Homosexuality is Un-African

Homosexuality is Un-African! This was the headline for one of UCT rainbow society’s campaigns for Pink Week. Pink Week is intended to educate society about homosexuality and de-stigmatise it. Unfortunately like many campaigns that involve freedom of expression of  an alternative sexuality, it was met with intolerance and even violence. A stall that was set up to resemble a closet was burnt on the same day that it was put up. This clearly set the tone for the week  and betrayed a kind of intolerance which so often leads to hate speech and crimes against gay and lesbian people. According to Prof. P. De Vos (Law expert) hate crimes against homosexuals come from a place of ignorance and intolerance. While the Constitution may protect individuals against discrimination, it does little to protect them from intolerant acts. The first hate crime I ever heard about was that of Eudy Simelane (Banyana Banyana star), who was raped and later killed in her community. This of course was no ordinary rape. It was a “corrective rape” that was supposed to “cure” her of her “condition”. She was stabbed 25 times, even under her feet (yes, someone took the time to stab her under her feet). And what was her condition? Being lesbian. From people being attacked at an individual level all the way to nations like Uganda, that criminalize homosexuality and make it punishable by death, who would want to be gay? I certainly wouldn’t, especially if death is the price you pay for your sexual orientation. What if homosexuality isn’t a choice though? … And it isn’t, just like I wouldn’t have chosen to be black during slavery and apartheid in order to avoid the extreme labour conditions and discrimination, so too would I rather not be homosexual, to avoid being stabbed under my feet and criminalised and killed by my government. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice, especially in Africa. You are born that way, some studies show homosexual behaviour in animals, while some claim to have found the gay gene. When a lifestyle choice could lead to direct, sudden and painful death, it really raises the barriers to entry. So I guess gay people are in it for more than the walk, the talk, the sex and the fashion. Why are Africans across the spectrum resistant to accepting homosexuals and homosexuality? It could be down to a perceived hierarchy of inferior traits. E.g. “I might be black, but at least I am not gay.” It could simply be that one can draw parallels between racial discrimination and discrimination against the gay community . These paralles are: religious intolerance, cultural ostracisation, prejudice and what I call the “yuck” factor. Just like interracial marriages were considered “yucky” due to negative personal experiences and ignorance about genetics in the past and interaction with HIV positive people in the early 90s was considered “yucky”, it is homosexually which is  now looked upon as having the “yuck” factor. The majority of Africa as we know was colonised by Europeans. These are the English, French, Portuguese and the Dutch. With all these being Christian nations, there was an integration of culture and religion. Those Africans that failed to integrate themselves with the new norm of European customs were termed “savages” and were marginalised to the point of “extinction”. After centuries of colonisation even the remotest places in Africa are blessed with a church and a Coca Cola sign. No place was left untouched by colonialism. This of course meant that the new moral standard was Christianity, or in the more stubborn African tribes, an Afro-Christian morality. African culture is rigid, e.g. ritual circumcision in a time of  better surgical procedures, or polygamy in a time of large HIV-AIDS prevalence, even lobola in a time of poor economic well-being. This, mixed with Christian morality and the strong desire to define the black man, in my view is what feeds this kind of intolerance. When one thinks of freedom fighters we seldom imagine a queen (very feminine gay man) with a microphone and a machine gun. It is the masculine guerrilla that comes to mind, with testosterone overflow, intellect, stern leadership and Christian values. Would a gay man be less of a freedom fighter and hero? Consider Simon Nkoli, A man who fought as hard against apartheid as he did against the negative stigma attached to HIV positive people. After dying of AIDS-related complications, he was buried with all the pomp and ceremony afforded to political heroes, with dignitaries from parliament and society in general. Oh did I mention he was gay? The point is that  he is as much a hero as any other liberation hero. So let’s recap what it means to be gay in Africa: • You can’t be a Christian and therefore “won’t” make it to heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). • You might be killed for being openly gay, by anti-gay extremists. • A Christian man will try and rid you of your “sexual disease/ curse” by the devil. • Festivals to celebrate your pride will end in police violence. • The Ugandan government is out to get you. • You will have to make peace with the fact that you will be eyeballed everywhere you go. • You can do amazing things but just don’t mention that your are gay, if you want to be acclaimed. • You can finally get married, even though churches will protest. • People look at you and say “yuck”, “sis” and spit. With the odds stacked so heavily against those with a different sexual orientation, maybe there should be more awareness about homosexuality.

5 thoughts on “Homosexuality is Un-African

  • October 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm
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    The gay thing is an interesting one for me. I really have no problem with people’s sexual orientation. I really take people as people no matter who they choose to love and those who know me will attest to this fact. I think that prejudice is unacceptable at all levels, and maybe that is because I feel like I have experienced mindless prejudice myself before. It is unacceptable for any one individual to dictate to the next what they should or should not do, especially when what they choose to do does not harm anyone. I believe that God himself values choice, so much so that he allowed mankind to make every single choice in their life without interference, so it is arrogant for any one man to believe that they should be making the choices for another man.

    That said, I do struggle with the idea that homosexuality is not a choice- subconscious or otherwise. When you say that it is not a choice you suggest that there is something that is different between me and a guy who is homosexual that is innate/genetic that distinguishes between us. This difference exists when we speak about gender or race and we all know that, but I have not seen or heard of anything of the sort where homosexuality comes in to play. I know men who seem to have more oestrogen in their bodies than other men, and are feminine as a result – by this I mean they gesture in ways that could be considered feminine, even speak with high-pitched voices – but remain heterosexual. Possibly more than most men. I do not know what it is that could possibly make a homosexual (male or female) different from a heterosexual genetically. That said I am no genetics expert.

    Please clarify for me what it is that makes a homosexual man different from a heterosexual man, that which clearly shows that it is not a choice made by the individual. To me it seems akin to the idea of choosing to either love Lerato of Mmathabo, not so much that I love Mmathabo because I can’t help myself and are genetically tuned to love Mmathabo. I hope my point is clear here.

    Again, I am not one to meddle in the business of others and who they love and would never show prejudice to one person on the basis of their sexual orientation, but you are losing me when you say that it is not a choice. To argue that it cannot be a choice because of all the adversity that one has to overcome in order to be gay in Africa is similar to the idea that all consumers make rational choices. We know that assumption to be faulty and not quite reflective of human nature so I could argue that human beings have a history of making choices that seem contrary to what might be in their own best interest. The idea of prejudice is a good example of human beings make otherwise inexplicable choices, so I do not fully subscribe to the idea that people would not choose to be homosexual in Africa because it is difficult to be homosexual in Africa.

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  • October 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm
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    Hey Thulani, Thanks for reading.

    Well, there are a couple of things that separate you from the gay man. I found some evidence on the Hamer study. He studied the origin of the gay gene. Like everything in science though it is only accurate to a certain degree. From what I gather the sequence in the Xq28 part of the X chomosome is what separates gay from straight.

    Check this out… Quote from an essay about the study.

    What proved the genetic nature of “gayness” was a pedigree test. This type of study examines the sexual orientation of the ancestors of many gay adults – both on their father’s and mother’s side. Some possible results from a pedigree study on Hamer’s sample of gay adults would be:

    An approximately equal number of gays might be found on the mothers’ side of the family, when compared to the fathers’ side. Some gays may have many gay ancestors on their mother’s side, whereas other gays may see the same effect on their father’s side. But when all the results were lumped together, if the total numbers would be about equal, then the results could point to:

    “Gayness” being caused by environmental factors, or
    “Gayness” being caused by some gene on a chromosome other than the X chromosome.
    A much larger number of gays might be found on the mother’s side of the family. This would show conclusively that not only was the gene passed genetically, but that it is located somewhere on the X chromosome – since men always get their X chromosome only from their mother. This is called the “maternal effect.” It is well known in genetics.

    The researchers found that the second result was observed. A gay male from the population that Hamer studied would notice that more of his mother’s brothers will be gay than his father’s brothers; so too with the various classes of maternal cousins when compared to his paternal cousins. Thus, much male homosexuality is caused by a gene on the X chromosome. Hamer went on to find the approximate location on the chromosome where the gay-causing gene was located. He found that many of his subjects had an identical sequence on the Xq28 region of their X chromosome. This shows the approximate location of the “gay gene.” Researchers speculated that a group of interacting genes (including one in this region) might be found to determine sexual orientation in males. This prediction came to pass. The statistical “p” value is a measure of the significance of a test: the probability that it could have happened by chance. P values less than 0.01 (1%) are considered very significant. The Hamer study had a P factor of 0.00001, and so is considered extremely reliable.

    The DNA of 36 pairs of lesbian sisters were also studied; no corresponding pattern has yet been found. “

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  • October 9, 2010 at 7:53 am
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    See now that is amazing stuff right there. Can you please send me the paper so that I can try to read it, and I say try because I am almost certain it is going to be quite technical and difficutl to comprehend the first time I read it.

    I must say though that it all sounds quite convenient at the moment. Let me just get this straight, you are saying that the X-chromosome in guys is from the mother’s side right and this is mainly because you need an X and a Y chromosome in order for a guy to be born and only the father can give the Y chromosome right. So guys have their X chromosomes contributed by the mothers whereas girls have both X chromosomes – one from the mother and the other from their father. This is how we are able to distinguish, in guys, what features would be from their mothers and which ones would be from their fathers. Correct?

    We are then saying that in the Mother chromosome we able to detect a particular gene located somewhereon the Xq28 region that definitely leads to homosexuality. What do you mean when you say the prediction came to pass. I ask because you gave a p-value, but I am not sure what that p-value is supposed to indicate. Please just clarify that for me.

    And on the pedigree test, if all you are looking for is the presence of gay ancestors in one’s family, could that not point to the acceptability of being gay in one’s family, and not necessarily the presence of a gay gene? I ask because unless the ancestors were tested themselves, and proved to have the “gay gene” then we cannot say thatthe gay gene was passed down. How then do you explain a guy who is the first one to be gay in his family on both sides? Unless you are saying that never happens.

    How is it that the gay gene has not been found on lesbian girls when they too have the maternal chromosome – as difficult as it may be to distinguish? Does it not sound a little convenient that the gay gene happens to be on the mother’s chromosome on guys, the one place where you are most likely to find characteristics of a woman in a man? On the whole I guess I am saying that it all sounds quite suspect to me that we have now found a gay gene. Are you basically saying that no straight man has a sequence that looks like that of gay men in the Xq28 region?

    Please send me the paper.

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  • October 9, 2010 at 7:58 am
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    One other thing. What exactly does this “gay gene” determine? Does it determine how you feel about guys vs. how you feel about women? What is the significance of this gene basically? What does it do in a gay man that it does not do is not happening in a stratight guy.

    And when you say that the region has a similar sequence, were you then saying that the actual gene itself has not been identified?

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  • October 10, 2010 at 9:51 am
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    Hey Thulani, Yes you are right in your logic. (or atleast thats how I see it too.With the X-chromosome)

    P-Value
    Well the simple answer is that the relations found in gay men regarding the sequence could simply be by chance. So the p-value is a measure of “how much of a coincidence is it”. So a p-value of 0.1 would be mean more of a coincidence (or probability of coincidence) than that of 0.001 which is a lesser coincidence. etc.

    Sequence in Straight Men
    Well there is no simple answer, the study showed that some straight men shared the sequence but in small amounts. There was a larger relation in gay men. The study also showed the sequence from the maternal “X” side of the family was more frequent than in the paternal side.

    The Study
    Follw this link. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/285/5429/803a it is an article with Hamer attempting to explain the study.

    For the full study
    check for: “A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation
    DH Hamer, S Hu, VL Magnuson, N Hu, and AM Pattatucci
    Laboratory of Biochemistry, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.

    Hope this explains a few things. As for a full gay gene they haven’t found it. “not in the same way as one would find a gene for eye colour, or albinoism, etc. It is still just a statistical study.

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