Queer News from South Africa

dscn3853_1Being in South Africa, I have been more aware of South African news stories and South Africans in the media. Below you will find some links to current stories about ex-gay issues in South Africa and also an interview with a trans woman from South Africa.

I arrived in South Africa a week ago, and in addition to seeing amazing wildlife and eating delicious food, I have gotten some firsthand information about both the anti-apartheid struggle and the hard fight for queer rights. In addition to speaking with activists who engaged in the struggle, Glen, Jenna and I spent nearly four hours at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. dscn3811_1It is an excellent museum–very well organized and structured with lots of information and experiential components. I found myself moved to tears more than once.

dscn3817_1Towards the end they offered a display around the South African Bill of Rights and the constitution they approved post-Apartheid. I had heard it included rights for people including gays and lesbians which has led to full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Seeing this in print moved me deeply, especially in light of recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and other anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legal maneuvers.

The move last year by some American gay and lesbian “leaders” to exclude gender identity in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was only one in a series of disappointments we have seen in the US with the one positive result of people taking a more active roll in activism.  I live in what is considered a free country, the US. It is an amazing and wonderful place where I experience many rights, opportunities and privileges. But how strange that the US federal government and most states treat a gay man like me as a second-class citizen in regards to job protection, hate crime legislation and marriage equality. It is even more unfair and unjust for transgender Americans.

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The Times of South Africa printed an article about the ex-gay movment and ex-gay survivors. They quoted Adrian Lovel-Hall, a survivor who posted his narrative over at Beyond Ex-Gay. In South Africa the ex-gay movement has operated in large part under the radar and  has very much been influenced by teachings and programs from the US.

In the US media, the ex-gay story has centered on the debate between ex-gay proponents who say “Change is possible” and gay activists who say “No, it isn’t”.

But recently, said Peterson Toscano, founder of the US website-cum-support group Beyond Ex-Gay.com, a new voice has emerged: ex-gay survivors, former clients of ex-gay therapists and ministers, who haven’t been “cured” and feel cheated or, worse, feel damaged by the “de-gaying process”. Many South Africans are among those voices.

What many of us who spent time in the US-based ex-gay movement found was that the programs and treatments actually had the opposite effect to what the leaders had intended. Not only did we come out of the closet, several of us came out as gay activists! We found that the de-gaying process simply delayed the inevitable and sadly complicated the coming out process.

Adrian Lovel-Hall tells a similar story. Born of devout Christian parents in Zimbabwe, and then growing up in South Africa, prayer was a daily ritual and God was ever present in his home. When he lost both parents in tragic circumstances, he sought refuge with the church, but was shunned when he came out. He then joined Living Waters in 2001.

“Living Waters was supposed to ‘heal’ me from homosexuality,” he wrote for http://www.beyond exgay.com, “but I found I was becoming a healed homosexual. Living Waters helped me forgive others and be who I was — gay.”

You can read the Times of South Africa’s piece Coping with being gay and godly.

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The South African media theme continues over at Mila and Jayna’s Trans-Ponder Podcast.  They interview Shelia Sha’lo, a transgender woman who grew up in South Africa. Shelia provides an engaging, insightful and entertaining interview well worth hearing.

I will have photos from Kruger Park soon. Tomorrow I get to bring some Obama buttons to an AIDS orphanage as we help plan a trip for some American students who hope to visit the same orphanage next year and get involved in some of the work taking place there.

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  1. Councillor Ian Ollis on January 8, 2009 at 9:45 am Reply

    Hi Peterson

    I am a councilman based in Johannesburg, South Africa. we have mutual friends in Darren Freeman, who you have met and who is a close friend of Jonathan Holm. Would love to meet up with you if you are still here?

    Ian 082 714 7572

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