Monday, 13 September 2010

A Western Disease

Over at Ta-Nehisi coates' blog I listened to an NPR interview with Jeff Sharlet about David Bahati (below), the author of Uganda's bill to eradicate gay people homosexuality. I found Sharlet's account of Bahati chilling, and the apparent cynicism of Museveni maddening.

Like Coates, I was touched by the notion that homosexuality is alien to authentic African societies.To my shame, I actually used to accept such nonsense as fact. Growing up I would encounter messaging, both subtle and not so subtle, that asserted the inherent superiority of white people and European culture. It was like the very air I had to breath. It still is to tell the truth, but that's for another post.

Thinking back on it, I realise I believed such a myth because it was was a way to attack the supposed superiority of whites and European societies in all things. The idea that homosexuality is disgusting and unnatural, used to argue that any culture that "produces" gay people is inherently flawed. Et voila. An instant salve the mitigate the smearing of a continent.

Man, the dumb things I believed.

At the age of 14 I'm chasing some guy who coded quite feminine around the playground shouting "battyman!" At 22 I'm getting hit on by gay men, and I don't care. Hell, it's nice to feel attractive, and in Japan I can't say I felt that way very often.

If you were to ask me how I changed I think the biggest thing is my curiosity. I love to know. It's how I came across data that destroyed a lot of the things I thought I knew. Like, "Cleopatra was Greek?!" The truth can mess you up like the blood of Glaurung. It's how I lost my religion. And losing my religion was a huge blow to my homophobia.

People who met me after university, tend to think I'm joking when I say that I was a soldier for Christ. I used to go to this huge evangelical church in London called the Kingsway International Christian Centre with my uncle and his adopted kids, and lift up my voice, and my hands, to the Lord. I kid you not.

At the same time, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something a little off with basis of my beliefs. My questions were not encouraged, and doubt turned to outright mistrust. When I gave up on religion (sorry Lord, not enough evidence) I no longer had any obligation to view homosexuality as wrong, and the more I learned about human sexuality the less I cared about what sex a person was attracted to.

(Check out my previous post on the anti-gay bill here.)


  1. Our views on Homosexuality are pretty similar. I used to be *prompted by the code of the streets raging homophobe. Never much religion to lose though (unless you count the 5%) and at some point i said fuck it, live and let live. I love what you said about having a cultural salve for racial superiority. I can TOTALLY identify. Excellent Post!

  2. Thanks for the love, Loco. Yeah, it can be hard to deal with, the idea that you are a problem. That you are below. And having a whole load of stats and observations easily available to back that idea up.

    Feeling as though you have to fight the received wisdom that hangs in the air to prove your humanity, and the humanity of everyone who looks like you. Like, "I'll show these motherf*ckers".

    Though this feeling, and the subsequent desire to "show them" have mellowed out in recent years, I think there's a case to be made that the sense of "showing them" pervades pretty much everything I do. Doing well at school, getting a good job, building wealth, helping out the family, finding a good partner... And my current frustration.