America is not the moral beacon of the world

Illustration by Juana Martinez/Contributor
Illustration by Juana Martinez/Contributor
Illustration by Juana Martinez/Contributor

When President Obama expressed concern over the plan of Ugandan President Yoweri Museven to pass a law which criminalizes lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities, perhaps he was thinking to himself, “How can a nation do this to an already-marginalized people?” Perhaps he had a relapse of one of the most pervasive American diseases: Historical amnesia.

The U.S. often forgets, either out of convenience or sheer lack of long-term memory (I want to give more credit to our government and would assume the former) that our country is not one of moral superiority. When the president or any other U.S. government representative publicly states their displeasure at another country violating human rights, they do so with a legacy of human rights violations of their very own country. Oh, the irony.

But irony is not a strong enough word to use to describe leaders of the U.S. telling other countries that they ought to respect human rights. It’s hypocritical.

However, when it comes specifically to LGBTQI rights, the U.S. does recognize the right of same-sex couples to get married in 17 states and recognizes same-sex unions and partnerships in 10 states, according to data compiled by the Washington Post. This obviously is cause for recognition, at least at the state legislature level. But in other areas of life and society, can the statement be made that the LGBTQI community doesn’t experience violence, discrimination or abuse anymore, in or outside of these 27 states?

Of course not.

Even in liberal states such as California people are targeted for their perceived gender or sexual orientation, as was the case last December when unidentified attackers followed, “shouted an anti-gay slur” and viciously attacked a gay man in San Diego.

Only a month prior to this, 18-year-old Sascha Fleischman was set on fire while on a bus in East Oakland. Fleischman identifies as agender, neither male nor female.

According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs some of the key findings from 2011 and 2012 show that anti-LGBTQ (the report does not mention intersex identified people) and HIV-affected violence has been steady with 2,092 instances in 2011 and 2,016 in 2012.

But the reality is that you can’t force someone not to harbor discrimination, resentment, biases or hatred–however passionately challenged. It’s more or less always going to be there if the person does not take the necessary steps to analyze and challenge where that hate stems from–which is a combination of ignorance, colonialism and structural oppression.

Almost as bad as systemic discrimination, such as the current wave of anti-gay laws being reported on in 38 out of the 54 countries, which includes Uganda, that make up the African continent according to Amnesty International, is that much of this state-sanctioned homophobia is a direct result of U.S. influence.

Contrary to what the mainstream narrative says or lacks in saying, it is not just simply a matter that Africans, for whatever reason, are just naturally homophobic.

Really, human aren’t naturally anything other than compassionate, loving and caring; it’s the racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and other discriminatory views and that are taught or conditioned.

Stories show that homophobic Christian evangelicals are visiting, influencing and aiding segments of the African population in promoting or passing anti-gay laws. Some are calling this the new wave of colonialism, a cultural colonialism. But I just see it as a continuation of hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism done by European and Western industrialized powers that continue to plunder, loot and exercise domination over indigenous people in the Third World.

According to a Guardian article, researchers have found at least three conservative Christian organizations that are working to influence African countries in passing anti-gay laws: Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, Catholic-based Human Life International and Mormon-based Family Watch International.

Additionally, U.S. evangelist Scott Lively has also been named as an architect in the Uganda anti-gay sentiment and is being sued by Uganda gay rights groups, according to an article in the New York Times.

To me, that is the most disturbing and vile. That white, affluent and supposedly Christian men are going to Africa to sell homophobia to Africans, continuing the racist and colonialist work of reactionary missionaries. Non-Africans telling Africans how to feel, what to hate and fear. It’s disgusting, but you shouldn’t be shocked.

Has our very own country, the U.S., not behaved consistently since its founding? Indigenous genocide, slave-trade, robbing land in the name of capitalist and supremacist expansion, invading countries, killing, plundering, raping, erasing or repressing entire histories of people, supplanting entire cultures and deeming them subordinate or irrelevant.

In an article published in Changing Attitudes, a faith-based LGBTQI-affirmative organization (not all religious people are racist, colonizing, homophobic assholes), it focuses on pre-colonial non-heteronormativity as made evident in the documentary Gay Love in Pre-Colonial Africa. It was common practice for African people to engage in gay sex, love and relationships prior to the continent’s colonization.

The article goes on to say:

“In sharp contrast to anti gay sentiments that homosexuality is a western imposition on Africa, men and women in same sex relationships made traditional covenants referred to as okutta omukago (making covenants) to cement their gay and MSM (men who have sex with men) relationships. They would make love during hunting expeditions, and were never persecuted.”

Heterosexuality is not only not historically the only sexual orientation, it is not distinctly African, Mexican or indigenous.

According Eusebius McKaiser, a gay African writer and associate at the University of Witwatersrand’s Centre for Ethics, based in Johannesburg, “There is no anthropological evidence that homosexuality first occurred in Africa after colonisation began.”

Rather, anti-gay legislature and penal codes is something much newer to Africa–with direct ties to colonizers.

The irony here is that African leaders argue that homosexuality is a Western invention, but as McKaiser argues, it is not.

According to Johannesburg-based independent news source, The Daily Maverick, the ongoing efforts to increase the level of homophobia in Africa which is done in part by wealthy Christian right wingers is racist and colonialist.

“Disappointingly, many commentators on the airwaves and in social media have asked a question that usually goes something like – “Why is it that African countries are banning homosexuality when other parts of the (‘developed’) world are in the processes of legalising it?” This question feeds into discourses that arose during colonialism, and which still circulate today, of African “backwardness”. We should therefore be highly suspicious of this question and the responses it prompts.”

The West is not bringing homosexuality to Africa and other places in the Third World. The West is however continuing to bring homophobia as part of its ongoing colonization of territories in the world.

The colonizer has returned to Africa. This time he isn’t satisfied in bringing back bodies for work to build slavery and capitalism. He wants them to kill themselves in some strange philosophical gymnastics of morality of saving the African family by killing LGBTQI Africans.