The photo made me shiver. The boy in the picture could have been a survivor of Auschwitz. Pale, skeletal and his life slipping away, Raymond Buys, 15, was clinging to life while hooked up to feeding tubes and medical devices, but they were not enough. Buys died, his body having suffered burns, broken bones and malnourishment finally succumbed, and all because he was gay.
Yes the nightmare scenario of “camps” for gay men is no nightmare, it is real in South Africa. There a “general” was convincing parents to send their gay or effeminate young teems to his Echo Wild Game Rangers training course to turn them into “men”. Instead he turned several into corpses.
Now, “general” Alex De Koker and his assistant Michael Erasmus will stand trial for murder, child abuse and neglect. Sadly since 2006 De Koker has been bilking parents out of thousands of dollars in his twisted ex-gay therapy. Even worse he has injured or killed several boys after chaining them to their beds and torturing them.
To be sure there will be more murder charges and South African justice will prevail by putting these two monsters away forever. The saddest part of the story is that parents would subject their children to torture and starvation to try to change who they are.
Since every form of “reparative therapy” for gay men has been shown to be ineffective and downright fraudulent, it is sad that these parents didn’t get the message. To try to lay blame for this is difficult, but I would suspect that these misguided parents had been listening to some hate filled rhetoric, and I would not be surprised if it wasn’t coming from right-wing evangelicals.
The same folks who spread the hate filled message against LGBT people here in the United States have taken their “Bad News” overseas to more receptive audiences. Africa has been exceptionally fertile for their efforts though most notably in Uganda with its institutionalized homophobia. To find this madness in South Africa, a nation with one of the most progressive attitudes toward LGBT people, is alarming. The idea of “camps” for gay teens conjures up images of the kind of solutions proposed by the right-wing in our country when the AIDS crisis first hit. That horrific idea did not go away though, instead it has been resurrected by people like North Carolina pastor Charles Worley who actually called for putting “all the lesbians and queers” in concentration camps.
These kinds of messages do not happen in a vacuum. In the age of YouTube this hatred gets spewed worldwide and reinforces the fear some parents have that their children will turn out gay. It is a second front in the culture wars for the fundamentalists. They have long been active in Africa and now they are characterizing the progress made by LGBT people in the US as a new imperialist threat to “African family values”. People like mega-church pastor, Rick Warren and holocaust revisionist, Scott Lively are pumping their propaganda into Africa with renewed intensity and now it seems to have made it all the way south.
As Afrikaans buy into this misguided message it is not surprising that cases like this might pop up, but it is a sad commentary on the extent of the collateral damage from the culture war in the US that the right-wing is so fiercely waging. Their battle in the US is a losing one, but there is still fallout overseas.
The real “good news” is that these monsters are being brought to justice.