Posted by: Viola | May 21, 2015

Combating homophobia in African communities

This week, on a Facebook forum (or discussion) about homosexuality, I posted some comments on the subject of respecting LOVE. So many people posting comments on the forum were saying absolutely horrid things, which I will not quote here and which is the kind of negativity I refuse to dwell on. There is so much homophobia in Africa that it boggles the mind. I felt frustrated even participating in the discussion, because I’ve been part of several other discussions like this, and invariably, I wind up having to just block my ears and leave because of the absolutely hideous and bigoted things people say. The intolerance and cruelty is sickening.

While I was tempted to leave the forum, I stayed and continued to comment, and in addition, I shared some links, so that others could read a little about homophobia and how to overcome it. I am not sure how much of a difference it made, because some of the comments got even more vicious and ugly. Someone more or less called me “sick” for supporting homosexuality. It was very disheartening. Oh well. As hard as it was to hear people say some really nasty stuff, I think I have heard it all before and so it does not surprise or phase me too much.

I want to share some of my comments here, from the discussion, so that perhaps others can read and speak up when they hear homosexuals being bashed. No form of injustice or cruelty or prejudice is OK. And for change to occur, it takes a lot of people speaking up and correcting wrong and harmful attitudes. We recently witness what xenophobia can do, as in the case of South Africa. But we have a lot of xenophobia and homophobia and other forms of intolerance in our African communities. We cannot and should not deny that. And we should but bury our heads in the sand.

It is easy to point fingers at others, but we have to be able to examine ourselves and see where we can improve and how we can let individuals know that they are loved and embraced, honored and celebrated, not merely tolerated. It is dangerous for us to criminalize and demonize difference, be it gender difference or sexuality. It is sad to hear Africans criminalize and demonize their own brethren. But this, my friends, is a reality about humanity, not just about Africans but about many people on this planet. We can all do better to be more loving and accepting of others. And it costs us nothing. we do not somehow lose our integrity by being more accepting of difference and diversity.

What I appreciated, ultimately, about the discussion is that many Africans/Cameroonians chimed in and spoke up in defense of a person’s right to choose the ways in which they want to love. If one is not harming another, and if two adults are consenting, then it is their choice what they do. We have no right to judge what people do in their private lives. And if we start judging, we better be ready to condemn quite a huge number of heterosexuals. It was refreshing to hear so many voices questioning our prejudices and bigotry and urging us to combat homophobia within our hearts and minds.

I think that, in essence, this is the first step toward combating homophobia in African societies and communities: We have to be willing to examine our own hearts and minds, first and foremost. From there, we can speak up and challenge out-dated and narrow-minded notions. We can also remind people that LOVE is paramount.

How dare we judge the love in another person’s heart? How dare we refuse certain civil rights or marital rights to others when we are all equals, equals in our societies and equals in God’s eyes? God, if he or she does exists, created a universe full of diversity. Let’s stop acting like there is only one ways of being in the world.

We must also remember that none of us truly know what our ancestors did. Just less than a century ago, in most African societies, our ancestors were doing things most of us would cringe at if we had to witness these activities. We have no clue what sexual practices and other things our ancestors engaged in. We know a little and from the little we know, we can gather that our ancestors did strange things at times, things we do not want done ever again. So we ought to be humble, instead of self-righteous. And realize that we comes from strange places and events. We come from a history of such diversity in ways of being that we ourselves can surely never fully grasp what we are all made of and made from. In judging others harshly, in diminishing their humanity, we are actually judging and diminishing ourselves.

Our motto should be: LIVE AND LET LIVE.

Here are my comments from the discussion. Each comment is in response to another person’s comments, so I was speaking to various people at various points. I have included my responses only, but I wish there was a way to share some of the wonderful comments I read, from people urging us to stop all the bigotry and intolerance. Some comments were simply beautiful. I did not feel alone in my stance. There is a lot of love in the world. And there are many people who are willing and able to speak from the heart and use their common sense. Thank heavens for that! Thank! Heavens! Ok, here are my comments, unedited, and links have been included, as well.

Viola: Once upon a time, it was believed a black and a white could not love or marry. Crazy, right? And some people still hold to that. Always go back to yourself…how would you like it if people merely tolerated you? How would you like it if people routinely misunderstood And judged or condemned you? How would you like it? Ultimately, love is love. So no one has the right to dictate whom or how we love. Someone loving another person does not harm you, just like you loving someone else does not harm anybody. There are ***heterosexual*** people doing some sick and crazy stuff in the world, most of them doing stuff that’s very harmful to others. Why don’t we talk about and condemn them, instead of acting so self-righteous when it comes to homosexuality. It is disappointing to see African governments criminalize innocent people on the basis of who they love.

Viola: his is a huge topic. It is very important. We see what xenophobia does in our society–tribalism, anglophones and francophones and their animosities, etc. It’s cruel. By the same token, any kind of phobia, homophobia or other, is potentially very dangerous. People harm each other on the basis of these phobias and it’s such a tragedy. You have a platform here that allows you to share new ideas and open people’s minds, as best you can. But that begins with you being open, as open as you can be. Merely tolerating someone different from you in sexual preference or identity, well that doesn’t really cut it. We humans tend to think that accepting and embracing others affects us negatively, if the people we accept differ from us. This is the exact opposite of the truth, even the deepest religious or spiritual truths. It is in honoring and being able to accept those who differ from us that we begin to understand the meaning and purpose of God or any prophet. It is in loving those we feel we do not identify with that we begin to fully grasp the notion of LOVE. And that begins within each of us. We are, on a fundamental spiritual level, all reflections of each other and of something larger than we are. No human being is less loved or worthy than another. Not in the eyes of God. It’s disheartening to see religions and churches promote bigotry and prejudice. Sigh.

Viola: I think that exposure to different realities is only one possible solution, because such exposure doesn’t guarantee changes in attitude. For instance, Cameroonians in the USA who ought to be more open-minded because they have more exposure to different realities here, whether cultural or racial or sexual, well this doesn’t necessarily make them open-minded. So perhaps it’s an individual thing. For me, though, it is common sense. Common sense because, for the world to be a better place, we have to be able to treat each other with kindness and respect. If every time you meet someone you can only tolerate, well, you will leave the room or the scene as fast as possible and surely avoid talking with that person. You might not give them a chance to reveal who they are to you. If we all acted that way, where would humanity be? All the same, I see where you are coming from, and I appreciate that you are not advocating hostility or violence.

Viola: On the subject of whether it is bigotry to say we should all accept homosexuality, let me just say that heterosexuals are the bigots here. Heterosexuals routinely impose their views on others. I am not trying to impose a view on anyone. I am merely pointing out that it’s absurd to reject the humanity of a person on the basis of who they love or choose to sleep with. Comments in this thread are using some pretty harsh words…we have to be careful with this kind of sinister view that demonizes innocent people…it’s our duty to do what we can toward correcting these highly offensive statements that label homosexuality as sinful or evil.

Viola: Is this what they teach you in your university? If so, I strongly suggest you change schools. Your education is not serving you well.

Viola: You should endeavor to read this article–you sound like a very angry and sad person–for you to insult people like this and to speak so harshly says that you are hurting inside:

Viola: The above comment exemplifies a lot of what is wrong with education in a lot of African schools and societies. What a tragedy. How is it that in Africa, an individual can go through a university and come out so small-minded? […] Please help me understand. Does this make any sense? Any insight into what people are being taught in African universities about sexuality (specifically about the importance of respecting individual identities)?

Viola: Not sure if you are seeing what I am seeing…

Viola: Helpful reading for those who don’t seem to realize that everyone has a right to love whomever they choose:  Link to article 1 and Link to article 2.

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