False Witness

Christina Engela's picture
I would like to bring up a widely publicized case of a Ugandan man - a gay man, who was paid by the religious right to claim that he had been "cured of homosexuality" was feted across his country, and propelled to fame for his talks on how he had "recruited" children into a "homosexual lifestyle" at schools and otherwise made false claims which confirmed the rhetoric of his homophobic handlers - and helped fuel the fire which threatens to consume those for which he helped vilify.

Subsequently this mole fell from grace, as he was caught out while indulging his "unhealthy lifestyle choice" despite his claims. Surprisingly many people are still ignorant enough to believe that a person's sexuality is a "disease" or a "choice" - and that it is in anyway "threatening". We have already seen in Uganda how devastating this form of propaganda can be - supported and fueled by massive popular ignorance - resulting in an outrage against the so-called "threat" posed by a tiny minority of Ugandans - to the point where a country today teeters on the brink of genocide - while the world holds its breath - and does exactly nothing.

All of this while happening in Uganda, happened with the clear involvement of Exodus International - the biggest "ex-gay" lie factory in the anti-gay persecution industry. It seems the "ex-gay" lie, coupled with religious fundamentalism and ignorance have led Uganda to this treacherous place.

The reason for me bringing this up? Why, because the religious right in South Africa has now also started beating the same tired old drum. Just a few weeks ago, Erroll Naidoo started bragging in his online news bulletins about his new find - a new convert to his radical right wing version of the Christian faith - who happens to have been a prostitute madam - and an "ex-lesbian". It came as little surprise to me when I read that our friend Naidoo, who has been waging a personal war on the pink community for years, announced that he would be flying his new poster-girl around the country in order to tell people about the evils of prostitution and homosexuality, and that both can be overcome through prayer.

Over the weekend I also came across an article posted on the web from a local newspaper - granted, a low-class rag of a newspaper - but it was out there none the less. Seems some local Afrikaans b-grade actor I never heard of before is claiming to have prayed himself straight and was spewing the same bullshit and rhetoric that you can find on any "ex-gay" site.

Pray away the gay. Yeah, sure. You might as well try to pray away your eye-color. They are breaking their own religious laws by giving false witness.

I think this guy should think twice about what he said to the newspaper and he should correct what he said. But he won't. He's too far gone. He will have to learn the hard way that he may be bluffing other people but he can't fool himself - and it won't last. In the end he is making it harder for others, harder for him to accept himself - and for others to accept him and others like us. It is a result of his own internalized homophobia brought about by religious ignorance, intolerance and fundamentalism.

People like these are the reason I turned my back on religion. Fanatics. Pretty soon Errol Naidoo may snap him up and put him on his FPI payroll to tell the whole of SA that gay people "choose an immoral lifestyle" and can be "prayed straight" and use it as a base to launch his war on human rights for the pink community.

Having been in activism for a few years now, I have noticed a few things about our situation in South Africa. For one thing, most people are ignorant about what GLBTIQ people are, and what they are about - so if any group comes along telling them "the facts", they will be inclined to believe them.

For another, some of them are so ignorant and so prejudiced against the pink community, that they are actively fighting to destroy people they know nearly nothing about. Consequently I think the most important thing we can do is to educate the public about real GLBTIQ issues and facts.

As activists, we are in the business of fighting moves to deprive our community of equality and civil rights, and countering destructive propaganda which portrays us as a dangerous threat. The best way we can do this is to tackle the much needed process of education and dissemination of information and incontrovertible proven facts that show sexual orientation and gender identity are in-born, natural and immutable. These are readily available, if you know where to look for them - however there is also a plethora of junk-science and utter crap out there that is as dangerous as poison in a well - because not everybody knows the difference.

However, just getting statements from world authorities on the matter and posting the info on obscure websites or circulating it via widely inaccessible newsletters is not going to be enough. We must do more. We need to approach world health authorities (such as the APA and others) to partner with advocacy groups and media houses to participate in information drives and educational initiatives to debunk these lies and the propaganda for good.

When this is done, we will no longer have to entertain idiots who spew "ex-gay" rubbish with the intention of crippling the fight for human rights and equality and justifying oppression and spiritual violence.

One cure for religious fundamentalism is logic and knowledge. I personally have little time for fairy tales and flim-flam artists who try to unscrew the inscrutable with mumbo-jumbo and quoted religious rhetoric which nobody can understand or verify - and which flies in the face of science and common sense.

Being an agnostic is so much more honest - because it means "I don't know". I am always wary of people who are so completely convinced that they are willing to set the world on fire for it.

...No, not the world... just us.
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