Brought to you from ReportOut | 3 November 2019
ReportOUT were asked by a leading LGBTQ+ organisation in Ghana to publish some of the lived experiences of people living in the nation state today. We proudly present this piece written by activists from LGBT+ Rights Ghana
Following the recent uproar of Ghanaian citizens concerning the issue on the introduction of Comprehensive Sex Education into school curriculum’s, I have every right to believe beyond reasonable doubt that Ghana as a country is backwards and supports regression.
Around the world where education is at its very peak, students benefit from a wide array of programs interwoven into their school curricula, to not just promote IQ development, but also to give students basic life lessons that would be beneficial and contribute to their worldview of society and man as a carrier of culture. Most of the powers that be in high places in Ghana, who promote homophobia have their children and families being beneficiaries of these educational systems abroad.
Cultures vary and have taken a new outlook since the cultural turn which brought about changes in the way the term culture was looked at. Today we see negative cultures which include rape culture, victim blaming, the culture of violence and intolerance for the marginalized.
Proposing the introduction of the CSE into school curricula stirred up conversations and hate speeches that supported the afore mentioned toxic cultures and bought out the homophobia in Ghanaian citizens, as the CSE document was tagged with the LGBTQ+ movement. Radio stations, especially Joy FM in Ghana, encouraged biased interview sessions which were characterized by asking leading questions from respondents. The whole confusion of the CSE document was spearheaded by Mr. Moses Foh Amoaning; a Ghanaian Lawyer who himself is a minority (Albino), yet fights tooth and nail against LTBGQ+ efforts to gain basic human rights. Mr. Foh Amoaning believes that the LGBTQ+ community promotes moral decadence and are a curse onto nations. His stance and lobbying for the government to criminalize homosexuality has gained grounds amongst the Ghanaian populace, who believe that the wrath of God will visit Ghana if LGBTQ+ people continue to ‘practice’ homosexuality.
Ghana in my eyes, from the books I have read and from what I experienced during my childhood days, looked very promising. At least until I was about seventeen years old, when things started to dawn on me that we may never as a country, reach that point of progressiveness and tolerance for things we collectively do not identify with, and I dare say; practices that have been lost and are finding their ways back into our societies today. While slavery may have done us a great disservice, I believe we have self-inflicted our own society by losing track of what used to be, and how important what used to be, was to our attaining peace and harmony in our societies.
Ghana may have been all the laudable adjectives we use in praising it before colonialism, but again those praises were, I believe, because of the unity in diversity. Those great times were great because everyone found a place unperturbed in society, and every manner of person served a purpose to achieve this balance.
Yet within all these narratives I see dichotomies. We never had a Ghana in the first place. We were never this unified with the frontiers and maps we have today. There were kingdoms. There were wars of conquest. Empires grew to strengths untamed. That is what we were. Even in those times, there was a place for everyone, and kings still ruled over a complex mix of subordinates.
My whole point is to posit that Gold Coast then, was still arguably tolerant of all than what we see in Ghana today. Frontiers and boarders on land have extended deeper into relationships and identities, underpinned by religion and its unrealistic demands. The style of governance has changed to the detriment of citizens. What I thought would bring progressiveness is being used as a smoking gun in the faces of the marginalized who don’t fall within these borders of “standard/normal.”
In Ghana today, diversity in identity is still abhorred. One cannot be sure if we understand after 62 years of independence that we have lagged behind in our thoughts and in our perceptions of what is progressive. Marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community and women have barely made headway in their fight for a place in society. Even though the laws on homosexuality and its related extensions is not clear cut criminalized, society still finds ways to attack, kill and victim-blame and shame, when members of the LGBTQ+ community are involved. Sensitization and education have only done much for the community as there are other well-established organizations that fight to bring the progress of these marginalized groups to nothing.
Religion, the opium of the masses, has proved itself a great opponent and a destructive tool that readily is used to counter efforts and rationality, in the quest for peace amongst LGBTQ+ people. Sermons that bash queer people are regarded as uplifting. The use of the beatitudes in the bible comes in handy when preachers take their stances on why their members should disassociate themselves from queer people. Islamic sects have also turned their backs on queer folk and have posed as one of the most difficult sects to live amongst if one is queer. The tendency of being lynched or beaten if caught in the act or suspected is scary. The queer Muslim friends I have are either rich and live in communities that do not condone mob justice or assume a brutish outlook to fit into lower social class societies. There have been several incidents where queer people have been baited and taped for blackmail, beaten, and publicly humiliated. The struggle intensifies when even movie stars and other media persons like Prince David Osei, throw their support around to the sides of those who support us.
Queer men suffer the most in all these struggle frames. Lesbians suffer mentally more than they do physically, but with men, the idea of bottoming becomes a whole slutty-identity tag. One is quick to ask who the female is when they see queer male couples because homosexuality hasn’t been looked at beyond sex. Femininity is thwarted, making it difficult for effeminate men to be seen as men. Emasculation becomes the order of the day because of the generalized traditional binary nature of gender.
I used to think people had become more tolerant of LGBTQ+ people until I realized that, people surprisingly acted openminded in situations where there was an association or gathering with high earned, or influential people. Even though just an observation, it seems safer to be around other LGBTQ+ people in expensive communities, eateries and organizations which are associated with a certain social class of people. Aggression in those circles are very passive because homophobes may still want to keep that air of composure to look and sound elite.
Growing up queer: Horatio-Amzi Wildan
Growing up, I’ve always loved to play “dress-up” with my sister. It fascinates me now as an adult at how creative I was with napkins and bedsheets. I would pin them together to fit my body frame and leave a good amount that would flow and sweep the floor. How great I looked! I was strutting in my mum’s heels at 9 years old. My mum had dainty feet and would sometimes beat me mercilessly because she thought I had been possessed by a marine spirit. I always ended up doing it over and over again.
All this while from about 5 to 9 years old, I was involved in all the mummy and daddy games in school. Oh yes, I did get into trouble with my teachers and the parents of the girls I was involved with because in Ghana, even at my age, it was thought of that, I did the initiation. Truth is; most of the girls in my class would gravitate towards me because I came from a wealthy family and I always had treats. Mind you, I was very vocal too. So, in trying to defend myself, I came off as disrespectful. Again, in Ghana, a child is never right, and a child has no say. Happy the narratives are beginning to change for children today. I did enjoy girls at that tender age. I knew so much and I got turned on by the prettiest of them. I guess I was just a highly sexed child.
I remember very well having cute crushes on my male seniors too. Trust me when I say I did feel the connection that they liked me too. It wasn’t so confusing for me at that age as many make it seem. Back home there was a tenant who had a son. For anonymity sake let’s call him Fataou. Fataou as I had come to know from our bathing together, had quite a huge ‘member’ that fascinated me. I would stare at it when we showered and for no reason want to touch it. Fataou was about 5 years older than me and was Muslim.
My curiosity got the best part of me and one quiet Saturday when his mum had left home, I got to visit him and we fondled each other. It was so intense that I kept wanting to have time with him. He would kiss me passionately and we would repeat frothing and masturbation till he came. We never got to penetration till his family relocated. I was only 12 when they left. My heart broke and at 12, I did have a girlfriend in school whom I equally “loved”. Nothing came confusing to me. I loved them both and I enjoyed them both. With both of them also, I feared being caught. It didn’t matter much if I was caught with Fataou or if it was Pearl. I would be dead in both situations.
Then Pearl left school and was replaced with Aba. I hadn’t found me another Fataou till my 2nd year in Junior High School. My classmate; Joseph, would give me numerous pecks on the forehead and on my cheeks. I remember getting mad because as much as it was cool, I felt it would make Aba jealous. Gag is; she actually would ask Joe to chase and give me more pecks to make me mad. Aba and Joe faded out with our completion of Junior High School. I later got to know Joe was gay all that while.
Senior High School came with its challenges. Being in a boys’ school, my biggest fear was getting erect in the bathroom or in the cabin when the boys had just their boxers and boxer briefs on. It was here that I came to realize the hate queer people face. Mind you, I never identified as queer/straight, and I had no interest in the politics thereof. It was painful to know that being queer could be used to insult one or make one feel less of themselves.
Being effeminate myself, I had been through a lot with my classmates and my seniors in Senior High School. My life became a nightmare. I was more aware of my mannerisms and how I expressed myself. I started to identify all the boys that could possibly be queer too, and it dawned on me that many of these boys looked so masculine and yet, encouraged gay bashing. I was in relationships with 3 different men at different stages during my four-year stay in school, while I kept ladies as girlfriends in other schools to take eyes off my date when he visited me.
I had broken up with all three of them back to back because I found out they were married. School wasn’t rosy for me and someway somehow, I had become strictly gay. I felt nothing for ladies within my four years stay in school. I had become accustomed with using them as cover-up. It was in my second year in university that my bisexuality rekindled strong. I had met a lady. Charming and sexually appealing. I came out to her as bisexual because I felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. After a year and half, we parted ways sadly because she cheated. I met my next girlfriend and even though I knew deep within that I loved her not, I agreed to a relationship with her. It lasted for two years. Bitter-sweet because I purposed to be there for her. At that point I was lost again. I was searching for deeper meanings into my sexuality and I was very well aware of the implications being tagged queer came with. I had come out to my family years earlier; after SHS (a story for another day) and their reactions had shaped my world view. I had lost respect and trust from my family, and I struggled and I still keep struggling to regain it.
Today I am dating a wonderful guy. We’ve known each other for about 2 years now and if we don’t break up, I plan to marry him. I have gained a deeper understanding as to who I am, and I have clarified my stance with religion. I sleep better knowing that my bisexuality is not a confusion and that I am valid.
My boyfriend being pro-choice and liberal in thinking has given me that thirst for variety. I plan to open up to all the possibilities life has to offer and have as many experiences as possible. My heart is clean and I do not chase even after family to be validated. I am at peace with myself. I have surrounded myself with friends who know my sexuality. Some of them are not welcoming of it but I still am not treated any less of a person. And I make sure to educate people whenever the opportunity presents itself. I only hope that rationality will prevail in the nearest future and that people would be willing to understand and embrace all.
LGBTQ+ PEOPLE ARE VALID. LIVE AND LET LIVE. LOVE AND LET LOVE.
My queer journey: Ramsey Tetteh-Owusu
Life in Ghana for any gay man, I can bet, sounds bitter. To grow up realizing that there’s a set moral standard that abhors homosexuality with venom, the standard set by a non-existent group of homophobic men perhaps, cannot be trivialized. These standards often than not brood into open hate, abuse and discrimination against individuals suspected to be gay.
My personal life as a nineteen-year-old gay student is probably no different from others just like me. With a good amount of luck hovering over my own head, I was born into an open-minded home that saw its offspring as nothing short of amazing and intellectual, even in clear view of their sexuality. I had a very honest, smooth and effeminately characterized childhood to the point where I had to step out of home into high school. That is where I personally experienced the coarse gay life.
In High School, every queer guy including effeminate guys who were suspected to be queer, was considered filthy, immoral and advocates of hell. The isolation and mental dejection any guy who fell in this category felt, the amount of verbal abuses, and the obvious and open discrimination were everyday meals for the queer guys who just wanted to live and learn in peace.
It was after I was suspended from school that I came out publicly, and life rather after then, interestingly, has been amazing thereof. University has been different, especially in the Fine Arts, where talents and inputs are well appreciated. With focus and determination, I vouch to excel in this institution as I have matured a lot more, and I am more experience in handling my critics. The perception about gay people in my current society had changed due to my own aura and the circle I have strategically placed myself in.
A brief history of LGBT+ Rights Ghana:
LGBT+ RIGHTS GHANA was formed on July 13, 2018 initially as a cyber activism blog- a platform that uses social media to create awareness on LGBT+ issues in Ghana and the world. Currently maximizing on capacity to initiate a movement in the interest of LGBT+ persons living in Ghana, the initial of plan was to empower the LGBT+ community in Ghana to cause the change that we deserve. This was done through the creation of a Facebook group and page, an Instagram account, a twitter account and a YouTube channel. At the moment, a few capacity building initiatives are ongoing under LGBT+ RIGHTS GHANA. Currently, there are various empowerment initiatives ongoing like, HERE & BEYOND which is organize every last Sunday of the month, QUEER MAT which is organize quarterly of the year, SPEAK OUT which is organize quarterly of the year and other capacity building workshops. We envision a country where the rights of LGBT+ person are respected and protected, and are poised on forming a formidable movement to champion the fight for freedom of LGBT+ persons in Ghana.
1. To create a safe space for LGBT+ persons in Ghana
2. To ensure equal rights for all LGBT+ persons.
3. To ensure that all LGBT+ persons rights are respected and protected.
4. To develop activities that will empower the LGBT+ community.
5. To create a strong alliance with pro LGBT+ individual, organizations, institutions and movement.