Christine Carlson-Ajlani

Uganda is a small African nation surrounded by several countries and a famous body of water, Lake Victoria. When the world hears about Uganda, it's usually for a bad reason: a crazy dictator, an epidemic, a jungle warlord with an army of glue-sniffing children. The latest bad news from Uganda is that, last month, President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized being gay. Not only that—the act went as far as to make it illegal for a Ugandan citizen to be involved in a homosexual relationship outside of the country. If he/she is caught, he/she will be extradited and punished. The whole law should be nothing but a bad joke, but the parliament that drafted the act, and the president who signed it, and the people on the street who support it, are not fucking around. They mean business. They want to "kill the gays" (as the act was initially called). But what is really going on here? Why is something as ridiculous as this piece of legislation a fact of life for millions of Africans? I will answer this question in a moment, but first I want to explain my position as a black African who lives in a city that has a gay mayor.

True, I did not vote for this mayor, Ed Murray, but not because he is gay. I didn't vote for him because I thought his opponent in the 2013 election was more progressive. I have no problem with the mayor being gay, and I also have gay bosses, gay bartenders, and the rest of it. I'm heterosexual to the max (admittedly I kissed a guy once, a roommate, but found I did not like it). I was raised by heterosexual parents, and I spent my sexually formative years in black Africa, Zimbabwe. Yet not once in my time back home and here in Seattle have I ever felt that homosexuality is unnatural or that gays work nonstop to bend straight people to their dark and devious ways. Indeed, I'm a little upset that I have not been hit on more—am I not good-looking enough for them?

So what is going on in Uganda, and also Nigeria, where a similarly aggressive and bizarre antigay act recently became a law? Why can't the people of these countries see that all of this is just one big distraction? That gays are really the least of their worries, and that such laws are as morally rotten as the ones European colonizers used to enforce on blacks? Also, why can't they see that a law of this nature will certainly lead to abuses, that what is called "mission creep" is inevitable? Yes, now you can target gays, put their pictures in the newspaper (as happened with an unfortunate Ugandan whose face was on the cover of a tabloid, along with the headline "How I Became a Homo," making it impossible for him to walk the streets of his own city), but eventually, people who are not gay but are, say, opposed to government corruption, or want free and democratic elections, will suddenly be called gay and conveniently thrown into jail. History makes it very clear that bad laws have bad consequences.

And the problems do not end there. In black Africa, it's common for men to hold hands as they walk. This is called same-gender affection, and it's very much a part of African culture—males publicly displaying their affection for one another, swinging clasped hands up and down in joy. Will this law, with its tiring and almost hallucinatory emphasis on gay exhibitionism, bring an end to this deep, old, and beautiful practice? Which men holding hands are gay and which ones are not? Which ones have just been fucking and which ones have not? Which ones are soon to enjoy blowjobs and which ones are not? How can you tell? It is impossible to tell. (Seriously, google "Uganda same-gender affection" and you will find pictures upon pictures of African men, even soldiers, holding hands as they walk up and down streets.)

Why is all of this obvious to me and not to you, black Africa? I know what the black African gay-haters are now thinking: You've been westernized, Charee Moo-dee-dee. You write in English, you think in English, you dream in English, you have spent too many years abroad and as a consequence have lost your real black African roots. And being a real African means keeping things real. And keeping things real means fucking those who have the right biological equipment. If you have a cock, you put it in a pussy; if you have a pussy, you open it to a cock. That is the way God made us; that is the way we do things in the motherland. Africa is for Africans.

So what you are saying is that all of this comes down to African values versus Western values. But the God most of you black Africans worship was imported from the West (who in their turn imported Him from the Middle East), and where in any pre-European African culture is it written or said plainly that homosexuality is bad? The truth of the matter is that your hate is as imported as your religion. (Eighty-four percent of Uganda is Christian.) The hate is not African but Western. Recall again this excellent social practice of men holding hands as they walk around: The Europeans used to openly mock black Africans for this sort of thing. The Europeans felt completely uncomfortable with displays of same-gender affection. The white students in my high school, for example, made it impossible for upper-class blacks to be caught doing it. Men holding hands was a sign of lax sexuality, a sign of primitive sexuality, a sign that Africans had no idea of what was right and what was wrong sexually. You know what I'm saying is true, brothers and sisters. This is exactly how Europeans criticized this most African of habits. And what was true for Europeans in general was even truer for American and European missionaries. And so the sad thing about all of this is that African values are not really at the center of any of this. What is going on is one Western value being pitted against another in an African arena. We have completely refused to even look at our own culture for answers to these deep questions; we are in a confused state of thinking we are being Africans, when in fact we are doing nothing but imitating Western discourses and value systems about sexuality.

Again, I know what you are thinking: I'm just being clever, I'm making up stuff in this faraway city with a gay white mayor, and I have to say such things because it is my job to do so—after all, I have gay bosses. But to prove I'm not a sophist, I only need to refer you to the speech the president of Uganda made upon signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Here are two of many curious cultural assertions: One, kissing is the natural thing to do with the mouth, and two, blowjobs are unnatural. From the text itself: "Since Western societies do not appreciate politeness, let me take this opportunity to warn our people publicly about the wrong practices indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders. One of them is 'oral sex.' Our youth should reject this because God designed the human being most appropriately for pleasurable, sustainable, and healthy sex. Some of the traditional styles are very pleasurable and healthy. The mouth is not engineered for that purpose except kissing."

Does he mean romantic kissing is African? And blowjobs were imported from the West? So all our ancestors did was fuck and kiss? He actually said: Blowjobs were imported from the West. Seriously, think about this for a moment. No black African in the history of black Africa ever thought of the idea of putting a dick in a mouth or sticking a tongue in a pussy. If this is true, then we finally have evidence that shows we are the dumbest niggers in the world. Yes, the fucker is just making shit up as he goes along.

And to make matters worse, to determine if homosexuality is a consequence of nurture or nature, President Museveni turns to some study done in the whitest place in Europe: Sweden. No, he is not speaking for African culture, African history, African realities. He is just saying stuff white fundamentalist Christians believe. No real work on black Africans has been done because what may be found there may not fit the image Europeans have imposed on us.

I recall in the late '90s a debate that raged when President Mugabe (a pioneer in this antigay rubbish) decided to attack Zimbabwe's gay and lesbian community. He also claimed that homosexuality was imported from the West and was not initially a part of African culture. But there was a big problem with this assertion: Our language, Shona, had a word for homosexuality that was not borrowed from a Western language, "ngochani." If homosexuality was never a part of our true culture, how come there was a non-Western word for it? This debate raged for months and months in the '90s—was it an African word for real? Where did it really come from? What was its root? But what no one wanted to say is that our ideas about homosexuality were drawn from the missionaries and not really from our own culture. Mugabe was speaking like his teachers at the schools funded by European and American Christians. Museveni is doing the exact same thing.

That's not all. There is also this, from Museveni's speech: "Initially, I did not pay much attention to [the gay thing] because I was busy with the immediate issues of defense, security, electricity, the roads, the railways, factories, modernization of agriculture, et cetera. When, eventually, I concentrated my mind on it, I distilled three problems..."

What? Uganda's modernization period is over and done? It now has lots of factories, lots of electricity, and all the food it could ever want? I must have missed something here. When did Uganda become South Korea? When did its society achieve such a level of prosperity that its president now has time to relax and focus on this niggling matter of homosexuality? Over e-mail, I asked a friend who was in Uganda a few weeks ago about this statement of the president's, and he wrote back, "The electricity would go out for HOURS at a time every day. The roads are terrible. Railways? Barely functional. Security? It's all laughable." Yes, again, Museveni is just making shit up. Nothing has been solved, his government is corrupt, he is essentially a dictator who has had an iron grip on power for almost as long as Mugabe, who turned 90 not too long ago. The same goes for Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president who made homosexuality a punishable crime (up to 14 years behind bars). What was his motive? Political. As the Washington Post put it in February: "Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to seek reelection next year despite opposition from northern Nigeria's majority Muslim states. His attempt to win them over has now taken a toxic turn: sanction of an extraordinarily repressive new law against homosexuality."

While your presidents are distracting you with this rubbish about gay this and gay that, Africa, my gay mayor is dealing with real issues: low wages, public transportation bills, police accountability, affordable housing. If he does not find solutions to these real problems, there is a good chance he will not be reelected. People will vote him out not because he is gay, but because we need a person who gets shit done. Think about that for a moment; think about what this gay hate is really about. recommended