By Ofentse Morwane
Johannesburg - A friend of mine reacted irritably to the book I had posted on social media the other day. I think it is the title that got him startled. I had posted the book I’m currently reading by Siya Khumalo titled You have to be gay to know God.
He retorted, “That is nonsense. There is no such a thing.” Sensing his beef, I felt the need to probe him further to gain understanding of his bitter reaction. We have known each other for years and we engage very often. But we have never engaged on gay and lesbian issues. I know him to be a calm and open- minded person.
I felt there was a need to clarify a few things. It’s easy to lose friendships these days. He was too quick to want to engage me on the book while he had not read it.
I am an avid reader and as such go through different books every year. I also regularly share what I am perusing with close friends, including on social media. The reactions differ depending on the area of interest. I know I do read strange books sometimes.
Back to the conversation with my friend. I realised his abhorrence to anything to do with the lesbian and gay community. It was for the first time that we ever engaged on this topic. He made it clear to me that he found that matter distasteful and would not read about nor have anything to do with it. Such relationships, in his view, are taboo and should not be entertained.
The truth is ordinarily lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) issues are sensitive and normally trigger peculiar reactions from the different people depending on their understanding of such matters. The provocative and combustive commentary of Siya Khumalo attests to that.
I am relating this story about my friend because of the need to acknowledge the reality that is facing us.
Many people have opted for ignorance instead of pragmatism. The history of the LGBTQI+ community and their transformation from a closeted community to one that is becoming one of South Africa’s most vocal advocates for human rights has come to the fore.
South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution was among the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, but today we are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that we have this community. The LGBTQI+ community continues to face considerable challenges, including social stigma and homophobic violence. There have been violence, incidents of intolerance and discrimination against such people in the various areas of the country.
The most common and popular crime committed against lesbian women is the “corrective rape”. This is when lesbian women are violated and raped by men with the intention to force them to change their sexual orientation.
This is a human rights issue. It is imperative that we realise that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights and therefore LGBTQI+ people deserve to be treated with dignity. We need to continue to educate people on the rights of the LGBTQI+ community and conduct other activities to prevent discrimination.
Morwane writes in his personal capacity