Sunday, 3 May 2009

We are not all aggressive

The impression created in the minds of most of my fellow Africans, is that homosexual Africans are all created in the mould of the gay men and women they know, the ones who trumpet their sexual orientation from the rooftops, demanding recognition and equality. Of course homosexual people are in the minority and naturally there must be those among them whose desire it is to advocate on behalf of the millions of others who are not so courageous. But there are some truths that we must consider.

1. The aggressive advocacy and activism that seems to be the touchstone of African gay activists appears to be the only image that is portrayed of gay people in most of Africa. There are hardly any Africans who are known to be gay, unless they are activists. In the mind of the simple-minded therefore, most if not all homosexuals are aggressive. "We will not tolerate such conduct, as it seems that homosexuals want to impose their lifestyle on us". This is the reaction that we have seen to this aggressive activism. It is precisely for this reason that we have seen more stringent legislation promulgated recently.

2. In my view, although aggressive activism has had the effect of rousing the awareness of the African public to the existence in their midst of fellow citizens whose sexual orientation is different, given the image that is created by the activists, the reaction of the public has been to oppose homosexuality. Aggressive activism to me, seems to be self-defeating.

3. Apart from in South Africa where rights are guaranteed constitutionally, the evidence is that most other English speaking countries on the continent have hardened their attitude towards homosexuality in recent years. And this is not because of a sudden increase in the population of homosexual men and women. Rather, this appears to me to be a direct reaction to the actions of the activists.

4. In my opinion what is required is for ordinary, everyday men and women who are gay, to put their hands up and say "Look at me, this is what a gay person looks like". Not only will the awareness be created, but the truth will be told as to who homosexual Africans really are, the brothers, sisters, relatives and friends of those who think of homosexuality only in terms of the unfavourable and unflattering information that they have been fed, a negative attitude that is worsened further by aggressive activism.

I do not believe that the activists are succeeding in achieving their objective. What I see instead is a deepening of the lack of understanding of homosexuality by Joe African Public. It is the responsibility of all gay Africans to stand up and show our brothers and sisters who we really are. Leaving it to aggressive activists is not getting us very far.


Naughty feeling said...

My dear, that was a great post, as I reply i am thinking how much of a powerful oratory that was....impressive!

You know I am supporting you all the way through but for one itsy bitsy point: the one of us coming out to society. I see u read my last blog and am telling u that the reaction illicited by my parents although we are as cosmopolitan as african families come, i assure you the results arent pleasant!

We just have to find a non life threatening solution that is both workable and agreeably workable to all parties at the table.

Anengiyefa said...

Hi Naughty Feeling, most good things don't come easily. The reality is that despite all our fear, those few gay Africans who have 'come out', have found that many of their fears were baseless in the first place. Our brothers and sisters will still love us, because they will uinderstand that we are still the same person they always knew and loved.

Ok, I don't doubt that an upheavel of sorts is likely, within our families, with friends, even at work. But in most cases, such upheavel will dissipate, since they will still see in you that valuable person that you are and have always been. And of course a more accurate understanding of what a homosexual is, is provided to them. And this can only be a good thing because the overall negative impression of homosexuality that they had is now seen to be erroneous.

I dont want to seem to be conceited, but let me give you an example. I started this blog, using my real name. There were those who when I first started the blog sent me hate emails, claiming to be my relatives. It bothered me a little bit at first, but I persisted and now those hate mails have ceased. At work, I have been able to place myself in a position where my colleagues look up to me and come to me for assistance with their work. That I am gay has not affected the esteem in which I am held. And most importantly, I am happy with myself, knowing that I do not have to fear being 'discovered'. Its impoprtant to accept oneself first, and every other thing will come naturally.

Tamaku said...

I am more than a little confused by this post. I am struggling to find the evidence that activism has further worsened these ‘negative’ attitudes. My experience is that it is the entrenched positions of a religious right and an irresponsible media that seems to be the main promoter of aggression not the activists. Just ask Gay Uganda.Secondly activism is crucial because I doubt whether Joe Public Africa in the village shebeen will have the inclination or capacity to grapple with the myriad of challenges that lie on a journey to lobby legislators. Allow me to quote Malcolm X, ‘Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.’ The time for appeasement is long gone, why should I conform or put my life on hold because some ignorant other has a problem with whom I love or sleep with. They never check with me for my approval of their lives. I think this is a legacy from a past of methodical thinking. Keguro explains it eloquently

Further, I believe there’s nothing wrong or ‘sinful’ about my sexuality, equally I don’t think going on parades and writing petitions should be taken as an act of aggression. I can be an out homosexual in Nairobi without necessarily being a hardcore flag-waving activist (personal choice). In fact many are.

Finally in many places even the innocuous act of putting up your hands to say, ‘Look at me, this is what a gay person looks like’ would be taken as an act of aggression. The day Africans will say, ‘Look at John, he’s a good homosexual’ are a long way off unless we engage by activism. Welcome to homophobia. Those are my views that I feel strongly about.

Anengiyefa said...

"I can be an out homosexual in Nairobi without necessarily being a hardcore flag-waving activist (personal choice). In fact many are."

Hi Tamaku, the above taken from your comment is exactly my argument. We can be gay and be victorious at the same time, without incurring the angst of our fellow citizens, whose negative attitude towards us is primarilly because we have failed to present ourselves in a manner such that they understand who we are. There is nowhere on the planet where homosexuality is not looked upon with a certain degree of scorn, even disdain. But in those places where homosexuality has been accepted as being only a variation of normal human sexuality, it has been because correct information concerning our sexual orientation has been disseminated.

Of course activism serves its own purpose, but at the end of the day, the activists do not represent the majority of us. I have known Gay Uganda for years, but I most definitely disapprove of his methods, since it is precisely because of people like him that the homophobic outcry in Uganda is as vitriolic and virulent as it is. He is antagonistic and endlessly laments and whines about how oppressed he and his lover are, whereas in reality, he is a gay man who has been able to live with his long-term partner for years, right there in Kampala Uganda, in the midst of all those so-called homophobic Ugandans. And my argument is that he would have been able to do this, even if he wasn't so loud and aggressive, even as several others are doing. I cannot accept that homosexuality in Uganda has come even one inch closer to being granted official recognition because of activism. If anything, apart from the awareness that has been created by the activists, the position of the law against homosexuality has in fact hardened. The same applies in Nigeria.

What our people need is education, not intimidation by activists. We all have a role to play in educating them and we cannot do this when we remain hidden in the closet.