Saturday, May 22, 2010

Africa's Deep Homophobia?

So here I was, sauntering onto the Guardian website like I do sometimes, and I happen upon this article that explains "the toxic brew" that leads to homophobia in Africa.

In a chaotic, noisy restaurant in Africa a couple of years ago there was an extraordinary conversation, which left me very disturbed. Several very educated professionals – all of whom I liked immensely and saw as decent, honourable people – insisted that homosexuality was un-African, a decadent western problem and would never be tolerated in Africa. Or maybe it would in 50 years' time, was the one concession after several hours of vigorous argument. What's more, they insisted they could never work alongside a gay or lesbian colleague.

A little further down in the article, she blames homophobia in Africa on the role of religion, Africa's "part admiration, part envy, part anger and seething resentment" relationship with the West, and the emasculation of men under the British during the colonial era.


I honestly think religion plays a huge role in the homophobia, but I suspect she's got it wrong on the relationship with the West. A lot of African-Americans, to a lesser extent, have issues with homosexuality, but it's mostly helped along with the idea that it's a white thing, and not a particularly awesome white thing to do. Once you convince yourself that only "those people" do "those things" you can hate all you want. Plus, I think to a certain extent, some African-Americans may dislike the idea of a bunch of white people -- especially white men -- calling themselves minorities and claiming victim, and calling their fight for rights "a civil rights issue." As for the British thing, there's certainly evidence to help along the British colonial-era rules argument.

I may have more thoughts on this at another time, but I really don't know right now. I can only say why I myself am not a homophobe, even though I grew up in Nigeria. I never bought the idea that we as Nigerians are somehow different from other people. I was cynical when I was younger -- I've always had issues with religion and doubted that anyone had moral superiority over anybody else. To this day, I scoff at the idea of role models because even though some people do and have done some extraordinary things, I don't think that makes anyone extraordinary. Because I'm not religious myself and therefore have no book to help me demonize people whom I've never met/know anything about, the impulse to hate on sight is gone. All that remains is the impulse to ask questions, and understand.

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