I am writing this letter to you not because I have been voted into some leadership role within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ+) community, nor because I see myself as some sort of leader. I am not writing this to you in my official capacity as Station Manager at GaySA Radio either. I am writing to you as Hendrik, a 55-year-old gay man who was incredibly offended by your recent “moffie” (faggot or stabane) post on Twitter.
I know you and your followers think it was a silly joke and most people do not understand why so many have taken offence at your tweet. Apparently, judging by posts on your Facebook page, we moffies are all too sensitive and should just laugh off the homophobia displayed in your meme. Let me explain why we cannot do that.
I grew up in an era when being gay was illegal, when being called a moffie was the biggest insult one could face. It is not just a word, it is a violent word. And it usually went hand in hand with violence. My father’s fist when I was 12 years old attests to that. Even though the word has many meanings attached to it, it was and still is used as a slur, an insult, a way of diminishing one person’s humanity over another, simply due to a fact of a nature that cannot be changed, conversion therapy notwithstanding.
I am not the only one offended by this word. Reading the many posts on Facebook over the past few days have demonstrated that many LGBTQ+ people have been taunted, attacked and humiliated using this word and other equally derogatory terms. Some of these stories will break your heart. Young gender non-conforming men have been known to be attacked and left for dead outside taverns, others have been brutally murdered; lesbian women are attacked, raped and murdered in the most brutal and cruel ways possible; transgender people mocked and belittled; the list goes on.
Over the past twenty years we have made great progress in this country, with same-sex sexuality no longer illegal, civil unions allowed and generally having made some progress towards being equal citizens in line with the Constitution. Much still needs to be done, and many activists are working tirelessly to stop the suicide of teenagers who have been rejected by their families, of young people being sent to gay conversion camps by their parents, who disown them when they cannot change the unchangeable, who lock them up and humiliate them daily because they cannot accept a person for who they are. Yes Jack, I am sure from your relative comfort you have no idea what struggles LGBTQ+ people still face on a daily basis, the discrimination at work, the rejection, the loneliness, the humiliation.
None of this should, however, be news to you, Jack, and if it is, a simple Google search will reveal the horrors that some LGBTQ+ people face. And now I am not even talking about the state-sanctioned homophobia and persecution taking place in most African countries. Just search for Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi – just three of the many countries who see their LGBTQ+ citizens as less than human and who persecute, imprison, torture and murder these people, simply because of a slight apparent genetic difference over which they have no control.
As a South African, I would have thought you to be in touch with reality and what is going on. Perhaps your fame has isolated you, or perhaps the brandy has dulled your senses, I really don’t know. But what I do know is that equating a moffie with an effeminate looking man only perpetuates stereotypes, and once that has happened, it is a slippery slope towards the hell that some of our African LGBTQ+ communities experience at this very moment.
Perhaps I should put it another way: Imagine you had placed the same meme, but had replaced the word “Moffies” with the k-word, and the words “Die Manne” with “The Whites”. Would that be okay? Of course not! Even you are intelligent enough to know that it would be wrong and that jail time will certainly follow. And yet when it comes to the dignity of a section of our population, you have no qualms in using an equally derogatory slur with ease, making it off as a joke, and offering a half-arsed apology which we should now accept just because you offered it and called yourself a poes.
For the record: I do not accept that apology. I do not think you really meant it, nor do I think you understand the gravitas of the situation.
I see your followers believe that just because you said: “Sorry, it wasn’t me”, all should be forgiven and we can get drunk together. Sorry Jack, this is not going to happen. Have you learned nothing from Oscar Bougard, Gretha Wiid and the many others who still think it is okay to discriminate, either based on their religious views or their own shallow mindedness? Doesn’t look like it.
So, Mr Parow, it is going to take more than a little apology to placate the moffies. You are going to have to do something more in order to make right what has been done wrong here. I am sure you may be at a loss as to how to correct the situation, and so here is a suggestion to make things right:
I propose first that you donate 100 bottles of your brandy to be auctioned off in aid of an LGBTQ+ charity. Actress Lizz Meiring has already offered her auctioneer services free of charge, and she is ready to help sell your product and the funds raised to benefit perhaps the Pride Shelter Trust, a non-profit in Cape Town who provides short-term shelter to LGBTQ+ people who are in need (there are many others, you are free to choose whichever you like.) Lizz has suggested that you contact all your musician friends and that each one writes a message of encouragement or support, each of which can be attached to a bottle.
Secondly, I propose that you and some of your friends give a free concert in aid of an LGBTQ+ charity. Or perhaps you and your friends can provide your services free of charge at an event like Cape Town Pride (or any other pride, there are many to pick and choose from.)
And thirdly that you undergo LGBTQ+ sensitisation training with an organisation like OUT Well-being, The Triangle Project, The Thami Dish Foundation, or any of the others that work tirelessly to protect and advance LGBTQ+ rights. Perhaps then you will have a deeper understanding of the issues we face and act in a more sensitive manner in future.
I am not interested in your lip service, I am more interested in the actions you are going to take to rectify this mistake. And yes, it was a mistake, and making mistakes is part of the human learning process. If you really are serious about making it up to those who were offended and hurt by your callous words, then indeed actions will speak louder than words.
So, my dear Jack, you can either hit the road or stand up and become our ally. The choice is really yours.
Hendrik Baird is the Station Manager at GaySA Radio. This letter is his personal opinion and not that of the station.