BY TRISTAN MCCONNELL / GlobalPost
In Cape Town, gay bars abound. In other countries nearby, homosexual acts can get you tossed into prison.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The barman at Café Manhattan is buff and shirtless as he mixes afternoon drinks for two men sitting together on bar stools topped with cowboy saddles. The cocktail list is long but the African Queen (crème de banana, triple sec and orange juice) is always popular.
On the sunny terrace outside most tables are occupied by men, some in couples, some in groups.
At the heart of Cape Town’s gay village Café Manhattan, on a corner of Waterkant Street, has for years been a mainstay of the city’s vibrant, thriving, visible and open gay scene.
No one here is hiding. Nearby are a diner called Beefcakes where pastel pink and white flamingo statues welcome punters, a long-running gay nightclub called Beaulah (“Where Cape Town’s fabulous gay community meet to party”) and the popular Amsterdam Action Bar, among other joints.
But Cape Town’s gay village doesn’t, wouldn’t, and couldn’t exist in any other country on this continent, the majority of which outlaw homosexuality. Some have seen a recent increase in penalties for homosexual acts. In these places gay people and other sexual minorities are forced into lives of secrecy and fear. Coming out is an act of bravery and defiance: Far more than social awkwardness is at stake.
Homosexuality is illegal in 36 out of 55 African countries and carries the death penalty in four. The presidents of Nigeria and Uganda recently passed new laws strengthening existing anti-gay legislation. A parliamentary caucus in Kenya is demanding anti-gay laws be applied rigorously and one MP recently said homosexuality is “as serious as terrorism.”
South Africa runs contrary to these currents. The country’s 1996 constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation and gender. Pierre de Vos (pictured, Twitter), a law professor at the University of Cape Town, says South Africa is different “because of the way in which it became a democracy.
“Equality was very important to some of those deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid and they successfully put the argument that the struggle is against the denial of dignity and against all discrimination,” said de Vos. “Part of the struggle was about human rights.”
Even so, South Africa is no paradise for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people, as de Vos points out. His experience as “a privileged white middle class, gay man in Cape Town” is very different from that of, say, “a black, lesbian woman in a small town.”
Brutal “corrective rapes” of lesbian women and hate crimes against homosexual men, including beatings and killings, happen despite the legal protections of the constitution.
Nevertheless, South Africa is an outlier when it comes to the state’s efforts to protect sexual minorities from the kind of discrimination gaining traction elsewhere in Africa.
“The specter of colonialism and imperialism hangs over this,” said Desiree Lewis (pictured, right) a feminist activist and head of the Department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape during a recent public discussion on sexuality and the law at a bookshop in Cape Town.
Colonial rulers first wrote most of Africa’s anti-gay laws more than half a century ago. Despite their rhetoric that holds homosexuality as “un-African,” today’s anti-gay lawmakers are defending, and strengthening, that colonial legacy, according to Lewis: The ideas of both the nuclear family and exclusive heterosexuality were “colonial constructs.”
“We must ask where does the homophobia come from?” said Lewis. She went on to blame recent Christian fundamentalism for “fueling a backlash against sexual rights and feminism.” American evangelicals have been linked to the formulation of Uganda’s anti-gay law, which included the death penalty in an early draft.
The uncomfortable truth for liberals of every persuasion is that the anti-gay laws in much of Africa are popular and to call for their tightening is a near-guaranteed vote-winner. Analysts have noted that the passing of the Nigeria and Uganda laws come ahead of presidents Goodluck Jonathan’s and Yoweri Museveni’s expected reelection campaigns for 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Such moves would be unlikely to gain support in South Africa, however. “Populist politicians would find it hard to make anti-gay arguments because the elite discourse in South Africa rejects homophobia,” said de Vos.
He argued that South Africa can play a role in countering the anti-gay movement in Africa by showing there is an alternative to repression. De Vos pointed to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a respected church leader and anti-apartheid activist, who publicly criticized Uganda’s new anti-gay law by comparing it to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.
“The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste, and race,” Tutu said.
‘Tough Love’ Webseries Offers a Humorous Look at What It’s Like to Come Out to Another Gay Person: VIDEO
Steven Bell and Blaire Wendel’s webseries about two roommates in New York’s “third-coolest borough,” has released a new episode that explores what its like to come out to your gay best friend.
The Huffington Post reports:
"My favorite part about working on this episode was dealing with what it's like for a person to come out to another gay person," Bell told The Huffington Post. "Coming out to your family is tough, but coming out to your gay best friend can be even tougher. There can be weird feelings of, 'I thought I knew you!' and 'Being gay was supposed to be my thing!' and playing with this new dynamic between the characters is creating some really exciting possibilities for future episodes."
Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...
BY DAVID MIXNER
Who is Viola Liuzzo?
Drawing a blank?
Since she is not in the history books, most people have never heard of her. Ms. Liuzzo was a white Detroit mother of five who went to Selma, Alabama after the horrific attack by police on voting rights protesters on Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. After arriving in Selma, she was given the job of transporting marchers. A carload of KKK members pulled alongside her car and shot her to death.
What's the point?
It is simple. She is as much responsible for the 1965 Voting Rights Bill as so many of the famous leaders from that heroic period. However, history will not record her name nor will future generations know the name of so many others who made it possible for our country to have an African-American President today.
History will treat the epic struggle for LGBT freedom exactly the same way. Maybe Harvey Milk and Edie Windsor will rightly be in high school history books but few other names will appear beside them since history is notorious for having limited space.
So everyone should chill about the new book (Forcing the Spring by Jo Becker) on the fight to win marriage equality. In the future, there will be many books, movies, documentaries and oral histories. Each one will have its own version of events and its own anointment of the 'real leaders'.
Who is responsible for taking the LGBT community down the road to freedom?
Each and every one of us is responsible for this remarkable change.
The thousands who stood in line in to get married in the 'Valentine's Day' revolution of 2004 (prompted by Mayor Gavin Newsom issuing marriage licenses) in San Francisco are responsible. The lawyers and plaintiffs who have been fighting in the courts all around America for years are responsible. People who lined up at midnight in different states to be among the first to get married are responsible. Everyone who signed a petition, donated money, attended a rally, came out to family and friends and contacted their elected officials made marriage equality happen.
Each and every one of us made history. The early pioneers who suffered so much at the hands of the bigots brought us to this point. The young men who died of AIDS and fought for justice to their dying breaths made it happen. The thousands who were beaten, killed or had their homes attacked for being an LGBT American brought us to this point in history.
That is the simple truth.
Many leaders and many books will give us different versions of this journey. Some will rightfully honor heroes, and some will come off as frantic egotistical attempts by figures desperate to be remembered as crucial to this epic moment in history. Some will downplay others' roles in this struggle and some will achieve justified acclaim.
What will be remembered by future generations is our incredible and noble struggle for equality. Very few names will be known but our collective effort will never be forgotten.
Long after I am gone my name will be known to very, very few. What I do know gives me great joy. Deep within my heart I know that I have given everything possible. By joining with other LGBT Americans and our allies I have not only witnessed history but participated in it.
That is a damn good feeling to me and should be enough for everyone.Sphere: Related Content
In November of 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against the New Jersey group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) for offering “dangerous and discredited” ex-gay or conversion therapy.
JONAH will be represented by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), a Catholic legal group that is also helping the National Organization for Marriage flout Iowa’s campaign finance disclosure laws. But to help finance their case, the FCDF has begun selling “Defense Fund coffee” provided by His Coffee, a Christian company that offers such reli-cious flavors as “Raise the Dead,” “Holy Grounds” and “Be Still.”
In a 2010 resolution, the American Psychological found that ex-gay therapy has not been proven to work, that people are “unlikely to change” as a result and that such therapies can exacerbate distress, depression and negative self-image.Sphere: Related Content
‘Brozen’ - A Mash Up of Navy Baseball Players and Disney’s ‘Frozen’ That Will Melt Your Heart: VIDEO
Navy baseball players Brad Borosak and Matt Kilby posted this infectious rendition of “Love is an Open Door” from the hit animated film Frozen
Cute guys, a wedding proposal, and a Disney soundtrack. What more could you ask for?
Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...
Well this is a first.
An independent poll from Texas Tech Univeristy has found that 48 percent of Texans are in favor of same-sex marriage, while 47 percent oppose it.
Lone Star Q reports:
“In the past, support for gay marriage in this state was below 40 percent,” said associate professor Mark McKenzie, who oversaw the poll. “Now, we’re closely divided on the issue. … Democrats and Independents strongly support gay marriage, while Republicans are strongly opposed to it.”
A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in June 2013 found that 39 percent of Texans supported same-sex marriage — only a slight increase from polls over the previous four years.
However, no poll has been conducted since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act last year — or since a federal judge in San Antonio struck down the state’s marriage bans in February.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, has appealed the judge’s decision. State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, has come out in support of same-sex marriage. In 2005, three-fourths of voters approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution banning same-sex marriage.Sphere: Related Content