Psalm 18: 16-19
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
To my LGBT sisters and brothers,
God is with us. God cries out in suffering with His/Her LGBT children when they are oppressed in God’s name.
As Psalm 18 above says: my enemies ‘confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.’
I believe that that is a prophetic word for LGBT people throughout Africa. God delights in us and will rescue us, especially those of us who find ourselves in contexts where our hearts, minds and lives are in ever-present danger.
I am writing this because I feel so strongly that something must be done, and yet I don’t know what to do. I am writing this out of my own Christian faith, while fully recognising that there are many of you who do not share it, who espouse other faiths or none at all. A Facebook friend of mine has taken to adding a tagline to many of her posts in recent weeks calling on Christians to denounce those who share their faith but are complicit in bigotry and so that is partly what I am doing.
Recent events in Uganda and Nigeria have made so many of us so sad, so angry and so scared.
I am very lucky to live in South Africa, where our constitution protects my rights, but I think there but for the grace of God go I.
I speak out of my life, my own particular condition: I am 45, a white female South African. I am lesbian, married. My wife is Ugandan. We have a seven year old daughter. We are richly blessed.
These laws in Uganda and Nigeria are supposed to be an expression of morality, and to a large degree of a Christian morality. Melina Platas Izama, in an article in The Washington Post has pointed out that it is easier to sell yourself as a moral leader than as an effective, honest, fair one, especially in contexts where there is corruption, and lack of service delivery.
I think that this is a false morality – a morality designed to be performed for the gaze of the citizens of those countries, but without solid foundation in the internal convictions of the individuals responsible for the bills.
These laws make us question our worthiness as human beings. If whole societies can look at LGBT people and see them as evil and depraved then where does that leave us? It is terrifying to know that there are whole groups of people out there who would look at me and think that this person is worth less, because I am lesbian. More than that it is terrifying to imagine living in a place in which those people would have the power of the state behind them.
For me, my faith is a key part of who I am. My relationship with God is fundamental to how I operate in the world, and I am very very sure that God loves me and created me as I am. I know for sure that God wants me to be who and where I am, and also that S/He brought my wife and our daughter into my life. I know that the happiness I experience in my family is a good gift of God, and that it is a gift that God wants me to share with the world.
I am studying theology because I want to be a priest, and even though I know that the church to which I belong will not now, or any time soon, allow me to be ordained (only celibate LGBT people are eligible for ordination), I still know that this is where God wants me to be and that I am doing what God wants me to do. It may be that I am just supposed to keep on being present, to keep on being faithful, so that people cannot avoid noticing that there are rules that exclude people like me. If that’s the case, that is ok, because all that matters to me is that I should be doing what God wants me to be doing.
What is happening in Uganda and Nigeria (and seems likely to happen in a range of other African countries in the near future) is terrible. It’s terrible because the human rights of LGBT people are being attacked, but it is also terrible because people are failing to see the image of God in others who are not like them. In the end all we have as human beings is our relationships to each other. God manifests in the world largely in how we behave to each other. There is a song which says, ‘Christ has no hands now in the world but yours, Christ has no feet now in the world but yours.’ And it is true.
So when people use faith as an excuse to destroy other people it is terrible. It is terrible for those being oppressed, but it is also terrible for those who oppress others. As a white South African I know first hand the damage that being an oppressor does: We make ourselves less human when we treat others as less human. We damage the image of God in ourselves when we don’t recognise its presence in others.
It’s an indictment of our understanding of faith when we use something that is supposed to draw us nearer to God, to justify acting in a way that really is not of God. God is love and calls us to love each other.
I know that we need to keep fighting, that we need to keep on arguing and claiming our rights in the face of these oppressions, but I think that it is only by the grace of God that a transformation of attitudes and understandings will happen. I don’t know how we will achieve that but I do know that God cries out in suffering with His/Her LGBT children when they are oppressed in God’s name.
God loves all of us, those who oppress and those who are oppressed, hetero and homosexuals, black and white, poor and rich. S/He loves all of us.
In my experience the only thing that does, in the end, transform people’s attitudes is when we are all wiling to sit around a table and share who we are. If we are willing to bring our pains and sorrows, as well as our joys to the table and look at them honestly as human beings then we can begin the process of grasping that the image of God is present in all of us, despite our differences.
The grace of God has always seemed to me to surpass and transcend the limitations of our human condition. It is only that grace can allow us to transcend these limitations.
Jesus said, ‘whoever is not against us is for us’(Mk 9:40), and that troubles me.
The bills in Uganda and Nigeria have been signed ostensibly on the basis that homosexuality is immoral and anti-Biblical. They are using my faith against me. And yet Jesus says ‘whoever is not against me, is for me’. And He is referring, not to transient events in the world, but to the whole edifice of faith and spirituality which is the Christian church.
Jesus was not speaking of the church as it exists now in the world. There was no such thing at the time. But He was speaking of the movement of the Spirit of God in the world – that Spirit that moves us beyond ourselves, that allows us to transcend our human condition.
His disciples, not understanding, had tried to stop someone (not one of them, not a member of their group) casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Was it because they didn’t know him, or didn’t trust him? Was it because they wanted to keep the power, that sense of being special for themselves? We don’t know. But we do know that Jesus told them to let the man be because ‘whoever is not against us, is for us’.
I am deeply troubled because I know how easy it would be to just say that the Ugandan President (and all those ordinary Ugandans), and the Nigerian President (and all the ordinary Nigerians) are just wrong, are evil, and misguided. Certainly, I believe that they are wrong.
But I also know that just resorting to saying that they are wrong will get us nowhere, will in fact likely lead only to a hardening of attitudes.
The Spirit and the grace of God call on me, as they call on all of us to transcend the limitations of our human condition, to love our neighbour as ourselves.
I understand that my particular life history, my context, my time and place have allowed me to understand certain things in certain ways. I also understand that there are times when one must ‘come in the name of God’ and speak out about certain things.
In this case, let me say clearly that these laws and the concomitant increase in anti-LGBT violence (physical, emotional, spiritual) break my heart. It breaks my heart to see the machinery of state powering up against people.
But it breaks my heart also to think of all those ordinary people operating out of (un)righteous anger. Treating others as less than human is deeply damaging both for those oppressed and for the oppressors.
The grace of God calls us to transcend our human limitations, to love our neighbours as ourselves. To see the image of God both in those like us and in those unlike us.
It is difficult to see how someone seeing the image of God in someone else could cause them to parade naked through the streets of a city, or give them reason to hide in their house for fear of arrest.
I also have limitations. And I am also called to see in ordinary Ugandans and Nigerians, who fear and hate homosexuals, my brothers and sisters. To see also in them the image of God in a different time and place. To see in the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, human beings within particular contexts, operating with frames of reference other than my own.
It is very difficult to be loving to those who are other.
In Uganda and Nigeria the situation is dire for LGBT people and it seems likely that a number of other African countries will follow suit. It is a ‘day of […] disaster’ for LGBT people and there doesn’t seem to be much that we as people of God can do.
I am afraid that just continuing to fight will cause a hardening of attitudes. I am afraid that just denouncing homophobia and transphobia as un-Biblical and un-Christian will do nothing but cause us to turn away from each other in frustration, misunderstanding, despair, hatred.
It would be better if we could all come to the table, bringing our vulnerability, our human limitations and allow the grace of God to work. I know that that is exactly what LGBT actvists throughout Africa are trying to do, in one way or another. I also know that it takes more courage to come and say to someone ‘you scare me’, ‘you make me sad’ than to say to someone ‘I hate you, you are wrong and evil.’
As always, it is most probably the oppressed who will have to set the oppressors free.
I trust in the grace of God. And it seems to me that it is only through the grace of God that we will be able to find our way through. It is only through the grace of God that the required miracles of loving transcendence will happen. I believe firmly that the grace of God operates for all of us, whether we are religious or not, because it is a grace which pursues fullness of life for all of us. God’s Spirit is in itself a life-giving Spirit.
It is only through the grace of God that we will be able to see the image of God in the others on the opposite side of the table. By doing so we may be able to transcend the barriers that keep them on the opposite side of the table, even when we are reaching out to them. Bring your fear and your pain and your anger to the table and let us allow the Spirit of God to work amongst us.
It would be very easy to say that those who have pushed these bills through their parliaments, on the basis of Christian morality, are against us. And it is certainly true in very many ways, but I think that we must either decide that they are not Christians, not moving in the Spirit of God, or we must decide that we will continue to see in them the image of God and trust that God will help us to move them to a different place.
Even if they do not know that they are not against us, let us hold on to that certainty that they too are children of God, and that in the end the Spirit of God will be life-giving for all of us.
When Nqobani danced it was like watching a tigress hunt, grace and rhythm oozed from her very nimble body. She had the legs of a masai hunter, toned, long and lean.
Every woman in her class wanted a slice of her incredibly delectable body but she unfortunately only had eyes for Thobile. Thobile who seemed not to notice her, when others swooned and sighed, Thobile looked unaffected, when Jen giggled in the corner, Thobile practiced her routine, seemingly unaware of the goddess in the room.
Nqobani had ended a long relationship with a woman whom she had come to feel for like one feels for a sister approximately a year and 2 months ago. Where she had burnt with desire at her touch, in the final months of their relationship she had only felt the warmth one feels for a friend.
Like with most lesbian relationships, they were still the best of friends, the relationship had ended most amiably as it had become very clear to both of them that the fire was gone and never to return.
Nqobani had first become aware of her feelings for Thobile on the 15th of May 2013, she could easily point out the hour and minute it had hit her. The first stirrings of winter were in the air, on a Friday evening at 6pm, Thobile walked into her studio, complete with her usual verve and vigour, she swore out loud about the fact that she hated winter terribly and Nqobani looked up, seeing her as if for the first time, it was hard to explain, one minute she was just another woman, looking to Nqobani to teach her how to move her body to the music as if was one with her and the next she was the most delicious thing Nqobani had ever seen, she wanted, no she longed to sink her teeth into her long delicate neck.
Thobile looked up and caught her eye, she smiled, said hello and looked away, Nqobani’s world had been different ever since. She suddenly couldn’t wait for 6pm Friday night to arrive, and on the day Thobile missed her class, it was like the sun had left earth forever, never to shine again.
After 6 years of friendship she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why her heart had done the double on her mind. Thobile had been there when she and Lena went through the motions, always the supportive friend, forever reassuring.
Last Friday, she had almost made an ass of herself, longing desperately to feel this woman in her arms, she had chose her as a dance partner to illustrate a new routine, if she hadn’t been the talented dancer she was, she would have made a fuckery of the lesson, as it was, she had barely made it through the routine intact, breathing in Thobile’s sweat and light perfume was enough to bring her to tears of longing.
Nqobani wasn’t the type of woman to let love go by unrequited however and had therefore decided that the role of a swooning teenager was unbecoming of a woman her years, all 34 of them and was not going to take it sitting down anymore.
She had done all she could to draw attention to her feelings for the woman and failed, desperate situations called for desperate measures.
As everyone left, Nqobani and thobile stood chatting, Thobile complained about her day, she had a crazy boss Nqobani knew all too well, Nqobani just wanted to reach out and hold her to her breast.
All too soon, the studio she rented on 7th avenue in Melville was empty.
“I should go’, Thobile said realising that she was the only one left.
“Oh it’s no rush…unless of course you have a date”, Nqobani said stealing a look and hoping for her dear life that she didn’t.
Thobile smiled, “I just don’t want to keep you, that’s all…”, she said softly, running her fingers through her short brown locks.
What Nqobani didn’t know was that Thobile had had a thing for her for the longest time but had given up all hope for a relationship, they had been friends far too long, she constantly thought miserably.
She was still lost in her miserable thoughts when she noticed that Nqobani had moved, and was now standing right in front of her, she barely had time to react before Nqobani took her face into her hands and kissed her, very gently, unrushed, very very sweetly.
There was a frantic bustle about the place.
Everyone was busy with a chore, some cooked, others blew air into purple and white balloons, where as others like either one of the brides chased their tails, too nervous to sit still even for a second.Read more: This is the day I make you mine – a tale of a lesbian wedding.
Bren lay in the hospital room ,staring out into the rain ,hearing it pound on the roof relentlessly…she felt no peace that it bought in it’s wake ,her heart felt as clouded and crowded as the sky outside ,black and devoid of color.Read more: Somewhere in cyber space.
Life had brought pleasant surprises with the new year, the love birds were not spring chickens anymore, they had laughed, fought, matured and laughed again.
Mojo and Tan continued to find each other incredibly cool and awesome, they still made each other’s hearts skip beats and race on. Even during those moments when they wanted to tear each other to pieces, they managed to remember the love they shared and declare it.
Bleh and Dana had survived the drama of the last year and continued to build their relationship hard brick by very hard brick, they had recently moved in together and that was going as well as could be expected but all were holding thumbs.
One morning as Mojo and Tan drove to work, oh did I forget to mention? They moved in together, right before the year (2012) began. True to lesbian form I’m sure is what you are thinking…
Well Mojo , lesbian or not had a few curt words in response to that,’ there’s no time like the present’ and I tend to agree with her.
But let’s not get carried away, Mojo is saying something.
‘Did you see that?’ she asked Tan with childlike excitement in her voice.
‘No angel, I didn’t see it, I was trying not to drive us off the street and into some poor soul’s mid section, what was it?’ Tan replied with a mixture of impatient and tolerance for Mojo’s morning quizzes, she was used to them by now.
‘It looked like a man sleeping on the stoep on one of those metal benches, like you find at the park, either that or he is dead, and since dead appeals to the Sherlock in me, I will go with that, if it wasn’t for you driving like we are trying to get into formula 1, I might have seen clearly’. Mojo said mock irritably
Tan only managed a stern look in her direction,’ why don’t you remind me to slow down tomorrow, I’m sure it’s far from your dramatic expectations – probably someone who enjoys cooling off in the morning air or maybe they have trouble sleeping at night’.
‘I’m telling you, he is dead, they probably killed him and left him to rot, or maybe it’s a ghost, do you think it’s a ghost? He face was white and everything’ it was hard to break Mojo’s train of thought once she got going, the phrase ‘train of thought’ was coined with her in mind.
‘Ghosts don’t have white faces my angel, that is if they even exist’, replied Tan sensibly
The next day saw them racing past as did the next after that, since the week had drawn to a close, the mystery of the dead man on the stoep remained unsolved. In the meantime, they listened to Hallelujah by K D Lang, Mojo’s recent obsession, on the car radio and discussed the recent developments in Julius Malema’s trial.
The plan was to meet at Mojo’s little flat, which she had recently moved into after staying with bleh for just over a month – before deciding on where to proceed from there.
That way, they would be killing two birds with one stone, getting tan to see mojo’s humble aboard and getting their bearings figured out before venturing further into whatever path was opening for them.
Mojo was barely out of the shower when the phone started ringing and seconds later, tan announced her arrival, which undoubtedly set mojo off into a panicked frenzy of actions, the place was a mess, the bed unmade, she had to put some clothes on, after finding them ofcourse which was proving quite impossible a task.
She was finally ready and ran most of the way to the parking where tan was waiting patiently.
‘sorry I took forever’, she said, running fingers through her still wet hair and blushing.
‘it’s ok’, tan said,putting out her cigarette with her foot and blushing back.
‘had to do a bit of tidying up, take a shower….’ she trailed off and started to lead the way back to the flat.
‘i figured’, tan had laughter in her voice.
‘i like your bike’ she said of tan’s harley davidson.
Tan raised an impressed eyebrow,
‘it’s my baby’.
They walked on quietly.
‘place was a mess…’ mojo continued when the silence got too loud.
‘ my place gets that way too…’ tan put forth in consolation.
Mojo smiled and felt herself relax towards this woman.
She stole quick looks when she thought her guest wasn’t aware, noticing how shapely those denims made her ass look, and the exposed cleavage that tan had let slip accidentally on purpose.
She looked good,and the slight whiffs that came Mojo’s way indicated that she smelt wonderful too.
The walk to the flat was fast.
Tan voiced all the polite platitudes on seeing it, Mojo had an eclectic collection of things from her journeys which tan took turns admiring.
‘tea, coffee, juice?’ she later offered.
Tan felt a boldness she could hardly explain.
‘ actually what I’d rather right now…’
She walked over to Mojo without a word and taking a speechless face into her palms proceeded to administer a short but thorough kiss.
‘i’ve wanted to do that since we met’, she said when it ended.
Mojo reached over and their lips connected again, not wasting time with words – being all for action herself.
They had to tear themselves away from the flat some 30 minutes later, knowing that things might get out of hand if they didn’t and not really wanting to cross that bridge yet, Mojo had packed a picnic complete with a dry red wine and strawberries,
No doubt by the end of it,it was declared clearly and simply that a relationship had now began between Mojo and tan.
Eve was surprised to find A breaking up with her didn’t leave her as sad as she initially thought it would,perhaps she had sub-consciously known it wasn’t going to last,she found herself somewhat glad that it was over.more>
On reaching home,she had ran herself a hot bath with a dash of vanilla flavoured oils,some salts,lit a few candles and continued to relax herself with some wine.
Later her housemate – Angel,had brought home more alcohol and weed,and over great conversation with her house mate’s two other friends,they had gone on to knock themselves out.Throwing the complex into a riot as they sang,laughed and got high late into the night.
A few other friends had come over too,courtesy of Angel,who couldn’t be trusted with a secret,especially that of a house party-even one which hadn’t begun yet.
She remembered telling stories of lesbian sex and if it is any better than straight sex to a very rapt audience,Angel and her friends being as straight as rulers found the whole concept unimaginable, she remembered kissing several people aswell over spin the bottle,giggling endlessly and having more fun than she had in a very long time.
She suspected after she got time to digest everything,she would feel sad eventually,A had been a hot girl afterall,they had had some great moments,and ofcourse the sex had been mind blowing,but eve wasn’t one to get stuck in the past,life did go on and hers had definitely not ended yet.
‘hey’ bleh wrote and sent a rose.
‘hey stranger,where did you go?’, eve sent a kiss.
‘been around,it’s you with the busy life,am married,it gets dull’,bleh wrote,with the rolling eyes emoticon.
‘lol,you know you love being married,how’s wifey?’,eve sent a smile.
‘she is good,yea i love being married to her hot ass,i shdn’t complain..,
how’s everything with ‘you know who’?',bleh smiled back.
‘we had lunch yesterday,and a movie sunday..’,eve sent a cheeky smile.
‘ooooh,you’ve been busy little miss..i like,give me dirty details ASAP!’.
‘it was awesome,laughing with her over the movie and shovelling buckets of popcorn in our mouths,we later had coffee and sat talking for ages..’
‘i like her..but am confused,i met someone else saturday,at the picnic remember? We’re supposed to hook up again sometime this week..she is hot!! And gay..’eve finished with a thinking face.
‘I had such a great time with her,we walked and talked and laughed and talked some more,she is so funny and smart and and,gosh!’
Bleh sent a thinking face..
‘hectic situation you got there,someone’s na get burnt..’
‘i know,but i don’t want to make rush decisions and i like them both,damn! What to do????’ with creased brows.
‘Brb’,bleh wrote and was gone for about ten minutes.
‘sorry bout that,duty…’ bleh wrote when she got back.
‘it’s cool’,eve replied with a smile.
‘i duno what you shd do either,who do you like most?’
‘hmmm,A..iv known her longer and all,but you know the trouble with her..’
‘yea’,bleh was thinking
‘you cd always turn her lesbian,it has happened before’,bleh finished with a grin.
‘you know that’s not my game man,i don’t wana be looking over my shoulder at every turn,nope!’ eve ended with a sick face.
‘so why don’t you end it then?’
‘coz i like her,coz am greedy like that,hehehe,i know i enjoy her company..daing what a mess!!’
‘you can say that again..’
‘eish,gota go babes,later ya?’eve wrote and logged off.
‘later’,bleh wrote promptily.