Few human groups are as talked about, dissected, vilified and dismissed nowadays as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and other gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) community.
“But they are everywhere, talking, resisting, and ‘being loud,’” you object. And that is exactly the point.
For centuries before colonialism, the LGBT+ community thrived side by side with their non-LGBT+peers, and in some cases at the helm of the traditional spiritual affairs of African tribes. This is extensively documented by external and local researchers. Then colonisation in all its diverse iteration across the African continent brought a new spirituality and with it; the vilification of something the colonisers could not fathom – a flourishing human group that did not fit within the dichotomy of their paltry worldview. That was the genesis of the decades of silence that followed for Africa’s LGBT+ community and with it, the erasure of no less than 10% of the human population.
It is almost impossible for black and brown people to talk about their history in the last handful of centuries with any accuracy without viewing parts or all of it through the prism of whiteness. The same can be said of modern times. With the world connected in ways that have been unprecedented at any point in human history, it is nearly impossible to interact with the world without first coming to terms with how the historical interferences of whiteness shaped our lives – history, present and future. Everything from religion, to colourism and homophobia.
As with any human endeavour, this act of acknowledgement of how the historical interference of whiteness got us here can be bungled up.
This often irreparable bungling up is what birthed the false rhetoric that, “Homosexuality is unAfrican.” It has persisted over the years despite a wealth of research and writing done by global thinkers to dispel it.
When people who have an irrational distaste for all things LGBT+ say that, ‘homosexuality is unAfrican,’ or whatever iteration of that they choose, the Africa they speak of to a large extent is post-colonial Africa.
The Africa of Islam and its imported worldview built on the realities of desert-dwelling Arab people calcified over centuries and made to remain very rarely challenged over the centuries through the threat of violence on the questioning.
The Africa of Christianity and its selective progress that whips out the stick on one people at a particular time and dangles the carrot for others often at the same time. An Africa of violence on black and brown bodies that continues to this day no matter where Africans find themselves in the world – which makes the world a global village in every sense but good for Africans.
The erasure of lives, history and everyday lived experience of LGBT+ people is a blight on our humanity. The same humanity that preceded Islam and Christianity – preceded our contact with colonisers that changed the way we live and think in very significant ways. A piece of good news is that we can always reclaim that humanity. It is what the LGBT+ community is doing by speaking out relentlessly about their plight.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and other sexual and gender minorities community (LGBT+) is not inordinately loud. In fact, given the continued murder, harassment, extortion and emotional violence that they are subjected to, they could be infinitely louder. They have every right to be.
The only appropriate response from the social majority is to listen and not gaslight, which is what we do when we tell our LGBT+ brothers and sisters – who are Africans living in Africa, that “homosexuality is unAfrican and/or unnatural.”
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. It is the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their sanity.
It is what statements like, “You can live your gay life without making it all about your sexuality,” do to LGBT+ people living in fatally homophobic places like Nigeria.
Statements like that will leave any LGBT+ person living in Nigeria aghast because their lived reality is such that that is exactly something they cannot do. LGBT+ person will be forgiven if they ask themselves upon hearing such statements, “Am I mad or running a high fever? Or is this person willfully ignorant?”
It is partly ignorance, but most of it is homophobia. No educated cis-gendered heterosexual (cishet) Nigerian can claim to be unaware of the unjust laws proscribing the free existence of LGBT+ Nigerians. One is as recent as 2014 – the Same-Sex Prohibition Act (SSMPA), which proscribes more than marriage between same-gendered couples. The other is a relic of colonialism that deigned to define what ‘the order of nature’ is as far back as a time when the writers of said law had no inkling what caused bad breath.
CisHet Nigerians do not have to be either homophobic or gaslighting fence-sitters, there is a third way for those who are determined to hold on to their imported inheritance of Judeo-Christian homophobia.
The good news? You don’t even have to see the humanity of LGBT+ people to attain this delicately perfect balance, it is that easy.
What do you need? A healthy dose of minding your business. This could be hard with social media and the itchy fingers that hound its users until they chip in their often rotten stance which they would then refuse to rescind even in the face of unassailable logic simply because “I have a right to my opinion.” It can be herculean to resist letting your fingers lead the way and let your empathy lead instead, but you can do it.
The one thing empathy never fails to do is open your heart up to peace in the knowledge that no matter how dark your heart, no matter how much you wish you could smite the homosexuals that roam the pristine earth of God/Allah/Yahweh, no matter how much you “despise the sin and not the sinner”, you will always stay well enough away to not infringe on the basic human dignity that LGBT+ people are owed by virtue of their humanity.
It is so simple yet so powerful.
The world despite its many flaws is slowly but steadily moving towards guaranteeing this dignity to all who can afford it. Perhaps your time is better spent working to ensure that you don’t leave behind a posterity that can’t afford dignity, rather than constantly antagonising a minority group that does you no harm? It is a thought to hold on to.