Reflections on the implications of Religious Faith for African Gays and Lesbians (Part 2)

We have for decades denied the existence of homosexuality in the African community. It has been shrouded with secrecy and linked with occultism. It was considered an abomination beyond redemption, a taboo incomprehensive and a disability by the nature of God, therefore God’s answer and punishment is venereal diseases.

The expectation of African parents for all children is the same – an investment in their future to produce offspring, improve their economic and societal status. A male child is expected to lead, uphold the family name and bear the future generation. Females are properties to be sold for a dowry price. I must say that things are changing, but so far for LGBTI children, they expect us to settle into a heterosexual relationship, or at least be silent on the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity

Exorcism and religious homophobia was the answer to the curing of homosexuality. In March 2009, EXODUS International USA made a trip to Uganda in collaboration with Family Life Network and offered the cure. I believe that these destructive patterns will leave LGBTI people, our friends, allies and relatives more confused and damaged by these atrocious claims and deliberate attempt to dehumanise us.

As a person that was born and immersed in the Christian religious belief, I demonised myself for many years. I called myself evil and often saw myself as an abomination towards God and not fit to live. I internalised homophobia, coming out to anyone was impossible and not advisable, especially to family, friends and relatives. The wrong focus of my faith and the misleading interpretation of the Holy books led to many ill endings.

When I returned to England from Nigeria in the 1980s, I joined a Nigerian Pentecostal church, so I was never far from the culture and religious community that dogged, dehumanised and oppressed me.

It was after nearly ten years of being in London, and seven of which I was in a heterosexual relationship that I decided that I was either going to go crazy or deal with issues of my sexual orientation and same sex attraction. With the lack of services or at least my own lack of awareness of any service, my only option was to tell my wife. Coming out to my ex-wife was the most painful, but yet a relief. It was one stage at a time, and then I had to deal with my siblings and other members of my family.

When we separated following my “coming out” to my ex-wife, the church I depended on for support turned against me. I was helpless, they helped my ex-wife change the locks to our home and overnight I was homeless.  I wanted to be civilised with the whole matter, I never wanted to fight dirty for the sake of our child, so I walked away with the pain, feeling more ostracised and alienated.

I suffered another major blow of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, when there was an attempt to exorcise me in 2000. I had joined a new congregation, living and leading multiple lives. I was a good Christian and role model at church, I was not interested in women, so I was not a threat at church, but I was interested in men so I kept my activities outside church separate. I would go to clubs and organised gay parties across London, I met so many other Nigerians, being a member of a new Pentecostal church and also prominent leader of the drama team, I served in key positions such as the Pastoral care units working with both adults and young people.

In 1999, I took part in a television documentary titled “Black Bent and Beautiful”, broadcasted in 2000, this event was watched by leaders and members of the church and a recorded version was given to the Pastor, who ordered that I submit myself to the church for prayers. I was condemned, vilified, bullied, called evil and that the demon has taken away my soul. I was called an abomination to God, I was referred to as a contaminated soil, I was asked and made to confess aloud my prayers for the sins of homosexuality. I was asked to reveal names and details of any other homosexuals I knew within and outside the church. I left in horror.

I later joined another prayer ministry with the hope that I can develop my skills and enhance my fortitude towards a ministry in Prayer. I was not surprised when I was bullied during numerous prayer meetings, when the prayer points will include prayers to cast out the demons and spirit of homosexuality in London and a spiritual mapping exercise of central London; especially Soho. We would be asked numerous times through prayer meetings to lay hands on the mapped area and cast out the demons of homosexuality.

On many occasions it was obvious that I was frustrated on the continuous badgering of homosexual people and even though words were not said of my homosexuality, on one occasion, I recalled that I refused to pray against the spirit of homosexuality. When asked why I had stopped praying against the spirit of homosexuality, my response was that “I do not have the burden to pray against the spirit of homosexuality and when a next prayer point is announced I will pray”. I was faced with heterosexist behaviour and forced to quit the group.

John 9:39-40 Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40Some of the Pharisees near Jesus heard this and said to Jesus, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?

There is no doubt that many religious communities and leaders chose to alienate us from their mosques and churches. We believe that Jesus spoke of these leaders when he spoke about spiritual blindness.

Religious Homophobia is on the rampage, religious people who are suppose to be God fearing and law abiding have turn their hands to extreme “Hate” Campaign against God’s LGBTI children.  What then happened to the message of Christ that said “Love your neighbour as yourself?” Many mainstream religious communities are therefore not inclusive.

I am tired of listening to the wrongful and dangerous interpretation of the Bible. There is NO where in the Bible or Quran that condemns Homosexuality. What condemns homosexuality is the human interpretation of the selected words, narrowly interpreted to maintain control and oppression, the same that creates the furore of thoughts that alienates and cause guilt in a person who is LGBTI.

Religious communities are compounding these efforts. I make no apologies, because religious communities are responsible for the spread of hatred and ignorance. I have always wanted to help other people like myself. I focus now on disenfranchised and marginalised communities and continue to go to places others refuse to go. I am prepared for the rough journeys out of my comfort zones to make a difference.

In conclusion, we still need to fight and push more for a recognition of the primary source of homophobia – which is religion. There is great danger of the importation of homophobia to liberalised nations, masked in the arrogance of cultural, religious and faith beliefs, which I have considered as a dangerous importation, if we are to maintain the well being of LGBTI people, their friends, allies and families.

I believe that with this mountain of experiences, which no doubt I have selected to share with you, there is no doubt in my mind that we need to create the opportunity for visibility not obscurity, enlightenment not narrow mindedness, love not hate, happiness not sorrow in our communities.

My message is simple G.A.Y. means ‘God Accept You’, ‘God Adores You’, ‘God Affirm You’, Not ‘God Attacks You’.

 Copyright © 2011 Rowland Jide Macaulay.

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