Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Parktown Prawn

The Parktown Prawn is a greatly misunderstood creature. Certainly, to most people living in Johannesburg, it's appearance is usually greeted with shrieks and arguments about whose turn it is to get rid of the Big Ugly Fucker.

Legend has it that nothing can kill one of these. In fact, it's destined to share the earth with the cockroaches after a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, I have witnessed the Parktown Prawn's resilience. While gardening, Madelein happened to slice one of these bugs in half with a spade. It's front half continued to crawl around for two days after that, ending up in the lounge and exciting our already excitable dogs.

They seem impervious to pest repellents and you can empty an entire can of Doom on the thing and it will still stand there in the kitchen, laughing at you. And they jump. High. Causing more shrieks, of course. But that's not the worst of it - they squirt a hideous inky goo when threatened and the stuff stinks worse than a fertilizer factory on a hot day. (Bodhi would sometimes be squirted by one of them and the stench would hang on him for days.)

The Parktown Prawn seemed to make its appearance in Johannesburg in the 1960s. Prior to that, they were relatively unknown. Now there are several ideas as to why this may be, and you can read it all here on Wikipedia, if you are curious. I, on the other hand, have a theory of my own.

You see, there is also an unprecedented amount of UFO sightings in the 1960s, the same time period the Parktown Prawn emerged. I reckon that the Parktown Prawn is an alien life form that bugged a bunch of beings on some other planet. They piled all their Parktown Prawns into a flying saucer and went whizzing through the cosmos in search of a suitable place to dump the lot.

They discovered Johannesburg and opened the hatches.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Views on Religion

Whether you believe in a particular faith or not, I believe that you have the freedom to that belief. As long as you are respectful of the beliefs of others, and invite discussion and non-violent interaction, you're ok by me. Killing or maiming others within your religion for not conforming or because they are different because of their sexual orientation is not ok. Killing or maiming others because they don't believe what you do is not ok.

Nichiren Daishonen's followers claim that only his teachings and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra are correct. Christians believe that only Christianity is correct. As do many other religions. Thing is, we don't know. I don't know if Buddhism is the only correct path to enlightenment. What I do know is that it is one path to enlightenment. It is no greater nor less than Christianity or Judaism, or Islam or Zoroastrianism or Eckankar or Spaghetti Monsterism.

Buddhism is a path I CHOSE. Yes, you can choose your religion. And I chose Buddhism. Within my faith, I choose to treat other beings as though they too are Buddhas. That is what I have decided what's best for my life path.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lessons from Mr Gay World 2012

Andreas Derleth from New Zealand
Mr Gay World 2012
Mr Gay World 2012 was held last night at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City, Johannesburg. The first international all gay competition of its kind to be held on African soil. Yes, there is Mr Gay SA and Mr Gay Namibia and so on. But nothing international. Nothing like this.

Madelein and I were able to be part of the audience watching this spectacular event, thanks to some comp tickets that were generously passed our way.

It's not often you will get to see a half naked man on a lesbian's blog. The half naked man in question is Andreas Derleth, Mr Gay New Zealand, who took the crown from the previous winner, South African, Francois Nel.

My spiritual brother, Frank Malaba from Zimbabwe, was one of the judges.

I am proud to be a gay South African. I am proud that I live in a country with a constitution that recognises gay rights and that we, as gay people, have the right to choose to marry our partners. We can adopt children. We can be free from discrimination in the workplace and we can openly visit gay bars and clubs.

And yet.

Despite all these apparent freedoms, we still have the issue of corrective rape, with lesbians being raped and murdered for being 'different', for not wanting to be with men, for shunning the advances of men, for simply LOVING another woman.

Madelein and I discussed the visibility of gay women. We openly held hands - like we always do. We are white lesbians living in the suburbs. If we were black lesbians in townships or rural areas, we would be raped and murdered.

We are very privileged. And Mr Gay World pointed out that the competition was not about physical beauty, but about being a global ambassador for gay rights.

And, as so many of the contestants pointed out last nights, it's not about GAY rights, but HUMAN rights. We all have a right to love someone. We all have the right to enjoy that love returned. As far as I am concerned, that what two consenting adults do behind closed doors is no one's business. Not the church's. Not the state's. Not mine.

We have the right to love who we choose without living in fear for our lives.

And I see how complacent I am as a lesbian. I have a nice life. I have a loving partner. A happy home. A good job. I live in the suburbs and, apart from some stares and scowls when we hold hands in public, my wife and I have not experienced much discrimination. I can live openly without fear of losing my life.

South Africa is a bit of a contradiction.

Last year, I walked WITS Pride with photographer and activist, Zanele Muholi. Her dedication to the plight of black lesbians was inspiring. But what have I done since then? I've gone back to the comfort of my suburban lesbian life with my three dogs and my wife, and my business, without a second thought of my black sisters.

I've forgotten my commitment to be a daily activist. Gay men, it seems, are more outspoken when it comes to that.

Time to change, I think. Time to step up and put a voice to those who don't have one.

Question is: HOW?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Esho Funi - Oneness of Life and Environment

We live in a dualistic world, yet the duality we accept as the real world is illusion.

We are one. All of us. And we are one with our environment - the space we share with other beings. The Japanese call this unified concept "Esho Funi", translated as The Oneness of Life and Environment.

Our lives touch the lives of others. Our reaction to others creates reaction in them and so forth. Our karma is active in our daily lives and influences the lives of those around us.

An example: We all know someone who always complains. Complain is their default life setting. We avoid that person, don't enjoy their company much and come away from meetings with them feeling drained and not quite as happy as we were before. The Complainer sees a world in which people don't want to be around them - and they complain about that. They also always seem to have friends who need to leave early or have to cut telephone calls short. Their life state has a direct impact on their environment.

We are one with our environment. Change within the self creates a ripple effect in the environment. The Complainer starts chanting. Or attends a seminar. They decide to create a more positive and loving perspective of life. Their environment begins to change. Friends notice the change, spend more time with them and they find that they are feeling better about the world they live in.

The water pays no mind to the stone that is cast into it, or the ripples that form. It makes no judgement. Life is like that. We can cast helpful or less helpful stones. The choice is ours.

For me, Esho Funi has been about integration. About seeing the influence I have on life and it has on me, and to make choices about the stone I cast into the water. You can't change others - only yourself. Change begins with us and then the change is manifest in our environment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Life of a Freelance Writer...

.... is a lot less of this:

.... and a hell of a lot more of this.

As a freelancer, you're seen as a bottom feeder - the lowest of the low. It's a frustrating existence. Particularly if you absolutely love writing and enjoy putting articles together. Thing is, because you're right at the bottom of the food chain, you're the last to get fed, and often, what gets fed to you are scraps.

I have written for free (that's exactly what I am doing right now) and I've written for money. When you write for free, you know there's no cheque. When you write for money you're never sure when the cheque is coming. Clients promises are usually empty and it's a rare publication indeed that pays the invoice when it is due.

It's though I am expected to see the fact that my article is accepted and will be published as recognition enough and that the money is just a little 'extra something', due and payable whenever the Goddess Editor deigns to bless me with the cheque.

Editorial staff never communicate adequately with the freelancer. Sketchy briefs (if I am lucky enough to even get one) and re-writes are the order of the day.

And it's not as though someone is going to happen upon my blogs and declare me the new literary genius of the decade either.

But seriously, is it too much to ask? A little respect and communication?

I know I'd like to give it all up and walk briskly away into the comfort of my 'real' job. But I know I will be back like a junkie looking up her old dealer for a fix. That's why I make nice with the editor, smile and thank her for the bag of shit I have just been handed, deceptively wrapped with an elegant ribbon. Shit in a bag, though, is still shit.

Today, though, I'd like to give writing the middle fingered salute.