In view of the rampant homophobia in Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Zambia and many other African countries, I’d like to share my experiences and thoughts about gay people, gay rights and the fear or hate of gay people in Africa.
When my wife and I moved to Cape Town in 2008, we loved clubbing. One evening we saw a club we had never visited and decided to check it out. On entering the door the club scene looked “strange”. We spent a few minutes there and were shocked. We were in gay bar! We both had never been to a gay bar before and were shocked to see men who clearing were in relationships. We were too shocked and said almost at the same time that “Let’s go!” and we left.
We got into our car and prayed! We prayed that God should protect us from the evil we had exposed ourselves to and possible demons!
Coming from Zambia, this was the most shocking thing to see. I could not understand any society allowing or tolerating this kind of abomination. I had never seen anyone that was gay in Zambia and as far as I knew there were no gay people in Zambia.
Encounter with a Gay Zambian Man
One evening I went to a restaurant to meet a brother of mine who had come to town for a conference. He was sitting with a nicely dressed, soft spoken man from Zambia. As I sat with them, I saw this man’s mannerisms and thought like the Pharisee that “If my brother were a prophet he would know that the man he is sitting with is gay!” As if my thought were loud, the conversation drifted to gay people and this man had been a gay activist from Zambia. I was shocked that the gays were also in my country!
I was talking for the first time with a gay man. I was uncomfortable but I asked him a number of can-I-ask-you-a-question questions.
Chivuli had been gay all his life and had lived in Zambia all his life. He told us about the many gay people and the struggles they go through. After talking to a gay man from my country that had been gay all his life, I wanted to find out a number of things about homosexuality. I remember being afraid of frogs when I was young purely because my mum was scared of them. For fear of perpetuating the guarding of a concrete slab, I did some reading and asking people and examining my own fears regarding gay people.
What is homophobia?
Homophobia is a fear or hate of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Why are gay people scary? I’ve asked many people to find out why they don’t like gay people. I’ve got answers like “they are sinners”, “they can make my kids gay”, “it’s unnatural,” and “it’s just wrong.”
Fear of Being Gay
I’ve noticed that straight men are actually more opposed to gay men than straight women are. Many of the men I’ve asked why they don’t like gay men have said “I just don’t like them. Why would a man act like a woman and like other men?” I think that a lot of men are scared of gay people because they fear that they themselves could be gay! Some are afraid of touching or hugging a gay person saying they “don’t want to get confused.” This could be the reason why one of the commonest questions gay people get asked as Chivuli told me is “How did you know you were gay?” Or “When did you find out you were gay?” From Google keywords, one common search phrases is “Am I gay?” (One friend of mine was concerned he could be gay because he enjoyed the prostate exam!)
The first question I asked Chivuli was, “How did you know you were gay?” In examining my own fears, I thought that trying to ask a woman out was hard enough but why would anybody be gay if you had to first figure out if the man you’re attracted to is gay and then figure out if he likes you making it twice as hard. The gay sample space is small; you get hatred from some people and governments and can get killed for just being gay so why would anybody just want to be gay deliberately?
Talking to gay men from Congo, Cameroon, Zambia and Zimbabwe, they have said that their partners are usually married men. I asked “White men?” and they said “No. Black men.” Eish! That could explain the fear further! Straight men that are sure of their sexual orientation are not afraid of gay men.
Some people are opposed to gay people saying it is a sin according to the bible. They quote Leviticus 18:22 which says that “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” I think the bible cannot be interpreted literally. If that was the case then we should possess slaves as long as they are from a foreign country like Zimbabwe or Malawi according to Lev. 25:44; we should not shake hands with women during their monthly period (Lev.15:19- 24) (I wonder how it would be like to ask every woman before I shake hands with them); Women should not speak in church (Cor 14:33-36); rebellious children should be killed (Deut 21:18-21). There are many examples.
I think committing adultery and stealing are more sinful than being gay because they are even on the 10 commandments. Jesus talked about a lot of things but not a word about gay people. If Jesus was to come again now, do you think he would chase away and kill gay people? He surprised the then religious people – the Pharisees – when he welcoming everyone including sinners. Jesus taught unconditional love.
Even if we agreed that homosexuality was a sin it does not justify violence or human rights violation against gay people. If we hate sinners we should do that for all types of sinners. We should jail or kill liars, adulterers, fornicators and people who work on the Sabbath. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7. See also Rom 2:1.
Some people say that if homosexuality is tolerated then everybody would be gay and it would destroy our society. The wrong assumption here is that straight people are looking forward to be gay but they are deterred by the law! Gay people are gay and straight people are straight whether the law allows or not. Africa and indeed the world has always had gay people. If allowing gay rights made people gay then half of South Africa should be gay!
I feel the talk about homosexuality and morality is self-righteous and hypocritical. A lot of married men and women have extra-marital affairs and that is a bigger issue that letting gay people have rights. Isn’t it sad that having multiple sexual partners is more condoned that being homosexual?
Are Gay People Dangerous?
In 2010 Chivuli stayed with my family for a few months. Some of my wife’s friends were worried. They were worried about me and my two young sons. They said “What if he goes after your husband? Are your kids safe? If you expose your kids to gay people won’t your kids be gay?” Lelemba’s answer was that “If my husband wants to have an affair with a gay guy then he would do it even if the gay person was not in my house. Being gay is not the same as being a rapist or paedophile.” I think paedophiles are paedophiles regardless of their sexual orientation. In Africa there are more straight paedophiles who rape girls due to the belief that sleeping with kids cures AIDS. Kids cannot become gay just because they lived with a gay person. Being gay is not a disease and so it is not contagious.
How do people become gay?
There are many theories about how people become gay. I have found the following 3 explanations to be plausible.
1. Prenatal causes: In the 7th week of pregnancy when a woman gets a high testosterone dose due to severe anger or fear it can change the foetus’ phenotype (physical expression). So the physical will show male when the genotype will be female. Both men and women have percentages of femininity and masculinity. Men are about 70% male and 30% female.
This type of gay people are the ones that look and act like very much like women and you would even think they are women. It is unfair to force them to pretend to be straight or even force them to marry women to be accepted.
Mwai, my 4 year old was calling Chivuli “Auntie” and kept being corrected by Mwenda (8) that “He’s not an auntie, he’s an uncle.” They would argue about this on several occasions. Even if Chivuli dresses like a man for a long time Mwai just saw an “auntie” in him.
2. Childhood causes: Some children (around 7) experience some psychological issues with a particular sex and grow up to be gay. These are usually the ones that can become straight with therapy or prayers etc. I have heard of people that were gay and stopped being gay after they resolved the traumatic experience. I still think it is still not right to treat gay people as if they were sick.
3. Adults’ experimentation or choice: Some people as adults want to experiment or choose to be gay or lesbian. These can choose to be and not be gay.
I think the mistake comes in when we attribute all gay people to one cause. I think we should live and let live.
People who are different and in the minority have been oppressed in history. We look down on cultures that killed or ostracised people that were different due to albinism, physical disability, race, coming from a foreign country, religion etc. and yet we do the same with gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Gay rights are human rights. It is heart breaking to see gay people trying so hard to pretend to be straight to just fit in. Homosexuals are normal people who deserve to be treated with dignity and enjoy the human rights and freedom we all are entitled to. Let us question our beliefs and move past our fears and prejudices.
…and last words – Let gay people get married, they have the right to be miserable too! And oh yeah…last last word – in case you didn’t know masturbation is gay because it is same sex sex! 🙂