IDAHO, Africa

Homophobia exists in Africa, as does influenza. This comparison is only partly gratuitous as I am interested in scales of virulence. We know that African bees are the deadliest; the sun in Africa is hotter than anywhere else in the world; viruses from Africa are the most malicious; and the simple cold, when caught in Africa, destroys the entire body within 3 hours. We know, as well, that such statements are already racialized, their silent and present object being the vulnerable non-African white body.

We know that rape in Africa is worse, because African men are so freakishly endowed; that mortality rates in childbirth are higher because babies have such freakishly huge heads and the women have all been infibulated; we know that arson is an insufficient term because fires burn much hotter; and we know, oh we know, that prefixing a term, any term, with the word African, is always about scales of virulence.

African kisses. African kicks. African football. African telephones. African food. African poverty. African corruption. African wealth. African fiction. African poop.

Even white Africans fuck differently.

Virulence, because these description are always about invisible, yet present, eternally vulnerable bodies that are not African, and that not-ness emerges as a relation to virulence, as a measure of proximity, as self-defining, even in the most altruistic ways.

I overstate my case. And it is a banal one, anyway. And I am tired of writing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over. African persistence.

All of this floods my mind as I think of what it means to have the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) focused on Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. Kiss-ins and Hug-ups in London will be used to advocate for Africa.

To advocate for African homos against African homophobia.

This homophobia is real. I have written about it on this space. And I have experienced it, albeit when I was much younger. It has a life and a force, but not as African homophobia.

Not as a kind of artifact around which non-Africa becomes constructed as better than, less than, gentler than, more accepting than. And this, I fear, not only by the non-Africans who care for Africa (Binyavanga echoes in my head), but also by the Africans who care for Africa (Binyavanga still echoes), and whose care is mediated by the Euro-American alliances they forge and the Euro-American paradigms they (sometimes) adopt.

Caring for Africa is a dangerous occupation, no matter who does it.

African homophobia: so deadly it kills with one glance.

African homophobia: so deadly it does kill with one glance.

A friend and I are co-writing an essay on gay rights in Kenya. We take, for instance, the recent “unpleasantness” in Mtwapa at the Kenyan coast, where religious and civic leaders incited violence against homo-friendly institutions. In thinking about this incident, I have focused on how it changes the meaning of the coast, a location deemed to be homo-accepting, if not homo-friendly, in a body of literature that spans close to a hundred years (literature in English—there might different accounts in Arabic). I am interested in the changing meanings of public space, meanings that cannot be detached from the “recent unpleasantness” in Kenya which is, as some would have it, only a continuation of a founding series of similar “unpleasantnesses.”

I worry about the cluster of desires that need “African homophobia” to be as much of a “problem” as “African hunger” and “African corruption.”

Saving Africa, one homo at a time.

And I hate, not merely despise, hate, and have rage toward the histories that make this kind of writing necessary, in which I must question motives, must question the kinds of subject-constituting, object-making acts that traffic under the name of activism. And hate, not merely despise, hate, and have rage toward the histories that make me suture the following terms: sex-tourism-activism.

Barebacking white men saving Africa one virus at a time.

This, too, is a historical statement, with anecdotal evidence.

Homophobia in Africa is a problem, but not as African homophobia, a special class that requires special interventions. And certainly not the kinds of special interventions that re-consolidate old, ongoing, and boring oppositions between here and there, us and them, progressive and conservative, African and non-African.

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