Community History Opinion

Pride month, Afrikan dilemma and allies

Marsha P. Johnson Bust” photographed by Brandon English, sculpted by Jesse Pallotta is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The original article can be found on Medium. Republished and re-edited with permission from the author.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”

Carl Gustav Jung

Since the beginning of June, I believe we have seen a lot of “happy pride month.” For many people who don’t know what the pride month is, here is a clarification. Pride month is a month where all members of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and more) communities around the world come together to celebrate their freedom to be themselves. It is a month set aside to commemorate the Stonewall uprising in June 1969 of which a Black queer person, Marsha P. Johnson, was a prominent figure.

On the 28 June 1969, Stonewall inn, a gay bar in New York was raided by police. The members were hauled and embarrassed. However, they resisted arrest. This led to riots that lasted three days and it spurred gay rights movement. A year later, 28 June was celebrated as a day to pay homage to the events of the previous year. It has since then become a day and month dedicated to celebrating the sexualities of the minority. For so many years, LGBTQIA+ communities have faced harassments and violation of their human rights. After winning certain battles and getting justice, it is only reasonable that a month be set aside to show the world that despite differences in sexualities, there should be equality, equity and respect. The non-straight rights movements have achieved a lot since the Stonewall uprising. One of their major victories remains getting the United States of America Supreme Court to rule on 26 June 2015 that same-sex marriage is legal.

The event of that day added to the number of questions that hung over the Obama administration. He has since been appended the antichrist tag alongside other derogatory remarks. His show of support as the president and pushing for the legislation to get passed resulted into the core evangelicals turning against him. But his support alone showed the LGBTQIA+ communities around the world what having a powerful ally could look like. On the other hand, there was a factoid that some Afrikan leaders created to fool their countrypeople. Whenever they seek help from the United States of America and the US then denies them the hands of a big brother, they always go to the market square to announce how President Obama did not render help because he told them the US will only help if they legalise same-sex marriage. This narration became truth and some Afrikans in Afrika saw their leaders’ rejection of any deal with America as an act of patriotism. Let me reiterate, your leaders lied.

“Once you hate differences, you hate humanity because humanity in itself entails the harmony of opposites, the complementarity of numerous binaries”

We advocate for some minorities and think of Black lives matter, then be homophobic and believe LGBTQIA+ rights are not valid.

The world is ever changing and when it comes to homosexuality, people are becoming more and more open and owning their sexuality. Therefore, it is erroneous to say a certain group of people are trying to force the trends of other people from different region. Just to be clear, homosexuality is not a trend. It is one of the reasons why the language has shifted from “sexual preference” to “sexual orientation.” That is, taking the subject away from sociology into the terrains of biology. The most dominant reason why people reject homosexuality is on religious grounds. There is a common questionable phrase that “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.” The phrase is always a point to the fact that God created a male and female, therefore only a man and woman should have sexual intercourse. When followed to a logical conclusion, does it mean that once a homosexual says they do not believe in the existence of God, they are free to be homosexual in peace? Unfortunately, even when homosexuals say they do not believe in God, they are not left alone. The leading question I assume will be “why don’t you believe in God?” When the argument is unending, in a strict religious environment, the homosexual may be stoned to death. So, if a people can stone any human being to death, then they simply just hate differences. Once you hate differences, you hate humanity because humanity in itself entails the harmony of opposites, the complementarity of numerous binaries.

It is saddening that despite the progress of gay rights movements worldwide, Afrika regresses each day. There is a popular idea that homosexuality negates the Afrikan identity. Unknown to the pushers of such notion, to be “Afrikan” is hugely nebulous. The cause of this is because people often assume that Afrika is culturally and historically homogeneous. In fact, Afrikan is essentially heterogeneous because there are several Afrikan identities. The question that is begging to be asked is, which of the Afrikan identities is homosexuality negating? To say homosexuality is not Afrikan and is mere Western trend that Afrikans are imitating, is a child-brain of Euro-Christian reasoning. It is not surprising that when homosexuals in Afrika “come out” they are often taken to churches for deliverance. If homosexuality is a Western trend inherited by Afrikans, why are the Afrikan homosexuals then taken to a Western God for help? Not to forget the issue of negation of Afrikan: the supposed Afrikan identity is that the Afrikan culture in its essence is about reproduction and procreation. This is the same mentality that pushes the false narrative that “unchecked” procreation increases the poverty index of Afrika. Ironically those who believe the narrative should think that maybe (just maybe) Afrika could benefit from a sexual orientation with less procreation to reduce poverty. Some Afrikan scholars have used the natural law theory to posit that what the LGBTQIA+ communities stand for is an aberration of our culture. Despite the openness to different gender and sexual expressions in pre-colonial societies, there were still elements of phobias.  

“To say homosexuality is not Afrikan and is mere Western trend that Afrikans are imitating, is a child-brain of Euro-Christian reasoning”

In the Yoruba system of divination, Ifa in Ofun Irete opines that:

Palm Oil is good to complement yam for consumption,

And yam is good as complement for eating palm oil

The ladder is good for climbing the rafter

A woman is better for a man to make love than his fellow man

A man is better for a woman to sleep with than her fellow woman

If a man sleeps with a man it will result into lumps, boils and disease

If a woman makes love to a fellow woman

It will result into murk, stinking odour, filth and irritation

If a man makes love to a woman and woman sleeps with a man

The result is feeling like being on top of the world

The feeling is like unlimited enjoyment.

This Ifa canto points to the fact that the issue of homosexuality is not a trend that Yoruba people and Afrikans in general are adopting, it has always been with us. Also, it is this sort of notion seen in the Ifa grapheme that has shaped opinions on homosexual relationships which in turn informed anti-gay laws in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Gambia and so on. However, what they do not consider is that none of the Afrikan cultures in their pureness is against inequalities. Afrikan cultures are essentially communitarian. That cannot be over emphasized. The communitarian spirit is to always treat the next person as an extension of yourself. That is, you will care for other people like you would yourself. In a sense, by the way you care for others, you affirm your own existence and humanity. This is supported by the famous saying of the Kenyan philosopher, John Mbiti that “I am, because we are; and since we are, therefore I am.” Succinctly, the only way to be you is to understand that others exist and they exist with their differences. It is only by accepting these differences, that you accept the existence of others. To discriminate, to make laws against “the being” of other people, to persecute and stone to death people who are sexually different from us, all negate the idea of oneness and communitarian principles upon which Afrikan cultures are built. A continent that prides itself on the principles of Ubuntu, Omolúwàbí and other humanistic principles should not discriminate against the subjects of humanity nor should it put people to death because of their sexual orientations.

In this Pride month, many people want to show solidarity and support. It is a thing of joy to see that heterosexuals are speaking up against social injustice meted out against homosexuals. We are ever learning, unlearning and relearning. It is pertinent to do away with our previously held erroneous beliefs about sexuality. On that note, in supporting homosexuals and demanding equal rights, we should also learn the delicate nature of our language when we try to be allies. I find it wrong to say “let’s learn how to tolerate people the way they are.” It may be more accurate to substitute tolerate for accept. “To tolerate” has an undertone of grace to exist or be themselves. Tolerance can also be seen as sympathy. However, sympathy is wrong. To sympathise or even be empathetic towards homosexuals is admittance of the opinion that homosexuality is a thing of pity. But, to accept a person seems decent. By implication, you take them the way they are and when you don’t accept them, you at least leave them alone. Similar to this is Christians using the story of Jesus eating with sinners as a premise to justify why they have homosexuals as friends. No matter the good intentions of this analogy, it is wrong. It suggests that you agree that homosexuality is a sin. The solution to this is simple. It is either you keep your friends and know that homosexuality is not a sin or you maintain your stand that it is a sin and lose your friends.

“I find it wrong to say ‘let’s learn how to tolerate people the way they are.’ It may be more accurate to substitute tolerate for accept”

The pride month should bring to fore issues of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ communities and it should also be a time to educate people. One thing is for sure, people will keep learning on how best to be allies and sometimes they will be wrong. But whether as heterosexual, homosexual or an ally, we should let humanity and love reign supreme. As we all chant Black Lives Matter and ask for racial justice and equality, we should know that equality is not partial. You cannot be an advocate of racial equality and stand against LGBTQIA+. It is antithetical of the word “equality.”

Let’s decolonize love.

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