Sunday, 30 August 2009

Spraying..

I attended a wedding yesterday. The couple getting married are Britons, but because they're both born of Nigerian parents, of course the event was a Nigerian affair. I heard that many of the guests at the wedding had travelled all the way from Nigeria for the occasion and the gaudily dressed lady seated next to me at the reception, even volunteered that the British Airways Boeing 747 on which she had arrived in London from Lagos the day before, was absolutely packed with the guests now present at this wedding; and that it was exactly the same on the Virgin Atlantic flight a few hours earlier.

I'd heard of this sort of thing. Indeed last year, my very own sister together with her husband journeyed half way across the world from Nigeria to Barbados, stopping over for a few days in Baltimore, Md in the USA, just to attend a wedding in Bridgetown, Barbados. That wedding was of the son of one of their friends. The son was getting married to a lovely Barbadian lady (so I was told). Anyway, the relevance of that bit of information is that my sister who lives in Nigeria normally, but who incidentally was also present at this wedding in London yesterday, joined in my conversation with this lady sitting beside me at the wedding reception. Sis's contribution was that at that wedding in Barbados too, planeloads of Nigerian guests had arrived in Bridgetown via London.

Living frugally in London as you do, I'd almost forgotten the extremes of flamboyance to which my countrymen are liable. My jaw literally dropped when the couple started their First Dance. It is customary at these and other celebratory social occasions for guests to express their goodwill by doling out loads of cash on the celebrant(s) when the celebrants are out on the dance floor. This giving of cash is known as "spraying" and cash gifts are also given for dancing prowess. But it is the manner in which these gifts are given that is interesting. Its not uncommon for the giver while dancing beside the celebrant, to pick out the money, note by note placing the money one note at a time on the forehead of the recipient of the cash. The longer the giver is able to continue with the spraying, the more respected he is.

So I was not particularly surprised when the guest of honour at this wedding reception, who by the way also happened to be at that wedding in Barbados last year, rose from his seat at the high table and danced his way across the floor towards the dancing newly-married couple. But it was to my utter astonishment that this distinguished older gentleman after carefully arranging his agbada on his shoulders, pulled out a thick wad of $100 notes, ($100 bills as the Americans would say). Then slowly, and making sure that those sitting at tables close-by saw that these were $100 notes, he started placing the notes one by one on the bride's forehead. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, where's my camera, I must capture this...and it was at this point that I lost count. But I wasn't going to lose the chance to take a picture...I wanted to post some of the photos here but I decided against it, as it may not be entirely in good taste if I did..

When he was done with the bride, he turned on the bride groom. Nine, ten, eleven... While being sprayed it is necessary to have an assistant close by, who picks up the cash note by note as it slips to the floor. To stop dancing in order to handle the money that has has been sprayed on you is just not done. Woe betide you therefore if you're sprayed on a crowded dance floor and you lack the help of an assistant.. So of course the best man and the chief bridesmaid were put to work, with polythene bags in hand, picking up the money from the floor, note after note..I've been thinking of the thousands of US dollars that was sprayed last evening...and I'm still in shock!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Wait for me

Wait for me, and I’ll return
Only wait very hard
Wait when you are filled with sorrow
Wait in the sweltering heat
Wait when the others have stopped waiting,
Forgetting their yesterdays.

Wait even when from afar no letters come to you
Wait even when others are tired of waiting…
And when friends sit around the fire,
Drinking to my memory,
Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.

Wait. For I’ll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They will never understand that in the midst of death,
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I know how I survived.
It’s because you waited, as no one else did.

These beautiful words were written in 1941 by a young Soviet officer, Konstantin Simonov. Today he is regarded as arguably Russia’s greatest poet. At the time he was unknown. 'Wait For Me' was intended for his girlfriend Valentina Serova, but ended up being published in Pravda. Soldiers cut it out of the paper, copied it out as they sat in the trenches, learned it by heart and sent it back in letters to wives and girlfriends. It was found in the breast pockets of the killed and wounded. And I find the words very touching.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Alexander the Meerkat

These are adverts for comparethemarket.com, a website where among other things you're invited to compare the cost of car insurance as provided by various companies. Alexander the Meerkat has become something of a celebrity in the UK. Simples! Enjoy..







Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Saxophonist by Anengiyefa (Part 1)

Published at Story Time and to be found here.

On being gay (continued)

Most of us Africans do not know any other fellow Africans who openly identify as gay. Among Africans, homosexuality is mostly spoken of in derogatory terms. Known gay men and women are reviled, derided, ridiculed and maligned and sometimes the hostility can degenerate into violence. It is this hostile environment into which most gay Africans are born and in which they must grow up and live. In Africa gay people are openly discriminated against and the likelihood is very real that a gay man who comes out with his sexual orientation will lose many of his friends, his job and his means of livelihood and probably his home as well. In some countries, the discrimination against homosexuals is even given legislative backing. New laws are being promulgated that prohibit same-sex unions or associations and target gay rights advocates, with political and religious leaders joining in the fray. And this in the 21st Century! It is understandable then that the majority of same-gender loving African people will choose to keep their true nature hidden in order to avoid the hostility to which they would otherwise quickly become susceptible. My view is that this situation only exists because Africans generally do not understand homosexuality.

Whatever may be a society's attitude towards homosexuality, there will always be same-gender loving people among its members. It is simply not possible to legislate against sexual orientation, and the overall effect of anti-gay laws is to inhibit the pursuit of happiness for a significant portion of a country's population. Many heterosexual Africans might argue that they do not wish for same-gender loving people to be happy or pursue happiness, but this is a reactionary viewpoint that is borne out of prejudice, not one that is founded on modern secular rationality. And prejudice is always irrational and wrong. If the overriding objective of these laws is to protect the heterosexual majority, there has been no evidence from those parts of the world where homosexuality has been decriminalised that the heterosexual majority has become at greater risk of harm as a result. If anything, the guarantee of equality for all individuals irrespective of their sexual orientation has made for societies that are more egalitarian, healthier and more progressive. In those countries sexual orientation is not a bar to the individual in the opportunities that are available to him and in what he is able to achieve or make of his life.

Earlier this year, Iceland named Johanna Sigurdardottir a lesbian woman as its first openly gay prime minister/head of government, albeit this was an interim appointment. Clearly her sexual orientation was not a hindrance to her success as a politician and clearly, that she is a lesbian was not relevant to the Icelanders when the decision was made. Indeed, it seemed to have caused more of a stir abroad than it did within Iceland itself. Bertrand Delanoë is a gay man and he is the Mayor of Paris, one of the world's major cities. He is liked and very popular and is said to harbour the ambition of running for President of the French Republic in 2012. Klaus Wowereit has been the Mayor of Berlin since 2001. He too is an openly gay man and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Chancellorship of Germany. His partner is a neurosurgeon.

This shows us that it is quite possible to be gay and be respectable at the same time. It is in this direction that Africa should be looking, including the gay Africans themselves, many of who because they have been raised in a society that condemns them, feel the need to hide that aspect of their nature. We are what we are, and it is our responsibility to portray our sexual orientation in a positive light. For the sake of the younger generation of gay Africans and for those yet to be born, there is a need for positive role models who are African and gay. We cannot continue playing to the fallacy that we are deviant, depraved and morally degenerate, an argument that is relentlessly advanced by our heterosexual brothers and sisters. We must demonstrate that we are capable, competent and responsible, but that at the same time we are gay and proud of it too.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Senegal: Release Men Arrested for Homosexuality in Darou Mousty

Arrests, convictions, and detentions for alleged homosexuality violate the rights to be free from discrimination, to equality before the law, and to privacy.

The Issue
On June 19, 2009, four men from the city of Darou Mousty, in the department of Kébémer in the Louga region, were arrested and subsequently detained at a police station in the city. These four men were arrested for alleged sexual acts "against nature." There are also reports that the police forced these men to reveal the names of people who are supposedly "homosexual." The week of August 10, 2009, two of the men were convicted of "unnatural" offenses, despite the only evidence against them being denunciations from townspeople. One man received a sentence of 2 years in prison and the other 5 years. A third man, who is seventeen years old, will stand trial August 24, 2009 in a court for minors. The status of the fourth is unknown.
Senegal is one of the few francophone African countries that criminalizes homosexuality, under Article 319 of the Senegalese Penal Code. Last year, nine members of AIDES Senegal were arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison for "indecent conduct and unnatural acts" and "conspiracy." The Court of Appeals in Dakar overturned the sentences in April 2009.
Laws criminalizing and detentions of people because of consensual sex between persons of the same sex are arbitrary and violate international law. Such laws violate Articles 2 and 26 on the rights to equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, and privacy of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as stated in Toonen v. Australia (1994) and by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In addition, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated its concern over laws that criminalize "homosexual relations, including those of persons under 18 years old" as being impermissible discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (General Comments 3 & 4, Concluding Observations: Chile, April 2007).
The criminalization of consensual same sex relations runs counter to the guarantees of nondiscrimination and equality before the law in Articles 2, 3, and 28 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and Article 7 of the Senegalese Constitution.
For more information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in Senegal click here.
Action
Join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in calling on the Senegalese government to release the men convicted, to not convict the 17-year-old awaiting trial, and to end the pattern of systemic persecution against perceived sexual minorities by repealing Article 319.
Click here to send this message translated in French to the Senegalese authorities.

Senegal: New arrests and convictions for same-sex relations; pattern of persecution continues

For Immediate Release, August 20, 2009 Media Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, 212-430-6016, halizadeh@iglhrc.org

(New York, August 20, 2009)- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Inner Circle are outraged at reports that a 17 year-old Senegalese man will stand trial on August 24 for sexual acts "against nature" and that two other men were convicted on identical charges during the week of August 10, 2009. The three men, all from the town of Darou Mousty, in Louga, Senegal, were arrested and detained for alleged same-sex relations on June 19, 2009, together with a fourth man whose status is currently unknown. The first two men were sentenced to two and five years in prison respectively. Reports indicate that denunciations from neighbors were the only evidence against the men.
These are the latest in a pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions based on perceived sexual orientation in Senegal, a country in which same-sex relations are illegal, homophobia is widespread, and incitement toward violence against those perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is often encouraged by politicians and religious leaders. "This is yet another indication that gay men and those perceived to be gay are in grave danger in Senegal," said IGLHRC executive director Cary Alan Johnson. "The arrests violate both international and African human rights law. Unpopularity is never a justification for abuse."
Human rights abuses related to sexual orientation and gender identity in Senegal have accelerated since February 2008, when 10 people were arbitrarily arrested and charged with "homosexuality, incitement to debauchery and corruption of good behavior," after popular tabloid Icône published pictures of a ceremony to affirm a gay relationship. In a separate incident in August 2008, two men were arrested at their home in Dakar for "homosexual marriage" and also charged with "acts against the order of nature." In December 2008, nine members of AIDES Sénégal who were participating in an education workshop to combat HIV and AIDS were arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison for "indecent conduct and unnatural acts" and "conspiracy." The Court of Appeals in Dakar overturned their conviction in April 2009.
Violence and official persecution of those perceived to be LGBT is also evidenced by several disturbing incidents in which the graves of men perceived to be gay have been desecrated and their bodies exhumed. In May 2009, the body of 30-year old Madièye Diallo was dug up from his grave in the town of Thiès. After his family re-buried him, his body was exhumed again and dumped outside the family's home. Finally, family members buried the body in the grounds of their own house.
Religious and political leaders in Senegal have stoked the flames of hatred. In recent months, representatives from both sectors have loudly condemned same-sex practicing people. Addressing the release of the December 2008 detainees, Massamba Diop, the Imam of Pikine, told his congregants that: "the judge was too lenient, we should have killed them." In May 2009, Prime Minister Souleymane Ndiaye Ndéné asserted that "homosexuality… is a sign of a crisis of values" in Senegal and that the Senegalese government would become more involved in future attempts to repress and punish same-sex relations.
"The Imam of Pikine is inciting his congregation to murder," according to Imam Muhsin Hendricks, Director and Spiritual Advisor of the Inner Circle, an Islamic human rights organization based in South Africa. "But the Quran instructs us in Surah 2:179 that 'in the law of equality there is the saving of life, o you men of understanding so that you may restrain yourselves.'"
Under Article 3.913 of the Senegalese penal code, homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment of between one and five years and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs ($200) to 1,500,000 CFA francs ($3,000). Both IGLHRC and the Inner Circle have called for the repeal of this legislation, which empowers police and other authorities to abuse, harass, extort, and imprison those whose sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression challenges social norms.

Pepper soup!

There is this Ghanaian restaurant in Dalston that does the most amazing oxtail pepper soup. There is the option of fresh tilapia too. Since I got out of bed this morning I've been salivating non-stop, lusting after that delicious soup, thoughts of it clinging tenaciously as I went through the day, resisting all my efforts to cast the thoughts out of my mind. So finally, I have succumbed. I am heading straight to that restaurant this evening.

Unmasked

My mug shot has gone public on the Internet. I'm cringing in horror! They absolutely insisted that I must have my photo on this page and I had no choice but to oblige, since I didn't want to lose out on the chance of joining the group. So tell me guys, am I really as comely as I've been told I am? :)

Fugitive

I've been hearing this song in my head constantly since I listened to it for the first time weeks ago. I love all of his music but I think this is his best song by a mile...Fugitive from David Gray's new album...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

On being gay

When I started this blog, I was not sure what the blog would be about. I knew that my mind was bursting with thoughts that needed to be expressed and that there were a lot of things I wanted to say. I thought of the blog as a platform from which to speak my mind about issues that matter to me. Recently I found myself filling out a form sent to me by a group that was conducting a survey of professional people living in London. The form required me to tick a box if I was male, (tick), black, (tick), black African, (tick), then I got to the section on sexual orientation and gender identity. "Do you identify as male or female?" I thought I had already answered that one when I ticked the 'male' box earlier? Anyway I ticked the 'I identify as male' box, then came to the next question, "Would you describe yourself as 'heterosexual', 'homosexual', bisexual' or 'other'?" This was easy. Ticking the 'homosexual' box, I couldn't help wondering what the option 'other' would relate to. But in a strange way, it felt good that I was able to categorically tick the 'homosexual' box, declaring emphatically what my sexual orientation is. On this blog, I wanted to discuss my homosexuality too.

Being gay has never been a problem for me. Naturally, as with many gay people my teenage years were emotionally turbulent. Living in modern day Africa where society affords no support for its young members who are struggling with sexual feelings they can't explain, and where in fact having such feelings is roundly decried, and especially as this was in the 70s and early 80s when information concerning homosexuality was not readily available to the young African person, it was not easy to grapple with the notion that one was different from everyone else that one knew. But at the same time, even in those youthful days I realised that these were feelings over which I had no control. So I vigorously rejected any temptation to suffer guilt or shame about my sexual feelings, as this was clearly something that I should not and could not feel ashamed or guilty about.

I fell in love for the first time at the age of 15. He was younger than me by one year. It happened so naturally and the relationship was so beautiful and emotionally fulfilling that it helped me to accept myself and helped to convince me that this is who I am, a male who is physically and emotionally attracted to males. That was perhaps the happiest time of my life, young and carefree, when the major worry in life was getting on with academic work at school, and life was devoid of all the bothersome matters of responsible adulthood. We both were at the same boarding school, but even during the school holidays we had ample opportunity to spend a lot of time together. In fact the holidays offered more opportunity for us, because we needn't worry about being discovered by other students. We would spend long hours together walking arm in arm on the golf course. One part of this golf course ran between the street where his house was located and my street; indeed from my street at my end of the golf course I could see across the grass, the sand and the holes to his house on the far side.

And this lovely place was the scene of many a pleasant memory that still lurk in my mind even today. Me and him side by side, meeting up on the golf course at sunset, holding hands, in the darkness, talking, feeling the body warmth of each other, whispering words of love, lying on the soft grass, together, kissing, loving, wondering what the future held for us, worrying about whether our families would find out about us, what their reaction would be if they did, pressing our bodies together in a tight embrace, enjoying each other in ways that was impossible with any other person. Looking back now, anyone who had seen us together on the street or anywhere, would have assumed that we were just two teenage boys fooling around, whereas the actuality was that we were lovers and the love fire that was burning between us was real and was mind blowing.

The wide open expanse of the golf course which was completely deserted at night time, provided us with the perfect setting for our intimate romantic encounters in the warm, dark African night, under the moon and the stars, away from prying eyes and out of sight of our curious and inquisitive siblings. Our times together were absolutely marvelous and the relationship subsisted for years, until I graduated from that school and moved on to university in another city. And even then, we still kept in touch, writing love letters to each other. And whenever I visited home from university, we would pick it up again. This relationship persisted until we both became adults and we remain friends to this day. We had grown up together and articulated our same-sex attraction and feelings jointly. We had shared our fears and our desires, and ideally we would have eloped to some far off island where we could live together happily forever. But we were both more realistic than that and had our feet firmly planted on the ground, enough to know that the reality for us was not going to be so fairy tale-like.

Of both of us, I was the more defiant one. He was unsure what the future might bring and he would fret and worry quite a bit. Whereas I, even at that young age, was certain and knew quite definitely that I would not allow my life to be hindered because some other people were unimpressed with my love for the male gender. My experiences of love and happiness in this world, in this one life that we are given to live, were not going to be impeded by the prejudices of others and I was determined to stand my ground! And it seems that I have been consistent in my attitude, since unlike many other gay men including my first lover, I have never at anytime pretended to be anything other than gay, even if I don't see the need to wear it on my shoulder or shout it through a megaphone.
I'll continue with this post shortly when I've composed myself sufficiently. Pardon me.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The joy of the Post Office workers' strike

It is with some trepidation that I unlock the front door each evening when I return home from work. My front door is made of frosted glass, so its quite possible to see through it the envelopes that are littered on the doormat in the corridor behind the door even before the door is open. Although I live in a flat, I have my own front door with direct access to the street, so obviously any post or mail on the doormat is for me and nobody else. In the mornings, I leave home before the postman arrives to deliver the post. So he drops the envelopes through the letterbox and I only get to see them when I return in the evening.

Nobody writes letters nowadays. Everything is done electronically, by email and text and so forth. The only things I receive in the post are bills, more bills and reminders of as yet unpaid bills. Even my bank manager contacts me by email and I can carry out most of my transactions and even check my bank balance online, and print out a statement anytime I wish. Tearing open the envelopes containing the bills as I arrive at home usually sets the mood for the evening. I am yet to meet anyone who smiles when he or she receives a bill in the post.

Anyway, I've been smiling quite a bit lately. Postal workers have been on strike and I'm loving every minute of it. Imagine, I arrived at home today and there was not a single envelope on my doormat. To be delighted on arrival at home in the evening is a feeling that has eluded me for a long time. I don't want that strike to be called off please, even though I know I'm living on borrowed time. Its only a matter of time before those bills come flooding in again, and this time there will be a backlog too. So let me enjoy it while it lasts, lol.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

This Wednesday Lunchtime

I logged in this afternoon to find that my friend Tamaku had posted this and I just sat back and thought. What's on my mind? At work I'm currently faced with making some very tough decisions in a matter where my opponents are extremely fierce and combative, and whose client is very rich, whereas my client is quite broke and therefore somewhat impotent. The last 10 days or so have been gruelling, so please pardon me for being a bit scarce recently.

Coming back to what I was saying, there is this tough job I've been working on where the likelihood is very real that I might not even get paid in the end after several months of arduous effort. Indeed there is every possibility that the court shall make a substantial wasted-costs order against me personally, ordering me to cough up huge sums of money for wasting everybody's time, even though I do genuinely believe that my client's case is meritorious. But its one of those cases where money shows its power, where justice is bought by he who is able to pay more for it. I am angry that my client has been unable to afford the specialist and expert assistance that he requires to pursue his case adequately. But again, maybe I should have recognised this sooner.

So I have these upsetting thoughts running through my mind this Wednesday lunchtime, but I can still find the room to think about boys (I prefer to call them MEN) and yes, sex! So thanks to Tamaku for relieving some of my tension. Have a good day everyone.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Burundi: Gays and Lesbians Face Increasing Persecution

Community Members Speak Out Against New Law Criminalising Homosexual Behaviour

July 29, 2009 (Human Rights Watch)

Bujumbura - An April 2009 law that criminalises homosexual conduct threatens to exacerbate the deplorable treatment of gays and lesbians in Burundi, Human Rights Watch said in a multimedia project published today.

For details, click here.

"Human Rights Watch has called upon the government of Burundi to listen to the voices of Burundi's gays and lesbians, and to urgently reform the criminal code so as to end the state discrimination against this group of Burundian citizens."

Monday, 3 August 2009

Boadicea



I'm having an Enya moment. Pardon me.
This tune illustrates just how much can be said without words.

This blew me away

Beauty posted a comment on my recent post about dick photos in the online profiles of many gay men. The comment contained a link which I followed. It was a page from the BBC website and the story was about effeminate Bhuddist monks in Thailand. At the top right corner of that page was this story. I can't explain the way my mind reacted to the story after I read it, because although I was pleased that a society somewhere in the world is as tolerant as the Thais seem to be, I was also shocked and surprised at the same time, even though I always knew of the famous ladyboys of Thailand.

It isn't surprising that such an unusually large percentage of the Thai male population suffer from a gender identity conflict of sorts given that even as young as at puberty, boys are afforded the opportunity, perhaps even encouraged (one may fairly say) to become girls. Now, sexuality and gender identity issues going by my own personal experience take considerable emotional and psychological maturity to work through. A 12 year old simply does not have the psychological wherewithal to decide without a shade of a doubt that he or she is transsexual. I suspect that a 12 year old who starts out so early in life identifying as a member of the opposite sex, is unlikely ever to have the chance of discovering other aspects of his sexuality. And those other aspects will inevitably eventually become suppressed. I believe that discipline and strict rules regarding sex, sexuality and gender should be maintained for minors below the age of 16.

There are people of every generation who identify as gay, some are even transsexual. Those now in their 50s and 60s grew up at a time when homosexuality was little understood and criminalised in most of the world. Yet these people remained gay despite the hostility, the misunderstanding and the constraints that surrounded them during their teenage years, the period of their psychological and emotional development. I fear that too much freedom for young people is not in their best interest since having had such little time to develop and mature, they may be denied the opportunity to explore their own sexuality further, thereby understanding it better. They may also not get the chance, or even the incentive, to critically articulate their place in the world. But again, maybe this is just old-fashioned me talking too much, again...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Saturday, 1 August 2009

I know what it looks like!

It never ceases to annoy me when people think that photos of their genitals should affect me so strongly that I would want to meet them. I mean, if I was linking up with someone online with a view to meeting that person face to face at some future point, I am expecting to meet a real breathing human being, a person who can hold a conversation and share a joke. I am not looking to meet his penis! It really sucks that on most gay dating sites, what one finds are photo after photo of male genitals. Its almost as if we need to be constantly reminded of what a penis looks like!

I think it comes down to the fact that many gay men feel debased by their homosexuality and subconsciously believe that high moral standards are not expected of them. It is one of the reasons why we find that the majority of gay men have no misgivings about being promiscuous. Gay men seem to think that because they're gay, they are of necessity less moral than others. And this appears to be more profound among Africans and those of African descent, many of who still believe that their homosexuality is wrong. Some even have feelings of shame and in the process suffer low self-esteem. I think this is unfortunate, because proud honourable gay men who wish to portray an image of respectability find that this is more difficult to do than it should be.