I am a bigot. That’s right. I am guilty of the same vice to which I have dedicated reams of paper and of which I have criticised many others — mainly whites.
My vice is that I am homophobic.
Typical of bigots, I always argued — at least to myself — that I had no problem with what consenting adults of either sex did in the comfort of their homes. But I added a caveat. It disgusted me to see them engaged in that consensual act.
My epiphany was unspectacular. There were no mystery voices or burning bushes.
It all happened at a lunch with a television researcher, who I now hope I can call a friend. For only friends can make you come face to face with the real you without making you feel like a lesser person.
Until now no one would have mistaken Fourth Street in Parkhurst, northern Johannesburg, for a pilgrimage site. But that is where it happened.
Until she pressed me to see it in this light, I ignored the similarity between what I said about gay people and how I described the racism of those who have no problem with blacks as long as they remain in their “locations” or “homelands”.
A sign of my bigotry is my discomfort with homosexuals displaying affection in public, although I have no problem with others — heterosexuals — doing the same.
If I was not a bigot, I would have written a column about something that has troubled me for a long time.
There is a radio advert in which a grandmother reads a letter over the phone to her grandson. The letter had arrived at her home and she decides to read it to him to save him the trip of fetching it. The letter, it turns out, is from another man, which — if I am interpreting it correctly — shows the grandson is gay.
The Post Office advert then urges all to “keep our secrets secret”, the subtext being that homosexuality is shameful and it should be kept under wraps. One way of doing this, it suggests, would be to get a private postbox.
I had hoped the gay movement would take issue with this form of marketing. How could a state-owned enterprise flight an advert that judges homosexuality without anyone pointing out that this offends our constitutional right to dignity and equality regardless of orientation?
The reason I did not write the article was that I could not “risk” people thinking I was gay. What if “they” arrived at this conclusion. Surely if I am not sleeping with you, I should not be bothered about what you think of my sexual orientation?
It made me realise that I had placed a value judgement on homosexuality, using my own judgement as a benchmark against which all others should be judged.
If someone told me my table manners were poor because I often use my hands when I eat, I would quickly brand that person a cultural imperialist.
So what logical right do I have to judge which sexual orientation is shameful?
In case you think I am enjoying my newly found status as a bigot, you are wrong. It is totally unsettling and humbling to discover that I am capable of bad as well as good, just like everyone else.
Happily, I have the privilege of using a space such as this to find some catharsis.
As a victim of institutional bigotry, there are few things that I abhor more than the belief that some humans are lesser because they are not like us.
I am not a preacher, so I am not going to give a sermon about whether anybody should renegotiate his or her own attitude towards homosexuals or any other category of people.
This is an expression of my shocked system: that I am not as progressive as I — and perhaps others — might have thought. It makes me wonder what else I might take for granted, regarding it as part of the natural order of things.
Philosopher David Hume might have been addressing me directly when he wrote in the seminal A Treatise of Human Nature:
“Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice — You can never find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action. Here is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling, not reason.”
How about we start Bigots Anonymous? I suspect we would have plenty of potential members in our country.