a letter to my fellow graduates

Friends,

In March 1987, Larry Kramer stood up and asked two thirds of the room to do the same. He told those that were standing that they would all be dead in five years: “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on Earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back? The Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP came into being,  Jim Eigo explained recently,” when a critical mass of people with AIDS recognized: my body, the site of a devastating disease, has become the site of a social struggle as well”. Using their bodies in protest, Act Up forever changed the regulatory framework for drugs, and the relationship between ordinary people and the healthcare system.  They changed the system from an unjust one, to a less unjust one. Continue reading

SOG(ay)I Panel – Human Rights Commission

Today history is being made. The first formal discussion on LGBT human rights infringements in the UN system is happening in Geneva – on the back of a resolution sponsored by South Africa to discuss “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity” in the human rights council. Thanks to the tireless work of civil society groups who work within countries to support people who suffer human rights violations, and also document these, and thanks to the work of the international organisations who have been all up in the UN system’s grille for years on these issues, and thanks to the South African Mission to the UN, and all the countries who supported the resolution, and thanks to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights for pulling together the research that formed a basis for the discussion today, the voices of LGBT people around the world are echoed today at the Human Rights Commission.

I wonder what tomorrow is going to be like.

This press release has just been issued by Arc-International.

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Umtheto ka Sokisi: the original gaymarriage

Gold miners, Johannesburg, South Africa, photo by Margaret Bourke Smith
stolen from here.

Many people think that the idea of gay-marriage or gay relationships is new in my part of the world (Southern Africa). The truth is, though, that there is a long history of same-sex relationships that precedes today’s ‘modern’ (sometimes heavily Western-inspired) gay identities. Not only does this history help to shake the idea that African sexuality is and has always been strictly heterosexual, it also “contribute[s] to our understanding of how cultural change around intimate personal life occurs in relation to the global political economy”. In other words, we are reminded that our intimate and sexual lives are not fixed through time. As our economic and political circumstances change, so too does the way we organize our intimacy and sexuality. Mine marriages are a great example of just how quickly and dramatically our intimate lives can adapt to our circumstances.

69

The 1960 women's cricket team. COMPLETELY unrelated to my blog post. no lesbianism here. click picture to see source.


In 1969, a landmark year in the history of LGBT political struggle in America (Stonewall Riots), the South African Immorality Act of 1957 which already infamously criminalized sex across colour lines, was amended to curtail the freedom of gay people.  Word War II (1937-1945) had brought together “hundreds of thousands” of boys and girls from all over the country into “tightly knit camps” in urban areas – away from the watchful gaze of family members. “By the end of the war, there were gay and lesbian bars and cruising areas concentrated in the Joubert Park area of downtown Johannesburg”. This communal gay life, seems to have stayed active even under the oppressive Nationalist Party – which brought us the gifts of Apartheid law and Apartheid-era architecture among other things.

Until the Forest Town raid of 1966.

Surprise Pap

I just had a consultation with a doctor.  I have had a few this year; I am almost used to the awkward silences and fluorescent lighting. Some involved nudity, one left me a bit angry and confused. Today’s was awkward (but not silent) and definitely flourescently lit. As we all know from encounters in clothing shop fitting rooms, there can only be truth under flourescent lights.

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Tutu

“African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”
–Wangari Maathai.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote the following letter to theConstitutional Assembly in response to the National coalition for Gay andLesbian Equality’s campaign to support the inclusion of sexual orientationin the Equality Clause in the Bill of Rights (in the South African Constitution of 1996). It is just one example of the broad alliance-building that was required to keep that clause in the constitution. Desmond Tutu was an ally of LGBT people in South Africa before it was cool – before even hipsters knew that it would one day be cool.

Maurice

I found E.M.Forster’s Maurice in our garage when Iwas about 14. I don’t remember how I came to read it before even noticing A Passage to India or A Room with a View. They were all in the same box that my uncle(who had been taking night classes in English) left at our house. It must havebeen during the hot, idle and depressive summer holidays after my first year ofhigh school.

I was sure that I amgay, but knew that I would never tell anyone. We had read Othello that year andI cast myself as Iago – “look like the innocent flower, But bethe serpent under’t”. I hated myself, and knew I would one day findmy thrills without ever telling anyone. I would live in the dark, anddifferently in the light. I was very dramatic (some things don’t change!).

Then I discovered this English novel completed in 1914 but published posthumously in the 1970s.The more I re-read it now (I do it at least once a year), the more absurd itseems. Anyways, at my first reading, I came across this passage. My fingersstill know where it is in the musty book. Two friends find each other atcollege without ever having to speak out their affliction. They find a complicated and transient love.

Love was suddenly possible for me.

For a long while,this passage was all the hope I had.

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those three letters

Today someone told me that they’re HIV positive.  We were talking about something else, about our Public Health interests. He mentioned that the region he is interested in working in would not admit him. (Like I would mention my ex-boyfriend to indicate my gayness without asking permission for it). I had a split-second of panic, but I think my face did not give me away. I hope it didn’t.

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Missed Connections

I just discovered the ‘Missed Connections‘ section on craigslist.com. I find most of it romantic, some of it lonely, and some of it is unabashedly sexual. A friend and I had a conversation the other day about how we always seem to be creeping on people who don’t creep back. We concluded that we must be common looking. “The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is why he makes so many of them.”* We have strength in numbers.

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