Friday, April 7, 2023

Kuchus are African


As I stated before  our African identity is under continuous attack, as gay Africans. When there is any kind of debate in Uganda, we are heaped with abuse as gross, unnatural, un-African and evil.

A sad silver lining to the whole ‘homosexuality’ debate in Uganda is that even with the weight of negative information and frank myths damning homosexuals, a few nuggets of real information emerge.

Like when we are forced out of the closet. The dreaded ‘homosexuals’ are given local, known faces. The unreasoning fear might decrease and lead to some enlightment [‘Our Mothers’]

And Ugandans in the diaspora who have met and know unthreatening gay individuals might be persuaded to add an authoritative voice of reason. Here is an article in the Monitor from a long time columnist, a Ugandan-Canadian. Dr Muniini Mulera. He states;

“homosexual activities were common in precolonial and early colonial Africa. In Uganda’s case, the practice was well documented among the Langi (Driberg 1923), the Iteso (Laurence 1957), Abahima (Mushanga 1973), Abanyoro (Needham 1973), and Abaganda (Southwold 1973).”

I don’t have those references. They are certainly worth getting, however I can source them. Fascinating.

He continues

colonial regimes, and the principal Christian religious sects, successfully suppressed public displays and engagement in homosexuality.

In their book “Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities” (London: MacMillan, 1998), Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe observe that “some say the colonialists did not introduce homosexuality to Africa but rather intolerance of it and systems of surveillance and regulation for suppressing it.””

Odd. Or not so odd. Homosexuality is not the import. The real ‘import’ is the rabid homophobia. Homosexuality was present, visible, tolerated. It is the import of religions [Christianity] that introduced the intolerance, plus ‘surveillance and regulation for suppression’.
Criminalisation of homosexuality was a direct import, as part of the British Empire Criminal code.

Truly, in history, the ‘winner’ writes the narrative. This was an aggressive rewriting of historical reality itself. 

By the 1960s, homophobia had taken root, and historical amnesia had relegated homosexuality to a misty past as though it had never existed.

Fact is, we homosexuals still existed. We went underground, were no longer visible, and mention of us was swept underneath the historical rug. We just became invisible. [All populations have minority sexualities. The African population is not that special!]

Oddly, Dr Muniini Mulera then argues that

“Africa is a culturally binary world, where sexual identity is perceived in reproductive terms. We are a socially conservative people, with a long and deep tradition of enforcing group norms. We expect people to look like and to function in the gender and sexual roles they were assigned at birth. To the African, sexual desire and activity is only meaningful when understood as an avenue for reproduction. That is the basis for rejection of homosexuality”

Yes, in the same article, his logic breaks down. So, according to him, the ‘post-colonial’ African is THE African? That is too simplistic. We cannot reject millennia of experience of The African because of the 150-200 years of colonialism and the post-colonial experience. Was ‘the African’ changed so fundamentally that ‘the African’ can only be defined as the post-colonial African? That is what Muniini Mulera seems to argue.

The post-colonial ‘culturally binary world’ that he is describing is by his very reasoning a product of colonialism and the new religions. Asserting the post-colonial African is The African is embracing the ideology behind utterances like Nobert Mao and Martin Ssempa, forgetting that Muniini Mulera himself, in that article, has effectively challenged those myths and assertions.

Pre-colonial Africa was not intolerantly, aggressively binary. Rather, other sexualities were visible and tolerated. Not persecuted or invisible, nor relegated to a misty past.

We are coming out. Voluntarily sometimes, involuntarily many times. When we were invisible, it was argued that homosexuality was not African and because we didn’t seem to exist in Africa. Now that we are coming out, it is important to re-assert the historical truths. Homosexuality is as African as The African. Homophobia is the import, not the historical reality. Reduction of sexuality to binary simplicities was not part of our traditional societies and African beliefs.

And, yes. We Kuchus embrace our African identity. We are African. We are part of The African Identity; - the real African Identity.

And doesn’t that make some people mad!



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