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Opinion

‘A continuous battle’: The reality of being queer in Africa

Every time I gather enough courage to reveal my identity, I am asked what it is really like being part of the LGBTIQ community in Africa.

In a place that has many different cultures, many different beliefs. Some subtle, some extreme.

In a place where who we are is publicly and outright considered a major taboo that requires days of ancestral cleansing and washing from a bad omen.

In a place where we are considered a disgrace to our parents and to the oh-so-great society.

In a place where we can be physically harmed for simply coming out with our truth.

From discrimination to death

What is it like, you ask?

The majority of African countries criminalise the LGBTIQ circle.

Punishment varies from imprisonment to death penalties.

We have seen reports from countries like Zambia, which sentenced two men to 15 years in prison for having consensual sex in the privacy of their hotel room.

In Uganda, 125 men were arrested in a gay-friendly bar.

In Nigeria, 47 men were arrested for public displays of affection with the same sex.

These are just a few examples of how the law is enforced in Africa against the LGBTIQ community.

We have been to public spaces that indirectly asked my friends and I to leave because they did not support ‘people like us’, purely based on our dress and how we chose to express ourselves.

It is a daily struggle. A continuous battle to be ourselves.

In a world where you can be anything except queer, anything but trans, everything but your true self.

What does religious morality demand?

A man was created for a woman and vice versa – laughable.

But what of the famous quote we all hear every Sunday: ‘love thy neighbour as you love thyself’?

Does it only apply to some neighbours? Does it only apply when the situation looks favourable in our own eyes?

The biggest challenge we face every day is stigma, on television, radio, the internet, and the streets.

LGBTIQ history and culture

Africa has a long history of LGBTIQ communities, in case we may have forgotten.

For example, in Uganda, the 19th century King of Buganda Mwanga II was gay. In ancient San rock paintings in Zimbabwe, we see men copulating.

In Northern Nigeria, the Hausa tribe’s vocabulary includes dan daudu – ‘men who are like women’. A child recognised as such would be given female-specific chores and toys and only allowed to associate with women until they came of age.

Just like everyone with a right to freedom and speech, all we ask for is equality. Period.

All we ask for is to be allowed to be ourselves. Without fear, without hate, without continuous side eyes, without whispers and shade.

A space to thrive and be ourselves. A space to laugh, love, and be loved.

We want to get to a place of tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTIQ community.

We want increased visibility and awareness that it is okay to be different, it is okay to want whatever and whoever. It is okay to have different opinions and views.

We want to have our own voices heard.

We are just like you – we have feelings too.

We have made our choices, and we ask that you at least accept them as our choices.

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