Before our wedding ceremony, hubby and I are expected to complete a few sessions of church counseling, as is mandated by the church hosting the event. This is not really something I can opt out of, despite my politics on the matter. So, I attend. Because I love my partner and I respect his family’s culture. And because I’m not so disillusioned to think that I’m somehow exempted from cultural practices just because.
These counseling sessions are mostly comprised of a reverend who encourages us to practice patience and respect in our relationship. A lot of the time, he has exceptional advice. But sometimes, and too frequently for my liking, his biblical interpretation veers off into a defense of patriarchy.
And in three instances of counseling sessions with the three different reverends we’ve seen, they’ve said the same thing to me, albeit not verbatim: “As a woman, you MUST submit to your husband. It’s in Ephesians 5:23-33.”
Hands down, that’s their golden passage. Which is either bested or seconded by (really not sure which takes the cake here) all the homophobic rhetoric interspersed throughout the bible. In other words, as African women, we’re to obey our husbands, and oh yeah remain exceptionally homophobic.
I’ve tried to wrap my head around how to frame my words with less frustration and finger-pointing. I’ve spent hours mulling over how to address the sexism and homophobia rampant within Black communities. But there’s absolutely no way to veil my frustrations, so here it is:
African folks, we’ve got to do better.
Like, I mean, WE OUGHT TO FUCKING DO BETTER!
It is no secret that African communities, whether in Africa or within the Diaspora, are exceptionally sexist and homophobic. And our sexism and homophobia’s often passed down generationally, via the words of our male leaders and elders: fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and preachers. And then reemphasized by our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and other women in our lives. The homophobia fraught within African cultures serve as a further reminder of how ostracizing life is for us living within the margins of our own damn communities.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. This criticism doesn’t exempt all the African women feminists who continue to exclude LGBTQIA folks from spaces and activism, who’ve been just as hateful to the queer community. Homophobia is inherently linked to sexism. In not acknowledging this one simple fact, you’ve asserted that your liberation comes at the expense of the queer community. You’ve got to do better.
In the wake of the Pulse tragedy—that is the senseless violence targeted at the Brown gay community in Orlando, Florida—I keep asking myself how our African LGBTQIA identifying folks are dealing with this. Where and how do they grieve in such violently patriarchal Black communities? Where do our gender queer folks go to decompress from the violence they’re exposed to within the universally White community and within our own damn Black communities? Or is healing reserved specifically for the cis-gendered heterosexual Black man and woman?
As I write this, I’m short of words on how to express the grief I feel towards the Pulse shooting. 49 lives lost in a day as a result of someone’s confusion and self-hatred. I can only express anger at the societies that nurtured such insidious homophobia, the societies that spew homophobic rhetoric from the pulpit, from governmental bodies, from leaders, the societies that spread hatred in religious spaces, whether they be of the White society that continues to racialize and oppress Black and Brown bodies or they be, sadly, of our own Black African / diasporic societies.
Being in Nigeria (an openly homophobic and masculinist nation) in the wake of the Orlando violence makes me wonder, truly, what is the recourse for our gender queer identifying African folks?
To the African LGBTQIA community, I see you all. I hear you all. I’m with you all.
Image credit: Beevoz