On my African upbringing and homophobia…

Hi y’All

I have hesitated a lot before writing about this… I believe many of you would have been in my shoes at least once, and this might be the taboo subject in many circles. The intention of African Students Abroad (ASA) is to provide a platform for African students to discuss their daily struggles in a foreign land…So, I have taken the plunge and am writing anyways… Like many of people my age who grew up in Congo, I am a Christian (in fact Roman Catholic), grew up with fairly strict parents and off-course was brought up to believe that homosexuality is THE worst of all sins….Pretty much most of my African friends could be classified as homophobic (very good people despite all my debates and efforts), as they just do not believe it is normal, and is something people chose to do. Many around me believe that all they have to do is fight the urge and “be cured”… While it is not right, it is certainly not surprising based on the fact many countries in Africa have in fact outlawed homosexuality with support from the majority….As if that was the priority to solve among all the development challenges we are facing on the continent (go figure!).

Fast forward a few years later, through a few travels and seeing a tiny bit of the world, reflecting back I decided to make-up my own mind through having amazing gay/lesbian friends. What I was once told just did not sit easy with me anymore… My current position in a few lines is …sin or not, it is not my role to ostracize someone especially since the greatest commandment of them all remains to “Love God above all things and love thy neighbor as thyself”. Because of my opinion, I have been accused so many times using sentences like “you are a disgrace to your faith and culture”,  “you have lost your way…you are a sinner by not condoning it”,etc….And while, quite scary and heartbreaking-I have been okay with that. It is what it is… My reasoning is that if it is sin, they deserve at least the very same respect that every other sinner (including myself) gets e.g. so many people betray their marital vows, steal money, etc. but those still walk around with LOADS of respect in our African streets…but dare you be attracted to the same sex (abeg, God forbid! In my wannabe Nigerian accent)…you have committed the worst of sins… I don’t get it, why then…not extend the same courtesy to our gay friends?! Anyways…

Today is not about what I think is right or not….Something happened recently that made me question myself…something I am not proud of…I was out for dinner and met two of my friends (gay and married) who were pda-ing; nothing hectic just a  a couple of hugs, soft strokes, caresses,etc. And not sure why, that made me quite uncomfortable….I thought, why do they need to display their love-can’t they just live it behind closed doors?! ((eish! Haven’t people learn that the hardcore African in me just cannot deal with pda…lol!). Me, the person who considers myself quite liberal, felt not so liberal anymore… or maybe deep down I was not as accepting as I thought I was… They say the first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem…So, guess this post is an attempt at redeeming myself for those feelings and perhaps crush whatever those feelings may have been or come from by saying it out loud….

I pondered on it for at least 2 days…and didn’t understand why I felt so uncomfortable…. my Eureka moment came when I decided at the end of the day that nothing in that moment was about me….That moment, was about two people who love each other unapologetically and what I felt/did not feel did not matter in that moment… Love is love, and was there to stay! Me accepting/feeling happy or sad about it would not change anything in their lives….they loved each other and were brave enough to pursue this relationship…why then think that anything I felt was important?….It was not, and I decided it was my lesson for the day when it comes to sexual orientation: it is not and was not about me, or us…My life has not changed, and theirs either….life goes on! This helped me make sense and hope it gives you a different perspective to those of you-who just like me come from quite a strict and Christian upbringing…whatever you believe whether right or not…

Would love to hear what you think….However, I have not enabled comments on this article because I know exactly the controversy it will cause…(and am  not very interested quite frankly…). Do inbox me if keen to discuss this personally….and feel the same sometimes…I know many of you fresh outta “mother land” in different countries might be going through these emotions on a daily basis…

Africanly yours

Xx Kenaya

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