How long before sexuality just doesn’t matter?

The Star

One would have thought that articles concerning SA Olympic archer Karen Hultzer would focus on her journey in the Olympics, but as Hultzer’s Olympic journey comes to an end the focus seems not to be on her loss but rather on her sexual orientation.

Yet again – but not to my surprise – someone’s sexual orientation has grabbed the headlines.

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Although some may not deem this as being newsworthy, Kevin McCallum (“Let’s be honest: sexual orientation should not matter”, The Star, August 1) makes a solid point towards the end of his article when he says: “I wish I didn’t have to write that Hultzer has come out, but in the world we live in it’s a brave and noble statement.”

In 1996, the SA constitution added to the Bill of Rights section 9, which is concerned with equality and non-discrimination. Part of the bill reads:

“Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons or categories of persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

SA later took a huge step forward by legalising same-sex marriages in November 2006. However, this has not changed the minds of many, and there is still a huge taboo surrounding same-sex marriages and relationships. The violence and discrimination that gays and lesbians in this country face is still alarmingly high, and it is problems like these that make coming out newsworthy.

Homosexuality has been a topical issue for many years and I have found that a large proportion of people’s issues with homosexuality derives from sources such as tradition, religion or family, and because these avenues are so strong – religion and tradition being the frontrunners – it is near impossible for them to realise that a person’s sexual orientation is really “no big deal” as Hultzer put it when she was speaking about her coming out.

As much I do not believe that a person’s sexual orientation is newsworthy, I do realise that we live in a time where discrimination towards those in same-sex relationships is at a level that cannot be ignored.

Articles such as those by McCallum on Hultzer are necessary to create awareness and make that much-needed change in the way gays and lesbians are viewed.

Because of the stereotypes that prevail about gays and lesbians, one must commend Hultzer and McCallum.

Him for writing an article of this nature and bringing to light some of the issues that concern lesbians.

And her for acknowledging and shedding light on the problems many black lesbians still face in this country and for being comfortable and proud enough in her skin to allow the public to know something about her that could potentially change the way many look at her.

She couldn’t have put it better when she said: “I am an archer, middle-aged and a lesbian; none of these define who I am, they are simply part of me.”

I truly believe that human beings have a long way to go before they are able to fully understand that being gay or lesbian is simply one aspect of a person – it doesn’t define them.

l Seretse is with the Southern African Media and Gender Institute (Samgi)

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