Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"The Devil Slapped on the Genitals": Religion and Spirituality in Queer South Africans' Lives

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

"The Devil Slapped on the Genitals": Religion and Spirituality in Queer South Africans' Lives

Article excerpt

Summary

Uniquely among African countries, South Africa's Bill of Rights offers civil protection to individuals on the basis of vectors of identity including sexuality, gender and religion. Public opinion, however, lags behind the ideals of the Constitution. Against this historical background, a range of books has recently appeared, giving expression to the interface between sexuality, culture and religion from the viewpoint of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. These texts include autobiographical accounts in three books: Reclaiming the L-Word: Sappho's Daughters out in Africa (Diesel 201 la); Yes I Am!: Writing by South African Gay Men (Malan & Johaardien 2010); and Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa (Morgan, Marais & Wellbeloved 2009). In this article I analyse the effects of autobiographical representations of spirituality and sexuality within different cultural contexts as represented in these books. I show the ways in which religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and African traditional belief systems, can constrain the individual rights of sexually nonconforming believers, and I also reveal ways in which believers establish meaningful spiritual and intimate lives despite these tensions. Queer spiritual autobiographies validate the lives of LGBT people, and they also foster the renegotiation of public culture to permit social justice for all, regardless of sexuality or gender expression.

Opsomming

Suid-Afrika is die enigste Afrika-land met 'n Handves van Regte wat siviele beskerming bied aan individue op grond van identiteitsvektore soos seksualiteit, geslag en godsdiens. Die publiek se sienings stem egter nog nie ooreen met die ideale wat in die Grondwet gestel word nie. In die lig van hierdie geskiedenis en agtergrond is 'n reeks boeke die afgelope tyd gepubliseer oor die koppelvlak tussen seksualiteit, kultuur en godsdiens vanuit die oogpunt van lesbiese, gay, biseksuele en transgender (LGBT)-persone. Die tekste sluit drie outobiografiese vertellings in: Reclaiming the L-word: Sappho's Daughters out in Africa (Diesel 201 la); Yes I Am!: Writing by South African Gay Men (Malan & Johaardien 2010); en Trans: TransgenderLife Stories from South Africa (Morgan, Marais & Wellbeloved 2009). In hierdie artikel analiseer ek die uitwerking van outobiografiese voorsteilings van spiritualiteit en seksualiteit in die verskillende kulturele kontekste wat in die boeke uitgebeeld word. Ek toon die wyses aan waarop godsdienste, insluitende die

Christendom, Judaisme, Islam, Hindoeisme en tradisionele Afrika-geloofstelsels, individuele regte aan bande le as gelowiges nie seksueel konformeer nie, en ek le wyses bloot waarop gelowiges betekenisvolle spirituele en intieme lewens vestig ten spyte van hierdie spanning. Gay spirituele outobiografiee verklaar dat LGTB-mense se lewens geldig is, en bevorder die heronderhandeling van die samelewing se kultuur om maatskaplike geregtigheid aan alle mense te laat geskied, ongeag die wyse waarop hulle uitdrukking gee aan hul geslag of seksualiteit.

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[W]e must remember that the starting point of our theologies are bodies, but the rebellious bodies: ... the body "as is" before theology starts to draw demonic and divine inscriptions in it.

(Althaus-Reid 2004: 158)

Rebellious Bodies and Queer Spiritual Autobiographies

The project of which this article is a part brings into conversation two intimate domains of life that act as powerful determinants of identity: spirituality and sexuality. (1) I use the term "spirituality" in its widest sense, to encompass organised religion, traditional African religion, and affiliated or non-affiliated spirituality. Within the African context as a whole, Christianity and Islam are growing at the fastest rate in the world. In South Africa, the 2001 census (the most recent to include a question about religious affiliation) showed the percentage of Christians as comprising 79,6% of the population (Kane-Berman et al. …

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