Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Gay Couple in Malawi Pardoned

Heartening news from eastern Africa: the president of Malawi has pardoned the gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

The BBC reports that President Bingu Wu Mutharika announced the pardon during a visit by UN head Ban ki-Moon. Mutharika seemed to enact the pardon with a sense of duty and under international pressure, still hewing to his country’s discriminatory culture:

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

Whether a political move or out of humanitarian largesse, the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is welcome news. Perhaps the win for human rights in Malawi will affect the virulently homophobic culture in other African nations.

On a related note, Current television broadcast a fantastic documentary about the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda called Missionaries of Hate. A thorough, well-researched piece of investigative journalism that I highly recommend.

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Filed under: africa, gay rights, global justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

CNN: Blacks & Gay Equality

CNN presents a special report on “Blacks and Gay Equality”. The “down low”, black churches, Obama’s promise of gay equality: CNN anchor Don Lemon poses the issues to a panel of prominent African American men, including authors, college seniors, and preachers, including Tyree ‘DJ Drama Simmons, Bishop Eddie Long, Tyrone McGowan, and Steve Perry.

imageDBMy favorite quote comes from author Farrah Gray, who says, “Many of us live in the 51st state of the United States: the state of Denial.” He admits the problem of African American homophobia did not come to his attention until the publication of J.L. King’s ground-breaking book, On the Down Low.

Citing a speech by President Obama at the recent Human Rights Campaign fundraiser, the newsclip presents sound bytes about the African American community and its issues with homophobia. Interesting fact: The leading cause of death for African American women, aged 25-34, is HIV/AIDS. Though the assumption by one of the guests is that this is linked directly to the down low, this health statistic is surprising–and worrisome–nonetheless.

Filed under: gay rights, homophobia, racism, , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama making amends with gay community?

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It was announced this morning that openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson will be giving an invocation at Obama’s inaugural kick-off event on Sunday. This will be two days before the official inauguration where the less-than-gay-friendly pastor Rick Warren will deliver another prayer during the swearing-in on Tuesday.

This is a positive development for gay and lesbian folks who supported Obama in his presidential campaign. While so many of us were miffed at the choice of Rick Warren, whose anti-gay rhetoric and support of African churches that discriminate against homosexuals is well documented, this last-minute addition of Robinson should come as good news.

This action gets me wondering, though: Is this just spin control? Should we be asking why Robinson was added to the festivities this late in the game?

Or should we just smile and say thank you for throwing the gay community a bone?

Filed under: gay rights, government, politics

Black? Gay? Blacks vs Gays?

081113_hn_gaypowerexMany in the media have pointed toward two groups of voters who defeated gay marriage in California: members of the Mormon church and African Americans.

This first group, Mormons, I agree with–the church encouraged its members to contribute to the campaign, resulting in $22 million to end gay marriage (the most spent on any social issue in the United States).

The second group, however–African Americans–I’m not so sure I agree with.

The thrust behind this antagonism toward African Americans largely comes from exit polls that cite statistics such as this one about Prop 8 in California:

Whites and Asian-Americans, comprising 69 percent of California’s electorate, opposed Proposition 8 by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Latinos favored it, 53-47. But blacks turned out in historically high numbers—10 percent of the electorate—and 70 percent of them voted for Proposition 8.

Drawing inferences from these numbers can be elusive. For example, African Americans are not a homogeneous group–they possess a variety of beliefs, morals, politics, and sexualities. Unlike Mormons, who possess a similar belief system, politics, and sexuality.

A surprising article in Slate this morning tries to break down why African Americans believe that homosexuality is a choice. Slate’s editors have chosen to analyze the loss of gay rights through the lens of African American prejudice. In his article, William Saletan cites the victory of Barack Obama and the confirmation of gay prejudice on election night. He then asks:

Why, then, are the people targeted by those laws supporting bans on same-sex marriage?The answer is: They think sexual orientation is different from race. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a nation in which individuals would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This kind of rhetoric–the choice of discourse itself–attempts to divide both the African American community, as well as African Americans and other ethnic groups. It’s a topic that encourages blame toward one ethnic group rather than finding those African Americans who support civil rights for all. It’s the same kind of institutionalized racism that pits minority groups against one another instead of encouraging them to unify, to collaborate, to strengthen their power through caucus rather than division.

Filed under: politics, , , , ,

Homosexuality: Like Terrorism, A Disease, “Spreading Like Wild Fire”

Ugandan newspaper editor Giles Muhami has some pretty horrendous things to say about homosexuality: that it’s similar to terrorism, that it’s a disease, and that it’s “spreading like wild fire.” Be sure to protect your kids.

Muhami recently printed a newspaper article in his Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone (not to be affiliated with the U.S. magazine of the same name) that calls for gays and lesbians to be hanged.

For mainstream media to promote hatred and violence against any human is deplorable. In my travels through central and western Africa, I have listened to hatred and ignorant ideas about gays and lesbians; it’s even worse to see anti-gay opinions published in African newspapers as fact, irresponsible journalism unconcerned with the privacy of the gay and lesbian Africans named in these articles.

But even more than privacy or social ill, the negative reporting is a matter of safety for gay and lesbians. At least four people have been attacked since the article was published:

Carrying the headline “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos,” the article came out just days before the one year anniversary of the introduction of a controversial bill in parliament that would make homosexuality, which is illegal in Uganda, punishable by death in some cases.

I had thought the Bahati Bill–anti-gay legislation introduced by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan parliament–had died down. Apparently, the hate against LGBT Ugandans (and supported by evangelical churches in the U.S.) is as present as ever.

Filed under: gay rights, hate, homophobia, world, , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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