Analysis

The ties that bind us

Valencia Talane

"Oh, I don't have a problem with them, as long as they stay out of my face," said a male friend of mine in reply to a discussion on same-sex marriage.

“Oh, I don’t have a problem with them, as long as they stay out of my face,” said a male friend of mine in reply to a discussion on same-sex marriage.

My first reaction was disgust at being associated with someone who thinks this way.

“What do you mean, ‘stay out of your face?’”, I asked. “You don’t have the same standards for all other couples who marry, precisely because you assume they have better things to do than be in your face. Why would it be any different with a gay or lesbian couple?”

In his defence, another member of the group said something along the lines of how ‘Mr Stay-Out-Of-My-Face” was only expressing what the rest of us were already thinking—but wouldn’t dare say—lest we be judged as ignorant and prejudiced. Hard as it was to admit, he had a point.

The fact that we were discussing gay marriage in the first place, besides the topic was in the news a lot, meant that we had opinions and feelings, some prejudiced and perceived as negative, while others were more guarded and diplomatic for fear of being controversial. Some people went along with the quiet diplomacy approach (ie, not wanting to rock the boat until they had some idea of the direction it was sailing).

In a nutshell, we were a microcosm of the world and its issues, influences and standards, but why did we care about people who marry one of their own sex if it wasn’t in some way a threat to our own lives?

I live primarily by creating boundaries around me to keep what I don’t want as a part of me out. The point of this isn’t to hurt others or play at being superior to them. However, it is to protect what I know to be good and safe for my wellbeing.

This begs the question: are we only offensive and degrading if we articulate the need for these boundaries? Or is it when we start thinking anything and anyone different from us cannot possibly be better than us?

As I write this, two Malawian men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, are sitting in a Blantyre jail, having been arrested and charged with ‘contravening the laws that forbid acts of homosexual practices”. They are gay and took part in the country’s first same-sex marriage and from what I gather the odds are largely against them in furthering gay rights in their country.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga now have to defend their actions—not only against authorities but also to fellow Malawians—who view their union as being un-Christian and worthy of punishment. Their wedding would not have made headlines in many other countries simply because it would be no-one’s business but theirs.

Had I not read the comments on the M&G Online over the past couple of days responding to articles on Jacob Zuma’s wedding to Thobeka Madiba, I would have gone on merrily assuming that readers have more important things to do than drag this into another race debate.

But what stood out from the comments was the need by people to keep hammering on the issue of being different and perceived as either superior or inferior.

What is it about us being different from one another that makes us so finicky?

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