AFRICANS PAINT A PICTURE OF GENDER, SEXUALITY, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO CONSENT
Across the diaspora, the topic of homosexuality remains nothing short of taboo. Conversations about queer identity remain touch and go, as they often bring up mislead feelings of emasculation, fear, intimidation, and general discomfort. The hesitancy to embrace homosexuality, on the African continent in particular, can be traced back to a number of contributing factors. Firstly, Africans are among some of the most religious people in the world, between the growing popularity of Christianity and Islam. These groups are usually taught to openly advocate against homosexual relationships abd sexual exploration. Additionally, it has been argued by previous leaders of African countries that homosexuality is “un-African”. African elites and political, social and religious community leaders often suggest that homosexual patterns of behavior are an imported western evil. Long-term Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe referred to homosexuality “un-African” and a “white disease”, while Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said it’s a “western import.” Though they stand strongly in their beliefs, a brief look into the history of the continent’s civilizations directly contradicts both of their arguments. Homosexuality existed in Africa long before the continent had been manipulated by European colonization.
In northern Uganda, “feminine” men among the Langi people were often treated in the same way that women were. They were given the ability to marry men during pre-colonial times. In Zambia, young people and adult men had sexual contact during the circumcision rites of the Ndembu. Though this contact wasn’t necessarily homo-erotic or romantic, the principle of homosexuality remained the same. Men weren’t the only demographic involved either, as women to women marriage occurred so that one woman would pay a “bride price” in order to acquire a husband’s rights to another his wife has been documented in more than thirty African populations as explained in the seminal book on homosexuality in Africa titled Boy-Wives and Female Husbands.Keeping with such research, I thought it interesting to discover that today, regardless of criminal status, gay rappers continue to make a come up across the continent. Almost as an act of defiance, these artists make the conscious decision to consistently show up as themselves, refusing to be made small and deliberately writing about their love interests without the slightest bit of hesitancy. It’s almost as if there is a movement to Queer the entire Continent These are a few of my favorite hip hop tracks by African artists.
TRACK ONE: LIDDY – DOPE SAINT JUDE
Liddy is the hardcore uptempo pride rap song of anyone’s dreams. Set to an uptempo beat that is as hard as it is catchy, Dope Saint Jude uses this song as an opportunity to essentially talk smack and get her lick back. The repetition of lyric “you have no problem getting outta your shell but I wanna see you get ahead of yourself” repeats over and over as we’re guided through a sonically psychedelic wonderland that feels as disorienting as it does empowering. At the surface it’s clear that the song is telling its listener not to hesitate when putting themselves out there. The lyrics become a bit more poignant through an understanding of the perspective through which they are being sung through. Dope Saint Jude is a rapper and singer from South Africa, one of the only African countries that is notoriously accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Her refusal to be hesitant or water down her identity is a clear sign of the pride she holds within herself, and the eagerness that she has to share it with others as a notion of empowerment and acceptance of all people, regardless of sexuality.
TRACK TWO: KEISHA’S AND BRENDA’S – ENNY
ENNY’S Keisha’s and Brenda’s brings a unique perspective to the table, as consent is oftentimes left out of the conversation when discussing LGBTQIA+ issues. This is tragically ironic, as according to the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey, Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience any and all forms of violent victimization such as rape or sexual assault. Not only that, but one in four transgender women who were victimized had the incident classified as a hate crime compared to less than one in ten cisgender women. The conversation of consent goes hand and hand with the conversation of queerness because oftentimes queer people are ostracized and fetishized in a way that cisgender straight people simply do not experience. These factors, in combination with a disproportionate amount of transgender people living in poor housing conditions as a result of family disapproval make for a malignant cycle of violence. What’s even more violent? Though ENNY is commendable for bringing this conversation to the table, she still manages to omit trans women from the story by excluding them from the music video that stands as a depiction of women being “liberated” and given the opportunity to speak up for themselves for the first time.
TRACK THREE: EAT MY ASS – GYRE
GYRE released his album Queernomics towards the end of 2017. Throughout the duration of the project, he explores the triumphs and pitfalls of being a Black gay man in South Africa. He opens the floor to discuss the damage that white gays do to Black women in their unconscious(but nevertheless offensive and imitative) decisions to adopt our personas. Additionally, he brings up the white gaze, racism, religion, and many other ills a young black gay man has to deal with as he grows up in South Africa. I’m particularly fond of this song and GYRE’s decision to be relentlessly vulgar in the same ways that cis men get to be in mainstream hip hop. He does so with lyrics like “Stereotypical when it comes to me/ I’m a black man who loves big black cock” which, though sexual almost to the point of comical, is still a necessary and refreshing perspective to hear from a Black man.
TRACK FOUR: SUPERNATURAL – MX BLOUSE
- Coming to our final track, Supernatural by Mx Blouse deserves a spot on this playlist for a number of reasons, particularly due to the insight provided in the lyrics and the tempo to which the song itself is set. This song perfectly captures the feeling of pride and euphoria that can often be associated with being queer and does so without losing lyrical poignancy our importance.