Among all the political lies, where do queer folk mark their ‘X’?
At the polls, unemployed and poor LGBTI+ people will have to muzzle their queerness to do their civic duty
To choose a political party to vote for during May 2019’s national elections, queer folk will have to ignore part of who they are just to say they have carried out their “civic duty” of voting.
We hear it all the time: you cannot complain if you do not vote. And so, after an arduously long wait in the queue at your voting district, where you stood among hundreds of others also pretending to have always known who they are voting for, you arrive at the booth.
Like an exam you hardly studied for, you go over the ballot paper options, as if you are assessing the question paper for the sections you want to answer while you still remember all your notes. Suddenly the options are a blur again; okay, they all tell me that they will protect my queerness, but who do I believe the most?
You’re conscious of not taking up too much of people’s time, so revisit all the conversations you’ve held with friends around this. In those robust discussions, at least one consensus was reached: none of them have convincing enough pro-LGBTI+ policies for that to be a decider. After all, we live in a country where a minister of arts and culture could walk out of an exhibition featuring naked lesbian women, because she considered them immoral and too much for her to handle. She served under a party that wants us to believe it is pro-gay rights.
There are politicians who forget all too swiftly their incendiary comments about intersex people (the words were “we will never agree to that concept ... you are either a girl or a boy and that’s it”), only to proclaim a little later, once now a leader of their own political party, to be a voice for the marginalised – or the “underdogs”.
It is disingenuous. It is also politics. We’ve read this chapter several times, and we’ve never realised the glorious end of the book, because, well, it remains a patchy first draft and not a published, relatable tome. Robert Harris once said that “all good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same. I know this to be a fact because in my line of work I read a lot of bad books – books so bad they aren't even published, which is quite a feat, when you consider what is published. And what they all have in common, these bad books, be they novels or memoirs, is this: they don’t ring true.”
Now, instead of persisting with a horribly written and far-fetched and incongruent book, one would (or should) walk away, and start a new one. But walking away from a bad ballot paper without seeing it to the end and marking an “X” somewhere means a spoilt vote, and the knowledge that you took for granted “those who lost their lives for the end of apartheid”, so you could enjoy the liberties offered in a democracy.
Upon sharing the news with a friend, this week, that the EFF was holding a public manifesto consultation assembly with the LGBTI+ community, his response was: “I’d be wary of a party that so often just conveniently says what needs to be heard – when their entire proposition is about saying the unsaid and fighting for the marginalised. Why do they need for us to come and articulate our issues like they are not out there? What an opportune moment to suddenly care for us ... I’m sorry but my mere existence makes me a valuable constituency. Fake fake friends.”
Ultimately, you decide to think outside of yourself; what else have they said that I could at least relate to?
Then you notice another uncomfortable pattern developing; it is likely that an unemployed and poor queer person may have to momentarily muzzle their own queerness and a dream of one day living freely with the love of their lives, in order to envisage a day when they could be afforded a roof over their heads, and enjoy economic emancipation as per the promise of some of these parties.
For those who have realised a comfortable level of social mobility, they may be unfazed by the fact that the previously mentioned lower-income-class queer person exists, as long as their middle-to-upper-class lifestyle is maintained. What will you do about the interest rate and VAT and petrol prices spiralling out of control? What will I have to give up next? If you’re not going to guarantee me equality in terms of human rights, at least guarantee me fiscal security. It’s a privilege (and perhaps, a dilemma) a lot of us must grapple with.
I had hoped I would have long settled on my party of choice for the upcoming elections, but if I’m still undecided with less than six months to go, I’m inclined to agree with my friend that anything that comes now is an afterthought to these politicians, and if I’m going to go with one party, I’ve got to consider other aspects of their policy documents or manifestos that speak to me. It’s about to be a taxing period.