Simon Williamson

Gays don't do anything to you!

2014-03-07 07:54

Simon Williamson

Someone mentioned to me the other day that I had said very little about the recent spate of lynch-the-gays laws approved by the governments of Uganda and Nigeria. And that's not altogether untrue.

For a generally opinionated person, I have said about as much as the South African government on the topic, because it makes me feel physically ill to think about what people are prepared to do to those they hate - and homophobia is nothing but hate - under the contrived justification of Jesus, culture or how African something is supposed to be.
Let me, however, correct this.

I am a firm believer in standing up for your political beliefs as strongly as possible, but, in contrast to divisive social issues like abortion and the death penalty, gays do absolutely nothing that affects anyone else.

Folks who invoke the Bible as reasons for their hatred wouldn't last a week if they had to live by every conservatively-interpreted rule in it; I haven't read other religions' encyclopaedias but I'd imagine the same is true for them too.

Culturally, African men were getting fiddly with African men, and African women with African women, a hell of a long time before the Europeans brought over the gifts of rail, indentured labour, a spread of diseases and Jesus-based homophobia. So I derisively roll my eyes at proffered religious or cultural beliefs justifying the corpse-making by homophobic thugs across the continent. I mean it to come across as condescendingly as possible.
No is one forcing you

And that applies to the same worn-out arguments about society’s morals. Gay people being allowed to live their lives in a way they see fit doesn't quash anyone else's morals at all. Everyone is most welcome to teach anyone who can hear them what people should and shouldn't do. No one is forcing anyone else to be gay. And everyone is welcome to screw up their kids by telling them how terrible and awful gays must be. Hell, you can even go public with your thoughts about a woman marrying a woman being the same as a woman marrying her dog, if you want to sound like a real tosser.
But while anyone is permitted to believe what they want, it is somewhat bizarre to see some folks diminish their own right to free choice by backing stringent restrictions on gay people. It is completely logical that if the government bans homosexuality, it can ban anything else it likes. If the government bans "gay propaganda" (as in mentioning anything about homosexuality, like in Russia) it can ban any speech.

If it restricts with whom you can bump uglies, it can easily ban who you hang out with. If it is alright to legislate an interpretation of Christianity, what is stopping a president or legislature of a different persuasion doing it in a way you might not find to your taste? While it might be cool to be able to gay-bash in postcolonial (I use the word solely to denote time) Africa, it may soon be your turn when government needs to klap an unpopular minority for an approval bump, and so easily managed to do it on a previous occasion.

Ugandans and Nigerians just made that trade. And a whipped-up homophobic public smelled blood. Last month in Abuja a group of 50 dragged a number of young men they suspected of being gay from their homes, and kicked the shit out of them. Then they threw their weakened bodies into to a police station, where the police continued the beating.

This sort of thing is replicated over, and over, and over, even in South Africa (where the government shamefully refuses to call for the rights of Africa's LGBTQI community to live safely) where gay people are supposed to have all the legal protections in the world.
All this for sleeping with someone of the same sex, or the mere possibility thereof.

Something that has absolutely nothing to do with, or have an effect on, anyone who isn't actually doing the deed with them.

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.

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