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.
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