Africa: Are we really just Super Gay?

By Kagure Mugo
‘Homosexuality is wrong because society is in uproar about it.’

That was the reason given. I took issue with this for two reasons.

Number one.  Slavery, colonialism, racism, capital punishment, war, nuclear bombs, degradation of the environment, capitalism. Humanity does not have a good track record of deciphering right and wrong.

Number two. Literature namely, Lord of the Flies.tumblr_mdd6d84vf61rkpyxeo1_500

For those who don’t know let me give you the spark ‘night before the exam’ type notes. Boys stranded on island. Shit starts getting real. Mob mentality leads them to kill one member of the group.

These were kids.

And living in Africa we all know about mob mentality. A man steals a bag and gets lynched. Granted stealing a bag isn’t nice but proceeding to hang a man from a tree after beating him senseless is borderline psychotic.

Yes psychotic.
That’s what a moment like that in mob mentality really is. A moment when a large group of people come together and do something that they would not have dreamed of doing alone.

That’s what in my view homophobia is. As Africans we aren’t sure why we hate homosexuality. Why we go crazy when it’s mentioned. Why it bothers us so. We just know that we hate it. My personal view is we are homophobic as a people for the same reason the worst homophobes are homophobic. Being gay is in our blood.


Yes. It’s in our blood. Africa was doing the same sex thing before the rest of the world figured out what sex was. Look back. This culture we keep falling back on is littered with us being SUPER GAY!

Ok not super gay, but gay enough to know that it’s in our veins.

Let us begin.

Marc Epprecht states that it is a dangerous myth to think that Africans are heterosexual by nature.

Colonial court records showed evidence of homosexual practice amongst ‘the natives’. But let us not rely on the white man to tell us where we came from.

Court records are all well and good but nothing beats a rock painting.

The San had the good sense to jot some things down on some pieces of pebble.if you repeat

In the Bantu tribes homosexuality was actually expected  around the age of puberty in order for the young ones to discover sexuality and also experiment.

So I am not trying to say that EVERYONE was gay before the colonialists came. In some circumstances it was actually disapproved of. Women were still seen to have to marry and have children and the only way a lady who loved the ladies could escape this was to become a ‘healer’ or ‘prophetess’.

Evidence that white people came here and found us fruity and ready to party is seen in court records taken by the first settlers which shows ‘homosexual crimes amongst natives’. By 1892 they had clearly stepped up their Gay CIA (a GIA if you will) and there are recordings of hundreds of cases in towns. In Zimbabwe there were 250 recorded cases (let’s not forget the ones who ‘got away with it’) between the years 1892 and 1923.

Before we start tribalism court records show that the homosexual ‘offenders’ were nice and evenly spread amongst the various ethnicities and tribes.

In Kenya there are customs that allow women to marry other women. Usually after being widowed but sometimes during the husbands life time. It was common to do this within my own tribe the Kikuyus. These marriages took place for a number of reasons including economic reasons, social support reasons, and sometimes just companionship. A modern account of it states that there are no wedding rings exchanged BUT there is a goat slaughtered. And who doesn’t like goat? Of course it’s not very common now because Kikuyus are 3rd and 4th generation Christians. And we all know good Christians aren’t gay.

Many African languages have words that ‘mean’ homosexuality for example kuchu used within the East African region, maotoane in Sesotho, ‘yan dauda* in Hausa and Nkonkoni in isiZulu. Despite the negative connotations of some of these words in today’s context the words are evidence of the existence of homosexuality in traditional cultures as the words can be traced back at least 100 years.

We also may have even invented our very African dildo. In Nambia and Angola, German archeologist Kurt Falk, whilst researching questions of same sex relationships during the 1920s found in the most remote areas a selection of same sex relationships including cases of women using artificial penises with female partners.

Yes ladies. An Ancient African Strap-On.

He says in his writing that the women were ‘very devoted to this kind of sex with one another’.  According to him men accepted this with little more than a grumble and simply jerked each other off (my words not his) or had anal intercourse when they did not have access to the women folk.

Within Xhosa and Zulu ancient traditions one couldn’t learn how to have sex through google. Or you tube. Or porn. Or a biology book. Observation and experimentation were key. Thus homosexual behavior amongst adolescents was often seen as natural and necessary part of the learning process.

Clearly we have been doing the same sex thing. If I was ignorant of European homosexual history I would say they learned it from us. But let’s not go there.

Thank you. And that concludes our tour of Gay Africa. Please feel free to purchase souvenirs.

Africans say white people brought homosexuality?

That’s wrong. They wiped it out.

The first people to claim that homosexuality ‘was not African’ were not Africans but Europeans, some of whom had never even been to the region.

Then they brought it back again.

Clearly they learned that some things are eternal and beautiful. Like two women having sex. Or a sunset. Or two women having sex. Whichever.

And Christianity and homosexuality… They had their dance too (but that’s another story for another day.)

Truth be told I think we have had such an awful reaction to homosexuality because we are really just…gay. Mama Afrika is just a big beautiful closet.

* it was pointed out to me after the publication of this that the word does not exactly mean homosexual. The wise comment (which can be seen below) was: ‘The ‘yan daudu are known as cross-dressing men but they are tied to a religious order that existed among the Hausa before the days when Islam reached them. There are ‘yan daudu who are gay but they can also be straight or bisexual. Some are married with children too.’

For more on Africa and being gay check out Homosexuality is ‘Un-African’ In pre-colonial Africa and Pre-colonial Igboland: Woman on Woman Marriage.

*leave a comment on the post, you can write it under a different name and your email will not be published.*

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I loved everything about this post! So interesting. I now feel compelled to research ancient African sex toys because I am inquisitive like that

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This was a fascinating article. Do you have any specific references you’d recommend? I’m eager to learn more.

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Great article, and a very important discussion to have. If we are to see ourselves as the wonderfully diverse people we are, we have to consider our pre-colonial cultural traditions!

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I really enjoyed reading this piece and would love the source list as well! But I have to add that ‘yan daudu does not mean homosexuality in Hausa. The ‘yan daudu are known as cross-dressing men but they are tied to a religious order that existed among the Hausa before the days when Islam reached them. There are ‘yan daudu who are gay but they can also be straight or bisexual. Some are married with children too.

(I say this as I’m a Nigerian girl nerd who was born in and grew up among Hausa communities. And also loves researching gender and sexuality in Africa :D)

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This shall be SOOOO put in and all credit given!

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Thought provoking

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My mom was just telling me the other day that traditionally in some African cultures a Queen(or female chief) is allowed to take wives, infact it is expected-and yet if I want to take a wife I’m a sick pervert or I’ve succumbed to the European life-style..Really? this article!

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Omg, I’ve just written an article on woman-to-woman marriage among a particular ethnic group in Nigeria (scheduled to go up tomorrow). All the African researchers love to say that there was no sex, sexual practice or lesbianism in these marriage but I believe it could have happened.

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It did happen! Its just these things are never documented and WERE never documented hence the decent into silence being seen as ‘proof’. This is the problem with mapping of the history of homosexuality within the continent, the silence surrounding it. Its the problem that continues today. Saying ‘just cause we don’t hear about it means it doesn’t exist’

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I pretty much agree with everything here.

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piggybacking on cosmicyoruba’s comment — sahelian societies that managed to beat back or otherwise completely ignore religious and colonial invaders have interesting rules regarding homosexuality.

this is why it’s *legal* [not just “not illegal” but “legal”] in burkina faso — although the age of consent is 21 instead of 13(!) as it is for heterosexuals. to understand this, you need to look a map of islamic conquests during the 1400s and 1500s and you will see a spot that they didn’t get. that spot is basically central burkina faso. the mossi kingdoms worked together and didn’t succumb to the islamic hordes…. so their culture remained uninterrupted; traders bought islam to the central plateau, not the sword. [this is an important plot point; where islam is spread by traders, they will be at friday prayers, but friday night they’re in the brothels.]

the french just threw up a flag and said “hey, this is french” and that’s how there was french “rule” for 65-ish years.

so the plateau culture, and its general indifference to the gays, remained relatively intact. [oh he’s gay? hmph.] back when abidjan was where the gays partied like crazy in the late 1980s/early 1990s — and, to be honest, so many people from more anti-gay countries go to do their dirt even *now* — people would talk about just how unworried/comfortable the gay burkinabés were compared to everyone else.

it’s the imported religions that messed it up for african homosexuals. thanks, whites and arabs! [not.]

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This is so fascinating! Don’t you please want to write us an article about this?

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This was awesome! We would love to hear about the differing diversities of femme women in Africa.

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i just love when people point out the marriage sans sexual interaction.
its amazing how afraid people are of sexual expression unless approved of by their masters, if they know it or not.
great post!

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