Op-Ed
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. Courtesy of Mohammed Elrazzaz.

Dissecting The 'Homosexuality Is Un-African' Myth

A new study says four out of five people in Africa don't want gay neighbors.



While someone like three-thousand-and-twelve-year-old Zimbabwean President for Eternity Robert Mugabe might contend that homosexuality is a form of Yacubian trickery: a tool of western imperialism to destroy the African population through HIV/AIDS. The reality is, well, to the contrary.

We gonna do some fact-checking in a minute to see the extent to which this Yacubian conspiracy is true, but first let's get to headlines.


Afrobarometer, a pan-African and non-partisan African-led research network that “conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues," recently released a report based on over 50,000 interviews across more than 30 countries in Africa titled, "Good neighbours? Africans express high levels of tolerance for many, but not for all." The 'many' being immigrants, people of different faiths, and folks of different ethnicities, while the 'not for all' refers to the LGTBQ community. Out of those polled, only 21 percent of people said they did not mind having a gay neighbor.

These attitudes have been fueled by a new wave of stringent anti-gay laws that have been sweeping the continent. One of these recent laws passed in Uganda in 2014 makes those convicted of being gay subject to life imprisonment. In Nigeria homosexuality is punishable for up to 14 years in jail. You can technically kill someone, get charged with involuntary manslaughter, and get away with less prison time. Back in 2014, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in response to the then new anti-gay Nigerian legislation, said:

A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people 'suspected' of being gay.

Last month, Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi, a man accused of being gay in the Ondo State of Nigeria, was allegedly beaten to death by a mob deeming themselves judge, jury and executioner.

The Afrobarometer study reports Senegal as taking the top spot for the least tolerant country they surveyed with a shockingly low 3 percent of Senegalese people not minding if their neighbor is gay. That's a whole 97 percent of Senegalese people not wanting the LGTBQ community in their vicinity. Guinea is second, followed by Uganda, Burkina Faso, Niger, Malawi, and Sierra Leone, which is only 6 percent tolerant. The most tolerant countries in the study are Cape Verde with 74 percent of respondents having no problem with having a gay neighbor, followed by South Africa at 67 percent and Mozambique in third with 56 percent.

From Afrobarometer Report: "Good neighbours? Africans express high levels of tolerance for many, but not for all"
A'ight, let's put our time travelling hats on and try and find (arguably) the first recorded homosexual relationship. Oh snap, Mugabe ain't finna like this. We in ancient Egypt, the same continent Zimbabwe calls home, circa 2400 BCE, that's approximately ten years before Mugabe was born. Here we meet Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. They were the "overseers of the manicurists" at the palace of King Niuserre during the fifth dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. Although I feel strict gender roles should be done away with, their titles, in some circles such as one that Mugabe belongs to, could be viewed as a glaring clue to their sexuality.

The two men are depicted in ancient paintings as embracing and touching noses, which is argued to be the equivalent to kissing for ancient Egyptians. They changed their names at some point and when translated Niankhkhnum means “joined to life" and Khnumhotep means "joined to the blessed state of the dead". Yup, their names when put together basically mean “joined in life and joined in death".

Although both had heteronormative nuclear families, add in the whole cute matching name thing, and the fact that they made good on their promise and were buried together, there have been questions raised and a fierce debate within the egyptology community to the nature of their relationship and sexuality. According to polls by the Pew Research Center from 2013, 95 percent of current day Egyptians think that homosexuality should be rejected.

The idea that LGBT Africans did not exist prior to European colonialism is actually false. It was European colonialists that instituted some of the first anti-sodomy and anti-gay laws throughout the continent, gaining their supposed moral guidance from such texts as the bible. Previous to the introduction of these mandates, homosexuality and trans people existed and were to differing degrees tolerated throughout African societies. Alas, there is in fact a Yacubian conspiracy, but it is not what we have thought. Arguably, homophobia is what's un-African and not homosexuality. It can be further argued that claiming something is un-african is a problematic statement within itself, considering the immense size and diversity that exists within the continent.

In even more recent news out of Kenya, gay rights, which was proclaimed a “non-issue" by President Kenyatta, has most definitely become (and was) an issue. Authorities demanded Google block access to a Kenyan rap group's cover of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' 2012 gay rights anthem, "Same Love," because it doesn't “adhere to the morals of the country."

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Photo courtesy of Film Movement.

'Rafiki,' Trevor Noah's 'The Daily Show,' & More, Earn 2020 GLAAD Award Nominations

The GLAAD awards recognize "fair, accurate and inclusive representations" of the LGBTQ community in media.

The nominations for the annual GLAAD Media Awards, which "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives," have just been announced, and several of our favorite shows this year have earned nominations.

Wanuri Kahiu's groundbreaking film Rafiki earned a nomination in the "Outstanding Film Limited Release" category. The acclaimed lesbian love story was the first Kenyan film to screen at Cannes. We caught up with the director to discuss the film back in May of last year.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Trump Plans to Extend Travel Ban to Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Eritrea & Three Other Countries

Here's what the travel ban could mean for these nations.

On Tuesday is was announced that Donald Trump's administration plans to extend its infamous travel ban to include seven new countries, many of them in Africa.

The countries named on the list, include Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea, as well as Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and the Eastern European nation of Belarus. Politico first broke the news.

According to The Washington Post, the move would likely not be a complete ban on citizens looking to enter the US, however it could place various visa restrictions on some government officials and on those seeking certain type of visitor and business visas.

Some nations could also be banned from participation in the diversity travel lottery program, which grants green cards. Trump has threatened to sack the program in the past.

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A-Reece Releases His Second Song of 2020 ‘Selfish [EXP 2]’

Listen to A-Reece's new song 'Selfish [EXP 2].'

A-Reece has released another song via SoundCloud. "Selfish" is a minimalist song with its beat consisting mostly of gnarled guitar strings and a pulsating bongo drum.

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