Recently a friend of mine got ‘outed’ by another friend to a group of his close friends (me included). It wasn’t just the “do you know he’s gay?” line. It was sordid: his sexual preferences, when he first started having sex (early!), how he was not discreet in the beginning and how almost everyone he grew up with was in the know. These were things I had no idea about since up to this point I didn’t even know he liked boys even though he knew about me. This guy just wouldn’t stop. As he was talking, I looked around the room and my friends eyes kept opening wider and jaws dropping lower. But the strangest thing happened when the ‘outer’ left: my friends gathered and decided that the matter would die with them. We talked about it and they said that just because he’s gay doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly become a different person: he’s still their friend and that would not change based on this discovery. I was touched and really surprised because truly I wasn’t sure what their reactions would be and I was happy they took this decision.
Someone said in a forum that the struggle for freedom from oppression, fear of persecution in Africa for LGBTI cannot take the current form that is seen in western societies because norms, cultures and perceptions are very different. Picketing a church or government facility to protest anti-gay laws isn’t going to work – not now anyway. We all now how people have died all over the world in protests against corruption and so on, now imagine an LGBT protest in a country where being gay is a illegal: the police would have a field day. It is not a joke that the term ‘culture shock’ is such a much-studied aspect of sociology, anthropology and even psychology. The societies that protest in this way have come a long way from where most African countries stand regarding gay rights. Sex between two consenting adults in the US only began legal nationwide in 2003. The fight has to come down to human terms, we need to accept to each as just human without pushing the ‘gay-this’ and ‘gay-that’ in everyone’s face.
Currently many people see it as imported behaviour like blue jeans or bubblegum ( even though it really isn’t) and sometimes I think it’s because the people in our community try to use terms to describe ourselves – terms which really are not applicable to us. We first need to learn to let others accept us for being who we are regardless of our sexual orientation such that it becomes a non-issue who we decide to jump into bed with. For that to happen, we need to be responsible. Often times, I see young boys and girls around jumping all over the place. It seems all they care about is the next escapade. This is sad because the true face of the African LGBT is really the next door neighbour, a responsible adult with a job, with ambitions and a plan for his/her life and with a good value system but living in hiding, married with kids, working a job that (apparently) does not make time for strong personal relationships.
But then, how would we change this image of the gay individual into something all Africans can relate to and combat homophobia if we don’t tell people, if we are not living true to ourselves? If we hide forever and nobody ever discovers that we are gay, would we really have fought for our freedom or would just have been professionals in the art of camouflage? The freedoms in other societies that we currently enjoy that allows us to even be on the DL, hook up online and so on were hard-worn through activism of some kind. I guess what I am saying is to choose to live how you see fit, freely. If someone finds out or asks: big deal. If you want to tell people, go ahead and do so. But just free yourself.
By the way my friend doesn’t know that our other friends know that he’s gay (and don’t care). When we talked about it, one of them said they didn’t want him to feel embarrassed if they told him or begin to avoid them, in the end it’s no one’s business. Personally, I would want to know but in this case, it wasn’t up to me. Friendship really is something, don’t you think.