Not just a ‘third-world’ problem

Posted on 12 May 2011 at 1:10pm

News of yet another ‘corrective rape’ in South Africa makes headlines, but a quick bit of research shows the U.S. faces similar problems

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

I grew up in a different age. It was the 1950s and everyone was supposed to live in a Donna Reed family with 2.5 kids and a dog. At home, Father knew best and wives were re-christened “homemakers,” clearly showing their place in the family hierarchy.

Outside the hetero-normative illusion, there were those strange folks who lived on the shadowy fringes of society. They were never called by name, but I soon learned they were “pansies” and presented a marked difference in their mannerisms and speech.

One group that was never spoken of was lesbians. They were there, but so invisible they were beyond consideration.

Oh sure, I had female gym teachers who were more masculine than any pre-teen boy ever hoped to be, but they were “athletic.” And my maiden aunt and her “friend” who lived together for 30 years after serving in the WACs were just “spinsters” who never met the right man.

When I finally did hear of lesbians, it was in the context of some strange porn fantasy. The voyeuristic thrill of watching women together was an ideal teenager fantasy, at least for straight male teenagers.

Over and over again I heard men and teens boasting that the only “problem with lesbians is they never got it from the right man.”

It seemed that men — or more specifically a man’s penis — could solve any problem when it came to sexual orientation.

That myth has died down somewhat in this country. But apparently it is alive and well in South Africa.

A 13-year-old girl who was perceived as a lesbian was “correctively raped” in that country. The savage attack on her is not the first, as violence against lesbians increases. Last month, well-known LGBT activist Noxolo Nogwaza was murdered, presumably because of her sexual orientation.

The trend toward men raping lesbians to “fix” them has risen alarmingly in a country with some of the most progressive laws in the world concerning LGBT people. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Dipika Nath, a researcher with Human Rights Watch said, “The vicious nature of the assault is a potent reminder that these attacks are premeditated, planned, and often committed with impunity.”

This isn’t a new trend. Last year last, Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa’s national female football squad, was a victim of a “corrective rape.” She did not survive the gang rape and subsequent stabbings.

So far the South African government has not made these crimes a priority. A “committee” was formed to investigate the latest case, but this has been going on for several years.

You might think this is just a problem in Africa. Well, think again.

An American judge, Joseph A. Rehyansky (actually a part-time magistrate), was quoted as saying in an online interview that lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military and not gay men.

Why? Well this quote explains it pretty well: “It would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.”

He goes on to further muse about evolution: “It fell to men to swing through the trees and scour the caves in search of as many women as possible to subdue and impregnate — a tough job but someone had to do it.”

Once again all those pesky lesbians need is the right penis!

Old myths die hard, and this one has a zombie-like ability to resurface again and again. I have to wonder what it will take to put a stake in its heart forever.

I serve on the board of a non-profit human rights organization, and I am amazed at how people in the United States always think “human rights violations” are things that only happen in third-world countries.

Well, welcome to reality. If you consider sexuality a basic human right, the U.S. scores pitifully. With attitudes like Rehyansky’s and with the continued myth of “corrective rape” that apparently is still in our nation’s consciousness. we still have a long way to go.

It’s time we began looking at the reality of human rights in our own country. It’s time we discarded the 1950s mythos when most problems could be solved by just letting the “right man” handle the job.

I am reminded of the adage that says, “To a carpenter with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Well, being a lesbian is not a problem, and it certainly doesn’t need fixing by a man swinging his “hammer.”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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