An Interview with the Natal Witness

In February 2000, Stephen Coan of The Natal Witness, an alarmingly able journalist, interviewed Sally for a three-part account of my life. The Witness ran it as one long article recently. A decade having passed, she agreed to draft an update.

Religion looms large in my life-narrative. My Christian commitment and faith died slowly and painfully of the probably calculated denial of the nourishment of fellowship it needed. Like many Quakers, I’m universalistic, not Christian. Since my mobility has deteriorated, making walking and even sitting for an hour in a Meeting House chair problematic, and since my body needs a weekly “sleep in"?, my attendance at Sunday morning Quaker meetings has lapsed. Occasional short meeting for worship at my house, sitting silently together in comfortable chairs, are a joy.

Buddhist meditation practice, especially mindful breathing, is important to me. The most profound experience of my life was at a week-long Buddhist meditation retreat when I was in the Order. For a while, the mind was free of hindrances. Its inherent luminosity emerged and time seemed to stop in an extraordinary epiphany of bliss and sheer grace. Sitting cross-legged is now beyond me and sitting up is problematic, so I tend to meditate in a recliner-chair.

The teachings of the Buddha, his “Dhamma", especially in the Pali, speak powerfully to me. This is not really new. As a student in my Order Order, I was probably the only Jewish Dominican friar to be secretary of a University Buddhist Society. I don’t view the Buddha’s Dhamma as religion: it’s more a philosophy of life.

In and through all of this, I’m Jewish. This is cultural rather than religious, though Rabbinical literature is dear to me, and does not entail uncritical support for the actions of Israeli governments.

“Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?" ? This question underpinned my belief in God. The mystery-shaped answer was “God"?. Around two years back I realised that I no longer believe that the question has meaning. It pushes beyond the bounds of sense for finite creatures. Thus I’m an atheist, somewhat to my own surprise, but this doesn’t change the tenor of my life.

More substantially, I reject much in scripture – the commandments to exterminate the Amalekites and the Canaanite nations, for example. Genocide is wrong, “divinely commanded" or not. Mad spirals of violence in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere, driven by “us-versus-them" attitudes with deep roots in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, suggest that the “Abrahamic faiths"? tend to bear strange, toxic fruit.

Recently, a Buddhist friend introduced me to an acupuncturist-cum-Rabbi. He wasn’t thrown by my life-history and atheism, and I’m amazed at his openness. He noted that the Zohar, a seminal Jewish mystical text, distinguishes derekh, well-charted highway, from netiv, uncharted trail. A few are unsuited to the derekh, the path of conventional communal and religious life: a netiv is their destiny. The derekh was not for me; I’m on a unique netiv. Rabbinics, powerful Christian archetypes, the Dhamma and my Jewishness are all part of this.

Rejection by my Order and the Roman Curia still hurts, and I still miss religious life. Some years back, I sent a formal letter to the Roman Curia to protest at the dishonesty with which I was handled. I felt bound to express some outrage while seeking closure. Unsurprisingly, there was no response.

In the film “The Mission" a character, having sinned grievously, drags a heavy bundle containing the armour and sword of his violent past with him everywhere as a penance. In some ways, the continued crippling impact of ostracism by the Order and Church was like that.

Moved by this image, I e-mailed Malcolm McMahon, the Dominican who drove the process which shattered my life, now a Bishop. I explained that I sought closure. While his actions had been ill-judged, it was water under the bridge, I had no wish to diabolize him, and offered him my friendship. To his great credit, he replied soon afterwards. He saw me as a friend, but felt he’d acted in the Order’s and Church’s best interests. What I’d done was courageous, but he believed it wrong. I’m not sure what he contends I’ve done, but am grateful to him for responding so quickly and honestly.

Recently, I managed to make contact with Timothy Radcliffe, Master of the Order during my ordeal. He responded warmly, expressing the hope that we might meet some day.

I still work for the Regional Land Claims Commission in the Western Cape, as Research and Policy Advisor. The Commission’s work is almost finished, and what lies ahead is uncertain.

That my body is failing looms large. Diminished mobility makes public transport inaccessible, while eye-problems prevent driving. The expense of getting to and from work is unsustainable, so getting out and about is beyond my means. This is isolating. It isn’t due to intersex. Highly pressured work and the deep wounds from the past have taken a toll. Several lifetimes’ worth of experience are packed into 56 years, and perhaps my health problems reflect this. My body is like a car which bears the marks of heavy and productive use.

Since 2000, I’ve drafted amendments bearing on intersex for the Alteration of Sex Descriptions Bill and the Promotion of Equality Act, and these have been lobbied into law. Getting intersex into the Promotion of Equality Act is the weightier of the two. Lobbying persuaded the SA Human Rights Commission that intersex is a serious human rights issue. This yielded an SAHRC workshop three years back which looked at the imposition of genital surgery on intersexed infants and children, and the possible need for legislation.

Through Engender, an NGO on whose board I serve, funds were raised to set Intersex South Africa up formally as an Engender project with a full-time coordinator. My role is advisory. It has a website and has been served by two coordinators who developed literature and ran numerous workshops, though it is without a coordinator right now.

Much needs to be done to educate the public about intersex. They need to learn that it is part of the fabric of human diversity and not a threat, a rights issue and not pathology. Teachers and curricula need content about it. Medical students need input from a medical-ethics and human rights perspective. Religious leaders need to be educated about it to educate others. Research about the prevalence of intersex in SA, and about attitudes and practices, is needed. We need legislation to limit and regulate non-consensual genital surgery on the intersexed, and legislation must be screened with implications for the intersexed in mind.

The past three years have convinced me that, while NGO involvement is helpful, it is not sufficient. Government needs to act as a catalyst. A modest Directorate with a Director, a deputy director and one or two administrative assistants-cum-project-officers, within the department for Women, Persons with Disabilities and Children, and with a mandate to engage with other Departments regarding the rights and needs of the intersexed, could achieve a great deal at minimal cost. My knowledge, experience, skills and commitment would be best deployed in such a context while my body still permits it.

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Don’t let Intolerance ruin your Life

Being gay, lesbian, transgender or any of the other “titles” given to those of us who do not fit into the sexual conventions of society is not easy. Many of us are forced to hide in the proverbial “closet” for years for fear of being ostracized and ridiculed by friends, family and colleagues should we dare to be our true selves. Living this double life, wearing a mask for years, hiding our sexual identity creates tremendous emotional pressure, not to mention unwarranted feelings of shame and guilt. Many of us, in a last ditch attempt to cope, turn to drink, drugs or prescription medication to escape the loneliness and shame. Prescription drugs are prescribed by your doctor to help with a certain illness or physical issue. Mostly these drugs provide relief, but only when used as instructed. Overuse or regular use outside of the prescribed dose can lead to problems and your body may develop a tolerance, you will then need to keep increasing the dose to reach the same desired results. This can then result in addiction, overdose and even death. There is hope though. It is not uncommon for people like us to to stumble into addiction. Fortunately South Africa has some of the most well staffed drug rehabilitation centres in the world, attracting clients from around the globe. The popular drug rehabs in Cape Town are often more than 70% occupied with visitors from overseas, many of whom are gay, lesbian or transgender.

transgender-south-africa

The general prescription drugs that have addictive qualities are:

  • Opiates: These help to relieve pain and are one of the most common addictive drugs
  • Anti-depressants: These treat anxiety, depression and panic disorders. These include barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
  • Stimulants: Drugs that can treat things like ADHD and obesity (weight loss). These drugs help to increase alertness and energy.

Opiates

  • Codeine: It is mainly used for pain relief and can be found in many over the counter medication as well as in prescription drugs. It is often combined with aspirin and ibuprofen and produces a sedative or even a euphoric effect. It is very easy to become dependent on this drug and care should be taken when consuming too many.
  • Oxycodone: This drug can create a euphoric and sedative effect. Prescribed to reduce moderate or severe pain. This drug can cause some people to become tolerant and dependant, ending in addiction.

Somebody who is addicted to opiates such as, Oxycodone is at a 40% higher risk of developing a heroin addiction.

  • Pethidine (Demerol): A synthetic opiate that helps to reduce pain. The drug was designed to be less addictive, but still has a high risk of dependency. The main reason for abusing this drug is its euphoric effects. Misuse of this drug can also cause seizures and confusion.

Anti-depressants

  • Xanax: The prescription medication alprazolam, Xanax being the trade name, can be found in the group of drugs known as benzodiazepines. This is often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Anybody using this drug should be very cautious as patients who follow the exact prescription can become addicted before they realize it.
  • Valium: Diazepam sold as Valium can also be found in the group of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Commonly prescribed for conditions like, anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. This highly addictive drug has a variety of uses but can cause drowsiness, confusion and in serious cases even coma.
  • Pentobarbital: This drug acts on the nervous system and slows brain activity down. Mainly used as sedation before surgery it can also be used for insomnia and treatment for seizures in an emergency. This drug is part of the barbiturate family and thus has addictive qualities. A person on this drug may have to have professional help and treatment to stop using it.

Stimulants:

  • Amphetamines: A nervous system stimulant that is prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy and in cases of obesity. The drug is abused because of its stimulant effects and is very similar in effect as cocaine. Many people take the drug for other purposes to help them stay awake. For example shift workers or truck drivers take the drug to keep awake.
  • Ritalin: A central nervous system stimulant, Ritalin and is used in cases where people have ADHD. Ritalin can be habit forming and can lead to other serious side effects, especially on the heart if used incorrectly.

Rehabs and treatment centres are not the only option. There has been an increasing number of sober living houses or sober homes sprouting up. One such establishment is Liberty Home, a place of safety for sober living Cape Town. Do you suspect a loved one who is abusing any of these medications? Be aware of the signs and symptoms of prescription drugs and take the next important step of getting professional help. This can be in the form of counselling and rehabilitation. The most important thing to remember is not to wait to get help, but to get treatment immediately.

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Struggling with Coming Out ?

With the burgeoning from the lesbian and gay rights movement in the US during the past 40 years is here an influx of lesbian writers who’re publishing through both traditional and non-traditional channels. These lesbian authors have proven that lesbian-themed books of all types can be successful and well accepted. They can take on the best of books by non lesbian authors.

When they’re looking inside women seeking women dating area of whatever classified they’re looking at, they generally see that their option is far and few. Sometimes in most with the popular publications they will often even have to pay money to get hold of the person to find out about meeting up. It is extremely difficult to find someone they’re works with within the women seeking women dating section, because there are just so few women to pick from. Also other women on the website usually want much more compared to what your ex might be ready to give right now. Another shut off is some women are way too eager to use a face-to-face meeting instead of being patient and waiting until the woman is ready to meet directly.

I want to tell you about an amazing “coming out” story. Recently I watched a video of the 10-year-old biological boy who, in tears, told his mother he is a real girl. Wow!! I had tears within my own eyes, felt compassion to the child’s pain of living because the “wrong” gender, and felt admiration for that child’s courage. Before individuals who will be not transgender judge this example, let me tell you that this child was completely miserable as being a boy. He just cannot go on doing this. Once permitted to live being a girl, she was very happy, content, made many friends and lived a standard life as being a girl. She was able to live a genuine life, true to herself. I know that everyone will agree with her parents, but this article is for teens who want to appear. When this child, whom I’ll make reference to as “J” arrived on the scene to his mom, his mom handled it by telling J that everything will be okay. She knew that J had liked to utilize his sister’s clothing often. She also knew that J was unhappy. But she did not know without a doubt that J wanted and had to live her life as a girl. So she experienced surprise. I imagine she experienced plenty of be worried about J whether or not J will be accepted. What was beautiful was that J’s parents, sister, and grandmothers completely accepted her as a girl immediately. His Garndparents were uncertain, concerned that he could not entirely commit at this kind of immature point in his life. They were being honest. But the video indicated that even one grandfather gave J (like a girl) a major hug, indicating which he loved her it doesn’t matter what.

I was telling a friend this week, life’s hard and I have every excuse in the world to be an terrible person and take whatever I want from others, but I don’t. I could easily screw who I want and kick these phones the curvature, lie, cheat, and steal, but I don’t. I could manipulate, abuse, and scare you into staying with me and being in my entire life, but I don’t.

Which brings me back to my original question: Having sex with Adonis might be the ideal sexual performance within our dreams, but could it be true in reality? Is it sexually fulfilling to get sex with Narcissus, the mythological figure who fell in love with his or her own reflection in water? Is it really such an experience to get sex using a man who can care less about you and worships his own body? Personally, I feel if you are crazy about oneself, stick to masturbation.

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