African / Feminist / Gender / Masculinity / Sexuality

“It is Easy to Allow Pathologised Black Masculinities to Become the Truth, Even for Those of Us Who Know Better.”

Who still believes African women and men don’t have incredibly rich, deep, and amazing interior lives? At least as complex as anybody else from other parts of the world?

Who knows why even the bravest and finest of us are able to live a great part of their lives knowing who they are, and what is to be done, yet chose not to let others know the whole truth for fear of how it could shake the world? Do you know of friends and kin who keep your secret that you yourself might have forgotten, not admitted, repressed? Of heterosexual African women who embrace gay African women, and gay African men who can write some of the most touching stories and analyses about what it means to be a straight person?

Why do you allow lies to be told about yourself and other men and women even though you know the truth?

Who thinks he knows what Africans are all about; that there is, as it were, nothing to learn and he/she was born knowing?

I want to believe, at least want to kindle hope, that the number of bigots and liars in the world, black and white, is rapidly dwindling. But that would be delusional. I suspect that homophobes, sexists, and racists, like psychopaths and hell-and-damnation religions, will be around till the very end of time.

Nevertheless, if you know of anybody who still feels that they have nothing to learn about Africa and Africans, that they don’t have to spend a life time listening, talking, watching, loving, studying, to only a tiny bit what it means to be African – be they African, Asian, North or Latin American – it may be futile to keep trying to change their mind, but if you insist let them read this:

Binyavanga has managed to write a coming out letter that every African man should read – regardless of his sexuality. He has written a letter than anyone who loves African men should read, regardless of their sexuality. He has written a letter that anyone gay and anyone who loves anyone gay should read. He has written a letter that all homophobes and conservatives must read.

He has offered us a delicately spun clarion call. It is a whisper rather than bugle. It speaks richly to the complexity of being an African man.

Binyvanga’s words remind us that African people are not what the world tells us we are, that African men are not defined by the stereotypes they are fed. He reminds me of my brother-in-law, comfortably cradling my infant niece, changing her nappy, holding her close. He reminds me of lovers and brothers and friends – each as articulate and as feeling as Binyavanga – who folded me into themselves and unstuck me each time I found myself in a place that was sticky. He reminds me that it is easy to allow pathologised black masculinities to become the truth, even for those of us who know better.

Binyavanga Wainaina by A Gichigi

Binyavanga Wainaina by A Gichigi

This words are from a kind of letter by Sisonke Msimang about the letter by Binyavanga Wainaina, the one in which he came out about which I wrote on Friday January 24 in the post “I Want To Live a Life of a Free Imagination”. 

The article by Msimang, a feminist African woman who lives Mozambique and works for the South African NGO Sonke Gender Justice, is a beautiful reading of the now unforgettable beautiful letter by the writer Wainaina, who has declared his homosexuality as insperable from his other selves. The article was published on the Daily Maverick site.

Sisonke Msimang

Sisonke Msimang

Read Msimang’s ‘Outing the liars: How to come out of an African closet’ here.

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