Let’s finally settle it. Homosexuality is just as African as heterosexuality.
Yesterday, we shared with you news of J Hus and his online blunder. The rapper tweeted out the never-ending argument that LGBT life is not African culture.
“STOP FORCING LGBT ONTO US,” he tweeted. “Live your life I don’t care but don’t force it onto me especially when you don’t wanna recognize these black struggle.”
He then added, in a now-deleted tweet, “They try force Ghana to include LGBT into their education when its not their culture. You can’t tell me they don’t try force it on us.”
Of course, Twitter users shut down J Hus’s ignorant preaching. Unfortunately, though, the moment spotlighted a major issue within the continent of African and many people’s stances on LGBTQ issues.
From artists and celebrities to politicians like Ugandan MP Nsaba Buturo, many within Africa claim that homosexuality is un-African. They believe calls for LGBTQ rights is a Western/European initiative. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In truth, LGBTQ history and culture has been a part of African history and culture for centuries. For instance, take the Yoruban culture of West Africa. As The Guardian pointed out in 2015, there is a word for “homosexual” in the civilization dating back to around the 1500s. The word is adofuro and literally means someone who has anal sex. Though, the word is generally used to reference any homosexual person.
But that’s not all, acknowledgment of LGBTQ life is found in other African cultures. As The Guardian wrote:
“In the northern part of Nigeria, yan daudu is a Hausa term to described effeminate men who are considered to be wives to men. While the Yoruba word might be more about behaviour than identity, this Hausa term is more about identity. You have to look and act like a yan daudu to be called one. It is not an identity you can just carry. These words are neutral; they are not infused with hate or disgust.”
The American Psychological Association also acknowledges the existence of LGBTQ culture in African history. Just as with Northern Nigeria, North African also had a history of “two-spirit” people. Meaning, there’s a history of same-sex love and varying gender identities within the continent.
On top of that, historians also acknowledged several historical African figures who were LGBTQ. Janell Hobson of the University of Albany wrote about “Queer Africa” and noted how Queen Njinga Mbande, the queen of the Mbundu people’s Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms in what’s now modern-day Angola, was allegedly LGBTQ.
As the Women’s Studies associate professor wrote:
“Understandings of her sexual identity are dubious, as different accounts and interpretations of her life point to a heterosexual marriage, to female wives, and to a harem of males that Njinga had dress as women. Whether or not Njinga was a “female-husband,” she doubtless transgressed gender binaries in ruling her people, answering only to “King,” leading her troops into battle, and dressing in both men’s and women’s clothing. Her ability to perform a ‘queer’ identity can be attributed in part to her royal status and the economic, social, and symbolic prestige of ruling power.”
But Njinga Mbande wasn’t the only LGBTQ ruler in the continent of Africa’s history. King Mwanga II was also historically recognized for being LGBTQ. While ruling the Buganda Kingdom, which later became modern-day Uganda, King Mwanga II was openly gay and beloved by his people. In fact, he only met controversy after Christian missionaries brought homophobia to the land.
And that brings our most important fact. In today’s Africa, there is a predominant stance of homophobia. And this argument of Westerners pushing LGBTQ issues onto Africa is based on pre-existing distrust of Western/European influence. But ironically, it was European colonization that brought forward this anti-gay mentality and laws like Botswana’s Section 164.
Or as APA writes:
“’Two-Spirit’ people or same-sex love shocked European invaders who objected to any deviation from a limited understanding of “masculine” and “feminine” roles. The European powers enforced their own criminal codes against what was called sodomy in the New World.”
So no, homosexuality is not un-African. It’s just as African as heterosexuality. Instead, it’s homophobia that is not “traditionally” African. That was brought over by Western invaders. But as much as we may write articles, studies, or academic essays to express this fact, many homophobic and conservative Africans will, unfortunately, not care. These facts will continue to fall on deaf ears.