While on this IDAHOT we remember those who have been brutalized and murdered as a result of Homophobia, which is supported through misinformation about gays and lesbian: African Human Rights Coalition Executive director, Melanie Nathan sent a letter (below) to Gretha Wiid, a self styled relationship specialist, who runs camps for teens and children and speaks at South African high schools on various topics impacting life, and relationships, to include commentary on her beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex relationships. Wiid reflects on homosexuality, in a manual, and in her teachings, as a choice and her views as expressed are extremely damaging, exacerbating an atmosphere of homophobia, which has the propensity to cause or contribute to the violence, exclusion and discrimination suffered by LGBTQI people. South Africa, notwithstanding its all inclusive constitution, is plagued by homophobia and violence against LGBT people, especially in the Townships. Wiid's verbiage, touting homosexuality as a choice, implies it is curable. This feeds, props up and taps into , in our opinion, an atmosphere prone to incite violence against lesbians, whom many believe can be "cured" through so called "corrective" rape. Corrective rape is tantamount to a hate crime. Homophobia and heteronormativity, such as displayed by Ms. Wiid's teachings and written dicta, creates or contributes to the atmosphere that is supportive of these hate crimes against gay men and lesbians. And this no doubt encourages and supports the reactions by the broader community, the failed responses by government, police and justice systems, all contributing to this endemic problem of corrective rape. Many people are led to believe corrective rape can fix people who do not conform to gender norms or who are not heterosexual. Survivors often report being told that they were ‘being taught a lesson.’ Some perpetrators of the hate crime are impelled by a sense of misogyny and chauvinism, all of which Ms. Wiid seems to support through her regressive "Worthy Women" backlash side shows and high school teachings. (Read here) Despite the scientific community evidencing that sexual orientation is the result of biology- many people like Wiid, do not believe that homosexuality (or other forms of non-heterosexuality) has a genetic basis and instead believe it is only the result of one’s environment or a choice. Because of this, some of these people believe sexual orientation can be changed, or in this case, fixed. This serves only to exacerbate the problem. An article describing the problem and quoting this letter we wrote to Ms Wiid can be found at the blog post which went viral, reaching over 20,000 readers. The Article can be read HERE. After the below letter went viral in the article, Ms Wiid failed to respond to us and then attempted damage control with a Facebook Video, where she acknowledged being bombarded by concerned community. In her video she doubles down on her assertions and makes excuses for her uneducated ill informed commentary.
We have been informed that several complaints against Ms Wiid have been submitted to the South African Human Rights Commission.
HERE IS African HRC's letter to Gretha Wiid, to which there has been no direct response. When asked on GAYSA Radio about the lack of response fro Wiid, Nathan expressed she felt that Wiid was cowardly in failing to communicate directly on the issue, noting that instead Wiid took to the perceived safety of Facebook to try and justify her work: Dear Ms. Gretha Wiid,
May 09, 2017
It is with deep concern that I am writing to you.
I was sent a copy of a page from a manual which you apparently have written with regard to the raising of children, wherein you discuss homosexuality in a manner that conveys absolute ignorance and sets parents and children up for great harm. Homosexuality is not a choice.
You cannot have a “feeling” about what you think “causes” homosexuality – anymore than you can have a “feeling” why God gave some people black skin and others white skin. In the old days this type of “feeling” was used to justify Apartheid and now you use the same basis to reflect on why people are lesbian or homosexual. The danger of your dicta (notably your feeling in print) is the homophobia that results from it.
You have said you do not believe that people are born homosexual and much more – and it is this very type of talk that serves to justify the bullying, persecution and violence LGBT people are subjected to. However what makes your publication even more insidious is the fact its directed to parents, who are often on the frontline of the love and care needed to nurture children/teens when they come out. You direct your work at these parents who when believing homosexuality is a choice often kick kids out of their homes, resulting very often in homelessness and worse yet, suicide.
I am the Executive Director of the African Human Rights Coalition. Our organization was constructed as a direct result of the persecution caused by Christian Evangelicals, who in the name of Jesus and God invoke lies and myth which have resulted in the direct persecution of LGBT people. Everyday we are dealing with young people who have been banished from villages, evicted from homes, fired from jobs, assaulted, or blackmailed and tortured by police. These victims of persecution are borne from the language and myth that you have perpetuated in your written manual. These are not people who gleefully want to be gay as so shamefully portrayed in your writing. In fact when given the awful intolerance many fight off the urges of their innate sexuality and gender identity in attempts to be who they are not! This is anything BUT a choice! Without these teachings – where you assert that homosexuality is not innate but rather a choice, none of this persecution would be happening. But myth serves to scapegoat and it creates a climate of fear and divisiveness instead of inclusion, and love. I do not think Jesus preached the former, but imagine that he would have preferred the latter!
I would also like to point out that the perpetuation of untruths which serve to cause direct or indirect harm can be interpreted as “hate speech’. In South Africa LGBT people are considered equal to all other South Africans and their protection as such includes the right to their sexuality, and an ability to live without fear of the violence brought on by hate speech.
You have your absolute right to your freedom of expression – so long as it is truthful and does not hurt anyone else. And no one is stopping you from freely practicing your religion. There is nothing stopping your belief in Jesus and God. And your ability to pay homage, pray, and speak in the name of your religion. However when the manner in which you convey message, when you assert blatant lies and insert your “feelings” as if truth – it can crush others and so you are stepping on dangerous turf.
There is a scientific explanation behind homosexuality. You would better serve God if you wrote about this subject in an informed educated way. Lest we forget, that if you choose to quote the bible in this context, it is indeed an ever evolving work, that can indeed handle scientific parallels and contextual interpretations.
Please let me know if you would be willing to review your material and revise your publication with corrections, and also if you would be willing to issue an apology to the LGBT community. I am not sure how much harm has been done at this point, yet it is never too late to right a wrong.
MELANIE NATHAN, Esq. Executive Director AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION nathan@AfricanHRC.org www.AfricanHRC.org
CC. GLAAD SOUTH AFRICA
In our continued plea to Ms. Wiid and others to change their harmful message we would like to honor the memory of the following South African lesbians who were brutalized and murdered through hate crimes against lesbians. In each of these cases it is believed that so called corrective rape played a role:
Duduzile (Dudu) Zozo
Gift Disebo Makau
Hendrietta (Andritha) Thapelo Morifi
Sizakele Sigasa, Salome Masooa