Eastern Cape newspaper The Herald has published a blatantly homophobic letter from a member of the public in its July 28th edition.
In the letter, titled “Flaunting of gay lifestyles offensive”, Mike Jones of Port Elizabeth claims that gay people are being “rammed” down the public’s throat through the local television lifestyle show Top Billing.
“The producers appear to have developed something of an obsession with gays and their creative achievements. As a personal observation, I do not regard homosexuality as ‘cool’ and would prefer not to have sexual deviates ‘in my face’ in such a high quality program,” Jones wrote.
Top Billing has featured several gay and straight achievers on the show.
“I realise we now live in a world of exaggerated tolerance where anything goes, but I find it offensive to have same sex partners flaunting themselves, as if their lifestyle is something to be proud of, particularly in a programme of this calibre,” wrote Jones.
Christina Engela of the South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) said she was shocked that the letter was allowed to be published.
“As far as I see it, a newspaper Editor should be able to use discretion in choosing which letters to publish, taking into account the content and whether or not it will cause offense or amount to hate speech and complicity to it. Yet for some reason nobody in the editorial staff seemed to think that bigotry against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation would be offending to the public – or cared that gay people might find it offensive,” she told Mambaonline.
Comments on the letter were permitted to be posted on the newspaper’s website which went even further than the article. Anonymous bigots called gay people “animals”, “deviates”, “mentally disturbed” and even criticised HIV for being defective because it takes an AIDS victim ten years to die instead of 48 hours.
“As an individual I find such a lapse in judgement profoundly shocking because it indicates to me that either they are not properly reading the letters they receive – or they feel gay people do not deserve the same consideration they show other population groups on the basis of their own immutable characteristics,” said Engela.
“This seems to say to me that the South African Constitution means ‘equality for all – except for those people over there, because we don’t like them.’ And what amazes me is the apathy of some of the pink community who still think there is no need to worry about our future in South Africa. They think we have won true equality – well there sits the state of our equality in South Africa today – on page five of yesterday’s Herald.”
Engela urged members of the LGBT community to communicate their feelings to the editor at email@example.com.