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?

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