LGBTQ+ Activists in Africa
by Christine Kinori
Africa is a big melting pot of different cultures and is a very diverse continent. Most Africans are deeply rooted in their cultural beliefs, customs, and traditions that have been passed down through generations. Most African countries are also very religious, and the most common religions are Christianity and Islam. This is one of the reasons why the LGBTQ+ community in the continent is isolated and most people don’t came out because they are afraid for their lives and the stigma that society shows them.
In most African countries, being LGBTQ+ is equivalent to signing your death certificate. In many African countries, there are no rules or laws to protect LGBTQ+ individuals against any violations whatsoever. Though it is a hard battle to fight in this continent, a few brave LGBTQ+ people have taken the responsibility to help create a better environment for the LGBTQ+ community. They have not been afraid to publicly speak about their sexual identities and speak their truth.
❥ Thulasizwe Siphiwe Dambuza mostly known as “Lasizwe”
Lasiswe is a South African personality, radio host, comedian, actor and a YouTuber who has been a social media sensation. In an interview, he described coming out as the hardest thing he has ever had to do in his life. He recalls coming out to his parents, and his mother refusing to talk to him for six months. He said she was adamant that she didn’t want a gay son in her house, but luckily she got used to it. He has spoken on how he kept losing guy friends in school because they were convinced he was after them. He also commented on the challenges he goes through in the entertainment industry because of his sexuality.
Unfortunately people will openly tell him how they like his work but would refuse to hire him citing his sexuality as the issue. Lasizwe, however didn’t let this deter him, and instead he used the bias and oppression as a source of motivation, pushing himself to work harder and his success is proof that LGBTQ+ individuals can always rise no matter what society does to put them down. He is living his life proudly gay and continues to inspire LGBTQ+ individuals in South Africa to openly talk about their sexuality.
❥ Somizi Mhlongo
Somizi is a popular South African television personality. He is an openly gay actor and one of the country’s renowned entertainers. He admitted that he knew from an early age that he was gay and that his father was the first one to jump to the conclusion that he was gay. He narrated his experience as a gay man in Modern South Africa, saying how the stigma attached to homosexuals has really affected LGBTQ+ individuals. According to him, most gay South Africans are scared of saying and accepting themselves for who they are. They date in secrecy because of enormous family pressure and never come out. He also openly discussed how coming out as gay has cost him work opportunities. Since coming out, he said that the industry has put him in a box,only giving him gay roles. He uses his platform to help thousands of people come out and proudly live their lives without fear of being judged.
❥ Victor Mukasa
Mukasa is a transgender activist from Uganda. He has used his job to passionately express his experiences and highlight the violation of human rights LGBTQ+ people in Africa face day in and day out. He didn’t have an easy life as a trans man in Uganda. Most of the time he faced discrimination and was considered “possessed.” He was actually forced to undergo an exorcism exercise — yikes!
Once he began speaking openly about the injustice and discrimination faced by the Ugandan LGBTQ+ community, he and his children began to get death threats. However, he did not back down and continues to fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda as a trans man. He was even arrested at one point after police raided his home without a warrant. After that, he fled to South Africa and began seeking asylum. He currently works as a program associate at the Cape Town office of International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
❥ Bisi Alimi
Alimi is a Nigerian HIV/ LGBTQ+ rights advocate, public speaker, blog writer and was actually the first Nigerian to come out as gay on television. In 2007, he was forced to flee Nigeria following incessant death threats and was granted asylum in the UK. Before he fled Nigeria, he and his friends founded The Independent Project For Equal Rights-Nigeria. He served as Executive Director and pioneered several LGBTQ+ youth group initiatives. He still actively continues to advocate for gay rights within migrant African communities and has worked with different UK organizations and continues to inspire Nigerian youth even though he is miles away.
❥ Beki Aby
He is famously considered as a leader in the LGBTQ+ community in Ethiopia. He is a co-founder of DANA Social Club, which advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and provides support and information to its members. The group conducts online campaigns and publishes an online archive called the “Ethiopian gay library.” Although homosexuality is totally illegal in Ethiopia, he continues to inspire more to join the organization. He spoke on the challenges LGBTQ+ activists face in Ethiopia, having to hide and meet in secret like underground movements. Most queer Ethiopians live in total isolation and the social club helps them feel that they are not alone and gives them a platform to talk about their issues.
We should acknowledge our LGBTQ+ African activists are heroes who continue to carry the welfare of each LGBTQ+African in their hearts as they continue fighting our battles. They go through so much just to try and change society’s perception of the LGBTQ+ community. They are always willing to lend a helping hand and a voice when needed. It is through their struggle that one day African LGBTQ+ people will have a safer environment and be able to live their lives out and proudly.
About the Author:
Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.
Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.