Breathtaking scenery, the array of colors in the market place, the freshest of vegetables and the most luscious of fruits. These are just a few of the things that make Africa really special. But, the real Africa is bound by so many rules and traditions.
Before I came out, I remember befriending a young butch girl. She was not only seeking a life partner but she was seeking someone who would be strong enough for her to run to. You see, she came from a typical African family where things like homosexuality do not even exist. If a girl is masculine, we do not see butch. We see a strong girl that is useful for laborious work.
In Senegal, a gay friend was stoned to death at his family home. His parents and relatives locked him out when he ran for help and refused to bury him afterwards. It was friends that lovingly took the body and laid it to rest.
In Ghana, parties for LGBTQ communities and their supporters are stormed by angry mobs, while the police stand by to guard against people who would save them. But the most painful are the married people who prowl the clubs at night seeking a same sex partner with whom they can spend the night with in a seedy hotel. They know how terrible the consequences will be when they are caught. Yet, they will take that chance just to feel normal for a few hours
I am blessed to have a loving family with minds that are truly as open as the skies. Yet, even I did not escape the fear of society. My family and I were already treated as being so different. I knew this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, I hid. Fast forward to now. After all the failed relationships and broken engagements, I decided to take a stand. Unfortunately, it also means I will not be returning any time soon to any African country. The stories of those who have lost family, religion and societal status, usually in very brutal ways, are engraved too deeply in my mind. I do not know how to live in hiding and I know I will be unable to keep up the pretense needed for my family and I to be safe.
I am grateful that my family has also decided to walk the road to finding a new home with me. But to all those who have been less fortunate, I can tell you this: there is nothing as amazing as that first breath of air you take when you come to terms with yourself. Whether you have support or not, there is nothing wrong with being you. The heart wants what the heart wants. When you step out of that closet, there is a feeling akin to Evey raising her arms to the rain in the movie ‘V for Vendetta’.
It will be the first step to being you. And that is the road to true freedom.