Not just another murder, Brenda Namigadde

On February 4, 2006, almost five years ago, Zoliswa Nkonyana, “a young Khayelitsha lesbian”, was chased by a group of 20 or so young men. When they caught up with her, they clubbed, kicked and beat her to death. They tortured her to death for being lesbian, for being openly lesbian, for being a woman, for being.

It took two weeks for the news of her brutal murder to finally reach the media. The police didn’t make much of the death or its circumstances. The press in Khayelitsha, five years ago as today, is marked largely by its absence. It was `just another murder.’

Five years later, the case is still open, the trial is not yet finalized. Memorials will take place, no doubt, protests and commemorations.

Yesterday, January 26, 2011, gay rights activist David Kisule Kato was brutally murdered in Mukono, Kampala, Uganda. Kato was the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda. Along with Julian Pepe Onziema and Kasha Jacqueline, Kato had recently won a case against Rolling Stone, restraining it from publishing photos and names of gay men and lesbian women. The High Court ruled that the tabloid violated the rights to privacy and safety. This time the news of the murder spread quickly. The Kampala police claimed, almost immediately, that they’re on the case.

In both instances, and so many others, the assault is on the right to public being, the right to access as gay men and lesbian women, to public spaces, to common and shared experiences, to mutual recognition.

Brenda Namigadde is a woman from Uganda. She fled Uganda in 2003 after her house was destroyed and her life was threatened … because her life partner was a woman. Namigadde fled to the United Kingdom, where she sought asylum. She was turned down, because of insufficient proof of `being lesbian’. Now Namigadde sits in Yarl’s Wood, and awaits, in terror, to be deported to Uganda.

One way to honor the memory of Zoliswa Nkonyana, of David Kato, of all the other gay men and lesbian women who have been brutalized, tortured, murdered, for the sin of being gay in public, for the sin of sharing their love in the common and shared spaces, is to make sure that Brenda Namigadde and other gay and lesbian asylum seekers are not transported back to the House of Death. If not, then Zoliswa Nkonyana, David Kato, and all the others, they’re just another murder.


(Mosaic of Zoliswa Nkonyana by Ziyanda Majozi. Thanks to

Going gay for porn and other disasters

Like a lot of people growing up, I got nervous speaking in public and got the obligatory suggestion from some adult that I picture the audience in their underwear.  The idea was that if I was standing in front of naked or mostly naked people, I couldn’t possibly be the most self-conscious person in the room.  Well, this didn’t work because I realized at a young age that there were some people that I just didn’t want to picture only in their undies.  At least this is what I thought at the time.  I’ve learned something recently though, had an epiphany really.  Here it is: NAKED PEOPLE ARE ALL POWERFUL.  It’s true.  Why else do we have to wear so many clothes all the time?  The more important something is, the more clothes people have to wear and the more they are reprimanded if too much skin is showing.  Why else would formal clothes be so stiff and uncomfortable? To reign in your nakedness, to contain it in cotton, woolen or silken shackles.

There is, however, a hierarchy to body parts.  They aren’t all created equal.  So I am going to focus on the big guns, the atom bombs of body parts, and discuss how they are destroying our society.  I consider this a very serious public service.  Let’s start with the ones making the news this week: boobs.  They seem innocent enough, right? Soft. Squishy.  Bouncy.  Bulbous.  Nothing to be scared of, right?  It would be like being scared of a jellyfish and that’s ridiculous, right?  WRONG! Anyone who has seen Finding Nemo knows that jellyfish are KILLERS and so are boobs.  Glenn Beck should be all over this one.  Let’s look at the evidence.  Exhibit #1:  over the weekend, Michael Schwartz, Chief of Staff to the ever-impressive Tom Coburn (R-OK), testified that pornography inflicts homosexuality on people because “all pornography is gay pornography”.  Of course you are male, only men watch porn, and seeing naked women makes you want to touch yourself.  The power of your own penis is of course so strong that you will desire other naked penises and the blight will spread.  Now, sometimes the strong can fight off the gayness like a bad cold but even a mild case of pornography at “least renders you less capable of loving your wife”.  But that’s only the beginning.

On a larger scale, the Detroit City Council is fighting to take back their city from the strippers.  A local church member opines against those who “want to use the city of Detroit as their dumping ground of their bottom-feeding, gutter-living behavior…Then they want to go back to their nice, suburban communities…It’s a shame that poor people, minority people are always the dumping ground for this.”  Translucent naked women and gutter-living patrons ought to be ashamed for single-handedly leading to the downfall of Detroit.  New legislation, however, is trying to ban lap dances and VIP rooms and may even require background checks, distance away from the dancer and opaque pasties in order to provide a safe distance between patrons and boobs, a move that one club owner calls ‘un-American’.  Yet, there are few things more profoundly American than taking our fears, and minorities, by the horns and making them illegal.

Nudity causes crime.  The lust that it inflicts sends people, men, into a blind madness over which they have no control.  They are blind animals.  It can’t be rape if she had that much cleavage or her skirt covered only half of her thighs!

Sound absurd?  This logic isn’t exceptional.  It exercises itself everyday when lawmakers justify cutting  government spending for public services, especially those that work with women, minorities and minority women who have experienced abuse while playing tough on crime.  Sexual violence is still one of the most underreported crimes in the U.S.  and obvious violence is only one facet of the way in which sex is policed.  The latest victim to this absurdity in the Washington, DC area is WEAVE, Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc., which may have to close its doors on October 1st. if it is unable to raise enough funds.  WEAVE is a major lifeline for victims and survivors in the D.C. area.  Help keep WEAVE’s doors open or look into the status of centers in your area.

(Editor’s Note: WEAVE closed in 2012.)