South Africa, I don’t know when you’re gonna do better.
Pride month this June was celebrated globally by the LGBT+ community and allies. We are starting to feel represented, the world is starting to recognise our community for who we are. However, not even a few days after the end of June, popular homophobic sentiments popped up all over social media. Although these sentiments have been popping up all over social media, South African twitter has been seeing violent feelings towards the LGBT+ community. Religious twitter (no shit) has been jumping on the bandwagon to justify their pre-existing homophobia. We shouldn’t have to explain why homophobia is wrong and with the points raised recently, you are expecting emotional labour from the LGBT+ community. Here is why this is absolute crap and we aren’t going to tolerate it.
Religion isn’t above criticism.
This image of pride posters stating that “Allah is gay” and that “Jesus is gay” caused a large stir on Muslim twitter and other communities. Their argument stems from respect.
Many believe that “if these people can’t respect our beliefs, how can we respect theirs?”. But that reasoning is wrong. The LGBT+ community isn’t a belief. It isn’t something we chose. It’s us. it is who we are, it is our culture and identity. You chose your beliefs, equating our existence to choices is homophobic. There is no guide book and a particular set of values that dictate queerness. Our queerness is as brown as our eyes.
Critiquing your religion isn’t discrimination against you as a group. It isn’t Islamophobic to call out the homophobia that exists in Muslim communities. It is pointless to argue about religion and if a particular religion is wrong. However, there is a homophobic culture that has grown through religions. It’s being perpetrated by online religious communities, especially Christian and Muslim twitter. The homophobia is so blatant and disgusting it’s harming us.
Your words have power.
A popular tweet on South African twitter called O Jewa Ke Eng? (“Whats on your mind?” In Sesotho) was retweeted with a comment about how the LGBT+ community do “things” that makes straight people uncomfortable. 1000s of people retweeted and chimed in with their own homophobic comments. The safe space that “O Jewa Ke Eng?” provided for people was changed for the worse for the LGBT+ community that already suffers hardships.
South African celebrity Zodwa Wabantu made homophobic comments on her hit reality show Zodwa Uncensored. She said that gay men forget that they have penises and not vaginas, and that “they are volatile”. Much backlash was received for her comments and more importantly to her self-entitled label as a feminist. How could a feminist who claims to understand the struggle of all be homophobic? how could a South African woman who knows the violence of this country further inflict it on another community with similar struggles?
Our safety has been violated
I have heard many concerns from LGBT+ friends about their safety on twitter and in public. Twitter has become a safe place for many LGBT+ people to share their art, their experiences and themselves. We have created spaces for us to grow and thrive. These homophobic comments are creating wounds in the ozone layer that protects us. We as a community have religious persecution and violent discrimination for centuries. One step forward towards a bright, and colourful Pride becomes 5 steps back to a dull and dreary heterocentric world. We don’t just want a month of rainbows and corporate celebration, we want to be able to exist without violence. We want to live free from pain and shackles of homophobia.