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Same old story

Then you wonder, is this not supposed to get easier with age? Is experience not doing its job if this is the effect? Is it arrogant to take this as a failure?

Oh its nothing new. You’ve heard it a million times. A little ‘like’ and some love slowly morphs into something unrecognisable until where you thought the shooting star would have landed, turns into a blob of longing.

A seething blob, that whimpers at the gentlest prod.

We met online – Twitter – January 2015, when I thought I saw someone that looked like him while jogging at UCT.

“I don’t go there,” he said. And that was that.

Cue 10 months later when he told me someone else messaged him to say they saw him on the train. We were dealing with a doppelganger. It was our story. It was whimsical and whenever I told it I would come alive.

My face lit up and people smirked at how cute I felt, and they laughed at how animated I told the beginnings of our tale.

As my current relationship wound down to its natural end, this burgeoning friendship took off. It was purely direct messages on Twitter. It was exciting and fun and innocent.

“Hey youre somewhat of a language expert, right?” he asked while I was out on an assignment.

“Whats a bottle job wanker?” he asked.

Another of our jokes.

I replied between glasses of water and walks around the block, upon waking and well into the night. I couldn’t wait for the messages. They became frequent and inquisitive – “hey” and “hey you!” were commonplace. I would light up when the chat conversation was initiated.

I was not pushing, nor was I hoping. This was new territory for me. Did I mention he is a scientist? Swoon! Later when we met he would tell me about his research and I thought how exciting that’s going to be when completed. He came alive as he explained his thesis topic and I loved it. But that was only much later.

Between October and December this was the routine. It wasn’t all perfect – there was the time I called him the Hitler of something. He didn’t take that analogy well. Granted. We got over it pretty quickly.

He offered to donate books for a charity drive I was helping out with. It turned out it was an excuse to meet and buy me a coffee. It worked, but never happened. Not just yet.

We spoke about movies all the time. He was a nerd. I thought I was one too.

“Say something in nerd,” he challenged.

“I think I’m more nerd lite,” I conceded.

He was competitive. We played thumb wars and he always won. We were the dream 30 Seconds team. Every team Ive played on has won. I looked forward to winning with him.

But before we got there, I passed the audition and went from direct message to WhatsApp. It was a triumph – a logical outcome for these things, but a triumph none the less. It felt well-earned and the next step.

We met at the theatre – nerds! – to watch Singin’ in the Rain at the Artscape. It was one night, and many chat conversations, where the courtship went completely over my head.

For someone who gets told that they’re smart, my brain would shut down and be completely oblivious to signals being thrown my way.

I was throwing myself at you, he would later say.

I look back and the lightbulbs pop all over my mind like a faulty fuse box.

“Its not as easy as you… me…date” I texted one day in the last week of December. We were talking about dating and how hard it is to find a decent man.

“Hey Jerome. You.. me… date,” he said.

I LOL’d. I was not used to forthright, candid and cute. I was used to being dealt assumptions and then next steps. Direct messages were direct!

“You could have just said no,” he said.

An awkward tug-and-pull set the tone for things to come, as I said “don’t go, come back, I misunderstood”.

The situation was placated.

That same night I got invited to the house he was house sitting. There was a hot tub. I had already started a process of spontaneity and better living. This “say yes” mantra coincided with my leaving my house at 11pm at his invitation, with work the next day and a half-hour drive to see him. It was worth it.

I met his brother, his cousin and her boyfriend. They seemed to like me.

“Oh you’re the journalist?!” was what greeted me by his slightly drunk cousin. “And you must look after him,” she said between getting to know me.

Yes, yes I will, I thought. He spoke about me! He must like me! She must sense something that I don’t yet! She was being maternal. They grew up together and this was a good sign! The exclamations were aplenty that night.

“Don’t laugh at my body,” I said.

“Don’t be silly,” he said.

I still thought I was a little too doughy and pale next to him. He had swum 70 laps that morning. I had sat at my desk and read tweets and made phone calls.

“Would you really not date me?!” he asked again in the pool.

This one is persistent, I thought.

But it paid off. After some jostling, and with my 1am curfew approaching, I left. But not before another “say yes” moment.

“I’m going now,” I said, half inside my car.

“Ok.”

“No really, I’m going now! I said. I have work in a few hours”

“Okaay,” he said unconvincingly.

I walked up to him and we kissed. Tentatively at first. Weary. Soft. Eyes closed. I was still speaking. The words escape me as they escaped me.

“You talk a lot,” he said, smiling, teasing more kisses from my lips.

I pushed him against the wall and I stopped talking.

“Where is he?” we heard his brother ask.

He jumped onto the wall and said, “I’m still here”. And the jostling continued until I forced myself to leave.

New years eve was the next night – “I want to see you.”

I jumped.

Work took forever. All I could think about was the impending night and seeing him. No expectations. I survived the dreaded new year’s shift and rushed home to shower.

“What should I bring?” I asked.

Condoms and vodka, he said.

Ok, I thought, not over thinking – my default setting.

It was a joke, made worse by the slow cellphone reception.

But the night was perfect, punctuated by hand holding, movie watching, talk of being serious and exclusive (he asked, I said yes) and drinking games. Getting-to-know-you games as we called them that night. There was truth and dare and skinny dipping. Say yes, remember?

Then the descent. Surely you didn’t think there was no descent?

Act three and the energy shifts. Messages take longer to be replied to. Time is negotiated. Jokes are taken out of context. Other jokes are made.

“I make myself too available to you,” I texted. “Im going to friend zone you, just to keep things fresh”.

“Are you serious?” (of course I wasn’t!)

“Of course not!”

“Don’t joke like that. That kind of thing will make me put up walls,” he said.

It was a shock. He was the one who said 90% of what he said shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“I’m the funny one. You’re the serious one,” he said.

I happen to think I am mildly amusing at best. At least! Hmph.

Dates were still fun, but the lightness had gone. We teased each other. Sometimes it went too far.

He rubber-necked when a hot guy would walk past. I humoured it. We all stare, I thought. But that much? In my presence? Surely I should be enough. It was not a question.

“You ARE enough,” said a friend. I doubted it.

Cue to more dates being planned, but with a weariness that proved waning interest.

“You cant dump me until after Valentine’s Day. Any time after that will be ok,” I joked. It was to be preemptively prophetic. 19 days after the new year had started, more misunderstandings and miscommunications.

“Are you comfortable with your sexuality?” was the message I received that got the ball rolling.

Of course I am, I thought.

“Yes,” I said.

I didn’t kiss him when I took him home. I didn’t get a kiss the previous time, so I went with what I knew and thought “Go with that. Read the signs. Respect the space and be content with boundaries”. His granny was sassy, and I didn’t want to cause any offence (even though that night it was dark and we were outside in my car), but I considered her and people who might have been around, instead of claiming my kiss.

It translated to an insult. I had offended the ego and it wrecked havoc with his self esteem.

I wasn’t affectionate enough. I didn’t place him on the pedestal, like his ex did. He later regretted comparing me to the ex, but it was out there.

The wistful mentions of said ex went over my head at the time, but the tentacles of doubt took hold. I never made a big deal, but they were there, hanging on. As was I.

As the conversation – THAT conversation – flexed and contorted down the rabbit hole like a falling cat, the clearer it became that it was over.

But we have a date in three days, I thought. What about V-day?! You cant break the binding clause of St Valentine!

But it was broken. As were we. It became clear later in the night, with my usual insomnia now in full lucidity, that while I was asking “Are we ok?” an d even “Are you awake?” despite that glaring “Online” sign, he was avoiding the issue at hand.

“But he could have fallen asleep while still online,” is the rationale of the desperate. I am not 19, I thought. I am not supposed to be feeling this way. But it was over.

“I am sorry” was one message.

“Didn’t mean for this to happen” was another.

I made my usual appeasing jokes and blocked him on all social media platforms. I was not taking any chances. My eyes were puffy and I still had work in the morning. I got up and prepared lunch, at 2am. Sleep was not coming anytime soon. More tears.

I thought I was special. A whole 19 days. Surely a world record. Do we even count the online time?

“Pen your thoughts down. Write,” was a text from my mother. It was her birthday. I was supposed to wish her, instead I was up and wondering where it all went (goes) wrong.

Everyone thinks they’re special when we collide into a wall. But as you approach, open your eyes. There are skid marks and dents where others have been before. Its just another love story with an aborted end. Others have been here. You may be alone, but you’re not the only one who was here. Its just the same old story.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Ashes – a review

Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs in Ashes. Image – http://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Ashes/

What came first? The staging or the script. Do the two work together? Do they happen over time as they bleed into each other. These are questions as old as theatre itself, and probably with reasonable answers, and I couldn’t help but wonder while watching Ashes.

Deprecation aside, this review wont do anything to sway ticket sales for this play in its final week at the theatre at Alexander Bar in Cape Town. But good art must be appreciated where it can.

But back to the stage. Small – very small – restricting and inescapable. When the actors looked at me, I felt like they were actually looking at me and connecting, indicting and pleading; not merely looking through me as actors are supposed to.

Their performances grab you by the throat. When they break down, you will want to run up and hold them and say “It’s going to be ok” even though you knows it’s really not.

Ashes tells the story of two queer brown boys in Cape Town – a description that belies the depth of the story. These levels of depth felt while watching the two actors, Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs’s characters dance around each other is breath taking.

They flit in and out of various characters, chipping away until the nuances in the archetypes are revealed. A flick of a jersey transforms a young man into a judgmental woman; a hoodie turns the other young man into his homophobic bully. The supporting characters all float around the main two, who interact with each other only briefly, letting the audience in on their tender moments – intimate, honest and gut wrenching, as we are driven to the conclusion, which was obvious but still impactful.

The mostly epistolary (letter writing) style works well, as the characters tell their stories without reaction from other characters. But the only downside I could find, which still works in its own way, was the crutch of exposition. Parents and son tell of his coming out story, and the conversation about what to call each other – boyfriends, lovers, partners? Forced, but still necessary. By virtue of its existence, queer work is still revolutionary, but somehow still new, therefore nothing can be taken for granted.

Don’t let the words queer and brown throw you off. It’s a story that many can relate to – the two lovers meet by chance in the city. One a small town buy. Forces work against them and their ghostly worlds are torn apart. The notion of love, not as obvious as in other works, binds the characters, but hardly ever at the same time.

I went in not knowing what the play was about other than the risky epithet of “gay play”, and was taken aback by the devastating account.

The audience was small, a lot less than the already small theatre at Alexander Bar could hold, which led me to believe that this was a play that was not being seen by as many people as it should.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Those old Bronx days

Let me tell you about those Bronx days. The old Bronx days.

You would enter that place and feel either completely brazen, or intimidated as shit. This happened to me on my first night there in 2005.

I walked in and felt powerful. People would be transformed. In my case, I spoke to the cutest guy I saw. Brendan was his name, I think. The details are sketchy now, as details tend to be in hindsight, but I do remember a lovely conversation, and him being completely not into me! It was an either/or environment. I saw him a few weeks later and greeted him by name, which shocked him. Names were apparently not always important, or required.

Bronx Action Bar in Cape Town represented a microcosm that I have yet to experience. That feeling probably speaks to the well-worn sayings about first times never being forgotten, for a variety of reasons.

The décor was sailor-disco, or something.

So why write about a gay bar?

Because I woke up one night this year and just remembered what it was like. 2006 – 2007 were the best years of my life. Yes, Bryan Adams lifted that line from my memory, Marty McFly-style. I was young, had great carefree friends and just enough money to have a good time and make the most of my early 20s.

We would greet with air kisses (completely out of character for me, throwing me into a new kind of deep end) and do a quick catch-up – work, studies, family, life, nothing too distracting. Things always look different in a dark room punctuated with flashing lights. We all went there to forget the outside world. It was special, different. Reviled by some, hard to resist by all.

We were friends for a few hours, and then we left; ready to deride the mundane until the next time. But you didn’t go there to make friends. Rather, it was a place to unite and escape.

And then it all came crashing down. Literally. The entire block, which had restaurants and other clubs, were torn down in a fit of yuppie development. I remember seeing it in the disrespectful Saturday sunlight – one huge pit of rubble and cranes, moulding a shiny new building.

I couldn’t help but feel like a part of my formative years was being broken down. My mind hearkened to a time that I didn’t even know; forced removals and buildings being torn down. A dark chapter in South Africa’s history, and nowhere near comparable, but it was the closest I have felt to reading, and being moved by Richard Rive’s Buckingham Palace  (a biographical book about District Six I read at school). Seeing a home, of sorts, a multicultural orgy of carefree fun happiness where nothing else mattered for a while.

When it was moved, to across the road no less, the inside was preserved and looked similar to the old establishment. But it was not the same. Everybody knew that. That feeling was gone. And before you even knew it, that Bronx was torn down too.

In the interim, when “new” Bronx (as I begrudgingly referred to it) was being built, Beaulah (lesbian) Bar popped up, I saw a “friend” from the “old” days. We complained that it was not the same as Bronx. We were being prissy, because Beaulah Bar was fine, but “it’s not Bronx” we nagged, to which he conceded, “it’s something” as he shrugged his shoulders.

I know that what I experienced was just one tiny slice in an establishment and history a lot bigger than I could ever imagine. I’ve heard other stories; I’ve heard better.

The stories of drugs escaped my naïve eyes until pointed out to me by friends. The place always seemed filthy and the smell of drain cleaner in the toilets, (which also served as occasional hook-up areas, I was shocked to discover) and then there was also the killing of the owner.

But just for that short time, it was mine. For those weekends when we escaped, it was ours, and it was great.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Why you should stop gendering your insults – another reminder

The first time I walked into a gay club, I was asked, “Is jy ‘n moffie?” (Are you a moffie? – the local equivalent of “faggot”)

It was a question that took me aback. I thought, “Duh, yes I am” but also shocked at the brazen nature of this enquiry. This, however, was a safe space, and it felt permissible. I said yes, and did not take it too seriously. Others might not be as fortunate to not be offended.

This is why you should be careful when you gender your insults.

Bitch, cunt, whore and pussy are also all examples of doing this. A conversation with a friend made me realise how often gay men are often emasculated in porn. The anus will be referred to as a “pussy” and the men will be called “bitch”. It’s probably meant to be sexy, but once you realise the amount of power that comes with sex and sexuality, because let’s face it, it plays a huge part in all our lives, then this is quite disconcerting. many might say that this is fine, because women and particularly women of colour have been facing this kind of subjugation for years, but going the other way is not always the answer.

Sidebar: Two recent pop culture examples of this that also got me thinking were the controversies around the music videos of Lily Allen Hard Out Here in which she featured women of colour dancing provocatively. Some say it was empowering, funny and not a big deal. Others say she used the women in an exploitative way.  Check it out here.

The other one was Jennifer Lopez’s I Luh Ya Papi which features a recent continuing tradition of sexualizing men for the female gaze. Question is, is this doing anything to make things better for women who still face sexualisation from men? I don’t think so. But check it out here

In that space of a gay club, both physically and ideologically closed off to the outside, it was acceptable, as it might also be when you are with friends and others who understand your intentions.

I’ve previously asked how this would have been perceived if the issue were conflated with race. And that is, of course, a topic that could be expanded at length too.

Women in particular are not as fortunate. The negative connotations that come with certain words prevent them from ever being completely popular and used in common parlance. So why do we do this? I’m sure many of you are crying out “Reclamation” and that this is your way of taking back the power that was taken from you when these words were forged against you.

I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, the history of these words is often not understood enough before they are reclaimed.

What got me harping on about this topic is the way in which the world is turning – it’s not going fast enough in the right direction. Homophobia, misogyny, racism, ageism are all real factors and they do not seem to be dissipating.

This is my way of staying on the topic and not letting it slip through the cracks for the enlightened few who will read this.

Before you gender your insults, be careful about implications. It may empower you, but it also feeds the power of others who aim to disenfranchise you.

Masculinity needs some femininity. Femininity should be allowed masculinity if it feels it needs it. However, these should not at the risk of alienating the other. An example I’ve encountered often is the idea of men as men and women as women, with nothing in between, yet when I challenge people about these preconceptions and how they may be violating their own standards (women wearing pants, guys wearing tight T-shirts, because it’s simply fashion) I encounter resistance.

I’m a feminist, yet I also find myself falling into the trap of calling my friends “bitches” (unprovoked but mostly reciprocally). This was my way of staying aware that while it may be acceptable within the confines of a friendship, there is power with that word. I am essentially making my friend an animal, lesser to me and others (even if you do not think that animal are lesser animals to humans). Keep that in mind the next time you gender your insults.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Lady Gaga’s G.U.Y as gender subversion

What can I say, I’m a fan! If you haven’t noticed from the previous Gaga post, and that time I went to her concert. I like her a lot. She’s many things, but boring is not one of them. Considered is another. I think she puts a lot more effort into what she does than she’s given credit for.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to enter the feminist debate. I think it has many facets and Lady Gaga, while not perfect, does uphold tenets of it by doing her own thing, unashamedly. She also promotes gay and trans rights, although often criticized for using it as a gimmick and pandering to those demographics for publicity. Who knows? I like it and any voice that promotes women doing what they want, and a voice for gay and transgendered individuals is refreshing, and subversive in its existence.
The video: Read Vigilant Citizen’s take on the video here for the paranoid illuminati angle. Essentially I agree with everything they said. It tracks her fall from grace, shot down by her management. She works her way back, with the assistance of her team (the Haus) and she build herself up, literally, and extracts the DNA from other guys, i.e. Jesus and Gandhi. She clones a new team and takes revenge on the people who took her down in the first place.

______

But on to gender.  I would argue that the song, specifically, is the pinnacle of her promotion of gender and sexuality empowerment and promotion. The very mention of gender and sexuality is subversive in itself, the reason why I love drag queens and anyone who is open and honest about sexuality. What Gaga does is take it one step further by embedding messages within the music.
One such message is that of the flexibility of gender norms.
I could be accused of reading too deeply, but what I hear when I listen to G.U.Y is a conflation of gender roles, as well as empowering of gay traditional roles.

She did it with her gender subversion as drag king at the 2011 Mtv VMAs, as her alter ego Joe Calderone.

 

This is my reading of G.U.Y, as she says herself in the title track ARTPOP: “My ARTPOP could mean anything”

What Gaga displays is an aggressive sexuality, not always typical of female pop stars. The problem with this representation is that it still panders to what the male gaze expects of feminine sexuality. I concede. Other critiques of her slate her for her foray into the grotesque, and her costumes, calling her vacuous and obvious, et al

What I like about G.U.Y is that, for starters, the proximity of the title to her name is in itself commendable.
I wanna be the girl under you (oh yeah)
I wanna be your G.U.Y. (yeah)

Later, she says

I’m gonna wear the tie, want the power to leave you
I’m aiming for full control of this love (of this love)

This is the part that problematizes my reading as one of female empowerment, as well as sexuality. This is an inversion that we need more of in a patriarchal world, where men are still scared to take their female partners last names, or to be the stay-at-home dad.

A woman who calls herself a guy is big in its rebellious, while many might call it trite.

The bridge goes:

I don’t need to be on top
To know I’m worth it
‘Cause I’m strong enough to know the truth
I just want it to be hot
Because I’m best when I’m in love
And I’m in love with you

This is the line that made me consider the song as sexuality empowering, particularly “bottom” gay (or supposedly submissive) individuals, especially males. Even though she explains what G.U.Y stands for, the acronym as a free standing word remains, and hence makes the subject a male under someone else, particularly in reference to the above lyric.
As I’ve previously mentioned, there is still a serious problem with perceptions of tops and bottoms in the gay world, which could, unfortunately translate to male vs. female relations in which the female, supposedly submissive (the bottom) is seen as weaker.

What I think she is saying is that the bottom does not need to be on top to be respected and worth it. Perceived submissiveness need not be equated to weakness.  I cant account for the rest of the bridge, but sex does sell. However, it does point to a frailty and humanity that comes with being as strong as one has to when fighting systems like she does. Patriarchy is an organization that can exhaust one and make you forget yourself.

It takes guts (not balls) to fight the power. So that’s it. As always, I’m keen to hear what my readers think.

Watch the video here:

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

How to have anal sex: a jawonthefloor presentation (totes suitable for work)

First thing, realise the power and privilege that comes with being a bottom. What? You didn’t know that being a bottom comes with both power and privilege? Seems we have a lot to get through. Sit down, Uncle JAW has a few things to teach you, Floor Jawers. And thank you for ignoring all the obvious puns in that opening. I appreciate you keeping your giggles to a minimum. It was hard for me too. Ok, I’ll stop now.

Often oppression does not come only from the outside, but starts within us.  It’s true that if we push hard enough from the margins, the centre will implode, but that can only happen if we are empowered enough to do so. Now, this is nothing new. From female subjugation to that of black people the world over, and for this discussion, gay people and sexual oppression, it starts with empowering of the self.

Which leads me to that evil word – bottom. Many people revel in this, others find it offensive. For purposes of this discussion, I use it as a blanket term and acknowledge that labels are not for everybody. It refers to the supposedly submissive one in a partnership.

I should start in a strange way – the inverse. How not to have anal sex is to think less of yourself, and the act of sex; to think of it as a duty, or something that you should be doing and do it simply because it’s what you think you’re supposed to be doing.  Stop it right now.  The power and privilege of sex comes with the fact that your partner should (while not necessarily be begging at your feet, although the thought does give me a Cheshire cat smirk like no other) be grateful.

What I have seen as an observer of gay life is the ever-prevailing dynamic of top vs bottom, privileging the top and looking down at the bottom, even from other bottoms – essentially subjugation within subjugation. Like I always say, you have the world against you, why would you make it worse by fostering a sense of competition, further ghettoising ourselves?

Of course, you can just do whatever it is you want, and I am the fuddy-duddy who is trying to complicate things. That’s ok too. Take me with a pinch of salt, or just pinch my bum. Hey, I’m human too.

Regardless, how you should have anal sex is considered, thoughtful, careful, consensual, authoritatively and mutual. Respect your partner enough to respect yourself. Nothing will change if you do not change yourself. I saw an interesting debate this weekend about the role of women in porn. Someone commented about black women being the animals in porn, due to the way they were treated. As keen as I am to dissect issues of race, I initially disagreed, because, while I agree that all porn is about power and humiliation, she explained that within that realm, women are on an even lower wrung, with black women considered even lower. Therefore gay men should really, in my opinion, not disrespect themselves (and not enable said disrespect in their partners) and learn how to have anal sex

As you can tell, there wasn’t any actual advice about anal sex in here. Fool ya once, shame on me. If you found this blog post via a search looking for actual anal sex, and this came up, I do apologise.

But for those of you who want that, and didn’t glean any lesson from the above post, here goes (no images, unfortunately):

 

  • Take it slow. You set the pace.
  • You are in control.
  • Lots of lube. Actual lube.
  • If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Try different positions until it feels right.
  • Condom
  • Have fun
  • Condom. More lube. Still actual lube.
  • Your body, your choice.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

 

So who do we blame? (Another child rape)

Not ourselves, surely. We are upright, do-good citizens, right? We do our parts for ourselves and for others and the problem is theirs, not ours. Government should do something about it… and so it goes…

Yesterday, it was reported that a girl from Mitchell’s Plain in Grade R was raped by two boys in Grade 2. I was 5 in Grade R (then called pre-primary) and 7 in Grade 2 (Sub-B). Read about that here and another disheartening case also reported this week here. [I wrote an article last year for Good Men Project which mentions Mitchell’s Plain and my own distant understanding of the area as a child, and dealing with trauma “out there”. Read that here.]

If you read this and feel a sense of shame, then good. We need that. If you read this and start going on a blame rampage, stop. Do not even think about it. This happened on our watch. Just like I’ve said before, we might as well say “fuck the children” if we continue this way. That would be more honest, and fair. At least they’ll know what to expect. At least we wont be pretending to give a damn.

 

As I was walking and thinking yesterday, I was going to write about children and supposedly “bad” role models. I met a political leader who I think is an actual role model, yet he remained humble and wondered why he should be considered one when he is simply doing what is expected of him. I’ve written about  the hypocrisy of celeb role models before (this time it was going to be about Beyoncé and her latest sexual incarnation, and the way in which Bill O Reilly has been criticising her), and I maintain that we cannot blame pop stars and media coverage alone. My main argument remains – we can blame pop stars all we want, but at what point do we turn that lens back on ourselves for our own failures and realize that blaming is a simply a tool of deflection and procrastination.

Let me tell you a little something about my sexual awakening.

I was under ten years old – I think 7 or 8. It could have been a year or two younger, but I don’t think older. I was young. I was watching a film that probably had a PG rating, possibly PG 13. There was nothing explicit about it. In a scene, there is a male stripper. Something happened in me that day. I’m often asked when I knew I was gay. That’s a pretty dumb question (and those same people are dumbfounded when I ask “So when did you know you were straight?”) and shows how ignorant we are about othering.

The point is, I saw something and experienced something that was not a “normal” part of my development. At an age where I did not understand what was happening sexually, I also had to contend with the issue of orientation. This would only become a social issue later in life, but it was still something to think about as I knew that something was different.

I had strict parents. I did not know this until I saw the level of freedom that others had. I look back now and, while I still wish that they had loosened the reigns ever so slightly, I am also grateful. My point with the sexualisation of pop stars and the issue of role models is that it absolutely cannot exist in a vacuum. This is true with most things, however with children it is a different issue because we are dealing with lives – blank slates that need guidance and shaping.

My 5 year old nephew was watching TV with me and there was a promo for an award show. There was the briefest glimpse of naked Miley Cyrus on that wrecking ball and he gasped, looked at me and said “That lady was naked”.  He had a smile that seemed like a cross between incredulity and embarrassment for both he and Miley. We had a surprisingly mature discussion about it and reached the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. I hope that I drilled it into him that what she, and anyone else, does should in no way have an effect on his life, or the way he treats others.

My own sexual journey was relatively tame, with a personality and the temerity to not feel the need to act out. As immature as I was, and can be, I’m glad that I understood the implications of my actions.

These kids are not old enough to understand. Who or what were they emulating? Where was their mature and frank conversation with an elder? Where was the uncle/brother/father/mother/aunt to explain to these boys that what they did to that girl is not ok? Who is going to be there for her for the rest of her life (besides professional counselling) to guide her out of the confusing feelings she might experience?

I am sick of these problems being issues that are “out there” and not our problem to deal with. If you are a human being, this story should move you, and make you angry and want to do something about it, whether it is speaking out on the still sickeningly high levels of patriarchal arrogance on an everyday basis, or attending a protest. Something has to change.

If you are on this planet, then what happened is your fault. It is my fault. We have not done enough to change our world.

Those boys did not know any better. Their lives will never be the same again. That girl did not know what was happening to her. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. Lives have been changed, and it happened while we were living. We have to live with ourselves, knowing that this never should have happened.

 

 <p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Cape Town Gay Pride? Let’s hope so

Disclaimer: I have shared many hyperlinks in this piece. I don’t usually do that. They are all previous posts by me, and are relevant to what I am saying.

What is there even to say about Pride at a time like this. Please refer to Google and check out the brilliant archive that is gay rights and the year that was… all two months of it thus far.

This is the first Cape Town Gay Pride march that I will not be attending, simply because I am not in Cape Town. But even if I were, would it have made a difference? This is a question I have heard often. Also, the endless critiques of Pride marches. Do we still need them? Absolutely.   I have personally seen shifts in people. I have also seen people regress and become absolute ignorant homophobes. We are here for both of them. The more that we are ourselves, the more others will have to accept that we are not going anywhere.

And yes, we. Accepting that you are part of a community is vital. You may be gay and not like that you are boxed into the same acronym as a trans-gendered individual, but you both are being discriminated against for something that is sexuality-linked and out of your control. It makes sense to me. Deal with your discomfort and realise that you are wasting the power of community. Stand up! And if you witness stupidity, stand up again.  And if you see more, keep standing up until you are tired. That’s why we encourage community. We need not only fighters, but supporters.

I have been hearing a lot of blanket statements lately. Let me remind you, there are no good stereotypes. Taking pride in how you are is acceptance of who you are, and your place with others – in this case, your gay self. This does not mean that you have to conform to any standard, even your own. I am so sick of pople looking down on femininity in men, and in so doing glorifying masculinities. There is no such thing as an ideal/perfect man/woman. Just be conscious of who you are and what you are doing. When someone says something offensive, stand up and call them out on it. I have not been entirely good on this, I have to admit. But how will the world change if we are not comfortable with fighting injustices, especially the small ones.

Pride is without a doubt a party. I have had the best times of my life at the last three marches. I do want the community to be more, as i wrote last year. But it also has its issues, and it is also a political statement. Who could forget Joburg Pride and what happened with the 1 in 9 campaign? If you can remember that, then we will get along just fine and I wont have to call you out on anything.

To end, a friend recently posted something on Facebook lamenting the situation in Uganda. It is pathetic and the violations of human rights being ignored around the world will come back to haunt us. Once again, people are paying a price for simply being. But we are also not entirely innocent (not that we are to blame), but how many of us have jumped on a bandwagon and been activists in isolation?  Are you only campaigning and fighting for your own cause? Will we move on to the next issue as soon as Uganda has died down and the people there have found a way to deal with what is happening? Do we picket the Nigerian embassy for a few weeks then realise that some other state has implemented their own homophobic laws?

This was my take on my friend’s anger regarding Uganda, and what “we can do about it”:

Well, to me it’d this belief that we are powerless because we might not have resources to make a difference. What about intention? Look at that horrible Kony campaign. That was completely self-serving and it seemed to be done with an end in sight, which is a little unrealistic. This Uganda issue is a huge deal too, as is our other favourite, Palestine. We must use the resources we have at our disposal, and not be despondent when they “don’t work”. Here comes the esotericism (I’m sorry), but what we do will emanate outwards [to others, and touch them in some way]. So how often do you laugh at a homophobic joke? When last did you rap along and say the n-word [in a song]? When last did you walk past an incident of injustice and not speak up? That’s the difference. The same can be applied to social media, and doing what we can with what we have. Be consistent, militant and conscious.

We are dealing with people and lives here. This is not a school project. If we are serious about changing the world, then it will start with us (you). Once we realise that, then it will be a brighter day.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Hey Homophobes. Nigeria, Uganda, good job.

Originally appeared on my News24 blog. I am, as are many other people, shocked and disgusted by the anti-gay legislation that was passed in Nigeria. Reading blogs, and especially the disheartening comments section, I am dumbfounded by how nonsensical they are, and how gay people are being used as scapegoats for political agendas. I wrote this blog post before the laws passed in Nigeria, but it still feels appropriate for what is happening there.

***

Hey homophobes, I have a question for you, why does your logic make sense, but mine doesn’t?

I wrote an open letter to gay people on my personal blog  this week, inspired by the LGBTIQA awareness week at my Uni, and then read a great piece by a fellow Voices24 comrade Kamela Mahlakwane, who, as a heterosexual male, questioned homophobia and affirming that it is not a choice. There is not all that much to add, but I thought I’d try anyway. A friend wanted to forward Kamela’s article to his mother hoping she would see the light. Unfortunately for him, the beliefs around homosexuality prevent him from being open with her.

I use gay as the collective term for LGBTIQA, as this acronym appears to be forgotten. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Questioning and Asexual. You see, people forget that there are other parts of the acronym. Just as we are all meant to be equal in this country, the LGBTIQA community also strives for equality.

I do, however, want to focus on some of my favourite clichés, because like I asked, if you can do it, why can’t I?

My favourite is “Adam and Steve” – God did not make them. He made Adam and Eve, dammit. He also did not make Madam and Eve. One request that I always ask of homophobes is to at least be creative in their endeavours. We know this. It’s in the Bible, we’ve read it.

Biology also cannot be the be all and end all of an argument. I’ve always been surprised by the argument that homosexuality is wrong because two people of the same sex cannot reproduce and it’s biologically incorrect. Again, thank you for that gem of an observation. Gay people have been managing just fine. And if this argument is true, it must then disqualify women who partake in anal and oral sex, as well as people who cannot reproduce. This is not fair to them either, yet they are often left out of the discriminatory lashings.

Another point of consternation is the amount of time that homophobes spend on hating gays. Now I won’t delve into the internalised homosexual urges debate, because that would be too obvious. I often ask, to blank faces, are there not better things to do with your time? I can’t help but comment when I see ignorance and this happened when I asked someone on an online forum if there was not anything better to focus on? War, rape, corruption, racism come to mind, yet gay people are the subject of hate. I can’t help but think that this is a deflection of sorts, or a convenient scapegoat for repressed hate.

Just as women are often advised that no woman can steal your man, because he was not yours to steal in the first place, so it is true that someone cannot be made gay. There is no straight conversion therapy, believe it or not. If your partner left you to be with someone of the same sex, then it was not meant to be and they were most likely gay to begin with. This is a hard truth to accept and leads to pent-up anger within the individual who was dumped. Is it really fair to take out this anger on a community who probably would sympathise with you?

____

Black man, you’ve fought for liberation and freedom. Woman, you have the right to vote and freedom of movement. Even if you are a white, able bodied, heterosexual male, you have faced obstacles and opposition from others for being who you are. Maybe your father didn’t want you to play on a sports team, or your boss disapproved of a decision you took. The point is that, whether you believe that homosexuality is a choice or not, you get to change your lives and make better decisions. Gay people do not.

Homophobes do not realise that Pride marches and activist activities only happen as a reaction to hate. Think about it, if there were no people telling those gays how terrible they were and that they do not deserve rights, then they wouldn’t be “flaunting it” in your faces, as I’ve heard it. Awareness weeks, Pride marches and other such commemorations happen not because gay people enjoy being the centre of attention for that day, week or headline, but because gay people, even in the most liberal of cities or countries, are still targeted for being gay.

It does not get better for many people, so before you make the choice to hate, think about how going out of your way to do this adds to your life, and what you’re taking away from someone else.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

The Problem with @MrCPT

For starters, I was struggling with including his name (or Twitter handle), but the world deserves to know.

It’s been a week since his tasteless tweet, so I thought that there were still connections to general attitudes and the perceptions of reactions that one could make.

Who is he? This is, in all honestly, not that important. What is important is the influence he wields. With 8,000+ followers in Twitter and connections to brands, he certainly has a voice and some power. This could be seen as a microcosm for even bigger celebs with more followers, and potential for influence, who should be held to account.

To step back for a second; @MrCPT in this instance could really be replaced with Chris Brown and other public figures, like the recent Justine Sacco, with influence who have displayed similar disdain, but I’ll explain that. The reason for the focus on this “Tweleb” is because the latest incident is recent, and local.

His tweet read: “how much would I have to pay you to pomp honey boo boo?”

For those who are not aware, Honey Boo Boo, as she is called is an American reality TV star. She is also a child.

He apologised and said that his friend took his phone without his knowledge and sent out that tweet.

I, for one, am all for second chances, but based on his past behaviour, this is hard to swallow. With my Chris Brown comparison, the act (abuse) was different, but the unrepentant reaction was eerily similar. Instead of humbling himself and admitting that he was wrong, he went on the rampage. This time, he seemed cold and resolute. The apology smacked of an attitude that says, it is what is, now accept and move on.

He said: “a) my phone was unattended b) my douche mate uploaded a kak tweet c) apologies if it offended you d) have a good night.”

The previous incident was also a tweet that he, not a friend, sent out. This one also caused a storm of slut shaming controversy, and more sincere apologies.

Instead of realising that what he said offended many, many people, he attacked them..

This incident, which will cease to exist in no time at all, speaks to the problem with our society. For one, are we not the company we keep? If his friend posted that tweet, then why did he not condemn said friend harshly? Many people would attest that they find that kind of language despicable, even if the person were a friend or family member (remember, what was said was basically paedophilia, in joke form, of course)

The problem is that while he has not condemned himself, nor his friend, neither has anyone else. Is this just the way that things go that we leave to the “Feminazis” and rape sympathisers to sort out? Surely it’s not our problem, he’s just a random blogger Twitter guy who can’t have that much of an effect on the world? But that’s exactly where we miss the mark. It starts with a joke, which emanates outward to apologist behaviour in perpetrators. How can we judge and condemn those who act abusively when we are all laughing about it?

Looking through his others tweets, there were examples of someone who does not seem to understand that he is a person of influence among brands and on Twitter. There, using words like “kunt” and “poes”, in any context, should not be tolerated.

 

 <p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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