Showing posts with label International Gay Issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Gay Issues. Show all posts

March 8, 2015

Out of the Closet Since 7 and Not Proud to be Gay

Gavin Fernando says he doesn’t understand the significance of the Mardi Gras parade.
Gavin Fernando says he doesn’t understand the significance of the Mardi Gras parade. Source: Twitter
OPINION( Appeared in Australia by  )
I’m not proud to be gay.
Out of the closet since grade seven. An unabashed Madonna enthusiast. Currently residing on the corner of Judy Garland Road and Smoulderingly Fierce Beyoncé Gif Lane.
Believe me, I’m not ashamed either. I just don’t understand Mardi Gras — the almighty gay pride parade.
I don’t understand the abundance of glitter. I don’t understand the hairy near-naked blokes grinding and wrestling in crotch-tight spandex at Fair Day, or swinging on float poles. I don’t understand the undeniable fact that sex — glorious as it is — is everywhere you look, walk and breathe. I mainly don’t understand the implication that I’m automatically connected to this display by means of my sexual orientation.
There is nothing wrong with flamboyance or sexual expression. But it’s discomforting being associated with an international event through such a shallow commonality. It’s like being signed up to a club you don’t actually want to be a part of, with no say in the matter.
I’m not a Friend Of Dorothy’s. Dorothy is more like that nagging acquaintance I stumble into on the street and promise I’ll meet for a drink soon, but never do.
Why should I feel ‘proud’ to be gay? The concept is as ludicrous as feeling ashamed to be gay. We’re proud of our achievements and goals; we don’t congratulate ourselves over things we didn’t control. I’m not proud to have black hair or relentlessly ethnic eyebrows. I just do.
At some point twenty-two years ago, I popped out of a uterus with both a penis and a penchant for penis. Don’t look at me, I had nothing to do with it. I was a sack of unsightly goo floating around in a womb, just minding my own business. No one’s fault — except nature’s. And maybe God’s. That’s right, Fred Nile — your mate.
Mike Sinclair and Steven Capp make their way down Oxford St in Sydney in preparation for
Mike Sinclair and Steven Capp make their way down Oxford St in Sydney in preparation for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Photo: John Appleyard. Source: News Corp Australia
Growing up, all I knew about the gay community was what I saw in Mardi Gras: sex, skin, booze, revealing outfits and perfect bodies combined with that bitchy face RuPaul makes when he bids the week’s runway loser farewell.
As a teenager my biggest concern — as opposed to coming out or learning what goes where — was that I’d one day feel obligated to be a part of it.
My observations at last year’s parade didn’t exactly include a conversation around gay rights. One fellow asked me for MDMA. Another bloke generously offered me MDMA. One particularly lovely young gentleman asked if I would like to insert something of mine into his mouth in the toilet cubicle. It was more or less a sweaty orgy of glitter-coated body parts.
My experience with the parade is not to suggest gay rights aren’t relevant in Australia.
They absolutely are, without a doubt.
With higher recorded rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse and ongoing reports of marginalisation, being gay in itself is still a battle for many.
Beyond Blue found LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidal tendencies of any Australian group — fourteen times higher than their heterosexual peers. The same report finds up to 80% will experience public insult.
On the flip side, there’s been some damn good progress. The number of same-sex couples recorded by census data has nearly quadrupled in the past twenty years, suggesting growing social acceptance. Public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high of 72 per cent — and growing.
Miss Ellaneous, David Dundee, Marzi Panne, Sianne Tate, Vogue Magazine, Danarose Dizon, w
Miss Ellaneous, David Dundee, Marzi Panne, Sianne Tate, Vogue Magazine, Danarose Dizon, who are all part of Darwin's first float in tomorrows Mardi Gras. Photo: Justin Lloyd. Source: News Corp Australia
Being gay is more normalised than ever: in fantastic Aussie icons like Ian Thorpe and Sia, who can come out without facing the same backlash they’d likely have experienced twenty years ago; in floats that support gay members of the armed forces, gay religious groups, gay parents and children; in slowly but surely moving away from discrimination.
But I fail to see this at the forefront of the Mardi Gras parade, when the main point of significance seems to be what you’re going to wear, how much skin you’re going to show and which diva tunes you’re going to blast while you’re grinding on a float.
I fail to see how sex and sexual orientation are interchangeable terms. I fail to see how leather-studded arse-cracks and sequined neon short-shorts should be construed as a political statement.
I’m sick of being asked what I’m going to wear, who I’m going to sleep with, or what drugs I plan on taking. I’m sick of the assumption that this is an annual holiday I need to celebrate.
I’m sick of the idea that you can “lump” a sizeable group together in a branded event, based on a commercialised, hypersexualised party. I’m sick of anybody automatically referring to me as ‘queer’.
Because I feel no different to my straight friends. Because my sexual orientation is so unremarkable — so batshit boring — that my idea of gay rights is holding hands with my boyfriend and walking down the street without anybody so much as raising an eyelid.
Because my sexual orientation is not a spectacle. Because being gay is not my most defining feature. It’s downright ordinary.
And that, right there, is equality.
Follow @GavinDFernando on Twitter

February 26, 2015

Homosexuality Causes Cancer in Ireland


             Jordi Murphy Irish rugby player


An Irish family campaigning group has launched a series of extraordinary attacks against same-sex couples, including claims that same-sex couples die younger, are more prone to cancer, and are more likely to abuse and injure children, 
The Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage (ADFAM), an initiative based in Ireland which claims to “promote and defend the traditional family”, have been distributing the leaflets to spread their beliefs this week. Witnesses say they have been handed out outside churches and rugby matches among other venues. A journalist for the Irish website Her was handed one of the pamphlets outside a Divine Mercy event in Dublin. It comes in the run-up to the Irish Republic’s referendum in on same-sex marriage due to take place on May 22. 
ADFAM have defended the pamphlet, which is titled ‘Why Should I Vote Against Same-Sex Marriage?’ and have listed reasons why readers should vote against the marriage equality referendum.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Séamas de Barra a member of the alliance said the claims are backed up by research undertaken in Denmark, where civil partnerships were legalised in 1989.
The group also defends its claim that same-sex marriage “is a confidence trick” which “tends to be very short-lived, and promiscuous” and that “frequently, same-sex pairs don’t even live together.”
In the past the group has stated that voting for same-sex marriage “is like voting for Islamic State-style sharia law. It is giving in to a very small minority. In this case, the very small minority will dictate what marriage means. Persecution of Christians surely will follow, and it will become a crime to teach and preach Christian morality.”
Tiernan Brady, policy director at the Irish Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), fiercely condemns the pamphlet’s content. “Most importantly, it’s not true,” he says. “It's disrespectful, and an attack on the humanity of certain citizens of Ireland.
“Unfortunately there are those who will take us back to a time of intolerance. ADFAM don’t seem to care that the referendum is a vote about real people and real people’s rights. Lesbian and gay people will read that pamphlet, and the intent can be nothing other than to do as much damage to people. Their motivation is dark, dangerous and disgraceful. We have to remain positive.”
While Brady says that pamphlets like these are “poisonous” and believes they will increase in the run up to the referendum, he also thinks that the anti-gay sentiments expressed are “out of tune” with Irish popular opinion. Currently, the polls are showing that 77% are in favour of same-sex marriage and all the political parties support it. 
However, Brady added that is is “desperately worrying” that there has been no official condemnation from a number of religious organisations and believes that if the Irish church were to openly condemn the pamphlets it would be a powerful move. “The polls are positive, but that doesn’t mean we should become complacent,” Brady added. 
“Ireland has been a phenomenal success story in recent years, from the decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity in 1993, to a referendum on equal marriage in just over 20 years. But this leaflet is an attempt to turn the clock back to a time when gays and lesbians lived in the shadows.”
Same-sex couples have been able to enter into a civil partnership in the Republic of Ireland since January 2011, but Ireland does not permit same-sex civil marriage. Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced last Thursday that his party Fine Gael, will support the referendum, declaring that Ireland is a “compassionate and tolerant nation”. Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail both announced last month they too will support the referendum.
But the Catholic church in Ireland is campaigning against the introduction of same-sex marriage. Last December, Ireland’s Catholic bishops launched a 15-page pamphlet setting out its position, stating it would be “a grave injustice” if gay and lesbian couples were granted equality in marriage.

February 14, 2015

A Gay Sweatshop


 Affairs of the heart … Simon Callow (left) with Michael Dickinson in Passing By in 1975

In the 40 years since Gay Sweatshop was founded, the world has changed out of all recognition for British gay women and men. I was among the first actors to take part in the pioneering season at the Almost Free theatre in Rupert Street, and it requires a real effort of imagination to think back to how we were then. It was just eight years after the repeal of the Labouchère amendment had removed the worst of the legal threat (as long as you were over 21). A whole new life had sprung up overnight, it seemed, in the wake of that sudden enfranchisement, with bars, clubs and discos nakedly – in many cases, literally – celebrating and fomenting sex between men. Being gay – gay, not queer, not homo, not poof nor pansy, faggot nor fairy – was now a cause, a crusade; we were a separate and self-sufficient subdivision of human kind, our lives centrally predicated on desire. Let groin speak unto groin was all the law.
So it seemed in the West End of London and in Canal Street in Manchester and in about three other places in the British Isles: a carnival, a Dionysiac rout, a permanent ecstasy. Of course, it was different elsewhere. The metropolitan liberation was scarcely even a rumour out there. And some very liberated gay men, who mostly came from Out There – those very ungay regional and suburban hinterlands – decided that maybe the theatre would be a good way of connecting everyone up. So Gay Sweatshop came into existence, under the umbrella of the American granddaddy of radical theatre, the alternative Diaghilev, Ed Berman, who for a season opened his little venue to plays by, for and about gay men and women.
 When I was asked, by this to me at the time hilariously named Gay Sweatshop, to read for the part of Toby in Martin Sherman’s play Passing By, I was highly sceptical. I was out, all right, to every one in my circle, and joyously romping around in the gay pleasure gardens. I endorsed gay liberation with every fibre of my being, I believed that more and better sex was the solution to everything, but I could not see the point of this sort of ghetto theatre. What next, I thought. Plays by chartered accountants, about chartered accounts, for chartered accountants?
Then I read the play – a very simple, highly romantic piece about two sweet young men who have an affair – and I was stopped in my tracks. I realised I had never read another play in which two men have a romantic affair and never once mention being gay. I immediately said yes. But I had no inkling of what performing that play in front of a gay audience would be like. The sense of their truth being told, of them in their ordinary lives suddenly existing, was overwhelming. I don’t believe I’ve done anything more rewarding or more emotionally overpowering on any stage or in any medium.
But it was just a beginning for Gay Sweatshop. The women and men who ran it were no slouches when it came to personally fostering the sexual revolution, but their work was not indulgent or frivolous: it reached out in many directions – historically, theatrically, politically – in a determination to affirm the place and existence of gay people within society, that we’re here and we’re queer and we’ve been here and been queer for a very long time – since records began. We’ve made astonishing contributions to this civilisation, but more importantly, we’re right at the heart of ordinary life – we’re mothers, we’re brothers, we’re teachers, we’re soldiers, we’re good and we’re bad, but we exist, as we are, with our desires, our dreams, our folly and our majesty. Not enough gay people knew these things of themselves. Once they started to wake up to all of that, then the rest of society did too, and we began to approach the better world (for gays) in which we now live.
And Gay Sweatshop was a tremendous part of that transformation in attitudes, reaching out across the country on tour after tour, as well as being a remarkable theatrical innovator in its own right, nurturing new writers and tapping the talents of the established great ones. Edward Bond, no less, wrote a masterly piece, Stone, for the Sweaties early on; Martin Sherman wrote Bent for them, though they graciously let it out into the wider world. I’m so proud to have been part of it from the beginning. It’s good that Unfinished Histories, a living archive of the fringe groups of the last 50 years, is celebrating it in style.
 Homosexual Acts, an Unfinished Histories benefit and a celebration of Gay Sweatshop, is at the Arcola theatre, London E8, on 15 February.
Every gay pre-millennial in London, New York or San Francisco knows this story as well as they know their way home. We knew we were different and the inlaying that spoke our language and liberty was “groin to groin.” Every time you had sex was a brick in the wall of protection we carved everyday of our existence. Some of us are younger than when the times were so harsh prison was always at the sound of the zipper going down. In my generation one was ridiculed and shamed no better than a jail cell because shame in itself it’s the worse prison one can have in  being ashamed in front of family, friends, coworkers. 
We had no time to weight it’s moral, religious implications just like a soldier doesn’t have time to think morality before shooting another human being. We fought, we got injured, jailed and killed in the name of religion or justice or just the perfect reason to do to another human being what one was not permitted otherwise. 
The intimate relation with another man was what life was all about wether it lasted five minutes or you we lucky for it to last a few hours. It never lasted more than that because we never knew the real name, the real address or the real man because we were also afraid of ourselves. We knew in the ranks were those that will play with us but would turned us in after the night went away with its secrets and the sun came up with it’s sobering realities that we mot lie we most hide, why? There is no time for that either.  Adam Gonzalez

10 Chinese Gay Couples Win Trip to US to get married

Among the happy couples: Lin Tao (R), pictured with Zhou Yanghai (L)
Zhou Yanghai
Valentine’s Day came early for Chinese gay couple Zhou Yanghai and Lin Tao, both 33.
The two men were among a group of 10 same-sex pairs who won an all-expenses paid gay wedding ceremony and honeymoon in California this summer, courtesy of Taobao, the online-shopping site run by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group 
“We’re so excited about this,” Mr. Zhou told China Real Time Wednesday. “This is the best Valentine’s gift for us,” added Mr. Zhou, who lives in Shanghai. 
Same-sex marriage is not allowed in China and open discussion of homosexuality is relatively rare, forcing many gay men and women to remain firmly in the closet.
That could be slowly changing. A recent survey on attitudes to gay people by market research firm YouGov suggest that close to 60% of Chinese people agree to some extent with the idea that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Mr. Zhou and other contestants say competitions like this one help increase awareness. “It’s a very good chance to expose the public to LGBT issues,” he said, using an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
In a statement, a Taobao spokeswoman said it was the first time the company had conducted such an activity and that it was designed in the hope of “fostering respect and understanding of homosexuality.”
Darick Qin (R) and Charlene Liu (L) said they  might wed in Hawaii.
Darick Qin
To win a spot on the gay wedding-themed U.S. trip, contestants were asked to submit a video of their answers to a short list of questions including how long the couple had been together, their favorite memory about their partners and challenges they faced. The public was asked to vote online for their favorite among a shortlisted group of 20 couples, with the 10 most popular winning the prize.
Tanning salon manager Darick Qin, 31, and her Malaysian girlfriend Charlene Liu, 42, didn’t make the final cut—they ranked number 11—but said they were still very happy to have taken part. “Whatever happens we’re still planning to get married,” said Ms. Liu, an engineer based in Shanghai.
The couple is eyeing Hawaii for their nuptials. “We both like the beach,” she added.
Like in other countries, more companies in China are looking for ways to tap the spending power of the LGBT community. To coincide with this competition, for example, Taobao began selling gay marriage tours to some of the most popular destinations that permit same-sex unions, including Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
“I see it as a first step. If business people take notice then so too will other people. Possibly then a change will come,” she said.       
Ms. Liu said once thought she would never wed, but her attitude changed when she met the Jiangsu province native Darick. In their video submission, Ms. Liu recalls a walk along Shanghai’s Bund before dawn in which she and Darick spotted a kite flying in the sky. “A relationship is like flying a kite,” Darick told her. “If it flies too far away it’s easy to lose. If you pull on the string too fast, the string can snap. And if you don’t pull it fast enough, the kite might fall.”
– Colum Murphy

May 21, 2014

The Reality of a Kiss, I support Gays but Don’t want to see them kiss?


“I kiss a boy and I liked it”  To understand the headline above you need to just think about someone saying blacks have the same equal rights as everyone else I just don’t want to see them kiss a white women. Peculiar questions of touchy issues within an issue clarify for us how far and deep people’s commitment are and how much they understand the issue. If a gay man can marry, but it can’t publicly kiss like straights do, then you either don’t understand the issue or your just not the sharpest tool on the shed. When people are entitled to freedom it entails all freedoms within the law and one needs to get use to seeing that and the best way to desensitized one’s being is to see everything we find objectionable and see lots of it.
Adam Gonzalez, Publisher

My partner and I are coming up on year four of our relationship, and I am closer to him than I ever thought I could be to another person. Yet, I can probably count on my fingers how many times we’ve kissed in public. I’d need to involve my toes to guess the number of times we’ve held hands on the street, but if we were scraping the twenty mark I’d be surprised.
To be fair, neither of us is overly fond of public displays of affection and regardless of mood, we’d never be caught vacuuming each other’s faces in public. Yet sometimes, when we’re out with friends and enjoying a wonderful night, I look at him and I, well, I start doing math. The calculations are exacting. What location are we in? Is this a gay-friendly area? What is the crowd like? How brightly is the room/street lit? The sums are different depending on the setting and, sometimes, just how confident we are feeling. There are bold nights when love makes you invincible, and there are cold nights when fear makes you small.
These are calculations our straight friends never have to make. If they want to kiss, they kiss. If they want to touch, they touch.
Speaking of math: a new poll by YouGov together with the Huffington Post shows that a plurality of Americans support there being openly gay athletes in their favorite major league sports teams (60% approve or strongly approve). All good so far. Then the questions turn to the recent signing of Michael Sam by the St Louis Rams and that now iconic kiss. Did America approve of seeing it? I’m afraid not:
Michael Sam and his boyfriend kissed after finding out he was drafted. Do you think it was appropriate or inappropriate for networks broadcasting the draft to show this kiss?
Appropriate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36%
Inappropriate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17%
The breakdown is interesting. A majority of self-identifying Democrats approved (53% to 32%), but independents (45%-36%) and Republicans (69%-16%) said showing the kiss was inappropriate. If America is really becoming more gay friendly, and most polls would suggest there’s a sharp upward trend even among Republicans, what is going on here?
First, a note about the question because I think the terminology is important. The question actually puts the emphasis on whether the networks should have broadcast the kiss, not whether the kiss itself was appropriate or inappropriate. We could be charitable and say that some people felt this should have been a private moment, and that is why they answered in the negative or weren’t sure.
That said, we can’t deny that the question does give ample cover so respondents can say whether they’re comfortable with a same-sex kiss or not. Many of the comments from more moderate voices opposed to the kiss have been uniformly, in fact infuriatingly, passive aggressive. “It’s just not appropriate for any sports star to do that,” or “No matter their sexual preference, a kiss like that shouldn’t be on TV,”  and my personal favorite “Sports teams should be sexual orientation neutral.” Best have a word with the heterosexual sports stars too, then.
When in the past sports stars have kissed their girlfriends or wives on television and the networks have let that filter into American homes, the reaction has been, well, no reaction at all. In fact, hugging cheerleaders and kissing reporters who happen to be wives or girlfriends appears to provoke celebration and, curiously, even praise.
Again, there was no calculation made about those kisses. No forethought on whether a kiss might earn condemnation or even threaten their physical safety. That’s the heterosexual privilege. So, what those voices are really saying when they condemn the Michael Sam kiss, is that Michael Sam should have done the math. He should have known better. An unadulterated moment of pure joy, and sharing that joy with someone he presumably loves: all fine, but do it behind closed doors because we don’t want to see it.
When we test it like this, that weight, that terrible under the thumb pressure, the anti-gay feeling begins to make itself visible. This is the difference between tolerance and acceptance. In fact, this is the difference between being tolerated and being free.
Sharing a kiss in public without feeling forced to first add up the risk is something that we’ve sadly still not wholly achieved, and the hand-wringing over Michael Sam’s kiss (which by most standards was fairly chaste) is a sad reminder of that fact. 

May 20, 2014

A Struggle even inside the womb

I was raised in a family with three grouchy sisters and a conventional mother who never earned any peso as she played the traditional role of a woman in our village: housewife.
My mom cooked for us, cleaned the house, combed our hair, and nagged my dad whenever the bills came. As my silent, patient, and workaholic father served as the economic provider of the family, my sisters and I grew up looking to him with high respect.
We saw our mom then as a woman whose audacity could only be seen at home, while performing as a religious, timid mother in her village. My sisters and I were known as the opposite. Our neighbors saw us as gladiatorial women whenever someone initiated a fight against one of us, all of us would attack.
I grew up upholding my ate’s (who is a mother now) maxim that she kept teaching us: Never be aggrieved! Dare to fight! Dare to win! In her university days, my ate even broadened her discussion about winning the fight.
She discussed with me, full of vigor and hope, the story of tatsulok that tells us that 1% of the population exploits and oppresses the majority.
Service. Love. Justice. Humanity.
These words became bigger for me when I encountered the terms capitalism, reformism, radicalism, activism, feminism, and so many -isms.
The women struggle
Yet, during the first years of my activist life, I perceived the women struggle as a narrow fight, which bypassed the primary struggle of the Filipino people for genuine land reform and national industrialization. I was part of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines then.
After several years in the movement, things gradually changed. My gay best friend would always discuss the life and struggle of women in different parts of the world. Through discussion and debates, I questioned. I critically went back to the principle of handling the women struggle, which I admitted, I wasn’t able to understand well at that time. (READ: One struggle, one success for all)
I rectified. I started again. I started listening to the women’s voice.
Since then, whenever we integrated with the farmers in the countryside, workers in the factories, indigenous people, informal settlers, I would always ask about the women’s condition in their communities.
Women's hardships
I will never forget the story of Ate Ruby and Kuya Lito’s family who lives in the southern part of Luzon. In order for them to pay the ballooning usury to their landlord, as the underpricing of their palay is common practice, they were forced to let their daughters work in their landlord’s house. At the age of 8, 10 and 12, their children stopped their schooling to work as housemaids.
Until one day, a day before Christmas, these children opted not to go home, so the parents wondered why. They asked their children, they tried hard to make them talk until they found out that the eldest was pregnant.
She was raped by the landlord.
She had tried to seek help from others in the house but they could not help her. So she just let it happen and didn’t tell her two sisters. But, a few months later, they found out that they had shared the same experiences.
All 3 girls had not only experienced child labor but also rape.
There are many other painful stories.
I still remember the condition of the women workers in the factory in the southern part of Metro Manila. The manager would only renew their contracts if they first allowed him to touch their bodies.
In the indigenous communities in the Philippines, although I respect their traditions, I empathize with the women I visited there who were forced into early marriage in order to escape from poverty.
I still remember my neighbour, Aling Cora, who shared her story with me when I stayed in the informal settlements in Metro Manila. As a battered wife, there was one night when her husband beat her until she almost died. It just happened that their daughter came and pointed a knife at her father’s neck to make him stop. She was brought to the hospital and physically recovered only after 6 months. But until now, two years after, she still has nightmares abour her husband visiting her.
Broken system?
These stories happen not only to the women I talked to, but to many other women who suffer everyday not only because our system is profit-oriented where greed and monopoly of wealth exist. But because it is also patriarchal society where women are treated as objects of desire, as weak human beings who can be battered physically, sexually, and psychologically.
It took me years until I finally understood the distinct and yet not separate situation and struggle of women from the emancipation of humankind.
My mom might not know the words like feminism, activism, and so on, as she wouldn’t hear it in the telenovelas she loves to watch. Words, which I live with every day; words, which the battered women I meet do not know either. One might think that these women are weak. That my mom is weak.
My mom knows that I am an activist but she never hindered me pursuing my choice. Sometimes I want to tell her what I do, what I learned from the outside world. Things that she has never understood but she tolerated and supported.
These women, my mom, our neighbor, a stranger, might not be able to articulate the words which women activists like me can define easily. But like me, they experience what I experience, they feel the women oppression I feel everyday, they suffer from the patriarchal system I suffer every moment of my life. So how come that they will not be able understand it?
They will understand it. My mom can. Aling Cora understood and Ate Ruby as well. So, those who say that they know must explain what women’s struggle is all about.
It is all about freedom. Of mothers. Of women. Of humankind. -
Kristine Valerio is a sociologist from UP Diliman. She is the author of the book “Storm of Violence, Surge of Struggle: Women in the Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan”, which was published in the Asian Journal of Women’s Studies in Seoul, Korea. She started her advocacy work on women during her stay in Palestine through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel of the World Council of Churches.

May 17, 2014

Costa Rica’s President Places Rainbow Flag at Palace

The rainbow flag, which symbolises sexual diversity, is seen after being raised by Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis, next to Costa Rica's national flag at the presidential house in San Jose May 16, 2014.   REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate The rainbow flag, which symbolizes sexual diversity, is seen after being raised by 
Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solis, next to Costa Rica's national flag at 
the presidential house in San Jose May 16, 2014.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – If you pass in front of the Presidential Palace you will see a rainbow flag waving next to the Costa Rica for the first time in this building. This morning, President Luis Guillermo Solis led the ceremony in which the flag was hoisted to support sexual diversity.
The placement of the flag was made by Vice President, Ana Chacon Helana, and Diversity Movement President, Marco Castillo. He said it is a symbol and a sign of new thinking from the government.
Castillo keeps an eye on decisions by the Costa Rican Social Security regarding insurance and same-sex rights as well as the draft laws for gay marriage. He added that they are working on a project to recognize the gender and name of trans people.
The president insisted that they should take action against discrimination, particularly against homophobia. Solis said he is looking for a country of equality, so he asked the country to understand and respect diversity.
Chacón reiterated respect for diversity, a collective which has been important to her during her career. The Vice President said she will continue to work for human rights and support a new bill for securing same-sex couples rights, to be voted on this month.
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose, Costa Rica

February 27, 2014

Being S.African is Never Having to Say Sorry


Last week saw yet another storm in a social media Z-cup when Justin Nurse, head honcho of a small company called Laugh It Off, which parodies corporate brands, took exception to clothing label Jay-Jays apparently ripping off one of his designs. A play on the WWF logo, with two pandas in a compromising position and the slogan ‘WTF’, is not exactly earth-shattering satire. Nurse’s response was to pen an open letter to Jay-Jays on the online culture magazine Mahala (for which I also write).* This came along with a parody of the Jay-Jays logo, changing the company’s name to – wait for it – Gay-Gays.

In case anyone doubted his liberal credentials, Nurse explained that he didn’t mean gay ‘in the awesome, homosexual sense, but rather in the lame, weak and creatively bankrupt way’. Unsurprisingly, some actual gay people, who’ve spent the last few weeks worrying about punitive and repressive anti-gay legislation in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, were not appreciative of this pat on the head and reacted with amusing vitriol on various bits of the internet.

Nurse and LIO have also, to the best of my knowledge, not responded to Jay-Jays’ claim that the image was freely available online before they starting using it. If that is indeed the case then what’s going on here is someone attacking someone else for stealing something that they stole, which was in fact parodying something that they ‘borrowed’ from someone else, all of which is so postmodern that I may need to go and have a little lie-down.

Nurse’s juvenile gaffe is not the point of this article. A few days later an LIO newsletter arrived in my inbox with the title ‘Thick, Black, Gay Brown Skins’. Purporting to be an explanation, it insisted that gay is now universally accepted to mean ‘lame’, citing links to an article in the UK Daily Mail and another quoting a journalist from the UK Telegraph. There was no mention of the fact that both of those august organs are notoriously conservative and list liberal-baiting and gay-bashing as their hobbies on dating profiles. The email’s claim that everything is a-okay because ‘words evolve and meanings change’ was dangerously disingenuous given that gay is also, still and consistently, used as an insult to terrorize people.

The email went on to say that LIO apologises if it hurt anyone’s feelings, immediately after which it launched into an increasing tedious series of defences.Of course LIO isn’t bigoted! It’s just a tiny company trying to fight the good fight! In fact LIO is the victim of online intimidation. And also, have you heard of the Constitution? Free speech, mofos! And then the trump card: not only is the dude writing this gay himself, he’s also BLACK WITH AN ASIAN BABY!! It’s like a royal flush of right-on guiltlessness. Ergo, LIO is a brave, scrappy underdog and those oversensitive gay people who keep mentioning homophobic violence are nothing but bullies. This scores about 9.25 on the Bad Apology Scale.
The debacle recalls the saga of Max Barashenkov and Montle Moroosi and their tasteless corrective rape jokes, which I wrote about for the DM in July last year. Soon after that article was posted M&M published a similarly laughable apology that wasn’t an apology at all, instead positioning them as crusaders for free speech and fighters for constitutional rights. The line here, like the line taken by LIO, is, at base, ‘we’re sorry you were offended but we’re not sorry we were offensive’. Now, I’m not espousing a ban on free speech, nor am I in the forefront of the feminazi political correctness police (no, commenters, I’m really not). But if you say something horrible, and people get upset, and you’d prefer them not to be, why not just take it on the chin, say that you’re sorry and move on, instead of nailing yourself to a metaphorical cross? LIO may have fought the good fight against SAB in the Constitutional Court, but this outraged defensiveness won’t do their reputation (or their sales) any favours.
Back in 2011 Helen Zille found herself locked in a Twitterspat with half the digital nation after she accused the musician Simphiwe Dana of being a ‘professional black’. Whether you think Dana is the authentic voice of a generation or a misguided celebutard who should have stayed out of politics, this is hardly an appropriate statement from an elected official in a country with tricky race relations. But instead of apologising, Zille blamed Twitter: ‘It is possible to ask a complex question in 140 characters, but usually impossible to answer it adequately. Inadequate responses generate many complex misinterpretations (often deliberate) that multiply stratospherically through cyberspace.’ And if that didn’t make the culpability clear enough, she also stated, ‘I worked hard at resisting the temptation to respond [but] I took the bait and replied.’ Not only did the Twit-o-sphere wilfully misinterpret her words, it’s also so darn addictive. Poor Helen, at sea on the irresistible tide of social tech.

Why are South Africans so bad at saying sorry? My guess is that there’s a sort of cultural machismo at work here, an idea that genuine apologies make people in the public domain look weak. But there’s something very worrying about a media and political class that is incapable of admitting mistakes, even when those mistakes clearly alienate so many of the people that they want on their side. And so, in the spirit of ubuntu and reconciliation, I offer a heartfelt apology to any readers I have offended thus far, and any I may offend in future. (Except Steve Hofmeyr. I meant that bit.) DM

*I would like this column to serve as an open letter to all writers of open letters: stop. Just stop. Please. It was bad enough when Miley Cyrus was involved, but this really is scraping the bottom of the barrel of public communication.
    nicky falkoff.jpg
    Nicky Falkof is a senior lecturer in the Media Studies department at Wits. She's recently returned to South Africa after almost 14 years of living mostly in the UK, during which time she was, variously, a journalist, author, student, semi-professional feminist, radio pundit and singer in a Yiddish reggae band. She tweets (infrequently) as @barbrastrident.

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