A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Gender-loving or Biased: The African immigrant's perception of sexuality
By Keisha Saul
Acculturated from birth to hold true, socially acceptable, often objective understandings of sexuality, people stimulate their perceptions from influences of their own culture. Taboo by nature, sex is not something people are willing to address publically, especially in association to homosexuality. This topic more so excites and promotes a reaction in many Africans both on the continent and those who have migrated to the Diaspora, who have strong ideas, to say the least, of sex, and between whom it should take place.

These convictions come from a history where Christianity, once forced on Africans, became widely accepted as the religious retrospect of which everything should be referred. Since many believe that Christianity and heterosexuality go hand in hand, sex between similarly gendered persons immediately becomes prohibited, and plainly said, a cultural no-no. Many Africans on the continent remain stubbornly passionate about these beliefs, although in their satisfaction it provides boundaries and tense restrictions on homosexuals.

There is much speculation on the evolution of homosexuality in Africa. Surely, to the dismay of disapproving elders, the culture of homosexuality did not simply initiate in Africa due to the increased popularity of the orientation in Western culture. Just as some believe homosexuality is a sin and should be punished as such, there are equally others who believe that homosexuality is in itself that, a sexuality, which has a birthplace as natural as sex is inaugurated.

Feeling as if they have been omitted from the legacy of African sisterhood, African lesbians are a special case given the intense history of a woman'shousehold role in many African nations. Women who prefer women, have sexual and/or romantic relationships with women, and those who wish to celebrate their love openly face particular hurdles. For the African lesbian, her plight goes beyond equality for women; she has to fight also for her culture and to show that she has not betrayed her culture by being a lesbian. It is, thus, another battle for her to claim nationality to her African nation and to be herself when this involves being a practicing homosexual; the duality seems impossible to exist.

The notion of homosexuality in many African nations is not acknowledged as a suitable topic to speak of. The understanding that homosexuality is not a subject for conversation has evolved over time with many Africans still believing that it was a product of white intervention. This theory makes it especially difficult for Africans who love their continent and want to claim their heritage; the battle exists between choosing to be African, or choosing to be a homosexual.

However, in South Africa, not only is homosexuality an entirely acceptable topic, homosexuals have the freedom to live with little persecution. South Africa, in the recent decade, has experienced a rapid transformation. It is now the only country in the world that allows homosexuals to marry legally under state laws, with no political persecution. Political officials and parties who openly disclaim homosexuality are prohibited, and same-sex households are recognized under law as being a family household. They are given the same benefits in the event of the death of a spouse, with special laws to protect children of same-sex couples.

South African influence is portrayed unfavorably to say the least. Africans in the Diaspora still believe as they were acculturated to believe homosexuality is a punishable sin. Few actually believe different, and those who do live in fear that they will be judged on the occasion they speak for homosexual freedom. But surely, like all things, there is a degree of variables; this comes into play with Africans who are not very religious, or who come from a tribe where homosexuality was not seen as a shameful act. However, ideas of sexuality are strongly influenced by the acculturation process where gender is ingrained, learned, and imitated. Any variation of these learned behaviors and the world goes in an uproar. However, for many who believe that it is Africa vs. the West on homosexuality, Africans living in the West have to accommodate to the lifestyle of others, while still holding on to their respective cultures.

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