Recently, I was hanging out with some friends. We were drinking, eating, listening to music, talking, and laughing, as people do at BBQs. Since I don’t drink alcohol, my lucid mind wanders, even at parties. I observe a lot, so I started studying my surroundings and the people around me. There was nothing special to study or to notice. I simply saw people having fun. I saw men and women, chilling and laughing. I saw my friends being happy and they were enjoying themselves.
Then, I paid attention a bit more intently and I noticed something that pleased me immensely: I saw 3 lesbian couples and a few gay guys. I had to remind myself of their sexual orientation because in my mind, they have names, they are my friends and they are not reduced only to their sexual orientation, as some people tend to do. They are people, human beings, before being anything else. My liberal mind has been in Canada close to 20 years now and people’s sexual orientation doesn’t mean much to me.
I couldn’t help but smile. The scenery, the ambiance, the laughs, the talks, the food, the whole thing was great. There we were…Gay and straight, sitting together, laughing, drinking, and enjoying life. It was a garden filled with love and respect between people. For a moment, we all were in a Utopia and all was well with the world.
Then, I remembered how rare this kind of harmony is in other places of this vast world. I thought of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Burundi, who aren’t safe and can’t be themselves because of article 567 of the penal code that stipulates « Quiconque fait des relations sexuelles avec la personne de même sexe est puni d’une servitude pénale de trois mois à deux ans et d’une amende de cinquante mille francs à cent mille francs ou d’une de ces peines seulement ». If convicted of homosexuality, our gay brothers and sisters would spend 3 months to 2 years behind bars, in a cage, in a fucking prison for being gay, for being themselves.
Homosexuality (a word that sounds weird to me probably because it brings us back to the 19th century with its conversion therapies and all that crap!) is a big problem and an even bigger taboo in the Burundian community. Why is that? How are gay people a problem? What have they done to be THE target? They are not hurting anyone by being gay because they are being themselves. To hear some people, talk about gay people, you’d think they are overthrowing governments or destroying society. How does being gay destroy society? No one can ever answer that question, can they? Despite the lack of proof indicating homosexuality is inherently or naturally bad, all over Africa, they are voting laws to persecute, prosecute and imprison them. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are tortured and killed. Imagine being killed for who you are, for who you were since the moment you were born. I know some would say this “vile behaviour” is learned. First, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that theory, not even remotely but who listens to science when it contradicts their worldview? Secondly, the gay people I have spoken to, they confirmed to me they felt they were different since they were kids or teenagers. How about that “learned behaviour” theory? Yeah…
I tried to understand the reason for this vehement contempt and hate towards our brothers and sisters of the LGBTQ community. Where does it come from? Why does it even exist? In most African countries, gay people are more hated than rapists! The latter RAPED someone, and the former didn’t harm anyone. Make it make sense goddamn it! No one can because it doesn’t make any goddamn sense!
Let’s go back to my question: why so much hate towards our gay brothers and sisters? I looked around and I found an answer that won’t please certain people but let’s make them uncomfortable! The hate mainly comes from religion. Oh yeah! YES, I FUCKING SAID IT! You don’t have to agree with me. Hell, I am sure a few people won’t agree with me because I just touched on two taboo subjects: religion and homosexuality. Those two are more entangled with each other than cotton fibers are in a sweater!
As we all know, religion serves a political, social, judicial, and even economic groundwork to regulate the world, to control people’s thoughts and behaviors. All religions tell people what to do and not to do. Why do you think we have commandments? I understand order must exist otherwise anarchy and chaos will prevail. However, there is a difference between the world in which these commandments were written and the 21st century we live in. We evolve as humans, the world changes constantly and we cannot live today following the values and rules written by MEN (never women. Imagine that!) lost in the desert who barely knew how to write, count, or even explain what thunder is! We are taking cues from those guys! Imagine that!
Weirdly enough, every monotheistic religion calls homosexuality a sin, and in their “holy” texts, it is usually punishable by death. Judaism, Islam and Christianity, which hail from the same area code (another coincidence? I think not!), are anything but kind to homosexuality and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Yes, these three religions teach people to hate, despise, punish, persecute, and prosecute our brothers and sisters of the LGBTQ community. One can find a few passages in the Bible, in the Quran and in the Talmud about the damnation that comes with homosexuality. Once again, why this hate? Why this condemnation? I guess I will never get it, unfortunately.
Yet, I clearly remember for example, Jesus telling us, instructing us to love ALL PEOPLE. Last time I checked, gay and trans people are people. So, that love, doesn’t apply to them? They are not people? Are they less and should they be treated worse because of who they love? Hating gay and trans people doesn’t make any fucking sense but religion has convinced people they should. Whatever happened to loving all people as Jesus commanded his followers? Whatever happened to treating people with dignity, respect and consideration? Why does that not apply to gay people, especially in almost all 54 countries in Africa? Well, sometimes we hate people who are from a different tribe and who live a few miles away, so, I guess hating gay people falls under general practice of hate or something.
I would say, whenever a “holy” text instructs people to hate others, well, you must pause and think. Ask yourself why. They say it is an “unnatural behaviour”. Let’s say it is…so, what? Does unnatural mean “bad”? No! And by the way, someone else being gay doesn’t affect YOUR life in any way. It has ZERO effect on you, your life, your marriage, your kids, your health, your bank account, your church or temple or mosque, or anything else you could think of! Someone being gay isn’t about you! Relax. Breathe. Let people be.
If you hang around with gay people, if you talk to them and especially if you listen to them, you will realize one thing: they are people, like everyone else on this planet. They are not special, better, or worse than anybody else. They breathe the same air, have the same fears, apprehensions, dreams and needs as anyone else. They cannot and should not be reduced to their sexual orientation. Who wants to be reduced to one thing about themselves? We are not just one thing; our identities are made of multiple sides and experiences. Yes, they are gay, but they are so much more than that! And they shouldn’t be second class citizens for who they love and want to be with.
One other question: who can tell people who to love or how to love someone? Who is that all-knowing person? Let’s take my example: I am straight. I don’t want anybody telling me who to love, or how to love. I don’t want anybody telling who to have sex with, how to have sex, when to have sex, etc. Moreover, no one has ever told me any of that. So, why should I or anyone else, tell others who to love, how to love, how to have sex, who to marry, where to live, and so on? If it is between consenting adults and no one is harmed, whatever happens in people’s bedrooms, is none of anybody’s business. It isn’t the state’s or church’s business, nor anyone’s business for that matter!
I am lucky enough to have a few gay friends. Their stories are beautiful and painful at the same time. They went through incredible hardships to be themselves, to come out to their friends and family, they had to endure humiliations, attacks, slander and sometimes violence. Besides, living in Canada, I have had to great fortune to know and hang out with people of all creed and colors. I guess the best way to fight prejudice, hate and bigotry, is to hang out with people who don’t look and think like you. Do it and you will realize that our gay brothers and sisters aren’t that different from yourself.
As to the legislations ruling the African continent and that persecute gay people, I don’t know. I do not have a solution. Gay people are still persecuted, prosecuted and killed by intolerant sociopaths. How do we fight an unfair system? I don’t know. I can only tell my gay brothers and sisters on the continent to hang in there, stay safe and to protect each other. It is still dangerous to simply be yourself when you are gay in Africa unfortunately. Hang in there, brothers and sisters!
Let’s practice tolerance, instead of pronouncing the word. Let’s open our hearts and care about others. Gay people are people first and foremost. They are someone’s daughter or son, someone’s mother or dad, etc. Their lives are inherently important. They were born free to be themselves. They have the right to be themselves, to live, to be happy, to feel secure, etc. They have the same rights as everyone else.
Forget scripture for a moment. Use your eyes and look at them objectively. Look beyond what you were taught and see the person in front of you, not their sexual orientation. Look at their heart and their behavior towards others. Judge them on their actions, their words, not their sexual orientation. There is nothing wrong with being gay, despite what you were taught and told. Accepting and loving others isn’t a weakness, it is a noble thing to do.
To my gay brothers and sisters, keep being yourselves. Keep sharing your stories. You are our friends and family. We are not going anywhere because we are in this together. Keep loving who you love. There is nothing wrong with being you.
To my people, the people in my life who are gay, I love you and we shall spread the love together, as we have always done. Love wins.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!