I am considered to be un-African once because I am white. I am considered to be un-African twice because I subscribe to Western influences. And I am considered to be un-African thrice because I am gay. This is the most incredible dichotomy, as I do not know what else I could possibly be but African. I was born in Africa. My parents were born in Africa. Their parents were born in Africa. Yes, I have Dutch and German lineage, but for the last 3 generations my family has known nothing but Africa. My first language is Afrikaans. Afrika, Afrikaans. A language which comes from Africa.
But I digress. My issue, or rather my concern, is with this notion that homosexuality is un-African. It is widely believed that homosexuality is a Western ailment that was brought to Africa by the settlers. This belief conjures up an image in my imagination. Picture this: in the lower decks of an old 17th century wooden sailing ship, rocking furiously in the wild African oceans, headed for Table Bay. There is a compartment filled with bottles carefully guarded by a flamboyant Dutch sailor. In these bottles is a mysterious transparent gas. On the outside these bottles are labeled – homosexuality. And this immaculately dressed and groomed sailor has a sinister grimace on his face, for only he knows what he is about to unleash upon the dark continent. *insert gay maniacal laughter here*
The irony is that in almost all of these Western countries, which have been accused of bringing this “disease” to Africa, homosexuality has only been “accepted” in very recent years. And in the countries where it is now “accepted” that acceptance is only on a constitutional level. On a social level it is still largely opposed. Most governments that have legalized gay marriage are heavily criticized for doing so.
In all honesty, if one looks at the terrible oppression and persecution homosexuals all over the world face on a daily basis, can anybody truly believe that we would choose this life? That can be likened to a blonde-haired and blue-eyed German Christian openly converting to Judaism in the heart of Berlin during the Holocaust. The only difference is that religion is a choice, homosexuality is not! Who would choose a life a persecution if they had a choice? It’s absurd. I know I’m not saying anything new, and this argument about homosexuality not being a choice is an old one. But it’s old because it’s true. When is it going to sink in? You cannot cure homosexuality. Corrective rape, homophobic abuse, violent curative measures – these are all abominations. It is evil. And no, this is not where you bring your Bible arguments. The Bible is one of the most flawed documents in the history of Western literature. The principles of religion are sound when they promote neighbourly love, compassion, care, commitment, etc. But when religion is used to condemn an innocent people it becomes repugnant.
Homophobia is alive and well. It is oppression in the first degree. And as Africans we should understand oppression most of all. After years of struggle against oppression on this continent, we turn around and begin to oppress a demographic once more. The perpetual cycle of humans who fear humans for whatever reason. Why do we fear people who are harmless?
I weep for my distant brothers and sisters who are horribly mistreated, violated and killed in other countries. Uganda and Russia are in the spotlight now, but this happens all over the world. It even happens in Hatfield in Pretoria. In Gugulethu. In Sandton. In Mthatha and countless other places. Those are people. People who do not harm other people. But the human race is bored. These perpetrators are bored. And scared. Scared of what they are unfamiliar with, and at the same time possibly grappling with inside. They fear those who are able to come to terms with themselves, and they retaliate against their bravery. They are consumed by their own mundane ordinariness, their cowardice and their internal prisons. I'd like to say f@*# them. I'd like to scream in their face and call them the most despicable names I can utter. But I won't. They don't deserve my anger. They only deserve pity. Their lives must be a living hell. But it doesn’t excuse this behaviour. Stop hurting each other. Just stop.
So, if we were to start unpacking what is African and what is not we’d find ourselves in a right pickle. Consider this: BMW comes from Germany. Soccer comes from China. Gucci comes from Italy. Coca-Cola comes from America. The list goes on, and on, and on. And we gleefully accept these products. Some say it’s not in the African culture to be homosexual. But I can tell you it isn’t in the German culture either. Or the Scandinavian culture. Or the Spanish culture. Or Afrikaans culture. It’s is not a cultural or religious matter. It’s a matter of blood and genes. I am gay as you are straight. Finish en klaar.
I am an African. I am gay. And I am very proud of being both!
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