Anyone else fed up with hypocritical Hollywood?

Anyone else fed up with hypocritical Hollywood?

By Rebecca Hartill

I’ve arrived in the movie star capital of the world without any clue of who is who and what is what. Hollywood and the entertainment industry is to me an unknown field, which is partly why I find my time in L.A so interesting. Something that has not slipped my attention however is the #metoo earthquake, and being a political science major, the issue of social representation and its connection to individual rights is a topic that lies close to heart. The #metoo movement has apparently not rocked the boat enough to upset the status quo, as we this year saw the fewest female winners in six years while the ethnic representation remained highly westernised.

As a firm believer that habits rather than talents are key to success, I’m perplexed by all the high heels and close fitted low-cut dresses leftover from a conservative world that sought to sexualise women. Females are highlighted for how they look and males for what they do. Males dress in the identical black-tie outfits not by coincidence, but because the assumption is that they do not need to dress in any other way. You see males are carried by their brains, while females are successful though their looks.

The #metoo movement has apparently not rocked the boat enough to upset the status quo, as we this year saw the fewest female winners in six years while the ethnic representation remained highly westernised.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 04: Fatma Al Remaihi attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 04: Fatma Al Remaihi attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

However, I suppose I should cut Hollywood some slack and realise that it, just like me, is a product of its social circumstances (I too wore a tight dress and stilettos to work during the Oscar evening). Maybe it isn’t my place to say, since I don’t even recognise half of the people walking the red carpet.

Whether it be a sign of ignorance or a receipt of how out of touch Hollywood is with the rest of the world, I find it almost amusing that a film portraying Winston Churchill as a faultless national hero can receive so much praise when Mr Churchill in fact made quite a few doubtful choices during his political career. Maybe historical accuracy is of only secondary concern to the Academy, but I know one or two who would categorise the film as an infotainment way to present an ”alternative truth”. This is ironic, considering that Hollywood spends so much time worrying about the wide reach of the very same phenomenon.

Nonetheless, someone did catch my eye, and both her persona and her outfit are a refreshing sight. Fatma Al Remaihi, who does not have a wikipedia site (yet), is the CEO of the Doha Film Interview and carried her Middle Eastern heritage down the red carpet with fascinating gusto, just like she does in her work.

The De-erotized Ideology of Pornography

Many years have now passed since the Western world proclaimed “sexual liberation”, when the dawn of pleasure would break. I am however afraid that today, this philosophical notion is profoundly poverty-stricken, and lack some of the substance matters when it comes to the phenomenology of sexuality.
I would like to propose the idea that sexuality in the West, is not really a topic of sexuality but rather of sexual ideology. The politically correct approach to any sexual encounter in our contemporary time is in effect “pornographic”. This may sound like nuts, so the argument is in need of some deeper elaboration.

First of all, it must be clear that sexuality has a deeply cultural side to it. Regarding the cultural aspect of sexuality, there is an apparent example of the contextuality of sexuality that I believe every Swede can relate to. That of the American fantasy of Sweden as the paradise of sexual promiscuity par excellence. This fantasy dates back to Bergman movies where families attend the sauna together, go to the beach, and so on; all completely naked. And has ever since been fueled by Hollywood stereotypes of Swedish women. What the American audience failed to see in this regard was the cultural context. At the time when these Bergman films were recorded, the Swedish “body”, in a sense, was completely de-eroticized. As such, from a Swedish perspective there was nothing erotic about nude bathing. And therefore, not in the sphere of sexual promiscuity. This cultural misunderstanding may also explain why people such as Julian Assange has described Sweden as a culture of sexual regression. Having made a journey from the most sexually liberated countries in the world, to become, in his peculiar words “the Saudi Arabia of feminism”. This is what cultural imperialism feels like. I on the other hand, would not blame feminism for this so called “regression”, but rather blame the sexual liberation itself.

From a psychoanalytic perspective, we may have to turn things around a little bit. Sexual desire always seem to operate in the same manner as an elastic rubber band. If you stretch it long enough it snatches back at full rigour. Not to mention the Victorian era in England, which might have been the most perverted bedrock of eroticized literature we have seen in modern history. For example, if the leg of a chair has to be covered in fabric in order to safeguard from sexual desires, it might be the case that those very desires are not prevented but rather fueled by that very procedure. Sexual restraint becomes self-annihilating. The less erotica, the more the spectrum of the erotic will expand. Everything could in principle be erotic. This had the peculiar effect that the British could not translate a single page of foreign literature without adding some perversion to it, such as the “slight” misinterpretation of the word “Haram” (“forbidden”, among other things referring to the part of a Muslim home exclusively for family members, where women unleashed their hair) with “Harem”, in the sense of the word we most usually attribute it. Thereby believing that every Muslim home had a “Harem”.

Further, “protestant sexual ethics” has always been deeply inmeshed with the phenomenon of guilt, and for a more contemporary viable notion; “hangover guilt”. It is my absolute conviction that this phenomenon does not exist in, for example, catholic sexual ethics. A protestant subject is always subject to the individual relationship between “God” (in this case some kind of big socio-collective Other) and has to mortify his flesh every Sunday to throw off all the outrageous sins committed during a late night Saturday. In other words, you are allowed to enjoy, but only in so far as you at least regret it.

Within catholic ethics, contrary to the sexual restraint ordered by the Catholic Church, it works in the same rubber-band-logics. Since your guilt is ultimately at the hand of others, il padre to be specific, you can engage in bodily sins with the sound conviction that you will be unconditionally forgiven at the Sunday confession. Ave Maria! No need to torture your soul with a day of mortification. Therefore, sexual liberation, in the protestant sense, is a sexual liberation founded on the very condition of you not being able to enjoy it. Social control reasserts itself at the level of individual guilt and re-establishes the harmony of Victorianism.

This interpretation finds some compelling support in the Durex Global Sex Survey about “percentage of people having sex weekly by country”. It points in the direction of “often-thought-of-as-sexually-restrained” cultures are actually making the best efforts. The percentage in Russia and Greece (both within the orthodox Christian sphere) are 80 and 87 %, closely followed by catholic Italy and Poland (76 %), while the same number in United States and United Kingdom is 53 and 55 %. And for Japan, only 37 %. Adding to this, only a miserable 15 % in Japan states that they are satisfied by sex, which is the lowest number in the entire world. Further, when it comes to the highest number of sexual partners, “surprisingly”, Turkey is on top of the list with an average of 14,5 sexual partners per person.

Further, just to once and for all punctuate the American fantasy of the sexually promiscuous Sweden. When it comes to the numbers of “that thing” per year, Greece (the world number one) has an average of 138 times, the U.S. does it about 113 times, while Sweden barely make it 92 times. In other words, not too much sexual promiscuity in the sexually liberated Sweden then.

This necessarily evokes a Žižekian point that can be repeated relentlessly; that the ideological turf is always an invertion of the interior sublime. And this takes us to my main point, that our sexual ideology within a culture of “sexual freedom” is strictly speaking pornographic.

For example, it is often said that pornography promotes a skewed perspective on sex. I would like to flip things around, and this is definitely not a defence of pornography. Anyway, if you think deeply about it, is it not rather the standard Hollywood-style sex scene that promotes a skewed perspective on sex?

antichrist

Bring to mind love scenes from films such as Titanic or Pearl Harbour. In which the loving couple almost soar over one another in a humid slow-motion environment. Going on for hours in an astonishingly creative repertoar of movements. Still, not a single “dirty detail” is displayed for you, and it is almost as if you are about to witness something magical.

Then bring to mind films by the Danish film director Lars von Trier, such as Antichrist or The Idiots. His films try to combine a romantic approach to love scenes with plain physical details, often depicting penetrations directly, and so on. It’s simply stupid penetrative repetitive movements over and over again, but nonetheless, just probably closer to the reality of sexual intercourse than the godlike romanticism of Hollywood.

My point however, besides the skewedness of the former, is that the Hollywood-style sex scene is, phenomenologically, the one we keep in mind when we engage in sexual intercourse. We act extracorporeal, as if our bodies are recorded. In this manner, the intercourse itself turns fictional, and the bodily pleasures themselves have to fit the manuscript and are not at the center of attention. In this sense, sex is effectively pornographic. A generation of Sex and the City viewers has brought us to a point where there is no sexual tension but the need to create a pleasant scene, for collectors of episodes (in Zygmunt Baumans words). Sex then increasingly turns into what Lacanian psychoanalyst Slavoj Žižek calls “masturbation with a real partner”, or de-subjectivized sex. The partner is turned into a masturbatory prop.

nymphomanaic-charlotte-gainsbourg-1

But the argument has even more depth to it than this. The postmodern death of the self, as described by the philosopher Jean Baudrillard, has also brought about a spectacle-and-image-logic that makes everything superficial to the degree that it could be replaced and copied infinitely. Our “wear and tear” habits thus operate in the realm of love as well. Just measure the distance between Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights with any recent Western narrative of love. It is obvious that every subject, being fatally and melancholically in love in the spirit of Wuthering Heights; would undoubtedly classify as serious stalkers today. Whenever love becomes too overwhelming according to contemporary discourse, it is at best sickening, at worst plainly dangerous. Who knows what kind of outrageous choices a person might realize in a state of love.

Therefore, according to popular wisdom, it is better to obviate as many question marks as possible before attending a date. Dating sites can manage this need very firmly, making sure you are not mismanaging your economic choices, as a kind of postmodern neo-medieval “matrimonial service”, where, in the words of Žižek: “people can fall in love without the fall”. And this is meant to be romantic.

What is puzzling about this is of course that there is a general tendency to try to eliminate tension. And is it not the case, that the sexual tension (total uncertainty) is all excitement there is to romantic love and sex?

Once again, the phenomenology of sexual ideology as a kind of inward mirror might serve as an example. It is for example often thought that sexually conservative people are not worth the effort if you are really looking for sexual activities. But, as said before, what is expressed at face value is more than often the complete opposite to what lures underneath. Or absurdly plainly speaking, people are liars. Think for example of a flirtatious situation in which the other person states “I am a bit prude”, just to ruin your expectations. Do not be fooled, to my interpretation, this always means serious action ahead. What need is there to express prudeness if you are really prude. Just as the old Freudian joke goes: “Why do you tell me that you are going to Krakow when you are really going to Krakow?”

I have heard that even the CIA uses these psychoanalytical techniques when interrogating their tortured subjects. Also, I think Coco Chanel intended something similar when she wrote: “A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.” Following this logic, by contrast, a person that openly states being sexually promiscuous is always, in the aftermath, proven to be as ravingly boring. The tension is then towed away and the act becomes completely predictable. Therefore, the so called free dialogue on sex, sexual freedom of the West, and all the other banal subjects of sexuality that we are constantly exposed to through the spectacle and image of mass culture only serves the function of banalization and control by exclusion of every tension. Furthermore, the dialogue on sexuality in popular culture, that at first glance seem very liberated from taboos, is in effect also restrained by the manuscript of the (pornographic) Hollywood-style sex act. The only difference that the discourse is obliged to address are those of orientation. So, you would be greatly surprised if you ever visit a dating site solely intended for sexual encounters (which I have only done for scientific reasons, of course); that the kind of desires expressed in individually posted ads on these kind of sites can be breathtakingly outrageous, perverse, dirty and crazy. The tensions arising from this mosaic of sexual desires are certainly threatening to any enlightened dialogue on sexuality – and that is why they are so popular, I think.

Have you noticed that despite all the sexual education we receive in the West, in contrast to the “developing world”, we are still on top of the list when it comes to desist protection. Norway are in fact taking the lead. Let me propose that what we really seek is sin, and unprotected sex might just be one of the last bastions of sexual sins we can enjoy.

Concludingly, tension in this sexually enlightened context (the gardeners regime of popular culture) is the equivalent of “horrible” uncertainty. And it goes exactly the same way with love. If you can clearly state a rational explanation to why you love a person, it is certainly the fact that you do not love at all. Nonetheless, popular wisdom has it that we need to know the exact reason for our pursuit of love.

Owing to these factors, the revolution of sexual freedom in the West, might just be a snake eating its own tail over a larger perspective of time.

Think for example about the almost total taboo on “the body” in sexual discourse. It is as if sexuality is no longer simply about sexual identity and orientation, and preferential “turn-ons”, but rather a kind of discursive attitude of bodily integrity trying to escape every reference to forbidden fruits.

In this regard, let me make some examples of the limits of this approach. Think for instance about the phenomenon of sex chat through writing alone. I have of course not done it myself, but a friend of mine told me everything about it. Anyways, is it not almost a fact that sex chat would be regarded as the most suitable way of sexual intercourse for any postmodern subject. Bodies is retracted from the scene, no smells, sweats, and hideous groans, all you got is a kind of discursive sex. Now, the interesting part with sex chat is that if you engage in sexual activities in this way, through words and imagination alone, you will notice that it is absolutely impossible to avoid words that signify certain eroticized body parts, which are also gender specific. How for instance would you linguistically portray a vaginal penetration without mention of words specific to a distinct sex? A paradox is revealed in which imagined sex is more “bodily” than physical sex.

This is where we eat our tail. Because, is it rather not in the physical reality of sexual activities the place where you can actually avoid mention of these severely politicized concepts, such as “that thing” and “that thing”. Bingo! No need to talk about it when your bodies speak for themselves. Then you simply execute the act of sex in its vulgar bodily sense while maintaining a politically correct and proper distance towards the discourse of differences between the sexes and so on, simply by not talking or linguistically narrativize it at all. But while doing it through the mediation of text, which should be the proper postmodern way of doing it, then it is simply impossible. Notwithstanding your intentions, you are forced into deployment of some kind of “feminist blasphemy”.

Concludingly, sex itself, in our Western society, is effectively pornographic and has but a fictional depth. My bottom line is that once you indulge in so much public exposure of skin and body as we do today, everything becomes effectively de-erotized. It has to be forbidden in order for it to be authentically erotic. So, welcome to the new Victorian era of de-erotized sex. Completely liberated from everything, and especially our precious tensions…

But! There is a hidden stray of light on the subject of Love after all. At least, our fatal fear of love, clearly proves that we actually believe in it.

Text: Dennis Halvordsson

How does HIV affect Malawi and its people?

Malawi is ranked as the 9th worst affected country in the world regarding HIV/AIDS. The countries hit by the HIV epidemic are affected on all levels of society, from the individual micro level to the macro level, and will have consequences for a long time. In societies where poverty, gender inequality and social injustice are major problems, the epidemic has spread the most with the most severe effects. HIV has a disproportional effect on poor people; it undermines the development of the society as well as treates individual tragedies in families. There is a strong link between HIV/AIDS and the fall of GDP in Malawi. The same is true for decreased consumption. The economic effects are especially evident within the industry, agriculture, the health and education sector, which erode the ability to develop.

MalawiThe susceptibility to HIV increases with poverty-related issues, such as a lack of knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases and gender-related violence. Human Rights and HIV are closely linked since people’s susceptibility to HIV increases when their human rights are violated. In Malawi 60 % of the adults living with HIV are women. Women are the poorest in the Malawian society, and they face the majority of the new infections. Young people in general and young girls in particular, account for the largest incidence numbers. Women are worst affected by the effects of the epidemic and often need to bear responsibility of relatives. Another vulnerable group is the youth. The number of orphans is huge and they are especially vulnerable for having their rights violated and thereby increasing the risk of getting infected.

In 2010, 12.6 % of the children under 18 were orphans. Also many children are living with HIV: in 2009 around 120 000 children. The demographic consequences can be devastating and changes the whole structure of the society. Discrimination and social exclusion is common. Discriminated groups, among these women, youth and homosexual, often find it difficult to influence their own life. Violation of human rights and discrimination affects not only the spread of HIV, but also the possibilities to get treatment. People are more willing to test themselves for HIV if there is an access to treatment. To be able to halt the spread, it is important that people know if they are infected. Access to treatment might as well reduce the discrimination of the infected. The access to HIV testing is low in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, especially for young men, since some women can get tested through maternal health programs. A problem can be peoples fear to test positive, because of stigma and discrimination. Stigma is a serious problem in Malawi, though it seems as the level of stigma and discrimination is decreasing. Availability of test kits is low, and there is a lack of health staff, partly due to the epidemic. Until 2003, only around 1 % of the adults in Malawi got tested. In 2010, 66 % of the pregnant women got tested due to increased efforts. Living in the rural areas poses further limits to reach those in need of medication or for testing, due to poor infrastructure. Comprehensive knowledge about HIV is still low, despite improvements.

HIV prevalence in Malawi has decreased while the number of people living with HIV has increased. This is related to the number of people dying and being born. Though still high, also the incidence rate has decreased. The number of people dying from AIDS has decreased due to a scaling up of treatment. Overall, there has been a decline of 2 % every year of HIV prevalence in Malawi. This point at an improving situation regarding the numbers.

Text & Photo: Rebecka Hallén

Gay Rights in Tanzania: Interview with a Young Tanzanian Male

-Could you please begin by explaining the legal situation regarding the rights of homosexuals?

In Tanzania homosexuality is punishable under the Penal Code which states that,

homosexuality is considered an unnatural act punishable under the Penal Code, Cap. 16 R.E. 2002, section 154 of which provides that any person who (1) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature or… permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

I want to point out that, one will never know of the Penal Code until one reads about it. This means, as I grew up, I knew it was wrong to be gay and that the society will deal with me severely, taunt me, exclude me and all the other horrible things that one can imagine but I never knew that I could be dealt with LEGALLY. I never knew I could go to jail for this, I just thought it would be much more a societal thing. So until I read it when I was in University, that is when I found out, it is not just society but also the law.

There haven’t been any major cases in Tanzania that sensationalized the issue. So I remember growing up thinking that this is bad and my society would disown me but not so much that I will be persecuted under the law. This changed when I started reading about the issue. So the chances are, if you ask most gay people, they might not be aware of the Penal Code.

Also unlike Uganda, the issue in Tanzania is very low key still. No one is hunted by newspapers and there are no political parties advocating for the massacre of homosexuals just in order to get votes. Even following the statement made by the British High Commission which caused a strong backlash, there hasn’t been much scandal yet.

But homosexuals in Tanzania live in complete obscurity, not telling their parents, relatives or even friends for the fear of being persecuted. This means most of the homosexuals conduct their relations underground through channels they have established. Everything is very secretive.

-Is the situation the same for homosexual women and men?

It is interesting to note that in Zanzibar, a law was enacted that criminalized female homosexuality, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. But at the same time, it seems the Penal Code of mainland doesn’t say much about female homosexuality.

On the other hand, in Tanzania mainland there had been some news on tabloid papers of women who were suspected of being homosexuals. There were speculations that some members of the female football team were lesbians but it was never confirmed. There have been speculations of some female celebrities but also this has never been confirmed.

However, I would say male homosexuals face a much more difficult situation compared to females. Being gay is a sign of losing one’s masculinity and also a sign of male weakness. This becomes much more difficult for homosexual who are effeminate since they are more obvious.

-Are you hiding your homosexuality?

Largely, I would say, yes I am hiding my homosexuality. Coming from a very closed society, conservative and with lack of understanding on the issue, I have to hide my sexuality if I need to maintain ties with family, relatives and friends. It is the sense of double life that I am forced to lead because there is no any other way. I mean, there is another way, but I think it will be so bad that I will have to either stop living in Tanzania altogether.

But I have told a few friends who I believe will not pose any threat to my wellbeing. I have to choose very carefully whom I tell.

-For whom are you hiding?

I will say I am hiding for my own sake with the fear of my parents first and my brothers knowing. Homosexuality has never been something discussed in my household. If we were watching television and there was a piece about a certain country fighting for gay rights, then it would be a tense moment for me. It is almost like, “that horrible thing that we don’t have words for and we think it is the worst sin.” I have indirectly talked to my brothers about this and their comments made me realize that there is no coming out to them. But then I understand their attitudes might change a little bit due to the fact that it was one their own. But still I will never yield to telling them. I would also point out my relatives who will never be able to accept this. We have never talked about it but I understand their position. I feel the greatest worry is what people will say and how this might affect my parents and brothers. I always look at the bigger picture and try not to be selfish. At the end of the day, if it means putting them in danger of being excluded from society in whatever way possible, I won’t do it.

-How does it feel to hide it?

It is one of the most difficult things about my life. It has partly affected the relationship with my parents, brothers and relatives since I strive to maintain a distance from them. This has driven me away from them. I have made peace that probably I will not be able to tell them about me and I will need to grow with that, grow apart from them. I have made this decision weighing a lot of options.  I feel that I need to lie all the time which is very energy consuming. I feel like I am denying myself the right to be who I am, the right to experience life as a normal person and the capacity to be open with my family concerning what is going on in my life. I live a double life whose ends will never meet. As I am coming from a religious family, during my teenage hood I went through a period of self-denial up until the last years of university. The quest was always to find a way to become straight, to become normal. I fought tireless but it was always there. And this is what most Tanzanian homosexuals are going through. It is a sin you are taught and you will go to hell. Religion is really big in Tanzania. I think also this sense of very clear gender roles which have branded homosexuality, like that of males to be a sign of switching gender roles has been the hardest thing to cope with. I remember when I was young and feeling this, I was conscious of the fact that this will mean I will become a woman. Liking men is for women as liking women is for men; there is no in-between. And most of the time there are no role models or anyone you can talk to about this.

-Will you ever tell your family?

After much deliberation and thought, I believe I might not be able to tell them about my homosexuality. My parents would never understand it and they will think they have been cursed to get a gay son. My family is very religious and this will not make this an easy thing. So I have made the decision of not telling them at all, period. Deep inside I feel I might kill them or give them the worst sadness. They will not be happy with this news.

-Have you ever experienced any threat from the society?

No I haven’t put myself in any position to receive the threat. But I do understand my actions of secrecy are geared towards protecting myself from any threat. My society is still a threat that looms above me all the time. I always think, what will happen when they will find out? And it is not a pleasant thought.

-Do you believe the situation is changing, or will it still take a long time?

In Tanzania I think it will take a long time. But maybe it is changing among the very few people who might have gotten the chance to study abroad and befriend members of LGBTI in universities for example. But most of the Tanzanians still do not understand what this means and they are totally against it. Just look at the backlash that arose when the British High Commission said it would stop giving aid if we don’t tolerate homosexuals. The British Government through its High Commission had to issue a statement after seeing the backlash. One thing is that, many people believe homosexuality is a western disease and many believe that there are no homosexuals in Tanzania or there are very few.

-What are your hopes for the homosexuals in Tanzania in the future?

I just hope that one day, no one will need to run away from the country or live in the closet just because he is different. I hope one day young boys and girls will grow up in the society that accepts them regardless of the sexual orientation, a society of tolerance and understanding, and above everything else, a society of love and compassion. For many gay people like me, living in Tanzania requires sacrificing a part of yourself and living a lie. I hope this will change one day.

Interview by: Rebecka Hallén

Homophobia, Gay Conversion Therapy and State Restrictions

To counter anti-gay forces the website “Gay Homophobe” takes advantage of one simple fact: every now and then a known anti-gay advocator are caught in a “scandal” which reveals their homosexuality (hence, a gay homophobe). The website has a counter that keeps track of how many days that have passed since the last time such an event took place. Of course, one could question the ethical aspects of hanging out people on a website like that. The owner of the website explains that the criteria for posting about it are when it concerns (a) people in power that (b) uses that power to advance anti-gay agenda. The purpose of the website is described as a combination of having fun and, on a more serious note, to make it easier for gay conservatives to come out and harder for anti-gay advocators to be taken seriously. (¹)

In other words, even in the midst of strongly homophobic contexts it’s just a matter of time before the next outspokenly anti-homosexual advocator comes out/are revealed to be gay. As I write this, the website says “days since the last prominent homophobe was caught in a gay sex scandal: 98”.

One could hope that such “scandals” makes it more difficult for anti-gay ideologies to thrive. However, for a lot of anti-gay groups homosexuality is something that you can “treat” with therapy. The idea of using therapy to “cure” or “convert” homosexuals into heterosexuality is called conversion therapy (or reparative therapy by some of its proponents), a practice that goes way back and have, at least historically, by no means been an exclusively religious practice. Sigmund Freud indicated that homosexuality could be changed through hypnotisms, and the endocrinologist that influenced Freud, Eugen Steinach, transplanted testicles from straight men into gay men in attempts to change their sexual orientation. Somewhat later Anna Freud claimed to be “successful” in treating homosexuals as a neurotics. Conversation therapy has been more or less well established within psychology and behavioural sciences for a long time. There is of course an obvious parallel here between the overall historical stigmatization of regarding homosexuality as an illness and the scientific interest of “curing” homosexuality into heterosexuality by therapy (just to give an example, when Sweden “removed” homosexuality from being regarded an illness in 1979 it was the first country in the world to do so).

Today conversion therapy is not supported by The American Psychoanalytic Association and many other professional organization while it is not uncommon among some Evangelical or Conservative Christian groups. The question is: should the practice of conversion therapy be forbidden by law? This brings us directly to the heart of liberal paradoxes of freedom vs. state control. In September 2012, as a result of the active work of the largest LGBT-organization in the U.S., California was the first state to sign a bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy or “gay converting” altogether. Governor Jerry Brown who signed the bill explained:

“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery” (²)

This first-of-its-kind law to forbid conversion therapy, set to apply from January 1th (2013), was later blocked by a federal court that issued an “emergency order”, putting the law on hold. This federal court that blocked the bill consisted of a three-judge panel that was backed up by licensed counselors who practices reparative therapy and two families claiming their teenage sons had benefited from it. This conflict of interests will surely continue and if this law will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. (³)

godhatesfagsTo what extent the state should impose restriction applies not only to the practice of pseudo-scientific and mentally damaging therapies, it is in fact a question that extends to homophobia and anti-gay propaganda in general. Such restrictions could become reality for one of the most infamous fundamentalist churches: the Westboro Baptist Church. This group has probably not gone unnoticed by many, it’s the group that are holding those big signs with the slogan “God Hates Fags”. The church is in fact a very small group of people consisting of only 40 members. Despite their size they are constantly put in the spotlight and given attention, on the internet and in media, something that could de-emphasize the wider problem of homophobia as a broader structure and institutionalized ideology. That being said, the Westboro Baptist Church is of course a relentless attention-craving homophobic group. They actually travel around from state to state, ruining funerals and picketing (protesting) whatever they think is “sinful” (which is of course just about anything). So to return to the question of freedom vs. state control, how should one deal with groups such as Westboro Baptist Church? What would Jesus do? Would he turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) or would he go berserk and ruff up their place (Matthew 21:12)? The Westboro Baptist Church are actually facing serious opposition. A petition on the White House’s digital platform that calls the U.S. government to officially designate the Westboro Baptist Church a “hate group” has been the most popular petition so far, with more than 265 000 signatures. Other petitions calling the government to revoke Westboro Baptist Church’s tax-exempt status have also been immensely popular. (4)

If this becomes a reality (fingers crossed) it will surely be followed by interesting debates as well as people defending their “fundamental” liberalist right to exercise and spread homophobia. All while the counter on Gayhomophobe.com keeps being reset.

Text: David Westerberg
Photo: Elvert Barnes @Ipernity

Death penalty for being gay

Imagine to have your personal life published in a major newspaper: details of your sexual orientation, your phone number and your home address, and the only reason for why they are published is because you are gay- Yes you heard me right. I can’t possibly imagine how those people feel. How would you feel if you got your personal information shared with millions of people?

Homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda since the colonial time; the penalty for homosexual acts is life imprisonment, but in 2009 a lawmaker from the ruling party said that a stronger law was needed to protect Uganda’s children from homosexuals. Parliamentarian David Bahati accused wealthy homosexuals from the West were “recruiting” poor children into gay lifestyles with promises of money and a better life.

If not that was enough, the Ugandan parliament are now trying to pass a bill called the Anti-homosexuality bill, informally called “Kill the gays”. This law will criminalize same-sex relationship, people who promote LGBT rights in Uganda and they risk the death penalty for loving people of the same sex. Uganda’s Parliament will once again consider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it reconvenes in 2013. Many western countries have accused the Ugandan government for their lack of action when it comes to this bill and David Cameron, Premier Minister of the United Kingdom, threatened to cut aid over the poor gay rights records.

Many gay activists in Uganda have confirmed that the LGBT community is fleeing Uganda, and it will only get worse if this bill is passed by the parliament. The problem is that they have nowhere to flee: just over the border to Kenya similar homophobic acts are accruing.

The LGBT movement in Uganda have lost faith in their government, their countrymen and now, for lack of harsh enough reactions, the international community. It is certainly time to wake up and smell the coffee and see that the world isn’t a perfect a place, as not everyone is free to love who they want. Uganda is just one example; there are many countries in the world where same-sex relationships are against the law, and where homosexuals face death penalty.

Text: Yacob Rajes