Stand Tall Be Proud

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I was invited to a study group by a dear colleague, I normally would not go but that day I said “yes” little knowing that it would be an eye opener. People are watching TV on a laptop on a cool winter Thursday night in a well heated small green tin roof house, in an unremarkable suburb west of Kimberley. This scene would be totally banal except that all five are gay surrounded by those who felt that they were called by Jesus to save homosexuals, and that would be probably ho-hum, too, except all five are connected to this College where the mere fact of their sexuality causes enough of a stir to make said scene not only unusual, but controversial and set saviors called by Jesus more self-righteous.

All five are students at The Word Baptist College, one of the most prominent evangelical schools in the province—and therefore routinely named the terminally straight or Disprin College, they are so chaste, I am sure when they have an erotic dream or God forbid sex they put  a disprin between their legs. This is a place that has lectures on how to pray the demon of homosexuality out of gays and make straight people of them. A place that believes the constitution of our country was drawn up by the illuminati and the Anti-Christ.

The room is a clash of pride and internal conflict, out-loud activism and secrecy. This weekly gathering, hosted, is not exactly clandestine as I a catholic and gay teacher has been invited. but it’s not advertised, either; most people find out about it through friends of friends. Greenville serves with her partner, tells me the kids gathered there that night face more risk than they realize by being openly gay on campus. Greenville’s’ wife won’t let me use her name in this story out of fear she’d be fired from her job and to have a gay catholic there could cause problems. She confesses she took a risk inviting me a gay catholic in a same sex union. Yet these kids also appear prouder, more confident, and more willing to talk about their sexuality than most gay people I know in Kimberley. They definitely seem surer of themselves than I and I went to a Catholic college, one of the most queer-friendly, hippy-dippy places. Maybe that’s what happens when you’ve been forced to question yourself year after year. You come to a decision: You either hide, or you boldly proclaim who you are and project confidence, even if you don’t always feel it.

I begin to listen to some of their stories¨

Luke’s story

An attractive young man started talking to me on a night out and invited me to his hotel. I arranged to meet him in the club but he never showed up. When I went home the next day I found my bank card was missing from my wallet and also my iPhone had gone. R1,000 was taken from my account and when I reported it to the police I never thought it might be a homophobic crime.

Officer I spoke to was very helpful and sympathetic and said to be careful next time*

I probably won’t see the money again and they may never catch the man who robbed me but

the whole experience and the support I received has made me much more conscious about how I behave on a night out,

how much I drink and to be aware of my own personal safety.

It’s important to say that even if you think you may be judged for what you are doing and where you are, the police are only interested in the crime that has been committed against you and you are a mere number a statistic and the one policeman gave me his number call me if you need anything. I am no idiot all he saw was a nice arse. .

I believe that what happened to me was homophobically motivated and that’s why I think it is important to report any incident you feel may be a homophobic incident as only then can the police be made aware of what is happening in a specific area and then try to do something about it. It certainly has made me more aware and on my guard in future.

Another student recalls “If one man in a relationship makes more money,” one junior recalls being asked by an ignorant student, “does that make you the man?” The room erupts with laughter and another recalled the pastor asking “ now who is the woman in bed ?’and the reply from the boy being asked ”It  is often is only a mouth full”  brought forth even more raucous laughter.

After watching ‘Latter Days’ many tears and over glasses of soda and water (this is a Christian crowd, after all), the group watches a video of students on campus but the gay faces are blocked out as one says ‘amazing how many straights will want to see those faces.

Imagining this is a Christian College and fuck love of neighbour as long as you are saved by the blood of Jesus, forget any other things he said. Here one awaits the day when showing openly gay students’ faces on video would be okay? It seems years, even decades away maybe at the second coming of Jesus.

 

And the college, located in Kimberley as if it were the center piece of the town, is known as the “Oxford of Evangelical Colleges.” When the administration began termination procedures against a teacher who stood in solidarity with Muslims by wearing a hijab to class, it was you would think Armageddon. So when LGBT students and alums come together here to meet and to push the administration toward acceptance, it could have ramifications far beyond. The fact that any students are willing to meet with me was a sign of momentum. A few years ago this story likely wouldn’t have even been possible. But this campus is still light years away from being a gay haven. The college’s administration believes that Jesus Christ can help change sexuality. That they can pray you straight. Its “The Covenant” a document every incoming student is required to sign their first day at school, prohibits “sexual immorality,” and that includes “homosexual behavior.” When I asked the college’s Marketing Officer Carlie Bitchwich whether the college would affirm same-sex relationships, her answer was clear: “No.” (And then she pointed to the Community Covenant.)But loving your brother as yourself, kindness, acceptance these values had no place at this Covenant.

For decades the LGBT alums kept in touch only through a newsletter sent out sporadically by one person. The school won’t allow or entertain the idea of homosexuality, or to be proud of who you are, gay, and beloved. No, No not at all.

Carlos’ story

I’m not sure exactly when I realised I was gay. It’s not as if you’re an official homosexual, here’s your certificate. Everyone’s ‘coming out’ experiences are different.

My name is Carlos, I am now 15 and I live in Cape Town. Being gay has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life so far. It was hard to come to terms with, something I have had to do completely by myself.

It has been a very lonely process; at times I’ve felt like everyone is against me. I’ve felt isolated, I sometimes don’t know how to deal with things. I tried to talk to my teacher about the bullying but he just didn’t want to know.

He said I should talk to my parents about it but they are both very religious, there was no way I could talk to them about it. It is an agonising feeling so alone so isolated, it’s no surprise I sometimes hurt myself.

Once at school this lad was bullying me, the usual stuff; faggot, queer, uphill-gardener, I was so stressed that the teacher didn’t do anything that I punched him. I ended up getting into trouble for that. I can’t wait until next year when I’ll be out of this place. I just can’t talk to anyone. I feel insecure and unprotected. I think if it was just talked about that would make it easier.

A lot of the homophobia is just ignorance, by both the teachers and the pupils. I just wish I could be ‘out’ and respected for who I am. Schools need to act to make sure that gay students get the respect they need to feel safe and secure.

   All I could say to these young people was “Your sexual identity is not a tragic sign of the sinful nature of the world,” “You are not tragic. Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated. You are the beloved of the More and Ever More, you have been chosen blessed, broken and are given to the world to be gift and blessing to them.”

 

Stand Tall Be Proud

 

You say be Proud and be Strong, Stand Tall

But how can I stand at all?
When I have been beaten and laughed at
And broken
And stripped of my humanness

Stripped of who I am

 

My identity.
I will not surrender. 

love
And it is not about
Gender

Love=Love

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