How Homophobic Are We?

January 13, 2024
3 mins read

Talking about the G-word

African American Republicans and church leaders declaring that gay rights issues are not the same thing as civil rights issues. Cameroonian media outing suppossedly gay politicians. The Nigerian government enacting draconian law against gay marriage. Gay men being set upon in Jamaica. 

All over the African Diaspora, it seems as if homophobia is gaining ground rather than receeding. Black people will rather talk about anything else than the G word. So, how homophobic are we?

By Wambui Mwangi

The civil rights movement in the U.S. told women to stop talking about gender issues because first the fight against racism had to be won. The feminist movement frowned at women of colour raising their issues, insisting that first the fight against the patriarchy had to be won.

The nationalist movements in Africa insisted that feminism was a corrupt and decadent western import, and that first we had to capture our earthly kingdoms, and achieve our panAfricanist Nirvana, before we started looking at “side issues.”

And those of us who are interested in our contemporary political dynamics have fallen into the same pit of not tackling the prickly, the uncomfortable questions now: we are waiting to win the larger battle before we clean our house.

There is always another battle or another issue, and the issues that matter to the foot soldiers are postponed for yet another day.

But I am not going to wait until we’ve sorted out our ideas of citizenship and its prerogatives, rights and obligations; the limits of government and the appropriate restrictions on its officials; the freedom of the press and  our strategies to safeguard both that and the right to speak.

I have been meaning to speak to the supposedly unanimous and united front that we present to the mere whisper of an idea of a suggestion of a sexuality(ies) that does not follow the missionary position sex-is-for-the-purpose-of-reproduction-only-and-any-other-type of-sexual-activity-will-send-you-into-the-inferno heterosexuality.

Did you get that?

Homosexual, bisexual transsexual, gay, queer, lesbian, transgender, cross-dresser and so on and as Judith Butler says, on and on have, exactly the same standing (I think there’s a horribly dirty pun in there somewhere) as heterosexuality does.

There are lots of ways, of being and of expressing our sexualities. There are no contracts that have to be signed so that you can only be one type your whole life.

None of them are better than others. None of them are more moral than others. None of them should be subject to state intervention or restriction because one of the very few things history has worked hard to let us possess is our own bodies.

What you do when you get nekked and necking is just your business: you own your materiality, your embodification, your body.

I can feel the collective shudder from here.

Chill out! What is the problem? No one is making you do anything you don’t want to.

Here’s what I think: if the parties to the sexual interlude are adult, intend harm neither to each other nor to themselves (at least, not unanticipated or non-consensual harm) or to other parties, how could it possibly be our business what it is they do in the stronghold of their private space?

Don’t bother thinking: the answer is NONE.

I’ve wondered why it is that

a)men are not nearly as freaked out at the idea of women on women encounters.

 b) men are practically frothing at the mouth at the idea of a gay man coming near them or anywhere near them and are often driven to violence against people they suspect of embodying this crucial difference in sexuality

c)women who don’t particularly approve of homosexuality aren’t that worked up about it? So why?

a and c are going to have to wait for sharper minds than mine, but b) I think is caused by the idea that every gay man will suddenly be helplessly attracted to our homophobic straight guy, and, unable to resist himself or his urges, will jump him as soon as they meet.

This is tantamount to being against heterosexual sex because it promotes man-on-woman rape and violence.

The futility and fatuousness of this nonsense!

The other thing, and I do so love being able to write this, is that straight men have a small corner of their minds (heavily repressed) which wonders whether a homoerotic event and perhaps even a homosexual one may, after all be a rather interesting episode in their life of desire.

Honestly (and I must admit that I borrow /steal this from the comedian Bobcat) I think much of straight male violence against gay men is an inversion of the part of themselves that they are trying to destroy.

The part that says, oh you gorgeous man, you are so attractive to me that I am going to have to beat you to a pulp to stop myself from ahem, jumping your bones because I am a PERFECTLY NORMAL MAN and do not, ever, find other men attractive.

Your sisters, your brothers, your friends, your colleagues, your cousins, your nephews,your nieces, even your parents, are trapped in a prison more violent and restrictive than any physical restraint.

They are not heterosexual, or they are not only heterosexual and for this you have made them pay a price that should not be required. They are trapped in the swamp of public opinion which threatens to take away their personality should they admit, for a moment, that perhaps their desires are different from yours.

Will you sacrifice them to bigotry and prejudice.? Whence then, your moral authority?

Mwangi is an assistant professor of politics at the University of Toronto. She blogs as Madkenyanwoman.

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