Georgina Guedes

Love your gay children for who they are

2013-05-02 12:57

Georgina Guedes

I've been following the story of the three teens who died while on "game ranger training" with no small measure of horror.

The media has pieced together a story in which it seems likely that this training was actually some kind of brutal gay re-education exercise. Although this hasn't been admitted either by the parents or the people running the camp (who are now on trial for the murder of one, Raymond Buys), the facts to seem to suggest that this is likely.

These facts are that the boys who died were all described as effeminate, that a witness testified that while one boy was being beaten, the accused "general" Alex de Koker said that he would make a man out of him and that he wasn't a "moffie", and finally that none of the training methods used at the camp in any way form part of normal game ranger training.

This column isn't really about what these poor boys went through at the training camp - I think it can be agreed that what goes on there is unspeakably horrific and I only find it unfortunate that the South African penal system will treat De Koker and his accomplices more kindly than they treated their charges.

Instead, I would like to comment on the attitudes of the parents that landed their children in this kind of a situation in the first place. We have limited information about what Buys's parents thought they were actually signing their son up for. He apparently had learning difficulties, and a friend suggested to his mother that he be sent to the camp.

"I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future," his mother told The Daily Telegraph.

Although it's not clear whether she meant a better future as someone who had been "cured" of homosexuality or someone with a qualification in game ranging, the former alternative seems to have been borne out by what happened next.

She was only allowed to speak to her child three times in the next two months. If I had sent my child away anywhere, only being permitted limited contact with him would set off alarms for me, if I wasn't buying into some kind of punitive system.

Next, it is said that she received a photograph of him in which he was emaciated and showed signs of injury (I've seen the photo, and the boy looks horrific). When she phoned and asked to speak to him, she was told that he was self-harming and was then allowed to speak to him on speakerphone. She asked him why he was hurting himself, to which he responded, "Mum, I'm not doing it to myself."

Now, if I had happily dispatched my son to a game ranging training course, any one of these factors would have me rushing over there to bring him home. The facts that contact was limited, the child was emaciated and wounded, he was self-harming, or he said that actually he wasn't hurting himself in isolation would be enough to bring out the lioness in me.

The fact that his mother did nothing in the face of four very clear warning signs suggests to me that she had a fair idea of what her child was being subjected to, and felt that the means justified the end.

I have tried to find sympathy for Mrs Buys. Losing a child is the worst horror I can imagine, so I do feel sorry for her. I also feel sorry for her, if this is what happened, that the pressure of society or her community prevented her from loving her son for who he was, and instead made her want to subject him to what amounts to torture - and ultimately murder - to set him straight.

I am always reminded of the gay rights poster that reads: "Homosexuality is a biological fact; hatred is a lifestyle choice." Anyone who feels the need to get their children to man up, or have the queer beaten out of them, has abandoned the fundamental obligation of parenting: to love their children as they are.



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