Gay Weddings, Cape Town

South Africa has provided full marriage equality for four years now. A report in the NYT featuring weddings in Cape Town has prompted some reflection on what makes the Saffer version of gay marriage special.

First, the story of marriage rights is totally tied up with the story of “the struggle”, as South Africans describe the long,  slow path to democracy and freedom.  When the new constitution was negotiated, it was a fundamental principle from the start that a strong bill of rights would be at its centre, providing protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, language or gender. Far-sighted negotiators were also able to introduce age, disability – and sexual orientation.  In the early years of the new government, the government had many other priorities, so that legislating protection for queer citizens languished on a back burner. (Sound familiar?)

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“Hell’s Teeth”: Some Nostalgia (Just for the Fun of It)

Michael Worsnip at Hell’sTeeth appears to have a background resembling my own: a once married, gay Catholic (Anglican) man from Johannesburg, later settled in whaat he calls Cairp Tahn, and I call Cape Town. (UPDATE:  My apologies to Michael for labelling him incorrectly as Catholic.  He has politely but firmly told me he is an Anglican, of the “spikey variety”.  I thought I had seen a clear reference to “Catholic” on his blog, but didn’t do the fact checking when writing.Iguess that’s why I’m a blogger, and not a proper journalist. )

He writes “from the sanguine side of life”, which is a frame of mind often induced by those lucky enough to be in Cape Town – at least, those with homes and incomes. He says of himself:

I’m not cool. Nor do I have have aspirations to being cool. Most of the time, I don’t even understand cool. I happen to live in Cape Town, (“Cairp Tahn” if you are cool) which is supposedly cool. I am Gay. I am 52 (which is Gay terms is way past cool). I have two adopted boys aged 6 and 7 and partner who doesn’t want to get married. I have a job in a rather curious field. I like music and reading and writing and cooking. Oh, and eating.

But don’t be fooled:  while writing about and exalting the ordinary, daily things in life he is not blind to the difficulties and social problems around him – he just doesn’t dwell on them.

I particularly liked his reminiscences of the “Butterfly Bar” at the skyline Hotel in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, brought back to him by a visit to a present day gay bar in Cape Town.  The Butterfly Bar was the first gay bar he ever visited, as it was for me a few years later, as it was for probably most Johannesburg gay men at around that time. Read the rest of this entry »