Friday, March 11, 2005

Black Africa and Homophobia

Taking Gay Pride to South Africa's townships

Despite a decade of democracy and one of the most liberal constitutions
in the world, South Africa still has trouble accommodating those who
are black and gay, reports the BBC's Alastair Leithead.
I was discussing the topic of homophobia with The Exiled African, as we have noticed that being outside Africa has allowed us to be a bit less prejudiced against gays than our fellow Black and Arab Africans on the continent. It really bothers me that our societies have inherited such hatred for gays and lesbians from from foreign doctrines - Missionary Christianity and Islam. Because of the oral nature of our culture (in Black Africa), much of our past is not written, an so the aspects of culture that make their way to us, are the ones that were selected to do so over the centuries. Thus, our History and traditions have become mirrors of not only of ou past, but also of the prejudices and "idees recues" that were assimilated - mainly from zealous missionaries - over the years.

As an example, today, it is very difficult for a Kongo person (from the West of Congo-Kinshasa, south of Congo-Brazzaville, and north of Angola) to see Christianity as a foreign religion, literally imposed by the Portuguese in the first wave, then the Belgians. So many apects of Kongo traditions reflect the sincretism that occured over the past 500 years. For those reasons, we will probably never know how gays were treated in pre-european Africa. The funny thing, is that many Africans say that homosexuality is a White Man's problem/disease/deffect, that it never existed in Africa before it was brought... by European Catholic priests!!! Aside from being naturally impossible (even if one believes that it's a deffect, it is still a humanity-wide deffect), I find that to be the ultimate irony.

And today, the staunchest Christian opponents of homosexuality come from Black and Arab Africa. We have recently seen the weight of the Anglican Churches of Africa -particularly Nigeria, in the debate over gays in the clergy, and gay marriage. I find it sad that we always seem to choose the harshest aspects of the Western world to assimilate, and we are quick to absorb the seeds of intolerance, but we choose to ignore those elements of our cultures, that call for compassion, tolerance, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness. These are aspects of our cultures that we talk about a lot, but that we often fall short of applying. South Africa has the most open-minded and progressive constitution on the planet. But even there, prejudices do not seem to subside... It is sad for our continent (and many places in the world), that we straight people do not feel secure enough in our sexuality, our (wo)manhood and our beliefs, to allow others practice their own beliefs, and answer the calling of their nature. It is a small portion of our population that could be otherwise useful to their communities, but are forced to live in hiding and in shame. Many are married, with children, and have lovers on the side; this increases the risks for STDs, etc, etc. We need to wake up, Africa! We simply - and literally - cannot afford intolerance. Hear ye who hath ears.

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