14 years in jail for being gay

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14 years in jail for being gay

Postby DecemberSoul » Thu May 20, 2010 8:49 am UTC

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/10130240.stm

A judge in Malawi has sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in prison with hard labour after they were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The judge said he wanted to "protect" the public.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have been in jail since their arrest in December 2009 after holding an engagement ceremony.

Their arrest sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.
'Prisoners of conscience'

"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," said Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Defence lawyer Mauya Msuku had argued for a lighter sentence, pointing out that the pair's actions had not victimised anyone.
"Unlike in a rape case, there was no complainant or victim in this case," he said after the pair were convicted on Tuesday.

"Here are two consenting adults doing their thing in private. Nobody will be threatened or offended if they are released into society."

Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director of Amnesty International, called the sentence "an outrage", reports the AP news agency.
She described the pair as "prisoners of conscience" and said Amnesty would continue to campaign for them to be freed.

Malawi is a conservative society where same-sex liaisons are frowned upon.

The judge said same-sex relations were "un-Malawian".

But UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell pointed out that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he said,

The men had denied the charges and their lawyers said their constitutional rights had been violated.

But the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) have been urging authorities to relax the country's stance on homosexuals.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says the government has come under pressure from Western donors over the issue.

For a poor country, 40% of whose development budget depends on donors, such concerns must be taken seriously, he adds.


:( This is just so hard for me to comprehend.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Flayer » Thu May 20, 2010 9:32 am UTC

What's difficult about it? People are stupid.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu May 20, 2010 8:18 pm UTC

But UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell pointed out that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he said,


Because that makes it okay :roll:
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby felltir » Thu May 20, 2010 8:24 pm UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:
But UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell pointed out that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he said,


Because that makes it okay :roll:


I think it's more "this is our fault".
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Glass Fractal » Thu May 20, 2010 8:25 pm UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:
But UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell pointed out that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he said,


Because that makes it okay :roll:


Actually I think his point is that, that makes it worse. The people of Malawi didn't even come up with this law the judge is enforcing.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby legopelle » Thu May 20, 2010 8:43 pm UTC

What always gets my attention is how quick they condemn it as "unnatural", while it definitely occurs in natue, and on a side note, how civilization really doesn't.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Lucrece » Thu May 20, 2010 9:03 pm UTC

It's funny how all the condemnation by Britain and the U.S. is mere finger-wagging. No financial aid withdrawals or renegotiation.

Argument? They can't let the poor die for a couple of queers having their rights violated. Nevermind the fact that the sentence is really a death sentence given the conditions of hard labor and the prison itself, or the will to lynch shown by the crowds (crowds who, as the convicts were shown out, shouted abuse at them, saying their sentences were too light).

Nooooo, telling the government that either they annul this conviction or they lose aid is not right! I mean, it's not as if the government would be responsible for the deaths of the poor if they lost aid due to not agreeing to the terms of aid (mere international standards).

It's just rich that the people's money is being sent around to regimes which can get away with institutionalized murder without any sort of accountability.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Glass Fractal » Thu May 20, 2010 9:06 pm UTC

legopelle wrote:What always gets my attention is how quick they condemn it as "unnatural", while it definitely occurs in natue, and on a side note, how civilization really doesn't.


Humans occur in nature and they've established civilization. I'd say it's safe to conclude that civilization definitely occurs in nature.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Degu » Thu May 20, 2010 9:06 pm UTC

WTF?
Oh boy.
Now that is just ridiculous. "Protecting the public", yeah right!

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu May 20, 2010 10:25 pm UTC

Glass Fractal wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:
But UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell pointed out that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he said,


Because that makes it okay :roll:


Actually I think his point is that, that makes it worse. The people of Malawi didn't even come up with this law the judge is enforcing.

His point, for those unwilling to scroll up an entire line, is that the law itself, rather than the behavior, is "un-Malawian" as the judge declared it.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Fri May 21, 2010 1:56 am UTC

Yeah, hating homosexuals is not something you can really blame on colonialism.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri May 21, 2010 2:01 am UTC

But colonial statutes may well be. And I think his point is not so much that homophobia was an import as that it's hard to set nationalism behind your enforcement of a colonial law.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Jedidawn » Fri May 21, 2010 8:08 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:It's funny how all the condemnation by Britain and the U.S. is mere finger-wagging. No financial aid withdrawals or renegotiation.

Argument? They can't let the poor die for a couple of queers having their rights violated. Nevermind the fact that the sentence is really a death sentence given the conditions of hard labor and the prison itself, or the will to lynch shown by the crowds (crowds who, as the convicts were shown out, shouted abuse at them, saying their sentences were too light).

Nooooo, telling the government that either they annul this conviction or they lose aid is not right! I mean, it's not as if the government would be responsible for the deaths of the poor if they lost aid due to not agreeing to the terms of aid (mere international standards).

It's just rich that the people's money is being sent around to regimes which can get away with institutionalized murder without any sort of accountability.
As much as you might disagree with the law, it is still a Malawian law, and if international governments step in and demand that the sentencing not go ahead, then they have entirely nullified the criminal justice system

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby phlip » Fri May 21, 2010 8:25 am UTC

DecemberSoul wrote:
Malawi is a conservative society where same-sex liaisons are frowned upon.

And the prize for least exaggerated statement of 2010 goes to...

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Felstaff » Fri May 21, 2010 8:30 am UTC

Jedidawn wrote:As much as you might disagree with the law, it is still a Malawian law, and if international governments step in and demand that the sentencing not go ahead, then they have entirely nullified the criminal justice system

This is why we have institutions like Amnesty International to lobby rectifications of perceived injustice, even though technically justice has been served (no matter how primitive we deign it). Non-governmental organisations have no international diplomacy to preserve, nor sanctions to impose, but can put an awful lot of pressure on governments themselves.

Also, you guys can, too.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 21, 2010 8:57 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:It's funny how all the condemnation by Britain and the U.S. is mere finger-wagging. No financial aid withdrawals or renegotiation.

Argument? They can't let the poor die for a couple of queers having their rights violated. Nevermind the fact that the sentence is really a death sentence given the conditions of hard labor and the prison itself, or the will to lynch shown by the crowds (crowds who, as the convicts were shown out, shouted abuse at them, saying their sentences were too light).

Nooooo, telling the government that either they annul this conviction or they lose aid is not right! I mean, it's not as if the government would be responsible for the deaths of the poor if they lost aid due to not agreeing to the terms of aid (mere international standards).

It's just rich that the people's money is being sent around to regimes which can get away with institutionalized murder without any sort of accountability.


I don't disagree with your sentiment, but to be frank, I'd rather put money towards an organization that has some seriously, absurdly, ridiculously twisted bylaws that cares for it's populace, than tell the populace they better keep eating their mud cakes and enjoying their dysentery. Is the organization taking care of the populace? I have no idea. But to condemn the entire populace to starvation doesn't seem like a solution to this issue.

This is why we need to make it easier for people to leave oppressive countries and find sanctuary elsewhere; this to me is only partially an issue of Malawai being obviously fucked up in terms of being up to speed on human rights, but is in fact an issue of why us 'civilized' countries can't seem to open our borders to those seeking asylum.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Fri May 21, 2010 12:19 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't disagree with your sentiment, but to be frank, I'd rather put money towards an organization that has some seriously, absurdly, ridiculously twisted bylaws that cares for it's populace, than tell the populace they better keep eating their mud cakes and enjoying their dysentery. Is the organization taking care of the populace? I have no idea. But to condemn the entire populace to starvation doesn't seem like a solution to this issue.
I think the idea is that faced with the choice between increased starvation and letting a couple of queers go free, they'll pick letting the queers go free.

Izawwlgood wrote:This is why we need to make it easier for people to leave oppressive countries and find sanctuary elsewhere; this to me is only partially an issue of Malawai being obviously fucked up in terms of being up to speed on human rights, but is in fact an issue of why us 'civilized' countries can't seem to open our borders to those seeking asylum.
Amen. The US is actually pretty open to asylum seekers, but it's a pretty long process. The UK is getting better about granting asylum for homosexuality, but there are legitimate concerns over people faking homosexuality to get asylum status. With open borders, though, you don't have to worry about that, because everyone who wants asylum gets it.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 21, 2010 7:25 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I think the idea is that faced with the choice between increased starvation and letting a couple of queers go free, they'll pick letting the queers go free.

I mean, the US donates an awful lot to Africa, and then an awful lot more for HIV therapy, but hasn't (admittedly, to my knowledge) asked various countries to do away with their anti-condom campaigns. I think in terms of humanitarianism, you have to set your priorities; for many, supporting anything affiliated with such outright homophobia is a deal breaker, for others, seeing people starve to death takes precedence. Neither is 'right', and yes, you can have both (You want my 5 trazillion dollars worth of food and supplies? Stop being an ass. Problem solved.), and you should.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat May 22, 2010 1:24 pm UTC

This Is Some Bullshit update: The couple isn't gay. The media has been misgendering the fuck out of Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman. Link here.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Rakysh » Sat May 22, 2010 1:42 pm UTC

It's a fucking difficult one. Because on one hand obviously this is a terrible injustice but on the other we don't want to get all colonialist on they asses. Apparently gay rights is a building issue there, and I think in time it will, as it has in other parts of the world, become more of an issue.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Sat May 22, 2010 1:56 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:This Is Some Bullshit update: The couple isn't gay. The media has been misgendering the fuck out of Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman. Link here.
This sort of shit is why I am darkly amused whenever people say that to understand what's going on you need to read the news.

Rakysh wrote:Because on one hand obviously this is a terrible injustice but on the other we don't want to get all colonialist on they asses.
See, I'm perfectly willing to go colonialist, because I think human rights are more important than national identity.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Rakysh » Sat May 22, 2010 2:40 pm UTC

It's less national identity and more the spectre of the west owning the majority of the world in some form or another. I know there are problems with the slippery slope thing but it doesn't seem too far away from threatening to stop aid to protect all other sorts of things. Also, if Bingu tried to legalise stuff he'd just get deposed, frankly, and they would hate us, accomplishing nothing.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Telchar » Sat May 22, 2010 2:51 pm UTC

I think the bigger issue with threats to withdraw aid are that it wouldn't do anything in this case, and could have a net negative effect.

Based on that crow reaction, I think we know what would happen if they were let free. In future cases, they may not bother with the justice system and just lynch them so they don't go through this kind of western scrutiny.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Kain » Mon May 24, 2010 5:09 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:This Is Some Bullshit update: The couple isn't gay. The media has been misgendering the fuck out of Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman. Link here.
This sort of shit is why I am darkly amused whenever people say that to understand what's going on you need to read the news.

In the western media's defense, the Malawi sources were probably universally reporting the couple as a gay couple, given that in a country where homosexuality is seen as an abomination, one can suppose little distinction is made between gays and transsexuals.

Vaniver wrote:
Rakysh wrote:Because on one hand obviously this is a terrible injustice but on the other we don't want to get all colonialist on they asses.
See, I'm perfectly willing to go colonialist, because I think human rights are more important than national identity.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Mon May 24, 2010 5:44 am UTC

Kain wrote:Devils advocate time: should there not be (is there not?) a right to live in the country of one's own choosing? (Provided said country accepts you, of course, but that is just a related issue).
To some degree- but I'm firmly on the side of the British who forcibly applied abolition to the African areas they could, even though the populations rioted and claimed their ancient traditions were under attack.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Lucrece » Mon May 24, 2010 7:56 am UTC

By the way, they're not gay. One half of the couple refers to herself by feminine pronouns. So the thread title needs to be fixed. Of course, the perception is that they're homosexual, when psychologically the relationship is heterosexual.
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Re: 14 years in jail because ARRGH

Postby Osha » Mon May 24, 2010 8:18 am UTC


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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby General_Norris » Mon May 24, 2010 10:36 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:To some degree- but I'm firmly on the side of the British who forcibly applied abolition to the African areas they could, even though the populations rioted and claimed their ancient traditions were under attack.


I agree. The British had better laws than the locals, even if they are still bad compared to what we expect today.

Lucrece wrote:Of course, the perception is that they're homosexual, when psychologically the relationship is heterosexual


Physically it's homosexual, it's not a perception. I mean, if both are sexually male and they do sexual things they must be, by definition, having a homosexual relationship. They may not be gay but they sure have homosexual sex if they have sex.
Last edited by General_Norris on Mon May 24, 2010 11:29 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby ianf » Mon May 24, 2010 11:28 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Yeah, hating homosexuals is not something you can really blame on colonialism.


But colonialism needs to take some of the blame. They are the people who introduced Christianity (to a large part of Africa, anyway - not Ethiopia) and they are the people who introduced their laws. At the time Malawi gained independence, homosexuality was still illegal in the UK (and continued to be for another couple of years).

So, I think a lot of this does fall on the shoulders of colonialism.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby General_Norris » Mon May 24, 2010 11:30 am UTC

ianf, you are assuming that being gay was fine before the British arrived. And I very much doubt that was the case.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Cynical Idealist » Mon May 24, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:
Lucrece wrote:Of course, the perception is that they're homosexual, when psychologically the relationship is heterosexual


Physically it's homosexual, it's not a perception. I mean, if both are sexually male and they do sexual things they must be, by definition, having a homosexual relationship. They may not be gay but they sure have homosexual sex if they have sex.

Tiwonge wrote:I have male genitals, but inside I am a complete woman. Maybe I cannot give birth to a child, but I menstruate every month — or most months


Physically, it sounds like Tiwonge is intersex. Unless you have an alternate explanation for why someone who is "sexually male" (I'm not even sure what you mean like that, but I think you mean "was born with a male reproductive system") menstruates.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Lucrece » Mon May 24, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

The genitalia are irrelevant when the neurology of the person is thoroughly female. Homosexuality implies a desire and romantic inclination-- FOR THE SAME SEX. But Tiwonge identifies as female, her husband is with her because she is female, and the court mocked her by showing an outward-looking masculine female (thus a man by standards of looks) being given the feminine task of mopping up her own vomit when she panicked and threw up.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby ianf » Mon May 24, 2010 6:27 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:ianf, you are assuming that being gay was fine before the British arrived. And I very much doubt that was the case.


But we don't really know one way or the other, do we? We can, however, see stories in (for example) Santeria where homosexuality is not presented as a bad thing. We also know that possession by a spirit in Santeria is known as marriage and a male spirit can possess a male human. Of course, that issue is also confused with the dilution of African beliefs with Catholic beliefs, but it at least indicates that being gay might have been accepted at some level.

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Mon May 24, 2010 7:27 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:The genitalia are irrelevant when the neurology of the person is thoroughly female. Homosexuality implies a desire and romantic inclination-- FOR THE SAME SEX. But Tiwonge identifies as female, her husband is with her because she is female, and the court mocked her by showing an outward-looking masculine female (thus a man by standards of looks) being given the feminine task of mopping up her own vomit when she panicked and threw up.
I was under the impression that sex was generally used to refer to the sexual characteristics, and gender was generally used to refer to the psychological characteristics- such that, say, a pre-op FTM and a female are in a homosexual relationship that will become a heterosexual relationship, as much as those descriptors are useful in that situation.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby General_Norris » Mon May 24, 2010 7:58 pm UTC

^Exactly. As long as you don't have a medical condition known as intersex you are either sexually male or sexually female. That or you are not human.

Gender =/= Sex

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 24, 2010 11:42 pm UTC

before this gets really off topic, the definition of intersex is vague, and while I'm of the persuasion that sex is something defined by your genetics, and gender is something defined by your self identity, there are still genetic anomalies that widen the gray.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Vaniver » Mon May 24, 2010 11:46 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:before this gets really off topic, the definition of intersex is vague, and while I'm of the persuasion that sex is something defined by your genetics, and gender is something defined by your self identity, there are still genetic anomalies that widen the gray.
I agree that male in a relationship with a female-identifying intersexed individual is in a 'heterosexual relationship,' as much as that means anything, but the important distinction there isn't the neurology.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 25, 2010 2:31 am UTC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_chromoso ... e_syndrome

The latter completely blew my mind, as I was under the impression that 'Y chromosome = male', but apparently you have to refine it to 'Masculinizing genes = male?'

But yes. Asides.
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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby Diadem » Tue May 25, 2010 12:09 pm UTC

Does it really matter if she identifies as a woman or not? Does it change how ridiculous and unjust this sentence is?

I' ve read some blogs vigorously attacking the media for presenting this as a case of homophobia instead of transphobia. But I think that' s missing the point, because transphobia doesn' t exist independently of homophobia. This couple was sentenced for 14 years in jail because the Malawi court considers them to be gay. Whether they should have or not is another issue, but the sentence was still homophobic.

Transphobia is a result of homophobia. If the latter disappears, the former will too.
It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he is round the twist
- Bernard Woolley in Yes, Prime Minister

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Re: 14 years in jail for being gay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue May 25, 2010 2:23 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I' ve read some blogs vigorously attacking the media for presenting this as a case of homophobia instead of transphobia.

Whether this is accurate or not, the media is also being attacked for referring to the couple as gay and to Tiwonge as a man. The court is wrong, but the media is partially agreeing with them as well as reporting their opinion.

Diadem wrote:Transphobia is a result of homophobia. If the latter disappears, the former will too.

Bullshit. There's a lot more to gender identity than whom you like to fuck.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.


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