Why the (blank) would they censor the word (blank)?

Are you (blank)? Then this is for you. Somewhere in sunny Africa, television stations censor the word (blank) and also the word (blank) to {perhaps} keep little girls and boys on the heteronormative straight and narrow. It’s (blank)ing ridiculous.

One uneventful evening some months ago, I settled down to watch a telenovela with the rest of the family. I forget what it was called, but it was a riveting piece of work that my mother never missed, unless she came home late. So as I sat there and watched the superimposed voices act out a dialogue-the strangest thing happened.

The narrative being presented in the telenovela was about a community in where I think is Brazil, maybe not Brazil, but definitely somewhere in South America. Just so you know (if you didn’t already) telenovelas have been used for decades to address and build awareness around various social justice issues in South America, and with much success. It so happens that one of the issues being addressed in this particular one was around homophobia in that community, and how intolerable people would attack (especially) gay men. It also showed how there were safe gay spaces like cafés and clubs where gay men and other sexual minorities were welcome.

The story line unfolds and it turns out that one character’s son is in fact gay, and his father is struggling with how to come to terms with the new information. My first thought as I watched the actors and actresses going through their paces was that, it’s fantastic how a national television station was willing to air a show with a storyline that encouraged tolerance of sexual minorities. And that this was being screened in an African county infamous for its low tolerance of diverse sexual orientations, I thought to myself kudos, times are changing. Then the strange thing that I spoke about earlier happened.

There was perhaps a five minute conversation between the mother and father of the gay child, where the mother was trying to help her ex-husband understand what ‘gay’ means, that their son was attracted to men, and not to women as he had earlier been pretending to be. It took a minute before I fully understood why the conversation was so fragmented and difficult to follow. Then it hit me-the editors at the television station had muted out the word GAY! They had also muted the word SEX out, and because this was a five minute conversation about sex and being gay, it went a little something like this:

“What do you mean Berto’s (blank)?!” Exclaims the father

“It means he’s (blank), you know what being (blank) means don’t you?” The mother asks

“But he’s been dating Carlita for years! How can he suddenly be (blank)?” Father interjects.

“He’s been (blank) for years. Him and Carlita never had (blank), it was all pretense.” Mother informs father.

“What? So who has he been having (blank) with?! I gave him the talk about safe (blank) and everything, but how does that help him now that he’s (blank)?!” Exasperated dad asks, while pacing furiously around the small flat.

“Look, Berto is still your son. He has not changed who he is just because he is (blank). Being (blank) is a very small part of him, but it’s not just about who he has (blank) with. Berto is (blank). Plain and simple.” Mother tries to sooth angry father.

“Why didn’t he tell me he was (blank)?” Father asks

“Because he knew you would react like this. It’s very hard for him to be open about his (blank)ness. Our society is very harsh on (blank) people. Just the other day, Marita found a homeless (blank) man that was beaten to death by homophobes near her cafe. It’s not easy for Berto.”

The above is not the conversation verbatim, but you catch the drift. I sat there with my mouth open for all of the five minutes of this (blank) conversation. I don’t know what the censorship laws are here, but it seems that whoever’s decision it was to censor the words gay and sex, probably did it out of some strong moral compulsion to not dirty the minds of younglings that might have been watching.

The censoring also probably spared parents the need to explain to inquisitive young minds what being gay is all about. Typical to television, they never showed any scenes with two men kissing or making out or holding hands. Maybe there were such scenes initially, but were quickly edited out by the moral powers that be. Bloody censorship. I can imagine how hard it must be for a parent, in a conservative country, to have to field curious questions about gayness and what being gay means and why people get beaten to death for being gay. Homosexuality is something our parents have barely wrapped their heads around and the possibility of their own children being same-sex lovers in too much to bear.

Try as I may, I still don’t understand what would compel a television station to censor the word. Hearing the word gay will NOT make you gay. Hearing the word SEX will not make you go out and have sex. If the whole point of this senseless censorship was to protect the minds of little children then sad to say, television station, you have failed. Because guess what? There’s the internet now and in one way or another, the innocent little people will gain access to information from sources we as parents cannot control.

That said-I’m glad they can’t censor this.

Lesbian. Gay. Intersex. Bisexual. Transsexual. Tranny. Dyke. Fag. Clit. Penis. Dick. Vagina. Vulva. Pussy. Cunt. Prick. Dildo. Masturbate. Wank. Fap. Cum. Semen. Anus. Ass. Fingering. Fisting.

There, I said it.


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