Today is the 2018 International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia #idahot2018, as the majority of Africans pride themselves in not being able to tolerate LGBT persons, we would like to shine a spotlight on the effects of Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and why it’s not just gay people that suffer. With this year’s #idahot2018 theme; “Alliances for Solidarity”, it’s important that we address the effects of Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia for everyone.
The term homophobia was first described in 1972 by George Weinberg, and defined as an irrational fear, hatred, and intolerance of being in close quarters with homosexual men and women. Homophobia in society now plays out in many different forms, both subtle and explicit. Less visible forms include lack of inclusion of same-sex couples and particularly ethnically diverse couples in the entertainment industry, marketing materials, and advertisements. More obvious forms of homophobia include laws and regulations geared towards discrimination and undermining the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
It’s no secret that Africa is considered one of the worst places in the world to be LGBTI, with gay people facing arrests, mob violence, assaults, torture and murder with no help from the government. Nigeria records an average of 532 violation cases a year, a staggering figure that doesn’t include those who have committed suicide, those who have been tortured or raped through conversation therapy and many other cases we don’t get to hear about. Asylum seekers who have fled violence in Cameroon for the refugee camps in Kenya suffer bloody attacks back to back. Many more stories of violence and discrimination vibrate through Africa’s LGBT community, even in places like South Africa where same-sex marriage is legal. While all these violence occur as a result of Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, it’s important that we examine the effects they have on non LGBT persons.
Here’s how straight people are affected by Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia:
The spread of HIV and STDs: Gay men and women shy away from getting medical care and information because they fear shameful discrimination and in some cases violence. Homophobia has also reduced this same men and women into a pretentious life of trying to be straight. So, when you have uninformed men and women who also don’t have access to convenient medical care, engaging in heterosexual relationships to please society, it can only result in the increase of STDs and HIV. In a society free from Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, gay men and women will have access to information and medical care, they won’t also feel pressured to engage in heterosexual relationships for safety.
Pressure to act aggressively and angrily toward gay people: Homophobia has branded anyone who doesn’t speak up against LGBT people as equally gay. There are even laws that ensure the families and Ally’s of LGBT persons get punished for protecting gay people. What this mean is that you have to act aggressively to you spouse, son, daughter, brother, friend or family member when you realize they are gay or else you would also be branded as gay. This type of pressure doesn’t just put straight people in a difficult situation with their friends and family but also affects their mental state.
Anyone can be perceived as gay: Homophobia can be used to hurt a straight person if they appear to be gay, by holding hands or even hugging your brother or friend with too much affection, can make you a target for violence. And since our perspectives differ with our personalities, there is no limit to what can be perceived as gay. It could be your hairstyle, dress sense, mannerisms or something seen out of context that makes you a target for sudden gay attacks and discrimination even if you are straight.
It prevents access to vital information on sex and sexuality: Due to the fact that homosexuality is widely frowned upon, key information on sex and sexuality cannot see the light of day. This is particularly dangerous because sexual acts like anal sex and the use of sex toys are widely used outside gay settings, but because they have been associated with gay sex, medical information and precautions gets buried in a bid to shun anything that has to do with homosexuality. Without this information, straight men and women (particularly youths) are putting themselves at a greater risk for HIV and other STDs.
As the global community reflects on #idahot2018 theme; Alliances for Solidarity, it’s important that Africans also reflect on the price we have to pay for Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in our societies.