Random Thoughts On The Vatican, The Irish Referendum And Child Molestation

Trigger alert – see title.

Now and then I draft a blog post I feel is too risky.  This was one of those posts.  I’m willing to do a face-plant on this, though, because as much as it will make me lose more credibility with some readers, it might empower someone, somewhere, in some way.  So here goes nothing.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin called the outcome of the Irish gay marriage referendum a “defeat for humanity.”  My Facebook friends pointed out that the Church’s complicity in various abuses – especially of children – has been a greater  “defeat for humanity” than the Irish constitution’s recognition of same-sex unions.

I think this disagreement is an opportunity to speak about the relationship between the church’s homophobia and its hideous track record with young boys.

Image And Narrative Management

From childhood, we internalize scripts that allow us to navigate the world and manage other people’s impact on us.  They also help us manage the way others perceive and experience us.

Society expects its boys grow into the heterosexual script.  When one of those boys is abused by an older male, his relatives may see the violation at one of three levels:

At the first level, one human being wronged a more vulnerable human being; the injury is not coloured by the genders and ages of the people involved.  That would say something about the society in which such an interpretation would arise.

At the second interpretation, an adult took advantage of a young child.  Age counts.  Gender does not.  That would say something about the society in which such an interpretation would arise.

At the third level, “one of those” homosexual paedophiles violated the forming heterosexual identity of an innocent, wholesome (read, straight) child of godly society.  At the third interpretation, gender counts more than anything else; the offense is all the more grievous because it is a homosexual offense.

What would that say about the kind society in which such an interpretation would arise?

I think that kind of society is a fertile soil for sexual abuses.

At this third level, the legendary homosexual pedophiles are recruiting and “we,” also known as “normal people,” must protect “our” churches, schools, communities and country from “them,” abnormal people.  If  “we” are African, then the homosexuals are Westerners that have imported  “their” depravity to undermine “our” norms.

At this interpretation, all homosexuals are adult male paedophiles: male, because female sexuality is meaningless unless complemented by male sexuality (so women have no right to refuse men sex because they are supporting cast at best and property at worst); adult, because children are too young to experience anything like a so-called sexual orientation without adult influence (so those teenage suicides must have all killed themselves because they hated what they had been recruited into and not because society unfairly discriminates against who they truly are); and paedophiles because a relationship between two men does not have a  “man” and a  “woman” so those perverts must try to emasculate little boys who would otherwise grow up to be wholesome (straight), assertive (dominant) men (not women or anything with traces of femininity).  So the third interpretation of sexual abuse manages to inject misogyny into situations that have no women in them.

At this third level, is believed that sexual abuse at a young age has the power to create homosexual desires by “confusing” the self-understanding of the developing heterosexual child; this is how gospel music star Donnie McClurkin and others explain their homosexuality.  McClurkin believes that theoretically, he could overcome his same-sex longings; the fact that the “homosexual imprinting” happened when he was so young and impressionable becomes his explanation as to why he is instead overcome by his longings in reality.

But I have a chicken-and-egg question: does sexual abuse “create” homosexual longings, or does the abuser target young boys because he intuits they are already questioning their sexuality?  Do not misunderstand me.  When a priest abuses his influence over a young boy, it is a violation of the victim’s mind, body and soul no matter what his sexual orientation is.  But in most instances, the effect of sexual abuse is less decisive and more nuanced in the formation of sexual orientation than heteroexpectant society wants to believe it is.  Sexual orientation is what it is from a very young age, and if sexual abusers did not exist we would imagine other causes of homosexuality other than nature; the nurture-not-nature side does not just rely on sexual abusers.

Sexual abuse does many things.  It opens a Pandora’s Box of forbidden curiosities which, I believe, were probably already there.  It distorts existing desires.  But it does not “create” new curiosities.

Case Scenario*

Imagine that over a series of interactions , a paedophile methodically builds up a conversational theme in his relationship with his target.  The theme of these conversations seems innocent on the surface.  But like an insider joke that is forced on the target to take him off guard each time it is brought up, the theme is actually a double entendre designed to gauge the his affinity to “alternative” meanings.

So to a third party, it would seem as though Father So-And-So strongly believes that Andrew would really enjoy bowling and has been trying to talk him into trying it.  Father So-And-So seems to believe it would develop Andrew’s character, focus and sportsmanship.  But Andrew seems resistant for some reason; he looks uneasy whenever Father Andrew brings up the topic as though Andrew senses something in his tone that no one else can.  It is a coded message specifically for Andrew, and given a room of people, Andrew alone would get it, and recoil.  It is not difficult to turn anything sexual, nor is it impossible, in a cloistered setting, to ensure over time that the target gets it.

The observing third party unknowingly chalks Andrew’s anxiety up to Andrew having a timid temperament that Father So-And-So is trying to help him overcome.  So the third party sympathetically makes a note to move out of Father S0-And-So’s way. 

This sounds improbable and far-fetched.  But so does paedophilia. 

As the abuser gets bolder, he also begins to close the physical gap between himself and his target more and more with each interaction.  One day, he plants suggestions into his victim’s mind as he normally does, and seeing the discomfort in his face, takes the extra step of “catching out” his “excitement” by literally grabbing him at the physical explanation for his facial discomfort.

Now he and Andrew know that Andrew’s face has been showing so much discomfort because the boy has understood a sexual subtext in Father So-And-So’s conversation.  And the fundamental reason he has understood the “alternative” meaning of Father So-And-So’s communication (coloured, as it were, by nuances, tonal inflections and facial expressions) about an otherwise innocuous topic is that the connotation has been resonating with him at a level deeper than the surface meaning of the conversation.  The priest has seen to it that it would.

At the mercy of his sexual predator, the prey is exposed, trapped and helpless; worst of all, and this is what the priest’s groped discovery implies, on some level he is curious to the point of arousal about where this is going.  His body has betrayed him.  But he really has no idea what the priest is up to.  Is Father going to launch into a condemning homily about the evils of Andrew’s sexuality?  If he yells “I knew your mind was twisting everything I said, you dirty, perverted child!  Get away from me!” or feigns some indignant expression of moral outrage, the groping would then be “explained” as his necessary “test” of Andrew’s moral state.  But Andrew suspects it would be naïve to believe that upfront; he would open himself up to further violation if he were so trusting, and even as a teenager he knows that.

If Andrew gambles on his hunch that this is harassment but turns out to be wrong, he would have horribly misunderstood the situation and offended a holy man of God; even asking for forgiveness after such a misunderstanding would be asking for too great a kindness; the priest would be within his rights to report Andrew to his parents, who would be scandalized, disgusted and disappointed.

If at any time he wants to retreat, the priest can pull up one of many personae (priest, friend, pillar of society) and make it continuous with his subsequent behavior.  So if Andrew reveals that he has been (mis)reading a sexual subtext into the priest’s communication and actions then he is at the disadvantage for revealing his pre-existing affinity with “alternate” meanings in innocent banter and actions.  Any step in any direction is a bigger gamble than Andrew can afford; the priest has him trapped and exposed, deliberately or not, behind a big, inscrutable wall of mystery.  Mystery.  Religion’s favourite word.

The victim’s script as an innocent child of God is in peril.  The young  believer’s felt obligation to remain pure towards God and society is used to bludgeon his presence of mind and narrow his range of responses.  Remember, if you’re sick and the doctor examines you in a certain area, you are the pervert if you get aroused; if you’re getting a massage and lose control, you’re sick and should be kept away from unsuspecting members of the public who are just trying to earn a decent living; if your priest senses that you are morally sick and you dare read into the beginnings of his “probings” more than is truly there, then not only do you prove your moral sickness but you blaspheme by implicating God in your wicked fantasies, disguised, as they are, as accusations that some sort of sexual advance is being performed by the priest when he is simply doing his duty as the moral physician who will go to any extreme to diagnose your spiritual sickness.  Even if that puts his reputation and purity in peril.  This may seem silly and improbable to some readers but in a book titled The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional, Reverend Charles P. Chiniquy (1809 – 1899) wrote that

“They make the people believe that the vow of perpetual chastity changes their nature, turns them into angels, and puts them above the common frailties of the fallen children of Adam.  Bravely, and with a brazen face, when they are interrogated on that subject, they say that they have special graces to remain pure and undefiled in the midst of the greatest dangers; that the Virgin Mary, to whom they are consecrated, is their powerful advocate to obtain from her Son that superhuman virtue of chastity; that what would be a cause of sure perdition to common men, is without peril and danger for a true Son of Mary; and, with amazing stupidity, the people consent to be duped, blinded, and deceived by those fooleries.”

Now, Father So-And-So goes in for the kill: “Andrew, I see now that you have a… problem.

“I have suspected that it was this way with you for some time now.

“By God’s grace I can help you solve this problem.

“We can keep this just between the two of us.  Nobody else has to know.”

With each sentence, the priest simultaneously propositions and confuses Andrew.  Andrew is not sure whether he is being offered salvation or something else.

“My son, God loves you and he wants your soul to be saved.  But nobody else has to know about your condition.  They would be devastated, no?”

The priest has the power to give absolution and save Andrew’s standing in society.  If he abuses that power, Andrew will be made to feel it was his fault for being worthless.  The priest has now graduated from a relationship with Andrew that is like the relationship doctors enjoy with patients and men in uniform with obedient members of the law-abiding public, to a relationship where he is effectively God.

But he has one power that not even God has: he can re-write history and scramble people’s memories.  So if he goes too far with all this doctoring and Andrew dares to tell, he can argue that the child must have misunderstood what was being done to him because Father So-And-So is a holy man of God who could never do the terrible thing Satan has whispered into the confused child’s mind.  And why wait until the child tells and destroys both his own and the priest’s reputation?  Why not plant the seed of doubt from the start of the abuse?  Victims can’t tell if they don’t believe their own stories.  Institutions don’t believe victim’s stories.

Abusers know that boys are very sexual creatures, that their sexuality is more fluid than they want it to be, and that they repress that fluidity when it doesn’t fit society’s heterosexist script.  By playing on what Andrew does not know and on his need to preserve his script, Father So-And-So makes him an unwitting accomplice in his own abuse.

Even if decades later Andrew goes back to confront the priest, the priest will say with impunity that he did not abuse Andrew.  Andrew imagined the whole thing.  Andrew is such a broken, twisted person in need of salvation.  Of absolution.

And just to twist the knife, he will say this with a sly lift of the brow.

*The usual disclaimers apply: it is not every priest, nor is it all religion, that abuses people.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Please follow me @SKhumalo1987

Please contact me SKhumalo1987@gmail.com


Is A DA Vote A Vote For Second-Class Citizenship?

Yes, it is another blog post on the words spoken during the Maimane-James debate.  Yes, I will come up with a new variation on the same theme until Maimane retracts his statements.

The Death Penalty

With our separation of powers under threat, the return of the death penalty would mean the Zuma Administration would have the legal power of life and death.  Jacob Zuma will not preside over South Africa forever so you can swap the name “Zuma” for anyone good or bad that could become our president.

When questioned as to his support of a referendum on the death penalty, Mmusi Maimane rejected it because the criminal justice system makes mistakes.  He did not reject a referendum on this Bill Of Rights’ issue on principle.  Until the State can ascertain with pin-point accuracy who its favourite criminals are, it should not have the power to kill, he is saying.

When the State can decide on whether a person can live or die, a halo of daunting authority develops around it.  It can do no wrong.  Pastor Maimane’s Jesus was executed by the Empire in his day as a common criminal, and outlaw Nelson Mandela came close to being executed by the State not too long ago.  So the State can be wrong even if it has the right criminal.  Some want the death penalty because they think certain criminals deserve to die.  I am not advocating vigilantism but there are many ways to see to someone’s death other than the hand of the State.  Just saying.


Democracy is the majority’s right and power to select a government it believes able to protect and enhance the full citizenship of each individual within that democracy.

Democracy cannot give anyone (or everyone) the right to unjustifiably revoke or diminish the full citizenship and rights of any citizen within that democracy.  That is why the Bill Of Rights says that citizenship cannot be denied to any South African citizen.

If the Bill Of Rights were changed or replaced, nobody would have the power to pick a political party; not even the majority would have any power because no individuals within the majority would have human rights.  And to give human rights is to give the whole package.  If mine are compromised, for whatever reason, so are yours.  

If human rights are determined by the majority then who gave the first right to any individual in that majority?  How can the majority determine any individual’s rights if there is no majority prior to it to give the majority’s individual members that power?  The power to vote becomes a mirage; an echo without an original sound, a series of reflections in a hall of mirrors without anything real to reflect.

For the majority to have any power to vote for a party or hold referendums on the national currency and etolls, the first individual within that majority has to already possess a set of human rights that can’t be revoked or diminished on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  If he does not have those rights or if those rights can be interfered with, then the majority he is part of does not have any voting power either.

The first human being examined in any majority could possess any human attributes; therefore, it must be assumed upfront that he or she is entitled to all applicable human rights.  And if that first individual has those human rights on the basis of human being and not anyone’s feelings, then so do all human beings.

But let’s test the opposite idea.  Let us assume that the majority has the right to speak over individual human rights; that a black majority could speak over the rights of a white minority, or a straight majority over a gay minority, or any sub-group over any other scientifically recognized human sub-group.  If we assume that the first person within the deciding majority (of one) is a straight white male, then we must say that heterosexuality, whiteness and maleness form the pattern by which the legitimacy of other human rights is measured.  This would mean that everyone who is not straight, not white or not male is at the mercy of those who are straight, white and male.  The straight white male would have become a self-referencing lexicon of true humanity, and everyone else a second-class citizen to be spared and tolerated as long as good feelings flow, and scapegoated when good feelings don’t flow and the niceness runs out.  (The DA that once persuaded the South African government to speak for the gay rights of those in Uganda has chosen a new leader who doesn’t grasp this fundamental idea).

The straight white male being the template of “true” humanity is not hypothetical, by the way; I didn’t choose it because I have a gripe with straight white males.  I chose it because that was the lexicon from which the rest of our understanding of humanity was defined and derived until 1994.  It was apartheid in a nutshell. 

A referendum on basic human rights is therefore the return of apartheid against someone, somewhere, and that someone has done nothing to deserve it other than existing.  Because when you’re gay, that’s all you have to do for South Africans to “feel strongly” that you should not be recognized as a full human being, and no one needs a referendum to find that out.  Being “referendumed over” by others makes the gay person a second-class citizen.  I am gay, and if I vote for a party whose leader says as much, then I agree with him that I am a second-class citizen.  Why else would he agree to a referendum on gay rights but would not suggest a corresponding referendum on straight rights in the same breath?  He believes straight is the unquestionable normal.

No amount of laughing, taking selfies of same-sex families and reassuring diversity-positive tweets from members at DA Congress changes the fact that as per its leader’s looseness with the Bill Of Rights, the DA would bring back apartheid if that’s what would be most popular with whomever it wanted to be in favour with at that moment.  It is not enough for the DA to describe itself (as the ANC does) as a non-sexist, non-racist non-homophobic party; Maimane needs to positively retract his Bill Of Rights statements for me to stop harping on about it like a broken record.

White People

The DA realized some time ago that a shared commitment to shared values wasn’t what black people wanted.  It seemed black people “felt strongly” the need to identify with a black leader.  Notice – strong feelings shaping what politicians do.

The DA brings in Mmusi.  Mmusi is asked whether he would support a Bill Of Rights referendum.  His response is that if people felt “felt strongly” about it he would.

It’s the same line of reasoning that made the DA choose him and it strengthens a populist precedent.

Say the populism gains momentum.  Say a sizable number of black people “felt strongly” that the only way past some lingering issues would be through the reduction of white people’s rights.  Call it BEE, on which the DA has flip-flopped (though BEE could be used quite effectively given a perfect administration but that is beside the point).  Or call it State-sanctioned genocide.  The action is irrelevant; the principle is what’s important.

Because every time you give in to what people “feel strongly” about in order to win their votes, you set a deadly precedent – and it could turn around and bite the very white people who wanted the DA to get the black vote through Mmusi Maimane.

He has proven popular for the wrong reasons, and the more votes he can add to the DA’s spoils, the more an ideologically unstable a DA it is.  He alone would be the point of stability.  His word would be law but it would be shaped by anything anyone “felt strongly” about.

His popularity would make him as indispensible to the DA as Jacob Zuma is to the ANC.  Neither of these parties agrees fully with the thoughts of its leaders, but there its leaders are.  There’s a silly idea going around that Maimane is a temporary measure to get votes.  Fiddlesticks.  If the DA didn’t have the ability to attract black votes without playing to “strong feelings,” it won’t be able to control Maimane without playing to those “strong feelings.”  It will struggle to consolidate its message.  And it wouldn’t be able to get rid of him while staying true to its founding principles before it, too, is absorbed in the conservatism it is flirting with.  And that leads to the next issue.

Family Values

The DA has also adopted a Values’ Charter.  It repeatedly talks about families and says things like, “however constructed” or “in all its manifestations” which, we’re told, means openness to mixed-race, single-parent and gay families.

But on this we just have some people’s words, tweets and comments; none of these reassurances are in writing and if it were to be, the explanations and qualifications could go on forever.  Which makes me wonder why the DA is flirting with the words “families” and “values” in the same document in the first place.

This morning, I read a Rebecca Davis piece on the Charter.  She observed that the “charter’s emphasis on family values was a cause of concern to several prominent DA MPs.”  Now, “what could possibly be controversial about saying that stable families are key to a successful nation?  What are families?  The DA’s new values charter doesn’t offer a definition.  It deliberately seems to leave room for a plurality of interpretations.  That’s sensible in a country where the traditional concept of a nuclear family, for instance, barely exists.  Most South African children grow up living with only a mother.  Western Cape DA leader Patricia de Lille clarified: ‘It includes every structure you could ever think of: extended families, families whether it’s a gay couple or just a single mother.’ Perhaps some within the DA would have felt more comfortable about the references to ‘family’ if the charter explicitly spelled out the range of manifestations listed by De Lille.  It doesn’t, though it allows for them to be ‘uniquely structured’.”

The problem with political parties flirting with everything-and-nothing-at-the-same-time definitions of families is that it smacks of “a moralistic framework which, by definition, seeks to instruct people how to live,” which is a problem for “more radical lefties” who “would argue that the family has always been a tool of social control.”

“Then there’s institutional sexism to think of, too.  Pregnant young girls suffer various official and unofficial forms of stigma and shaming, The males who impregnate them – the ‘fathers’ of some hypothetical family unit – are often entirely absent from the discussion.  Officials may sing the praises of the family, but the way workplace systems are set up still generally imagines a very particular version of family.  It would be nice to see more evidence in either the public or private sector that systems are evolving to allow for the possibility that mothers and fathers can share childcare more equally than has traditionally been the case.

“The phrasing of the DA’s charter suggests that that families play an irreplaceable role in the wellbeing of individuals.  Valorising the structure of the family as the solution to social ills, however, ignores the fact that South African families are sometimes the site of violence and danger – as witnessed by the ongoing epidemic of intimate-partner killings.  Will a woman being abused by her husband feel less able to leave him if she is being told that the preservation of the family unit is the key to success for her children?”

The words “family” and “values” (or “family values”) are very sensitive in political contexts.  Why would a liberal party want to play with them now?  Will people who are perceived as not being in “real” families not become second-class citizens?

An Alternate ANC In The Rapid Making

When people vote DA because it’s an alternative to the ANC, they create an alternate ANC in the DA.  The only way the DA could prevent that is it it picks a set of principles and sticks to it.

For me, voting for this DA would be voting ANC in a different skin.

And I could not do that.

Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.



My #Sparks Outrage, Explained For People Who Don’t Get It

If at any point you want to stop reading, it is probably a sign that you should continue.

One of my Facebook friends said that the reason Sparks described Verwoerd as smart is that “Verwoerd actually managed to ‘sell’ a brutal racial suppression policy as a sophisticated plan.” He pointed out that “Sparks actually fought apartheid – and Verwoerd – when it mattered. Why ‘when it mattered’? Cause then opponents of the apartheid state were locked up and f***d up and could suddenly lose their lives. Skin colour did not matter. Whiteys were zapped big time as well. That is when Sparks spoke out”.

The clause “when it mattered” reminds me of the aphorism that “Pilate was merciful until it became dangerous,” except, this time it’s not about “when it was safe” to fight apartheid but “when it mattered.” So there were times when apartheid’s effects did not matter.

At any rate, genteel, middle-class feelings of guilt at reaping the fruits of a system that implicates one in its evil, is not the same as a visceral moral outrage at that system. Steve Biko spilled much ink and disillusionment on that distinction: the former waits for “the right time” to act, “when it matters,” that is when the second-classing of whole people groups becomes too blatant an eyesore to ignore, or when the embargoes knock the economy and the national rugby team is banned from playing on the world arena. The rest of the time this pseudo-moral outrage gobbles up as much as it can from the prevailing status quo, throwing the occasional question at its custodians to ease the gnawing guilt of benefitting unfairly from their work.

Sparks says that Verwoerd was smart enough to get white people to participate in an evil regime. In his accompanying silence on the black heroes who toppled that system with as little bloodshed as possible, I see that what counts for smartness is how cleverly those running the system hid its beneficiaries’ moral pollution and complicity from their explicit awareness, and not what it took for black political activists to topple it.

As struggle heroes unmasked apartheid to its white beneficiaries, the narrative of white whiteness (read, “moral spotlessness”) was disturbed along with the greater narrative of white ethicality (read, “We earn our wealth through hard work and nothing else so we are good fathers and husbands and Christians”) by the realization that there was a flaw in the formula. The sheltered world the apartheid government had created was suddenly exposed as a lie. Woeful, the thought that the pride taken in earning an honest living like a good, white Christian person could be sullied by the realization that the opportunity to do so was made possible by a government that exploited an invisible number of invisible people somewhere “over there.” Achievements are rendered unreal when one knows that one got an unfair head start. That’s the system the apartheid government were smart enough to sell to white people, and that was its greatest evil: the moral deceit it perpetuated on white people who subsequently had their self-understanding as good white Christians disturbed by the shocking realization of what they had bought into. The black people who outsmarted it intellectually and forgave its perpetrators morally are not worth a mention. Sparks’ most important story is a white story, and the affronted self-understanding and moral pride of white apartheid beneficiaries prompts words from him while the oppressed lives and struggle heroes who fought the system does not.

Where do I get off locating Sparks’ moral outrage at apartheid’s involving white people in something so morally “black,” when he may legitimately find apartheid morally offensive for what it did to black people instead? I get off from his list and his explanation for it, that’s where; I get it from the absence of black names. Now, Sparks said that apartheid was a crime against “humanity.” When the humans comprising that vast, wonderful abstraction called humanity do not have names, then the crime against humanity may as well be the crime of incriminating white people in what disturbed the narrative of white moral whiteness. The crime against humanity could be anything until names are named. And Sparks named names: his biggest heroes, and I imagine, victims, were white. So apartheid not only hurt white people by setting them up to have their pristine group image popped in 1994 when the resources to keep the illusion ran out, but also continues to hurt them by making them feel terribly guilty every time their focus is taken off of Helen Zille who has “smartly” managed to balance white privilege against the reality of the cost it exacted. It hurts like hell to discover that one may have benefited from the suffering of others. Who are those others? It does not matter; when the need to fixate on how one has lost one’s innocence and the corresponding belief that one was earning my way in life by fair means is that strong, one does not need to know who the others were. One’s greatest need becomes a “smart” politician who can fix one’s self-image as an innocent who achieves success fair-and-square.

By listing only white politicians and not black ones, Sparks reveals that what he was looking for was not any politician, black or white, who would remove the blood-red sin of apartheid, but a “smart” politician who would restore his self-worth as a good white person. That’s where white politicians come in handy. That the crime happened to be apartheid against black people is incidental; it was “sold” to white people who were “outsmarted” into parting with their moral whiteness. Terrible, this charlatan Verwoerd and what he did to white people.

And smart.

Sparks’ list was about white people, by a white person, to white people – mostly men – and I submit it centered on recovering the pristine moral whiteness of being white. The black backdrop of black people’s suffering was a silent footnote. Helen Zille is the culmination of those who have kept white consciences feeling “white” despite the changes South Africa has undergone. She was the point of stability when white people did not know how to cope with how the past had served them. “Smart” politicians were politicians who firstly, sold white people the possibility of success without making them realize that they were soiling their moral whiteness – the most precious commodity in the universe, for whose sake black people’s lives were eventually unshackled when the toll on white consciences was realized – and after apartheid, “smart” politicians were those who kept white “success” intact despite the removal of its systemic enabler, which had previously soiled moral whiteness. “Smart” politicians are those who, during apartheid, recognized how history would later view white people. The only measures of smart I can derive from Sparks’ list speak to preserving the ideal of white righteousness. 

Representing a brilliant checkmate for the narrative of white goodness, Helen Zille is the culmination of such “smart” politicians. If the ideological curve inherent in Sparks’ list is anything to extrapolate from, Helen Zille was a stroke of f****g genius, a coup de grace against any threat to the white community’s self-understanding as anything other than morally whiter than white. The list represents a smooth transition from the illusion of white goodness, to its reality, now realized without the cost on white consciences (and them, those black bodies). 

Through Zille, the story of white people’s unfair gains from apartheid conveniently switches to the story of how black people are now doing it to themselves. For if anything else, Zille represents that to which white people can point to say, “If the majority just voted for this woman to be president, everything would be fine.” Why have a painful conversation about apartheid and black suffering if the “solution” is right there in all her smart, glorious whiteness?

Helen Zille is the smartest politician that Sparks has ever met. She is also the best anaesthesiologist he has ever met.

In the glaring absence of black names, the white experience becomes the audience to which “smartness” plays, and there is no other worth speaking of or to (for no other audience understands the need to maintain a good self-image as a fair-and-square achiever). White privilege is the ability to speak as though there is no other perspective. Appeals to clinical dictionary definitions of the word “smart” are an attempt to hide from this example of this white privilege. As I’ve said before, at its most innocent, Sparks’ hidden ideology finds its “normal” in a world where good black politicians are not needed for the actualization of justice in a country that is home to many black people; rather, “smart” politicians are needed to facilitate the transition from a whitewashed world experience that soils white consciences, to a world experience where the white conscience can rest in the knowledge that if those who were previously hurt just voted “smartly” they would stop suffering.

Yesterday on Twitter someone told me to “rise above” this whining. Make no mistake about it: the victim is at fault and guilty of making others feel bad. The victim robs the innocent of their innocence. My response to a twitter follower who told me that was that some things are so low it’s impossible not to be above them from the start.


My Facebook friend was not out of defenses. He dismissed Nelson Mandela as a candidate for a list of smart politicians. “Well, dude, you may not know it, but from when Sparks left school till 1994 ONLY white politicians ruled this country. And you may nog [sic] know it either, but Sparks was a PARLIAMENTARY reporter. Get it? White politicians were the ones he knew well up to 1994 and can pass judgement on (that is considered judgement on people, individuals,  as POLITICIANS and not voicing ideological support by using the name of a party leader). Mandela?  Mandela was actually NOT an operating politician. In his 5 years it was all about reconciliation and constructing a first democratic government and state. Mandela never ‘operated’ in parliament and never fought an election. Mbeki was the first one to do that. You may remember him in terms of the HIV mess up and the Eskom bad descision. And after him cane Zuma.”

Apartheid was a system that saw to it that black people could not be “real” politicians until 1994. But I think even by that hideous measure of who was a politician, Nelson Mandela should count as a post-1994 “smart” politician. If being President Nelson Mandela isn’t being a politician then I’m lost. Note how the system’s right to impute legitimacy to some politicians and not others goes unchallenged in my Facebook friend’s argument.

My poor-me everyone-hates-me black brain is too sore to think rationally about this any longer, but for the benefit of those who do not understand my bottomless rage at the Sparks’ speech I would like to believe I tried.

Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex. 



What Is The Democratic Alliance DOING To My Vote? #DACongress #AllisterSparks

At the DA’s 6th annual congress, journalist Allister Sparks listed Hendrik Verwoerd as one of the smartest politicians he’d met in his career.

Now, a lot of people are implying that Sparks mentioned the Architect of Apartheid with admiration for his morals and not just for his technical ability.  Such an accusation could be seen as manufacturing outrage.  That’s why I’ve chosen to write out a blog post instead of firing at it in 140 characters.

Sparks listed Verwoerd’s name with an edge in his voice (“And yes, Hendrik Verwoerd”) that anticipated audience members would be upset with this example of tactical genius.  That was wise of him.  But Nelson Mandela didn’t make his list.  Why not?  This glaring omission shows that the speech was from a white man, to white men, by a white man, about white men.  And Zille made the cut because she is special; good enough to be an honourary member of the Good Old Boy’s Club.  There is nothing inherently wrong with white men.  But this is South Africa.

Where was John Langalibalele Dube?  Perhaps too far back in time for Sparks to have known personally?  I have my doubts about that one.  How about Stephen Bantu Biko?  Perhaps Sparks has never met him in person.  Editor Donald Woods met him, though he was banned.  Disturbing, this thought: in his long, long, long career, this white journalist never met one black politician he thought was smart.  Zille hid struggle activists in her house; Sparks never met those?  Black thinkers and activists everywhere, and Sparks deigned to meet not a single one?  Sparks claims to have fought apartheid.  How, if not alongside smart black politicians?  And how did they fail to make his list today?

From what we’ve been told, gifted black thinkers politicked at the same ideological distance from the present DA as the people Sparks did bother to list. In other words, if Sparks was listing clever politicians and not just remaining true to DA history, he could have afforded more variety because the DA would never support apartheid, no? Those white politicians were no more or less part of the DA’s identity and history than the black ones he forgot. Isn’t that the message of #KnowYourDA – that for too long, the DA that has allowed others to tell its story must now push back and reveal its predecessors’ role in fighting apartheid? But alongside whom did the DA fight if not black activists who gave their (wait for it) f*****g lives? Intellect used for evil trumps and eclises the wisdom behind self-sacrifice? The mind boggles. Sparks says the outrage has been manufactured. Of course it has. His words manufactured it.

The only common denominator among all the politicians in Spark’s list is that they are people who, to some degree or another, protected, or failed to interrogate, or benefited from white privilege. And Helen Zille is the top of the class in Sparks’ opinion. This is significant because the list of politicians before Zille’s name shapes a disturbing picture of what Sparks thinks Zille’s political purpose has been all along. If my inference from Sparks’ list is correct, then he sees Zille as the latest manifestation, and indeed, the culmination, of an ideology that to some degree or another protects, or fails to interrogate, or benefits from exclusive white privilege.

At its most innocent, Sparks’ hidden ideology finds its “normal” in a world where good black politicians are not needed for the actualization of justice in a country that is home to many black people. That is fine; in theory, it is possible for a country populated by black people to be run justly by white politicans. Sparks could get that benefit of that doubt. But that is not the kind of historical context Sparks’ list arose out of, and he knows it. Apartheid happened. The absence of black politicians from that list is simply not innocent, and there is no way to defend it.

My clinical brain would say, What’s the problem? Sparks doesn’t speak for the whole of the DA or for Helen Zille. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the DA has so far let him. We await its response.

To one listener, and that is a very naive but not necessarily stupid listener, Sparks’ list might sound like someone admiring Hitler’s oratory skills or a sniper’s deadly aim without a discussion of the ends to which those skills were used. I admire sociopaths’ ability to manipulate because it demonstrates keen psychological awareness. I do not admire what they do with that ability. Anyone is within their rights to stand in front of a crowd and say that sort of thing without apology, and people are within their rights to receive Sparks’ words that way.

But to another listener, in a country where many black people believe the DA exists to protect white privilege and would bring back apartheid, Allister Sparks was actually saying that Helen Zille has been one of the most gifted strategists in the DA’s game of feigning egalitarian ideals so as to return white rule, through baiting the black vote, after that interlude of so-called democracy that left the vote to “them,” those black people who are now ruining the pristine, snow-white South Africa. Otherwise known as “normal” with perhaps the nondescript, invisible, 2-D black servant somewhere in the background. Realer than the black politicians who did not even make Sparks’ list. To such a listener, the outrage is not manufactured; it is justifiable.

And though the idea that the DA would return white rule did not come from the DA, it is an idea the DA needs to take responsibility for as it tries to grow. The party cannot be so tone-deaf as to think it operates in a total vacuum.

To that other listener, the Zille Sparks is describing is Verwoerd in disguise, a sheep in lamb’s clothing. That might sound like a ludicrous idea limited to Sparks alone until you look at who the DA has been looking to fill its leadership position with. Some would argue that it’s been a case of “any black will do” which would explain how they landed with Dr Mamphela I-Changed-My-Mind Ramphele as presidential candidate. And alone, the Ramphele disaster does not mean anything. But she’s one in a (short but telling) series of black people whose procurement happened in a way that indicates the DA isn’t working on principle but towards getting black votes at cost to its principles. Why the rush for black votes? The salvation of democracy? Should democracy not first be saved from prospective party leaders who think the Bill Of Rights can be put to referendum? In a debate against Wilmot James, leadership candidate Mmusi Maimane put Bill Of Rights’ issues on the same ground as e-tolling, saying the status of all should be open to the feelings and decisions of the South African public. I have argued to the effect that if the DA really did put human rights to referendum on the basis of how South Africans feel about them, then some form of apartheid or another could easily return. #Xenophobia.

So what’s the principle that drives DA? Judging by Mmusi’s popularity in the DA, it’s not a commitment to liberal principles, constitutional democracy or nonnegotiable human rights. Judging by its silence thus far about Allister Sparks’ listing Helen Zille in the same breath with Werwoerd, it’s really not about a commitment to constitutional democracy and human rights. It’s about getting South Africa “back to normal” (otherwise known as white rule) and in that scheme, the DA has played very strategically for black votes. Bravo, Helen! You’ve “championed the cause” and for that, God (the white Father atheist killers don’t believe in as per that tweet) will reward you for upholding the values of Volk and Vaderland though you had to disguise them in liberal rhetoric seeing as blacks now have the vote like the liberals want them to.

THAT Tweet

THAT Tweet

But that Twitter slip is the reason the DA has recalled you: you almost betrayed the liberal, non-religious mask that had been hiding the Broederbond-style plot all along. Though you were a woman, you were good enough for the Old Boys’ Club and the top of Sparks’ list, but you have almost overstayed your welcome. I type this not truly believing it to be the truth within the DA, but no longer rubbishing those who believe it is. Again, that was Sparks talking and he doesn’t talk for the DA. Except, the DA hasn’t corrected his words. That’s fine; the DA doesn’t have to correct every person’s implicit white supremacy projected onto its leaders. It really would do well to correct them, and it has in the past, but strictly speaking the DA doesn’t have to correct every white person who thinks that the DA’s “normal” is white rule.

But viewed against Maimane’s comments about the Bill Of Rights, and the DA’s silence on what their probable leader is saying about the Bill Of Rights, the DA’s silence on Sparks’ words indicates that the conspiracy for normalcy (again, white rule) isn’t as harebrained as one would imagine.  A picture is forming and nobody in the DA can correct it.  If the DA is for real, it’s going to dig its heels into its professed principles NOW; it is going to demonstrate them, NOW, and give us some straight talk concerning what it stands for, what it doesn’t, who may speak for it and who may not.  It will let heads roll and tempers flare.  If it is to save its soul, it will allow some egos to be bruised.

If it doesn’t, however, and it continues working towards getting a bigger black vote at the cost of allowing people to paint it as the party that protects white interests or would jeopardize human rights, then I’m afraid our opposition party is no more principled than our ruling party.  The charge that the party exists to protect someone’s priorities at the expense of human rights would not be as insane as I once thought it was.

Perhaps I am growing up, now.

Thank you and please share.



What Just Happened, @MmusiMaimane?

On The One Hand

Shadow Minister of Transport Manny de Freitas promised to host the Mr Gay World delegates at Parliament last week.  He did.  He also promised to invite some other openly gay MPs to say hi.  He did.  He promised to draft a congratulatory motion without notice concerning the Mr Gay World competition.  Zakhele Mbele did, going so far as to mention its only two African delegates by name.  I was one of those delegates.  That is three out of three political promises kept by members of the DA.

When we went to Knysna, the Mayor Georlene Wolmarans promised to see us once.  She saw us three times.  That is three out of one more political promises kept by the DA, not to mention overwhelming support for LGBTI visibility over the course of the week.  This is in line with the DA’s liberal stance.

On The Other Hand, And In The Same Week

How does one criticize something said by the popular individual who will likely lead the DA without criticizing him personally, or the DA as a whole, or the people who stood by us in the last few weeks and continue to fight for our rights to be observed in Parliaments and city halls across this country?  The answer is in the nature of the DA itself.  This party champions open debate, freedom of expression and constructive criticism.  Unless the party changed while I was not looking.


The debate between DA leader candidates Wilmot James and Mmusi Maimane is available here and here.  It was chaired by Rapport editor Waldimar Pelser.

There was the question of whether Maimane would support a referendum on gay rights.  Maimane replied, “Well if South Africans felt that they needed to vote on the issue, they should.  I still stand on the view that gay rights must be protected, South Africans who are gay, who want to marry each other are entitled to do so – the law gives that right so I don’t know what the referendum would be about.  In fact, I still maintain that those rights are in the constitution and must be protected.”

Pelser pushed the topic of referendums on anyway.  He brought up the death penalty and asked why Maimane had once said it, too, could be put to a referendum. 

“Because without fail I’m a democrat.  I would not support that view, I would not support the death penalty as an example.  I still sit here today and understand that our judicial system still has flaws.  I don’t think the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but ultimately as a democrat I still uphold that the rights democracy upholds it’s not the best system, but it is a system that we have.  It upholds the fact that if people – it’s by the people for the people and if people want to vote on it the people must vote on it.”

“What happens if the views of the people clash with that which is enshrined in the constitution?” Pelser asked.

Maimane replied, “No, I don’t think, I think in this instance it’s quite clear, I think we can accept the fact that many South Africans will believe in the protection of the constitution.  For example even on the expropriation bill – so long as we uphold the constitutional bill principal and the right to life.  I think South Africans can stand up and vote in against the death penalty and I still uphold that view.”

What is the basis of Maimane’s confidence?  Across the continent and in South Africa, a considerable number of people does not support many of the rights enshrined in our constitution.  And two weeks ago, a few South Africans, prompted by some leaders’ utterances, took it upon themselves to hold a referendum as to whether foreign nationals (sometimes also known as human beings) should remain alive or not.  So with regards to what is negotiable and what isn’t, Maimane’s view would leave everyone legally vulnerable.  A referendum on a Bill Of Rights matter could amputate the constitution.

After the debate, Maimane tried to backtrack: “Some people are distorting my position on gay rights as expressed in the televised debate last night.  As I said last night: ‘I still stand on the view that gay rights must be protected.  South Africans who are gay and want to marry each other are entitled to do so.  The law gives that right, so I don’t know what the referendum would be about.  In fact, I still maintain that those rights are in the constitution and must be protected.’  I have been a vocal supporter of gay rights in every sphere of my life and I will continue to stand up for the constitutional rights of all South Africans.”

I don’t know of anyone who’s distorting Maimane’s position on gay rights.  However, there are a lot of people saying that Maimane’s understanding of constitutional democracy and the fundamental rights of individuals is what’s distorted.  Maimane failed to question the bureaucratic validity of the hypothetical referendum; he only questioned its purpose.  In his worldview, South Africans are nearly unanimous in their understanding of the indivisibility of the Bill Of Rights (the world must be pretty through those rose-tinted spectacles); they are so constitutional and liberal and democratic, he says, that their power to infringe on the rights of others shouldn’t be infringed upon; the referendum should happen so as to show that South Africans support the democratic principles of the constitution by which they democratically received a voice, he’s telling us. 

This is not an abstract issue for me.  I am a gay black man living in a township, as do many gay black men.  I get stopped in the streets to be questioned by people who recognize me and have read my words in newspapers and on television. 

I openly question and critique dangerous, heterosexist ideals of masculinity that lead to domestic violence and rape.  Does Mmusi Maimane understand the risk I put myself at to sell his party’s policies, let alone how those policies were formulated?  And mine are a drop in a bucket of other human rights’ activists’ struggles and sacrifices.  People have died, and continue to die, for human rights.  How on earth could they be the subject of a referendum?  If people’s lives can be subjected to a referendum, why shouldn’t masturbation?  It is illegal in some places precisely because someone said it had to be illegal.

And who gets referendumed about whose rights?  Would men vote in a referendum about women’s rights?  Vice-versa?  On Maimane’s logic, South Africans should get a vote on issues they feel strongly about.  But which South Africans?  Are some South Africans more equal than others?  If gay rights can be voted on by South Africans, then gay people are not, by implication, South Africans; they are squatters at the mercy of South Africans just as foreign nationals (again, human beings) were.  A referendum on human rights is a denial of human being

Such a referendum could justify what many politicians have said about their countries and cities being “100% moffie-free” and other statements to that effect. 

Does Maimane know how many lesbians get raped in townships across the country, by people who seek to “cure” them?  How would he feel if someone told him the answer is probably in the region of 500 a year in some townships?  He probably knows, and he probably cares.  But to support a referendum on gay rights legitimizes the mindset that says that women ultimately do not have a say over their own bodies because society does.  When South Africans “feel strongly” enough about what women should be doing with their bodies to rape them, then capitulating to those strong feelings by supporting a referendum is just a step away from handing the lesbians over to be “cured.”  This was probably not the intention, but it could easily be the effect.   

Is it not enough that the basic human rights enshrined in the Bill Of Rights are more honoured in the breach than in the observance; would Maimane want to take the risk that there should be nothing to breach or observe in the first place?  Because that is what that referendum means.  How he feels about gay rights gives me warm fuzzy feelings too, but it does not matter if he has no mechanism by which to keep gay rights protected.  I vote DA because I vote with my head, not with my heart.  I am very concerned when the blue party sits by while the reasons I vote with my head are eroded in broad daylight.  Why isn’t the party that marched with us in Knysna saying something?

Maimane’s understanding of the Bill Of Rights leaves all of us stark-naked without a non-negotiable right to stand on – except the non-negotiable right to negotiate on other people’s non-negotiable rights.  Because we got these rights in the first place not through the process of discovering what it means to have human rights, but of deciding what human rights were, he is saying.  We negotiated them into existence, so our ability to negotiate rights in and out of existence should remain intact, never mind that our right to negotiate rights in and out of existence could also be negotiated out of existence. When the source of these rights is not the state of being human, but other people’s say-so, and other people’s say-so must always have the voice whereby people created and continue to regulate those rights, then being human guarantees no one the right to say anything in the first place.  Democracy becomes an absurdity.

If we can have a referendum on gay rights, then why not one on straight rights, insofar as straight people also participate in non-reproductive sexual activities?  Are we all Catholic, all of a sudden?  Who died and made who God?  Is heterosexuality the default by which the legitimacy of gay rights may be measured, and do straight people have a right to hold a referendum on gay rights because they are superior or because there are more of them (or so we are told)?  We must answer these questions very carefully.  Stripped of my bright blue flag, I am feeling naked right now.

A few months ago, a white Facebook friend suggested (out of frustration) that black people should hold a referendum about whether white people should leave South Africa or not.  I respectfully balked.  That would be like saying that the 1992 referendum was valid and that white people had a right to decide on black people’s right to vote for their political fates.  For years, many of them have congratulated themselves for the benevolence they showed when they voted Yes to having the vote extended to black people.  But given the circumstances, they were not performing an act of kindness; they were performing their moral duty, and not one black person owes one white person a thank you for that, just as not one white person ought to ask permission from anyone to remain in South Africa as a fully-fledged citizen.  The system was wrong, even if it had gone unquestioned for some time and no matter which way you counted the votes.  The system was not changed because it was not nice: it was changed because it was not right.  The Bill Of Rights says that no citizen may be denied citizenship.  If we ever hold a referendum about that or about anything else in the Bill Of Rights, it is the end of South Africa.  Mark my words.

No matter who you are reading this, you have a race, you have a biological sex, you have a sexual orientation, you have beliefs surrounding ultimate concerns and you have people you associate with and people you do not, by choice.  You are not superior to persons of other races, genders or sexual orientations, and you may not decide on their rights in a referendum because some politician has convinced you that you are the normal by which the others may be measured.  But that is how politicians divide and conquer communities: they convince the section that could empower them that they are the normal, and the others may be decided about.  Some referendums are wrong upfront, and the politicians who use them to gain popularity are wrong too. 

This is not to say that James did not make a similar slip-up on the television debate concerning the right to bail; he readjusted his position rather fast.  Maimane held on to his, and nobody, as far as I know, has corrected it.

When each person’s right to have a voice is contingent on other people’s decision to let him have a voice, then human rights are mirages, surds that have no basis in anything fundamental; they can be given and they can be taken away but nobody knows who does the giving and the taking away because where individual rights are in doubt, nobody has an ultimate right to give rights or take them away; we would have to become a dictatorship though a benevolent one. 

If we take Maimane’s premise to its ultimate logical conclusion, the whole Bill of Rights is an endless hall of mirrors, fingers pointing at fingers pointing at fingers pointing at fingers.  It doesn’t settle anywhere except at the biggest finger in the middle of them all saying F**k you to everything the struggle heroes fought for.  Surely Maimane does not want to be the next Jacob Zuma?

Jacob Zuma Middle Finger

Jacob Zuma Middle Finger

It is my belief that we did not negotiate human rights into existence; we realized them in our awareness and have been sharpening that awareness for 21 years, (often badly) wrestling with the implications where redress and land ownership is concerned.  Is it possible to defend both the absolute rights of each individual, yet right the wrongs of the past?  Absolutely, if the right people are doing the job; that is the promise the DA has held out to us for years.  Some of its members are on the verge of breaking it whether they realize that or not.

Human Rights: Given, Or Discovered?

This is a very simple but very important idea, one that many politicians don’t grasp.  I don’t have human rights because other human beings decided I have them; I have human rights because I am as much a human being as any other.  My human rights may only be infringed upon when I am infringing on those of another.  All we can do is improve our understanding of what human rights mean and what those rights are.  Yes, this is a metaphysical claim, and yes, Pastor Maimane is free to respond, and yes, ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party Of South Africa), I know what you did

Is Mmusi Maimane the best leader that the DA can produce?  The DA will decide that, and in so doing, will make a fundamental claim about its identity.  If it uses this as a teachable moment and is willing to lose face in order to clarify what it stands for and why, it would have chosen principle over perception.  In fact, this may be a golden opportunity for the DA to continue with its internal elections while clarifying to voters just what it stands for.  The only thing needed for that to happen is for Mmusi Maimane to admit the same thing we need King Zwelithini to admit: that he was wrong.  Not that the two errors are the same size.  We need for our politicians to admit that they are human and fallible; in so doing, they, too, would have called upon and validated the very human principles that are currently at stake.

But if the DA allows this kind of thinking to go unchecked into its leadership, it will be a betrayal of its principles and its people.  That is the simple truth.

Thank you and please share



Why The Fight For Gay Rights Is A Fight Against Dictatorships

When government has a say in how consenting adults may behave in the privacy of their bedrooms, it has too much power over its citizen’s choices.  Government’s job should be governing economies and policies and environments, not ruling people or policing morality.

But we see in Africa that when government officials can’t fulfil their promises, they turn to governing what isn’t theirs to govern.  These politicians divide and conquer; they put up scapegoats and play on myths and fears, recklessly endangering the most vulnerable and misunderstood people in society.

When they are asked to dispel the myths behind prejudices like homophobia – which would expose that they’d exploited those myths and prejudices for votes as well – these types of governments hide behind the excuse that the majority has no tolerance for same-sex relationships; therefore, the gays should perish as per the demand of the majority.

But where do we draw the line on the majority’s power?  If the majority can decide that a man should be burned to death for loving another man, then why can’t the majority also be called upon to decide, when a woman is raped for example, whether it was her fault for wearing clothes that indicated she “wanted it,” or whether her attire and make-up that day was that of a modest, “decent girl” who wasn’t out to provoke and tease male lust?  Why, for that matter, couldn’t the majority be called upon to decide whether all men should be castrated seeing as they cannot (and should not, it would seem)  help raping women who wear anything more revealing than a brick house?  Why are there never majorities convened on the issue of general male culpability where rape is concerned?  I digress.

How much power should the majority have over human experiences?  If a gay man’s right to say “Yes” to personal happiness is up for public discussion and may endanger his life and the life of his relatives, then we’re a step away from having a woman’s right to say to say “No” to personal violation also being up for public discussion.  People say that gay rights are a slippery slope to immorality.  But whatever they imagine immorality to be, it pales, pales in comparison to the very real violations currently perpetrated against very real people.

When the majority has the power to make sexual choices for adult citizens, then no individual has sexual autonomy or self-governance.  Majorities are groups of individuals that happen to be invincible at that moment because they’ve got numbers on their side.  In principle, that power is an illusion because, like the gay man and the rape survivor, not one of those individuals comprising that majority ultimately has the power of self-determination, and any of them can end up on the receiving end of the majority’s prejudice.  Power ultimately belongs to some shifting “majority”; depending on who and on whose altar he needs to sacrifice on that day, a politician will shift the power to decide to whichever group of individuals is least likely to see that they have no individual rights themselves, let alone the power of some supposed majority.  Their vulnerability is eclipsed by their immediate context in which they feel morally superior and enjoy the safety of numbers.  Straight-identified people don’t feel threatened by anti-gay laws, so they can be used by prejudiced politicians to decide quickly without thinking deeply.  If they knew what was at stake, they would know how dangerous (and dangerously false) that power is.  Because whatever majority the individuals comprising that majority think they’re part of, it’s a mirage that could and eventually does betray them.

When the South African government was asked why it didn’t condemn the anti-gay laws of other countries, the excuse given was that the other countries’ autonomy must be respected.  But we have just seen that when the majority can decide what happens in the privacy of an adult’s bedroom, then no individual truly has sexual autonomy or the power of self-governance; you can multiply those individuals into a so-called majority and stack them into a so-called government, but they have no more autonomy as a group with titles and offices than they did as individuals without titles and the offices.  In the absence of a noble social contract that protects the rights of each person, rulers use brute force for they too have no real power.  Hence, we have dictatorships thriving wherever individual human rights are not thriving.  Tell me how homophobic your environment is and I will tell you your political destiny.

If you tolerate an environment where it is not okay to be gay, you deserve everything such an environment brings with it and it can be hell on earth.

The fight for gay rights is a fight against dictatorships.  It is a fight for your freedom, no matter who you are or what you currently believe about gay people.

Thank you

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