Homosexuality Once Accepted in Pre-Christian Africa – But Now Persecuted


gayafricanwedding

Image from first Gay African Wedding since it was legalized in South Africa

(Update: I recently gave permission to the Gay Life Newsletter to publish this article here)

Radicalization of violence and hatred towards homosexuals is getting worse in Africa. Today it is outlawed in 41 out of 53 African Common Wealth countries. In Sudan and Somalia, one can receive the death penalty for homosexuality. Law makers tried to pass a “Kill the Gays” – or rather a Death Penalty for homosexuality in Uganda as well, but the act was eventually changed to life in prison. Gays are also increasingly under fire in Nigeria. Same sex unions are punished by 14 years in prison.

Lawmakers in Nigeria are calling gays “Un-African” and state that homosexuality is a decadent import from the west.

Anti-Gay Laws: A Western Import

Yet the ultimate irony is that Laws Banning homosexuality are the Western Import – not homosexuality itself. The current Anti-Gay Laws are actually a remnant of British Colonialism, the laws were designed to punish what the British authorities saw as unnatural sex among the natives. Even today, much of the political push towards Anti-Gay laws in Uganda have received massive funding from Christian Evangelicals in America. A documentary published by The New York Times highlights how money from American Missionaries is funding some very dangerous ideology that demonizes members of the LGBT community (Gospels of Intolerance). According to Mother Jones, Uganda has been a hotbed of activity for Evangelicals who have failed to demonize the Gays in their own country (Mother Jones).

Ancient Homosexual Traditions in Africa

Before European Imperialism in the continent, there was a varying degree of Gay Acceptance in Africa depending on the tribe and culture. It is important to remember that there are numerous tribes and cultures in Africa, so we can’t lump them all together as if they were one big country.

For example, there is the Mevengu tradition carried out by the Beti people in Cameroon. Women would gather together and have rituals to celebrate erotic power and the clitoris.

Yan Daudu

 Ameera

Image Source

In northern Nigeria, there are the Yan Daudu – men who dress as women, like to braid hair, do make-up and are famed for their playfulness and sexual ambiguity. The phrase “Yan Daudu” itself means sons of Daudu – who is a fun loving, gambling spirit that is worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice. For more than a century, Yan Daudu were tolerated in the Muslim North. Their trance and dancing rituals were associated with poor, marginalized women, sex workers and the disabled. They even sometimes accompanied politicians in their campaigns. Yet now there  is a religious revival sweeping the area, and more Yan Daudu’s are findings themselves under attack for their lifestyle.

Further west, in Senegal, there is a minority group of men known as Gor Digen, which means “man-woman” in the native language. These men dress like women and sometimes work as prostitutes. Even back in colonial times, Senegal’s metropolis was famous for its open and tolerant homosexual prostitution market. In the 1930’s a traveler named Geoffery Gorer reported that these “man-women” were a common sight and suffered no form of cultural oppression – other than the fact that they were refused a religious burial. Yet now homosexuality is punishable in Senegal by up to five years in prison.

The Rain Queen

rainqueen

Image Source

There is a fascinating custom among the Balobedu people of the Limpopo Province of South Africa called “The Rain Queen.” The Rain Queen is a woman who is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control the clouds and the rainfall. She is not supposed to marry a male, but instead has several wives. However, it is not clear whether she has sexual relations with these women or if they are merely her ladies in waiting. Regardless of the technicalities of the situation, this is a custom of same sex marriage that has existed for 400 years and is very obviously not a modern western import.

The Key to Tolerance? Perhaps It’s Time to Embrace Ancient Cultural Wisdom

I think a key to restoring the tolerance and acceptance that homosexuals once experienced in various tribes is for these cultures to embrace their ancient practices and beliefs. While Ethiopia was technically one of the first places to embrace Christianity (a few centuries before the Europeans did I might add) I will say that much of the variants of Christianity imposed in Africa these days are colonial in nature and intent. Evangelical Christianity itself is a very fundamentalist, American bred outlook that is foiling attempts to deal with the AIDS crisis in a sane manner and is throwing gasoline on the fire in terms of demonizing homosexuals.

However, South Africa shines as a beacon of hope, since it is the only country in Africa where Gay Marriage is legal. On April 9th of 2013, two men tied the knot in South Africa’s first official gay wedding. They had a traditional African wedding as well as a Western Wedding. The grooms dressed in their respective ancestral attire – Zulu and Tswana. You can read more about the wedding here.

Links

The World’s Worst Place to be Gay  (VIDEO)

A documentary in which a Gay British DJ investigates what life is like for gays in Uganda

16 responses

  1. Good research. Never heard of the Rain Queen before but know that two or more wives must be wetter than one to bring the rain 😉 I may reblog, trying to catch up tonight after writing a Long post that when saved to draft WP just ate up with no recovery possible. Arrgghh.

    January 28, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    • Oh no! Sorry WP ate your post! And I think you’re right, you need like at least 15 wet wives to bring the rain. 😀

      January 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      • Oh my, 15 women huh? I feel elated and exhausted just thinking about it. I guess during a long “drought” you bring in the troops, lol. But seriously the Rain Queen reminds me how in ancient Angkor Wat in Cambodia the Queen of the Naginis (serpent women connected with rain, crops, water supplies) would be embedded on top of one of their temples and her “king for a year” would have to satisfy her to make sure the coming year was good. Nothing to do with LGBT but a practice mirrored around the world in more tolerant older civilizations. If South Africa can legalize gay marriage then why does the US have to be dragged (no pun intended) into it kicking and screaming and waving their Bibles?

        January 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

  2. I think the problem with the U.S. is that Europe dumped all their Puritans and other religious crazies here. That’s why we kick, and scream and wave our bibles at the rest of the civilized world.

    January 29, 2014 at 10:22 am

    • Well the religious crazies came here to escape mainstream oppression in Europe. Did you ever hear about the “free love communes” in NY and other NE states? They were pretty wild and crazy, using almost tantra to “commune with God/ess”. Regarding people sexual preferences, I have phrase – “I don’t care what people do to get off and be happy, as long as it doesn’t involve children and animals (the non-consenting). If some “bear” wants to dress up in a tutu with a toy that is powered by a leaf blower motor, then go for it” LOL. It is realy none of our business and none of the governments business what we do in our bedrooms. And that is the end of my sermon for the day. Amen…..

      January 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

      • Good sermon Reverend Blau Stern, lol. I agree, I think people should be able to practice whatever kind of religion they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone. Unfortunately, the free love – commune with the Goddess – bear tutus or whoever don’t have as much of a political presence as the religious right.

        I am proud of OBOD’s involvement with the Fracking issue though. I think that’s the kind of thing that more people – religious, pagan, or whatever should get involved with politically.

        January 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      • Is there an OBOD group fighting fracking in PA? BTW nice transition from Fkng to Fracking, lol.

        January 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      • Most of the OBOD political activity is going on in the UK. The U.S. needs to get in on this!

        January 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      • i am not in any Druid organization and would not be able to physically travel to northern PA anyway, nor afford to spend any money. All i can support is the ACLU and Doctors Without Borders right now.

        January 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      • I just reblogged another post that has been on my list to read, with my comments. I think you will enjoy it sister http://blausternschlonge.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/homophobia-in-paganism/

        January 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm

  3. Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    I think this is worthy of reblogging. I have never heard of the South African Rain Queen before. And if South Africa can legalize same sex marriages then why can’t we here in the USA?

    January 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

  4. Pingback: Britain’s Daily Telegraph Stuffs Up | stasis online

  5. Reblogged this on Essence of Pride, Inc and commented:
    I enjoyed reading this post very much…Until recently, I began thinking about the word tolerance and how it is associated with homosexuality and I have decided that the two words should never be associated with each other. Your posting is right on, people just need to embrace and respect each other for whom they are and not for whom they choose to be with and on that note, whom a person chooses to be with, because in their heart it feels right, means that 1. it is no one else’s business and 2. tolerance has nothing to do with anything, it is primary about. to each its own and acceptance. This of course is not a personal note to you, for it is quite evident that you too are fed up with the silly nonsense that people come up with. I shake my head at it and wonder when people will come around and just love one another, regardless of anything. Thanks for this very enlightening post. LP

    November 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

      November 7, 2014 at 10:24 am

      • It was a great article, it boggles my mind that many people do not know that homosexuality existed way, way, way before we were put on this earth and more recently in different cultures.

        It was a great article, it goes show just how society can turn on you in a blink of an eye.

        November 8, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      • Definitely, hope things can get back to how they were in terms of there being more tolerance and understanding for gays.

        November 10, 2014 at 12:25 am

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