I am gay and my partner works at ALU.
Jason Mokka
1

Hi

Thank you for engaging with my post.

I think it is important to differentiate between staff experience and student experience. Most of our staff members are well learned and travelled individuals, a huge number of them have studied or even lived outside of Africa in their past lives. Their experience has obviously allowed them to be in countries where homosexuality is not criminalized and they have also attended academic institutions who are pro-LGBTQIA+ rights. On the other hand you have never left their home countries before, for a majority of students this is definitely the first time they have interacted with an individual who is openly gay. Therefore the experience of a Queer staff member and that of the queer student are definitely different. Secondly I think the power dynamics are very important to note in this conversation, whether an individual is Queer or not but to be nasty to them when you know they are in a position of power is not a “wise” thing to do irrespective of your own views and beliefs about them. I know a fairly recent staff member at ALU who has also expressed their concerns about a potential fear of people discriminating or being prejudiced against him if he came out, according to this staff member the lack of clear written policies around this makes it unclear if he would be protected if he came out. Looking at the power dynamics again this member is relatively at a junior position.

Perhaps your partner has not given you the full background context of everything. As the inaugural class of ALU, we have never dealt with this topic before last week, despite me flagging this issue even way before I arrived on the island. It was about a month ago that I stood up in a townhall(student body meeting) to request that the institution starts formulating policies around diversity and inclusion because as a Queer student I was tired of having to face “gay jokes”, “gay disapproval comments” in my interactions with students. The recent discussions that took place last week were my initiative and part of my demands to the institution, it has never been a university proactive initiative. You surely understand how difficult it is to be defending your identity on a daily basis. These are said in the dorms and sometimes make it even to the classroom setting. Even at the said town hall a student got up and diminished the experiences of queer students.

At this point I was ready to leave the institution and one of the commitments made to me by the head of college was to host a guest speaker to educate our students and staff. I once more willingly agreed to planning this and I worked tirelessly with staff to finding an expert and brought them to ALU last week. Once more in that process of having an expert our university staff members got a chance of witnessing some of the views that our students hold about Queer individuals and no, if your partner was present they would tell you how the assembly room cheered and snapped at a student who got up and said she does not approve of homosexuality.

The ALU statement comes as a response to this open letter. They have made commitments on that statement which I will be holding them accountable to and we hope that the situation improves because at the moment as a queer student who has to live with individuals in the student residence who cyber-bully me on social media because of my Queer identity is uncomfortable and I feel unsafe.

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