I am sorry.
When they announced your name as the winner of the country's first beauty pageant for gay men, and as the chosen spokesperson for Namibia's LGBTI community, I felt so proud of you, even though I've only met you recently. I was so excited to see all your friends cheering for you, and to see that big smile on your face. I know it must have been a happy moment for you, and I hope it still is.
I was sorry to read in the newspapers today that you had been recently assaulted. I hope you are okay.
I am even more sorry that you can't yet live in a world where you can be who you are, without having some hate-filled ignorant individuals wanting to hurt you for it. I am sorry that you are still being denied your basic human right to love whoever you want and be whoever you are. But I am still proud of you, and I admire you for your courage. I know that you've already been persecuted in the past. You knew that it wasn't going to be easy, and that you would face intimidation in the future for being openly gay and unashamed, and yet you still did it anyway. Thank you for being so brave. You are braver than I could ever be. I hope you don't let this stop you, and that you keep on going strong, because you truly are a role model.
There is a boy in my Canadian hometown who is fourteen years old, gay, and suicidally depressed because he is constantly bullied by his classmates for being gay. There was another boy in my hometown, who was fifteen years old, gay, and suicidal from the bullying - and then, almost two months ago, he committed suicide. You see, every country has people that face problems like the problems you face. And every country has ignorant guys like the guys that attacked you. This problem is bigger than Namibia, or Africa. It's a problem all over the world. So when you stand up for your rights, you are standing up for the rights of people all over the world, even young Canadian boys on the other side of the world.
That Saturday night, when you accepted your title as a role model for the LGBTI community in Namibia, and maybe for the rest of Africa, and maybe for the rest of the world, you looked not only happy but beautiful and strong. I passed you on the streets about half an hour ago. You still looked beautiful and strong. Please, I ask you to keep on being our hope, our courage and our voice. Keep reminding people around the world like you that they are not alone. And let's work together to change the homophobic attitude of society. Because I cannot, in good conscience, tell these sad kids that "It Gets Better" if it actually doesn't. So let's make sure it does.
I know you will be all right. I know that your strong faith in a loving God will help you rise above the hate that is being directed at you right now. My own prayers are with you and the rest of the community.
PS: If you want something to cheer you up, you should check out this website which is dedicated giving worldwide encouragement to that little boy in my hometown. It's pretty touching.
picture by Chris De Villiers
here is the media release i got from the Mr Gay Namibia organisation
08.12.2011 – Mr Gay Namibia assault
Wendelinus Hamutenya, Mr Gay Namibia title holder, on Sunday evening , 04 December 2011, was physically assaulted near his residence in Katutura, Windhoek, in what can be described as a brutal “mugging” with monetary gain as incentive.
Hamutenya arrived home around 22:00 from visiting with friends. He was dropped off at the corner of his street of residence and made the short walk up the road to his home, when noticing two men sitting at the further end of the road, visible by street light. As he neared his house, the men approached him and requested “the money (he) won at the Mr Gay competition”. After a short confrontation one of the perpetrators kicked Hamutenya to the ground, while the other aimed for his mobile phone and wallet. Several blows were exchanged between Hamutenya and his attackers. In the end blows from a cold drink bottle from one of the two men to Hamuntenya’s head, face, chin and ribs saw him hospitalized for observation at a Windhoek private clinic for 24 hours.
The culprits made off with approximately N$200 in cash.
Contrary to some media publications, Wendelinus reiterates that this incident and his position as title holder to Mr Gay Namibia should not be confused and used to fuel unnecessary agendas.
“Violence in various forms occurs to persons from different walks of life in our country. The relevance of this incident may have connotation to my title, perhaps they thought I had heaps of “prize money” in my pockets. Likely it was my sexual orientation that made me a target - even my political support that angered them. Or perhaps, and most likely, it was just plain and simply out of greed,” states Hamuntenya.
What remains relevant is that any person, no matter race, gender, orientation and/or ethnicity has the right to safety and should not feel threatened when walking down his/her own street of residence any time of the day.
The Mr Gay Namibia Board condemns this violent act of assault, but also reaffirms that “we are in sensitive times and we should focus on the facts. Propaganda, misinterpretation and wrong reporting on matters will not suffice – factual and mature deliberation on matters is what is needed to embrace the future.”
While a case of assault has been opened with Namibian Police on this incident, Wendelinus remains focused on his participation at the Mr Gay World event in South Africa next year, confirming that his vision and dream for a sensitized and more accepting Namibia towards human rights in terms of sexual orientation remains his core focus.
Questions and/or information relating to the above brief can be directed in writing to the Public Relations Office of the Mr Gay Namibia Board at firstname.lastname@example.org