay boy… and gay boy soon changed to… FAG.”

No two syllables hold more terror for growing boys than “faggot”.  And when they already don’t fit in, some boys unconsciously compensate by occupying more physical space.  “I sought comfort in food; my ever increasing circumference made me an easier victim.  The more afraid I grew the greater the bullying became.  I was teased, taunted, threatened, chased and beaten.  I cried in the mornings before school for fear of the gauntlet I’d have to run from schoolyard to fence.  Tears turned into rivers nightly as I tried to convince myself that tomorrow would not be as bad, but it was, it always was.  No one understood me, I no longer trusted anyone, I couldn’t find help. I wanted out.”

W. H. Auden begins the understated poetic masterpiece Musee des Beaux Arts with the words, “About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along”.  On a normal day, a boy can be “teased, taunted, threatened, chased and beaten”, forced to run a gauntlet “from schoolyard to fence”.  Unable to trust anyone with the details of what’s happening to him, he eventually realizes that he “wants out”.

“Out” means not to have to find another square inch of clean, dry sleeve to wipe the uncontrollable tears and snot on; not to make up another story in response to the question “Is everything all right…?” asked by the well-meaning intruder who stumbles across the secret hiding spot where, still reeling from the latest attack, the bullying victim doubles over to catch his breath, scoop up his scattered schoolbag, or the musical instrument or art equipment that makes him the target of more bullying, along with his dignity. 

“Out” makes sense once others, who until then were just “eating or opening a window or just walking dully along”, find out not only about the bullying but also the crying, the shame, the powerlessness and the hiding spot, and start wondering just what kind of boy you are.  Because it’s proof that your shame has been discovered, even the goodness of curious passers-by becomes torment. 

“Out” becomes the gospel promise of imminent salvation. 

But not everyone agrees.  “Suicide,” my mother used to say, “Is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  But when the bullying is because of who you are, “permanent” and “temporary” become interchangeable.  Parents and bystanders get to intervene in bullying.  But its victim lives in its crosshairs.  His world is an obstacle course – a “gauntlet” – and walking becomes endless running from the same schoolmates with whom one shares a classroom where the teacher is present or the boys’ room where she isn’t.  Suicide becomes a matter of “how”, “when” and “where”, but never of “if” or “why”.  It is therefore “not a logical choice one makes.  It is the only choice we see when we cannot see any others”, explains Olwage.

He survived his first attempt.  “And during my second, when I bowed my head, I saw my reflection.  I found my inner strength.

“I found my Swan.”

Olwage says he accepted himself for who he was.  He forgave himself for his mistakes and forgave others too.  “With time the changes I had set into motion had begun to show; with acceptance I was able to learn to love myself.  With love I was able to become who I am today.”

“Boys Will Be Boys”

Mark Greene notes that “By the time they are approaching puberty, many boys have learned to touch only in aggressive ways through rough housing or team sports.  And if they do seek gentle touch in their lives, it is expected to take place in the exclusive and highly sexualized context of dating.  This puts massive amounts of pressure on young girls; young girls who are unlikely to be able to shoulder such a burden.” 

What becomes of those young girls?  Wikipedia tells of #YesAllWomen, a Twitter hashtag and social media campaign in which users share examples or stories of misogyny and violence against women.  It was created partly in response to the Twitter hashtag NotAllMen.  “Because of the lack of alternative outlets for touch, the touch depravation faced by young boys who are unable to find a girlfriend is overwhelming,” says Mike Greene.  “And what about boys who are gay?  In a nutshell, we leave children in their early teens to undo a lifetime of touch aversion and physical isolation.  The emotional impact of coming of age in our touch-averse, homophobic culture is terribly damaging.  It’s no wonder our young people face a epidemic of sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancy, rape, drug and alcohol abuse.” 

Samantha Allen is more direct.  Proposing that the intimacy between men may save lives, she bluntly says it’s time for men to “quit blaming women for their loneliness and to start finding solace in each other’s company.  Women can’t bear the brunt of men’s misogynistic violence while simultaneously providing them with one hundred percent of their physical and emotional needs.”  She suggests that one of the best places to start might be cultivating meaningful homosocial friendships.  “Men have to learn to take care of each other.  We can’t do it anymore.” 

So Olwage’s acceptance of himself coincides, I hope, with the vindicating realization that it’s not just okay to be gay: it’s necessary. The world needs more closeted gay people to step out into the light.  But they don’t even need to be “gay”.  As Olwage says, “I am not perfect, I am not a label, I will probably never be what you expect me to be.  But I am me, I am Unique… I AM THE BLACK SWAN.”

The Black Swan Project is the timely, prophetic call for a new kind of humanity.  Watch it.  Be moved.

Chris is on twitter @ChrisMOlwage

Thank you for reading.  Please follow me on @Skhumalo1987

Feel free to email me SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

For information on Mr Gay South Africa please follow @mr_gsa or search the hashtag (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) #MrGSA2015

The Unbearable Brightness Of Being Out – #MrGSA2015

Call me weird but in school I never put my name on the cover of my workbooks.  I always wrote it on the inside, on the second last page in the bottom right quadrant.  Most other kids put their names and the picture of a celebrity on the cover.  That was probably important, the celebrity on the workbook cover or on the bedroom wall.  Having a future version of a future self to look foward to says that one at least believes oneself to have a future.  That’s why it’s important for developing teenagers to have role models.

 

Stolen From Patrick Prins

Stolen Borrowed From Patrick Prins

My name?  I wrote the name of the subject and the kind of workbook it was (self-study, exercise, homework – whatever) and tried not to show whose book it was if I could help it.  When anyone else covered my books and put my name on the front, I’d redo it.  Though I didn’t know what the closet was I had instinctively conformed to its demands.  It’s first requirement is invisibility.  It’s hiding right out in the open under people’s assumptions about who you are and who everyone else is.

Like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, the closet is something you carry around with your other mental burdens and masks.  It uses up a lot of personal bandwidth.  It filters your words and the pronouns you choose (“he”, “she”) and steers you from the conversations you must avoid.  It is the excuse for why you’re single (as far as people who don’t know are concerned) or the distance between your and that (imaginary?) girl who lives on the other side of the country.  Or overseas.  Or on Venus.  You can’t get into a relationship with anyone the people around you know because you’re already involved with someone who lives so far away, whom they won’t meet for an indefinite period.  It can’t be helped.  It’s your apology for depriving others the joy of seeing you affirm that yes, the institution of (heterosexual) marriage is still intact and can still sustain everyone’s hope for a better life.

The closet is the high-minded rationalizations for “discretion” used by gay men who won’t let the world know.  “My private life is private.  I don’t see why I should walk around with a billboard saying who I am or make my sexuality what defines me like it’s a political statement”.  Of course they don’t see that sex and the body are extremely political and that the right to privacy is also subject to the political whims of the Powers-That-Be.  The unbearable brightness of being out is terrifying.  It’s safer to avoid it and not see the legislation of countries steeped in homophobia or the “corrective” rapes happening in our backyard.  It’s more polite to dismiss the entire business of being “out” as a construct that applies only to those in the “the scene” who want to celebrate what should be left in private (incidentally, this kind of talk exposes, upfront, the belief that being gay is shameful).  

Coming out is messy, disruptive and transgressive; the closet is safe, decent, and polite.  There is no judgment in these observations but there is conviction in them.  The struggle is real, much too real for us to pretend otherwise.

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Each oppression entrenches the others. Homophobia has to go

 

The power of the closet is that it convinces you this particular struggle is illigitimate and that you’re a whining baby for wishing that things were easier or different.  It teaches you to internalize the low-self worth daily pushed on gay people.  It tells you that the rights you’re asking for are special rights (when they’re the same human rights enjoyed by other members of society), the protections you’re asking for are special protections (when the very concept of “hate crime” shows they’re not special but appropriate) and that the issues being brought to the surface are shamefully personal when it’s really the status quo that’s shamefully dehumanizing.

The closet convinces you that your name shouldn’t be on the front cover.

So when I clicked “send” and watched Gmail swallow my form to drop it off with the people manning the MrGSA applications’ inbox, I began writing my name down on it.  I haven’t looked back.  People’s responses have restored my faith in humanity.  The other weekend when the other eleven heroes, the organizers and I met for Pride, I grew to see that I was surrounded by some of the most talented, beautiful, creative and evolved beings this planet has.  I realized just what the world is missing out on.  This is the missing piece of the human rights’ puzzle.

My name is Siyathokoza Khumalo and I’m putting it on my life’s storybook.  I am nowhere near perfect but I am a good person in continuous development.  And like eleven heroes I met past weekend, I am a son any parent would be proud to have.

Things are going to change for the better.  The caked ways in which we’ve pretended to be a healthy society will be shaken; the reality of who we are will come to the surface and we’ll have an opportunity to choose between what’s real and what poses for a polite, sanitized version of reality. 

If we choose reality we’ll be surprised at how beautiful it can become.

Thank you for being on this journey.

#MrGSA2015

@Skhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Six Things Most Black People Don’t Realize They Have (à la @VerashniPillay & @Ernstroets)

Yes, this is another serving of our staple: South Africa’s ongoing (and necessary) race discussion.  So as a tribute to Verashni Pillay and her “six things” article, Ernst Roets and his 7-point piece, and also to whoever will publish the next installment in this series (I’m looking at you, reader), I put it to you that

1.) Black People Have Minds

which we’ve surrendered to what I’d like us to call elderiarchy.  This is a system wherein elders are regarded as right about all things and having rights in all things whether they’re right or not.  It’s almost ageism’s opposite.  When you try to point out the coerciveness of this system, you’re told it works through persuasion, through people talking and consulting one another the way culture requires.  Having seen firsthand how this “talking” and its gender, hierarchical and generational inequalities work to serve the interests of some more than of others, I beg to differ.

Elderiarchy straps chastity belts over black minds from toddlerhood and suffocates them in adulthood.  Some struggle veterans attempt to rule through elderiarchy by pointing out their past sacrifices to bring about a country in which black youth may be heard.  When that youth says something that isn’t to their taste, however, such elderiarchs shut this freedom of speech down.  Those elders thusly remain immune to the youth’s interrogations and criticisms.  Freedom of speech is therefore the lease on speech that the old giveth and taketh away according to how they feel.

Elderiarchy swaps age for wisdom and authoritarianism for authoritativeness.  We saw this in Baleka Mbete’s attempt to silence Floyd Shivambu using the elder card and in Zuma’s preference for “African solutions” that would stifle criticism from “clever blacks” and “westerners” demanding accountability over “colonialist constructs” like corruption.  In elderiarchy, accountability itself means accountability to elders but never vice-versa.  So it was that many of us darkies grasped intellectually that Mmusi Maimane was doing his job when he cleaned Parliament’s floor with Zuma’s presidency, but on another level saw uBab’ Zuma crucified by his own who have rejected him; we saw what the ANC “protects” us from: the devaluation of African values by the liberal DA.  By playing his cards right during SONA week, Zuma went from ruling until Jesus returns to being Jesus returned.

We black people have surrendered our minds to patriarchy which is a copy-and-paste of elderiarchy’s structural evils.  The knock-on trickle-down effect for black communities shows itself in taxi business monopolies, some tribal chiefs’ inexplicable incomes from State, gangsterism, the double-standards that the sexual behaviors of men and women are measured against and in the greater freedom of movement, vocation and dress afforded to men than to women.  These inhibit our economic growth.  We cannot continue choosing what limits us and blame apartheid for leaving us at a disadvantage.  We can’t have our cake and eat it; we can’t choose and then unchoose freedom.

We have surrendered our minds to religionism and culturalism that hold culture above question and religious establishments that can afford it, above taxation.  If we spent as much time, money and effort on figuring out how to grow wealth and strengthen societies as we do on traditional rituals and religion (the costs of which can be exorbitant) we’d have made a lot more tangible, permanent progress by now.  Until Jesus returns to purge the whole temple of thieves and robbers, we will continue spending hard-earned money on sacrificial animals, ceremonies, church uniforms, new cars for pastors, better buildings and sound equipment for the church, field trips, tithes, church courses, books and DVDs that get our consumerist souls in touch with God-For-Sale.  And we will continue to suffer for it.  Yet that money could be used to improve earthly learning facilities in our communities.  We love being fooled by religious, political and religio-political charlatans that don’t care for our salvation, political or spiritual.  And I’m not bemoaning a few isolated incidences of botched mountaintop circumcisions, exorcisms turned into all-out brutality, pastors impregnating whole congregations or people washing their grass-eating and literal ass-kissing down with petrol; I am asking that we examine the structure from steeple down.

We have tolerated, nay, encouraged the disgusting, abominable, unholy, hideous, ugly, evil and undemocratic full-frontal broad-daylight fucking of Church and State.  From the State I expected no better.  But from the church, far more.  The profane abomination of desolation calls for an Ezekiel 16 rebuke, a letter from Revelation, a leaf from Galatians, or the well-side question “Where is your husband?”, the New Testament version of “Is it because there is no God in Israel…?”

We have surrendered our minds to ethnicism and tribalism.  These are way of distinguishing foes and allies not according to logic and investigation, but racist supremacism (black people can swim and be racist too!), nepotism and cronyism.  Then we turn around to denounce the racism of other racists.

These isms form a net over black people as a whole, trapping even those who’re struggling to break free and better their lives.

Alarmingly, many of us assume that freedom from apartheid means living by the above –isms and pushing others to do the same.  Then we turn around and blame apartheid for the effects of choices continuously made in the present.  No doubt apartheid laid a strong foundation for current suffering, but nobody asked that we build additional oppressions on that foundation.

2.) Black People Have A Choice To Make
We have to decide South Africa’s destiny.  Granted, other races have to make the same choice.  But we need to ask whether any of our choices prolong our journey to national prosperity before we pontificate on how other races are holding out.

3.) Black People Have The Power To Hold The Current Government To A Higher Standard

We have the right to engage or create different political parties.  We have the ability to tell those parties what it would take to get their vote.  We have the right to be protected from fellow (black and any race) people who’d perpetrate violence on us for wishing to engage different parties.  We have the right not to find it “cold outside the ANC” or outside of Parliament (the temple where the ANC holds worship services to itself until Jesus returns).  We have the right to choose which living standard we want and use the country’s resources to get there and stay there, in the most sustainable way possible.  We have the right to fire politicians that don’t make this happen.  We have the right to more than slightly better educations and slightly more dignified existences.  We have the right to set the standard and have government aim for it, not vice-versa.  The tail has been wagging the dog.  How is it possible that the majority has the ballot and affirmative action on its side yet continues to starve?

4.) We Have The Right To More Than Just Deliverance From Apartheid

“How can you criticize so-and-so?  Don’t you know how terrible apartheid was?” is a poor measure of the kind of government we deserve.  And it’s a terrible argument.

5.) Black People Have Numbers
We often use those numbers to burn utilities instead of putting healthy pressure on politicians – or voting for different politicians.  This tide is turning, though: township school kids are organizing underground libraries, protecting what black people do have from fellow black people.  Some of the younger guys get it.  I say this to everyone’s shame.

6.) Black People Have The Right To Demand Political, Sexual, Financial And Social Education And Liberation
These are central to emancipation from apartheid’s and colonialism’s effects.

For very long, tradition, superstition, culture, family pressures and religion have told people what their sexual and reproductive choices ought to be.  But the Constitution says, every healthy nation proves and Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano agrees that these freedoms must be based on sound information and self-determination.

The Constitution – our national bible – is the least known document in South Africa.  Each black person ought to be able to demand workshops, radio talk and television talk shows, church after-meetings and rallies in which they are familiarized with its precepts and promises.  Each black person should have the right to question the caked ways we’ve pretended to have this situation under control.  This is to solving apartheid’s effects is to rolling out ARVs was to managing the AIDS crisis.  It’s that central.  We need to learn.  Blaming apartheid for what’s wrong in my life won’t fix my finances, help me stay healthy or prevent me from making someone pregnant while I can’t afford to take care of myself.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do blame apartheid for a great many things.  And do you know how what has come of the energy expended into blaming apartheid?  Neither do I.  Maybe nothing resulted from it.

Caveat

The standard, formulaic “not all” disclaimers apply.

Conclusion

Some white people say to black people, “Apartheid is over, get over it” because they don’t want to face how they got the systemic advantages they live in.

Others say it because they’d like to alert black people to the new struggle against today’s oppressors who keep pointing back to ghosts to keep us distracted from what they’re doing to us.

These two groups of white people look similar, but their intentions aren’t.

Apartheid and colonialism were inexcusable crimes against humanity and there is much that must still be done to uplift those whose lives were worst affected.  We ought to be angry about the past; there is no universe in which injustices so great can be allowed to just slide.

But this anger cannot be all heat and no light.  There must be light.

The problem with light, of course, is that it illuminates even those things we don’t want anybody else to see.

Thank you for reading.  Please follow, contact and retweet 

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

@SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

pssst – I entered #MrGSA2015 (Mr Gay South Africa).  Please follow the hashtag to stay updated, thanks 

#MrGSA2015 – You Have A Vested Interest In Following Its Developments

image

Can you tell that I made this on PowerPoint? Tried adding more visual perspective and MS Office said No.

Intersectionality – see feminist sociologist Kimberlé Crenshaw.

From when we’re born, we each fall into a caste system that works out our value based on nothing we have done or intended (the “who” of who we really are), but on morally neutral factors beyond our control (the “what” of who we really are).

Having worked out our value, this system allots us as much power, autonomy, esteem, mobility and humanity as supposedly corresponds with the value attributed to us. The system is not entirely static, of course: we collectively and continuously shape it whether we know it or not. Some people, like the guy who tried to sell me skin lightner in a nightclub, know what they’re contributing to and continue anyway so they can profit.  Ethically, then, the system turns humans into little more than animals bent on survival.

The higher the value this system places on an individual, the less likely he will be to know that the system exists at all, or, for that matter, that it benefits him in ways that are designed to stay just beyond his conscious awareness.  For if a privileged person were to know, he would grow uneasy and question the morality whereby the guardians and power-brokers of the system keep some happy (thus earning their approval and empowerment to continue) at the expense of others.  When a privileged person rejects the privileges afforded by the system, he calls into question the morality of everyone who is complicit in sustaining it.

Based on tribalism and its fear of diversity, the system offers success on a zero-sum game basis. That means that for any one person to be well off, someone else has to suffer.

In some cases, revolutionary individuals “fix” inequalities caused by the system by replacing those inequalities with replicas and reversals of the same systemic oppressions (having known no other mode of existence) though it may take decades before anybody notices that the old patterns are resurfacing in a new guise.  In fact, the revolutionaries may have started off with great intentions but without understanding how the system works; they therefore cannot overcome it.  Let the reader understand.  The system must be confronted and uprooted in its totality or else it just shape- and colour-shifts.  Suntosh Pillay wrote a piece in which he asked why psychologists generally don’t engage society as it needs to be engaged.

It’s also important to understand the role that the moral ideology of the day plays in justifying the inequalities whereby the power-brokers and guardians of this system empower themselves by artificially polarizing society into the “wicked” and the “pure”, the “sinful” and the “holy”, “outcasts” and “inner circle” and feeding off of the empowerment they are given by the beneficiaries of the set-up.  Evil must disguise itself as light otherwise it won’t be tolerated.  It’s difficult to convince people that they have a right to enjoy the benefits of this system while others suffer for it unless they can be convinced that they they’re entitled to it because they follow God’s law or are God’s favourites.  Beware the multiplication of rules.

That’s why I strongly believed that religion must be engaged at every level so that its role in aggravating oppression may be exposed for the heinous thing that it is, not just to the public but to the religious themselves; “They know not what they do”.  That’s why I’ve entered Mr GSA.  The competition affords gay men a platform on which they can add their voices to the dismantling of oppressive systems.

A full explanation of how these intersecting oppressions impact the economy and economic policy, the environment and environmental policy, the quality of education as well as the political landscape, is a bit beyond the scope of one post but I have been reading and writing about it on this blog.

Enjoy this video that gives a glimpse of what Pride Weekend was like.

Please share thoughts and comments.

#MrGSA2015

@SKhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com