... and his straight talk masks a bent attitude

Saturday, 2 September 1995

Robert Mugabe's crusade against homosexuals makes one wonder whether there's a bone in his closet

A PERFECTLY relaxing Sunday afternoon braai suddenly turned into an intense (and somewhat drunken) discussion this week when I wandered into the kitchen and asked one of our hosts for paper plates.

"Paper plates are for moffies," he informed me, passing me a stack of stoneware. As I pondered this advice, my partner raised a question. What about the conventional wisdom that dish washing was for "moffies"?

Heads came together. Quick looks were exchanged. This was clearly a problem! Finally, our other host ventured: "Dishwashing is for the maid who comes in the following morning." He smiled triumphantly. His co-host did so too. The matter was resolved.

I hang out with some strange people sometimes.

The offhand reference to "moffies" was a sharp reminder about the reality of living in South Africa. In modern, first world society, words like "faggot" or "queer" normally pop up in conversation at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. (That's jargon for "poor uneducated" people.) But our hosts were well-educated, well-read, and have a common acquaintance who happens to be homosexual, and whom they like.

Now if you were to ask the same two how they felt about gay rights, they'd definitely speak for it. (While pointing out they themselves were perfectly normal well-adjusted heterosexual males who have great affinity for the opposite sex, preferably in the shape of a pool full of naked babes...)

The fact is most "normal well-adjusted heterosexual" men do not find themselves mentally threatened by lesbians. Many male sexual fantasies involve more than one woman at a time. Lesbian pornography is a huge industry, and the primary consumers of lesbian pornography are men.

So when Robert Mugabe throws his toys out of the cot and starts flailing about like a demented windmill about homosexuality, one assumes he is talking about male homosexuals.

Fond as I am of Mugabe, he has shown over the years that he has never really grasped some essentials of democracy.

This is why detention without trial remained on Zimbabwe's statute books and was enforced by his government. This is why he is able to sidestep constitutional procedure to talk of one-party states, land grabbing, and the need to deal with the threat of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism.

There is no such thing as "gay rights", for exactly the same reason that there is no such thing as "white rights", "black rights", "Jewish rights", "Muslim rights" or "Hindu rights". But every black, white, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu person has the same rights as every homosexual or heterosexual.

It's called freedom of association. Every person has the right to associate with another person or people, whether it's for stamp-collecting, sharing in a religious ceremony, rugby playing, or sexual intercourse.

This is why homosexuals in South Africa are free to "roam the streets" as SAfm put it. Men and women have the right to befriend and cohabit not because the government gives them permission to do so, but because they are consenting adults. The same applies to men and men, or women and women. No one says you have to like it. No one says I have to like it. But if you believe that you have the right to freedom of association, then you cannot deny that right to another person.

Do gay people have the right to adopt children and raise families? If you accept that any single person has the right to raise a family, then any two people living together have the same right, whether they are man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman.

The state does have an interest in the well-being of children. Parents are not allowed to abuse their children. If a parent (or any adult) tries to involve a child in sexual activity, that's a crime and punishable as such. This is true whether or not the perpetrator is gay.

Mugabe is distracting us from more real issues. Like how R70 million of stolen cars from this country ended up in Zimbabwe. Our people are being killed to provide those cars. Isn't that more important than who's sleeping with whom?