Africa: where are your openly gay public figures?
Brett Davidson | January 30th, 2014


Binyavanga Wainaina’s coming out last week was seen as a ‘bombshell’ by a wide range of media, including the New York Times, and Kenya’s Daily Nation. Certainly it was cheered by many, both publicly and privately, as courageous and timely.

The big question, as the the BBC asks, is ‘Will Binyavanga Wainaina Change Attitudes to Gay Africans?’ Another question must also be asked: Will it inspire other prominent Africans to also come out of the closet? While Binyavanga’s welcome bombshell may change some attitudes, it won’t change enough. We will need many more prominent Africans to come out of the closet if we really want to see assumptions and prejudices of the homophobic majority start to shift and shatter.

There is an increasingly vocal group of LGBT activists emerging across Africa, from Uganda to Cameroon, to Zimbabwe, to Nigeria. These are very courageous individuals, many of whom have lost their lives, their health, their families, homes and countries. They are working to try and change attitudes and policies and they are having an impact. But reaction to these individuals is shaped by the fact that they come to prominence for being gay. They demand respect and equal rights because of their common humanity, and their immense courage in deciding to stand up and be noticed without any protection of status or office or public standing. But to many opponents they are gay first and foremost, and everything else second.

What we also really need are more Africans who are already prominent and respected in various fields and endeavours to come out and reveal their homosexuality. People who are in the public eye first and foremost as judges, actors, politicians, artists, academics, scientists, businesspeople. Who by their coming out will start to induce cognitive dissonance in the haters, start to make more people question their assumptions. Aside from many South Africans who have done so, of course within a less hostile legislative environment, it is difficult to think of other famous or notable African figures like Binyavanga, who have come out as gay. Where are the openly gay and lesbian tycoons, newspaper editors, Djs, members of parliament and lawyers? Because it shouldn’t be so difficult to come up with more names, we want to start a list here at Africa is a Country. Please send us your contribution of the names of prominent Africans who are already out as gay–we’re not calling for public outing, we want to know about those already open about who they are. It will help us all become more informed, and perhaps inspire others to take the leap and join their company.

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2 thoughts on “Africa: where are your openly gay public figures?

  1. You want to start WHAT??? A list.. for what?
    One: The African culture doesn’t place your sexuality above what you can do as an individual. If anything it doesn’t glorify, push forward, explain sexuality period. It is something you do not something you talk about. I am not saying it is good or bad, it is just what it is. What good does it do to have African leaders or role model come out as gay. What good does a list do? Jews were put on lists, communists as well.
    Two: How does this information helps the poor farmer in the back of the country. How many chucks should he give about knowing someone’s sexuality. Is it going to help him create scifi? i don’t think so.

    Three: There are steps to development and while LGTB right are a must, the way the diaspora and the “well traveled educated lots of white friends having city lights Africans” go about it is out of touch with the reality of the culture globally.

    Africans gays are there. You are gay or you aren’t. But this “let your rainbow flag fly high” is an import and on a continent that still has so much road to travel, this is not the first, second or third stop. Sorry. We don’t need gay role models we need role models.
    We don’t need to come out as gay, or peanutsexual, we need awareness of homosexuality on the same ground as heterosexuality and a list of gays is not helping that. If anything it is creating a clear divide. What for?
    And last, for me coming out as gay is something personal and every individual does so or doesn’t.
    If you can do something for your people you are a leader. Let Binyavanga be a leader, create, publish on the grounds of being an African, on the ground of being unique, creative brave period.
    Lately Africasacountry has really lost if for me. Between bigotry (yes too many rants about racism and bigotry on while doing the same) A tone of arrogance, constant criticism of the “backwardness of Africa, of pop stars that didn’t know the difference between Malawi and Zimbabwe…isn’t there anything else to talk about. Lots of useless rants made me want to rant as well. And not as eloquently as you for sure.
    I do applaud your initiative to open the dialogue about gay rights but let’s think a little longer before coming out with quick solutions that really are a dead end. (Someone said.Homegrown solutions remember?)

    • Look, in all sense I do understand some of your points. For the farmer, democracy does not come before food. (you a socialist?) But what’s wit the “african culture” view on sexuality? How can you label an entire continent’s culture as the same? There are people in your continent who don’t get jobs and good lives because of fear of sexuality. It is not just about human rights, we talk the rising continent of africa, but africa wouldn’t rise if a significant part of your population is suppressed which could be cintributing to the GDP if they had the space to. The point here not to have gay leaders, but have good leaders (which is you point), but a scenario where the LGPT is unable to rise to be leaders shouldn’t occur.
      As for your question,a list for what? a list to show people that they are others like them, to accept, to move as an economy, for prosperity, even for the farmer.

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