Home | Off the Press | News for youth | Media | Get In Touch |

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Of Gays, lesbians and bisexual Youths in Africa.

 I have always had a liberal approach to this rather sensitive topic. My justification being that if I am not in that relationship what does my view really matter? Why the double standards yet almost all of us will not utter a word when your straight friend cheats on his or her partner, or acts in a manner that does not sit well with us? Why do we feel inclined to share our opinions and views when the parties involved happen to be of the same sex and yet the reverse may not always be true?

Some have concluded that because it is not religiously “ok”, they have the inherent right to condemn this practice and deal with the victims the best way they know how. This will often take form of casting out demons, reciting long prayers and giving lengthy sermons to the “sinner”. In some African communities, they will not be allowed to associate with other members of society until and unless they have satisfied that they are “clean” and free from “sin”.

Others are of the view that this is unnatural and artificial: a trait that is learnt (often from the western culture) and hence can be unlearnt as well. It is interesting to note however that what makes some people gay is really not yet know but mental health and other experts agree that sexual preference is not a conscious choice that a person can change. As researchers learn more, we are discovering that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, may influence a person's sexuality. Most experts today believe that a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive, and biological factors shape a person's sexual orientation. There may be different reasons for different people. But unlike a century ago, we no longer blame poor parenting or regard a person's sexuality as a "character flaw."

Depending on where you’re from, they may be a rational however politically “right” or “wrong” on what people feel about gay, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. There is also a lot of misconception on this class of people and Andrew Roffman, L.C.S.W.; Virginia Hooper and Staff of the NYU Child Study Center shed some light on the same in the list below as they attempt to separate myth from fact.

Myth: Homosexuality is a mental disorder.
Fact: Mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or an emotional problem; Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) youth do, however, face greater risks as a result of social stigma, isolation, and poor self-stem.
Myth: Kids are young and can still choose to be either gay or straight.
Fact: According to mental health professionals, sexual orientation is not a choice; regardless of age, a person does not choose to be gay or straight.
Myth: Poor parenting causes homosexuality, particularly a domineering mother or a passive father.
Fact: Parenting does not affect a child's sexual orientation, and it's no one's "fault;" parents can, however, positively or negatively influence a GLB child's self-esteem.
Myth: A therapist or religious counselor can make a GLB youth straight.
Fact: Researchers believe that therapy cannot change a person's sexual orientation; it can, however, promote coping skills and help kids resolve questions surrounding their sexual orientation.
Myth: If a kid has a "crush" on someone of the same sex, it's a sure sign he is gay.
Fact: Many kids, gay or not, experience same-sex attractions, and sexual experimentation is a normal part of adolescence. Only time and patience can reveal a person's true sexual orientation.
Myth: If a kid is exposed to other GLB people and/or information, she has a greater risk of "being recruited."
Fact: Positive role models and accurate information can lighten the burden of shame and isolation for a questioning youth, making the adjustment process easier. No one can influence another person to become GLB.
Myth: GLB parents pose a risk of influencing their children to become homosexual.
Fact: No research indicates a parent's sexual orientation determines that of his or her child. GLB youth are as likely to have heterosexual parents as not.
In a continent where often one’s success is equated to the size of your family and number of wives (polygamy), the gay community is heavily shunned upon. It is not surprising that almost all African countries have not legalized the practice with the exception of South Africa. In Mombasa, Kenya police stopped a gay wedding on 12 February 2010 and arrested several suspected homosexuals, an almost similar script was repeated in Malawi early this year. Most African leaders have very uncouth methods of dealing with the marginalized community. It is very ironic yet these are the same leaders vehemently declaring equality of rights (in regard to other marginalized communities) and will throw in International Statutes to demonstrate their seriousness.

Gay, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender is not a topic you will find openly discussed in many parts of Africa. This would be a discussion best left under the rug and many will be comfortable burying their heads in the sand. The problem with this approach is that the “problem” will not vanish but will create a further ripple effect if left un-addressed.

In September 2010, 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge days after he had been secretly filmed during an intimate encounter with another man that was broadcast over the Internet. Within the same three weeks, Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi California; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana; and Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, Texas, all turned to suicide to escape the taunting, bullying and other abuse they faced because of their sexual orientation.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, nearly 9 out of 10 gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual middle and high school students suffered physical or verbal harassment in 2009, ranging from taunts to outright beatings.

I wonder what the African statistics would look like if we don’t act now!

You may not particularly be fond of GLBT persons but the fact still remains, they also have rights and freedoms-whether or not your government has already told you this-we cannot go about victimizing them for a choice that may never affect you! Just because you are uncomfortable with what they do is not good reason enough for you to violate, mistreat, assault and harm them in any way whatsoever.


  1. Well put.but still i cant quite shed my distaste for GlB as you call it..

    Kanjama, in an article in the dailies..argues same sex relationships, unlike most other sexual transgressions, go against the basic stucture of human sexuality which is man and woman coming together in a conjugal act..

    It is in this light that i look at it..http://www.ted.com/talks/joel_burns_tells_gay_teens_it_gets_better.html

    But yes taking hardline stands against glb wont help the situation i mean the stories in your post are proof..

    so are those in this video...(a must watch if you havent already)


  2. Let people be!Its time africans accept that GLBTs are here to stay.

  3. Intresting stand Mo-either way we look at it,they still have rights-that said we must respect those rights!

  4. Watson-you are allowed to feel and think a you wish as declared by the freedom of expression in several statutes and acts.but I like your calm way of handling this indifference....I'll be sure to check out the links too.