“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”— Carl Gustav Jung.
Since the beginning of June, I believe we (a great amount of people) have seen a lot of “happy pride month”. For many people who don’t know what the pride month is, here is a clarification. Pride month is a month where all members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) communities around the world come together to celebrate their freedom to be themselves. It is a month set aside to commemorate the stonewall uprising of 1969. On the 28th of June 1969, Stonewall inn, a gay bar in New York was raided by police. The members were hauled and embarrassed. However, they resisted arrest. This led to riots that lasted three days and it spurred gay rights movement. A year later, June 28 was celebrated as a day to pay homage to the events of the previous year. It has since then become a day and month dedicated to celebrating the sexualities of the minority. For so many years, the LGBT communities have faced several harassments and violation of their human rights. After winning certain battles and getting justice, it is only reasonable that a month be set aside to show the world that despite differences in sexualities, there should be equality, equity and respect. The non-straight rights movements have achieved a lot since the Stonewall uprising. One of their major victories remains getting the United States of America Supreme Court to rule on June 26, 2015 that same-sex marriage is legal.
The event of that day added to the number of questions that hung over the Obama administration. He has since been appended the antichrist tag alongside other derogatory remarks. His show of support as the President and pushing for the legislation to get passed resulted into the core evangelicals turning against him. But his support alone showed the LGBTQ communities around the world that they have a powerful ally. In a recent Netflix documentary about Michelle Obama, she narrated how proud she was on June 26, 2015. On the other hand, there was a factoid that some African leaders created to fool their countrymen. Whenever they seek help from the United States of America and the U.S denies them the hands of a big brother, they always go to the market square to announce how President Obama did not render help because he told them the US will only help if they legalise same-sex marriage. This narration became a factoid and some Africans in Africa saw their leaders’ rejection of any deal with America as an act of patriotism. Let me reiterate, your leaders lied. This factoid is no different from the one about India beating Nigeria 99–1 in a football match. People can find a way to wrap lies in the casings of truths.
It is not out of place to claim President Obama understands segregation. One can only wonder how many times he was racially abused and denied opportunities because of his pigmentation and ancestry. Through law school, practice, senate and presidency, he was pushed aside and often treated a second class citizen. Honestly, that is what audacity of hope is about. The hope that ‘Yes, you can’, you can affect the change you want. You can hope for a better nation where people put aside their differences and work for the good of humanity. President Obama gets it. No one is in this world without his own shortcomings, but being a LGBTQ ally is not a shortcoming for Obama. Obama recognised that gay rights are human rights. For example, you cannot think black lives matter then be homophobic and think LGBTQ rights are not valid.
The world is ever changing. That the world is in a constant flux is reasonable and justifiable based on the notion that events are rapidly shaping the world; the way we see it and the way it affects us. One can then say that it is only natural that its habitants try to cope each day with this change. But when it comes to homosexuality, people are becoming more and more open and owning their sexuality. Therefore, it is erroneous to say a certain group of people are trying to force the trends of other people from different region. Just to be clear, homosexuality is not a trend. It is one of the reasons why the language has shifted from “sexual preference” to “sexual orientation”. That is, taking the subject away from sociology into the terrains of biology. The most dominant reason why people reject homosexuality is on religious grounds. There is a common questionable phrase that “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”. The phrase is always a point to the fact that God created a male and female, therefore only a man and woman should have sexual intercourse. When followed to a logical conclusion, does it mean that once a homosexual says he/she does not believe in the existence of God, he/she is free to be homosexual in peace? I want to believe that the answer is no. The leading question I assume will be “why don’t you believe in God?” When the argument is unending, in a strict religious environment, the homosexual may be stoned to death. So, if a people can stone any human being to death, then they simply just hate differences. Once you hate differences, you hate humanity because humanity in itself entails the harmony of opposites, the complementarity of numerous binaries.
It is saddening that despite the progress of gay rights movements worldwide, Africa retrogresses each day. There is a popular idea that homosexuality negates the African identity. Unknown to the pushers of such notion, to be “African” is hugely nebulous. The cause of this is because people often assume that Africa is culturally and historically homogeneous. In fact, African is essentially heterogeneous. Therefore, there is no such thing as ‘the African identity’. Rather, there are several African identities. From the foregoing, the question that is begging to be asked is, which of the African identities is homosexuality negating? To say homosexuality is not African and is mere Western trend that Africans are imitating is a child-brain of Euro-Christian reasoning. It is not surprising that when homosexuals in Africa ‘come out’ they are often taken to churches for deliverance. If homosexuality is a Western trend inherited by Africans, why are the African homosexuals then taken to a western God for help?
Not to forget the issue of negation of African; the supposed African identity is that the African culture in its essence is about reproduction and procreation. This is the same mentality that has led to unchecked procreation which increases the poverty index of Africa at each turn of the day. Yes, Africa is not the most populous continent in the whole but putting population and poverty ratio side by side, it is indeed the continent with the highest poverty ratio in comparison to its population. Ironically, maybe (just maybe) Africa can benefit from a sexual orientation with less procreation to reduce poverty and encourage adoption (another touchy topic for Africans). Some African scholars have used the Natural law theory to posit that what the LGBTQ communities stand for is an aberration of our culture (now, cultures). Amongst the Yorubas for example, homosexuality is seen as total irritation and anomaly. In the Yoruba system of divination, Ifa in Ofun Irete opines that:
Palm Oil is good to complement yam for consumption,
And yam is good as complement for eating palm oil
The ladder is good for climbing the rafter
A woman is better for a man to make love than his fellow man
A man is better for a woman to sleep with than her fellow woman
If a man sleeps with a man
It will result into lumps, boils and disease
If a woman makes love to a fellow woman
It will result into murk, stinking odour, filth and irritation
If a man makes love to a woman and Woman sleeps with a man
The result is feeling like being on top of the world
The feeling is like unlimited enjoyment.
This Ifa canto points to the fact that the issue of homosexuality is not a trend that Yoruba people and Africans in general are adopting, it has always been with us. Also, it is this sort of notion seen in the Ifa grapheme that has shaped opinions on homosexual relationships which in turn informed anti-gay laws in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Gambia and so on. However, what they do not consider is that none of the African cultures in their pureness is against inequalities. African cultures are essentially communitarian. That cannot be over emphasized. The communitarian spirit is to always treat the next person as an extension of yourself. That is, you will care for other people like you would yourself. In a sense, by the way you care for others, you affirm your own existence and humanity. This is supported by the famous saying of the Kenyan philosopher, John Mbiti that “I am, because we are; and since we are, therefore I am”. Succinctly, the only way to be you is to understand that others exist and they exist with their differences. It is only by accepting these differences, that you accept the existence of others. In essence; to discriminate, to make laws against ‘the being’ of other people, to persecute and stone to death people who are sexually different from us, all negate the idea of oneness and communitarian principles upon which African cultures are built. A continent that prides itself on the principles of Ubuntu, Omolúwàbí and other humanistic principles should not discriminate against the subjects of humanity nor should it put people to death because of their sexual orientations.
In this Pride month, many people want to show solidarity and support. It is a thing of joy to see that heterosexuals are speaking up against social injustice meted out against homosexuals. We are ever learning, unlearning and relearning. It is pertinent to do away with our previously held erroneous beliefs about sexuality. On that note, in supporting homosexuals and demanding equal rights, we should also learn the delicate nature of our language when we try to be allies. I find it wrong to say “let’s learn how to tolerate people the way they are”. It may be more accurate to substitute tolerate for acceptance. ‘To tolerate’ has an undertone of condoning. That is, homosexuals are just been given a grace to exist or be themselves. Tolerance can also be seen as sympathy. However, sympathy is wrong. To sympathise or even be empathetic towards homosexuals is admittance of the opinion that homosexuality is a thing of pity. But, to accept a person seems decent. By implication, you take them the way they are and when you don’t accept them, you at least leave them alone. Similar to this is Christians using the story of Jesus eating with sinners as a premise to justify why they have homosexuals as friends. No matter the good intentions of this analogy, it is wrong. By using the cases of Jesus sitting and eating with sinners to justify why you have homosexual friends suggest that you agree that homosexuality is a sin. The solution to this is simple. It is either you keep your friends and know that homosexuality is not a sin or you maintain your stand that it is a sin and lose your friends.
The pride month should bring to fore issues of the rights of the LGBTQ communities and it should also be a time to educate people. One thing is, people will keep learning on how best to be allies and sometimes they will be wrong. But whether as heterosexual, homosexual or an ally, we should let humanity and love reign supreme. As we all trend black lives matter and ask for racial justice and equality, we should know that equality is not partial. You cannot be an advocate of racial equality and stand against LGBTQ. It is antithetical of the word “equality”. Let’s spread love not hate.