By Rita Nketiah and Rose Afriyie
In the past decade, African sexual minorities have received increasing attention. 2013 alone saw numerous headlines most notably around the murder of activist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon and the passage of the “Anti-Homesexuality” and “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition” bills in Uganda and Nigeria respectively. But there is much more to Queer rights in Africa than murder and policy advocacy. For example, most mainstream media outlets have been reluctant to include: accounts from queer Ugandans in their own words about the root of African homophobic policy in the Western evangelical movement; the lack of sustainability of lesbian-led nonprofits in Kenya; the marginalization of intersex and trans folks in Uganda; and the fearlessly captured lives of Queer South Africans through photography, to name a few.
For better or worse, there has been much debate and controversy about the place of queer people in African societies. The most heinous of these opinions has been that homosexuality (a term often used to generalize the much more complex sexual experiences of queer-identified people) is an “un-African” ideology superimposed by former colonial powers. In response, many queer Africans and allies have sought to challenge the deeply ingrained gender and sexual norms that continue to threaten the quality of life for non-straight Africans.
Amidst these debates comes a bold new anthology called the Queer African Reader, published by Pambazuka Press, and co-edited by Sokari Ekine and Hakima Abbas. Indeed, the very idea that one places “Queer” and “African” side by side radically challenges the notion that these identities are mutually exclusive. Understanding LGBTI Africans holistically, not just as newsworthy after vicious murders or after the passage of discriminatory laws, but in their everyday resistance against sexual identity oppression seems within reach. This resolution arrived at in Queer African Reader is especially relevant now as we embark on a new year and new possibilities of envisioning LGBTI Africans and it is important to call out the notable contributions to this effort by name