The Gay African

As told to Amma Bonsu

I am called Adwoa. In my local Ghanaian culture it means Monday’s child… The name was bestowed upon me to honor Ghana’s tradition of naming a child after the day they were born. Ironically, this is a story of how my identity defied core elements of my tradition. I am a lesbian.

Before you pick up your stones and promise to accelerate my descent to hell. I want to address the specific things that Africans, like to blame homosexuality on. You chose to be gay. No, I did not choose to be gay. It is not a lifestyle that I decided to opt into as part of a youthful experiment in rebellion. I was born gay! Homosexuality is a demonic spirit you brought from the spiritual realm. Actually, I believe, like you, I was created in the perfect image of God. Then you must have been molested as a child. I am not gay because I endured abuse, or any form of physical trauma. On the contrary, I was raised in a middle class Ghanaian family, surrounded by love, resources and the expectations to follow the three African commandments:

Thou shall get an education.

Thou shall get a job, and above all else,

Thou shall find a husband and multiply.

A generally obedient child, I followed the path that was laid for me and lived to make my mother proud. At my elite private school, I was taught about the bravery of Napoleon and Mandela. At home, I was fed the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ. From the outside, my life was going according to plan, but at the thick of puberty, I began to unravel.

Although I did not have a word to describe that warm stirring budding within me, I knew that I was unlike the other girls who wanted to stuff their bras and wear mini skirts to get boys attention – I preferred to scale trees and dunk basketballs. My family loved to say I was a tomboy, but I knew that something greater was bubbling inside of me. The moment of truth arrived at the age of sixteen, when during a school trip to Europe, I heard the word homosexual for the first time. I immediately connected with the description. At first, I was flooded with relief because I realized that I was not alone. At the same time, a palpable sense of fear gripped me. This was not a discovery I could share with my friends or my family because I knew they would not approve. So, I masked the truth of my sexual identity behind a wall of ambition. I even tried to have a boyfriend but I just could not feign attraction to the opposite sex.

As I morphed into a young lady, with curves and desires, I desperately wanted to know what it meant to be a lesbian, but I was petrified. What if someone found out? Surely they would laugh at me, they will call me ‘spoilt’ and they will walk away from me. Fortunately, the opportunity to explore my sexuality came when I had to leave Ghana to attend college in the States. Away from the scrutiny and judgment of my close-knit community, I found the freedom to date girls. It was exciting, but I was always haunted by the fear that if anyone from my family or my community found out, I would be ostracized. I had been raised to believe that same-sex attraction was an abomination that inspired the ire of God. And because I did not want to feel the wrath of God or my community, I decided to suppress that which came so naturally to me. I joined a religious cult where I was indoctrinated with religious dogma on how to live a righteous life that was pleasing to God. However, no amount of bible thumping could change me. My university years became a torturous period of self-loathing. The only way I could escape the pain was to create an alter ego. I called her Sam. Every Friday, at the end of class, I would change clothes and drive three hours to another town to attend gay clubs. For several hours, I was Sam. I would dance and allow my passion to flow naturally through me, like it is supposed to. But before daybreak, I would change clothes and return to my university town as Adwoa.

I managed this charade successfully for two years, but in quiet moments when I reflected on my life, I knew that something had to change. I had made friends in the gay community and gradually, I became a confident, young woman who happened to be gay. By the time I graduated from university, I had settled in my own skin but I was still in the closet. In 2005, I decided to come out to my family. My mother was the first person I had to speak to. We enjoyed and extremely close relationship but I hid my sexuality from her because I was afraid of her reaction, and I was scared that I would be cut out from the family. Three months after graduation, I mustered the courage. I bought a phone card and called her. Out of nervousness, I jokingly started off with the worse possible scenarios to gauge her emotional capacity to handle the news. She seemed fine when I pretended I was pregnant. Even when I feigned that I was a drug addict, she sounded calm, so I sucked in air and allowed the truth to roll out.

“Mum I am gay.”

First, there was silence. Then, she let out a cry like her womb had been ripped apart with a rusted nail. She began to sob, uncontrollably so. Each cry, shredding my fragile heart into pieces. I held onto the phone, helpless and guilt ridden as I listened, to her pour out her grief, her shock, her disappoint…

When she gathered herself, her parting words were, “Our people don’t do that”. Her stinging rebuke, doused in disgust, shot from the handset and decimated my sense of self worth. I was shattered, but at the moment, I did not matter; my mother was distraught so I did what every child whose self-esteem is rooted in pleasing others does. “Mum, don’t cry I am just kidding,” I consoled. The wailing stopped. I had taken the words back to make her feel better, but it was like trying to stuff an omelet in a cracked eggshell.

Our relationship changed. We went from best friends to aggrieved strangers. The fear that had been gathering in the pit of my stomach ever since I stumbled on the word homosexual now engulfed every fiber of my being. I felt like an outcast. We talked less and when we did, the conversation was uncomfortable. At the end of each call, mum would ask, “So how is that ‘problem’ you are dealing with?” I would defiantly retort that I did not see it as a problem. However, that was not completely true. Sadness was brewing in me. Without the love of a partner or the support of family, I believed that being gay meant I was destined to be alone. I wanted to call my mum to hear her wisdom during this incredibly lonely time, but what was the sense in calling to hear the sadness you had inflicted on another person?

There was a long period of disconnect where our relationship was so strained that my mother called as if to fulfill her parental duty. I wanted my mum back. I wanted a relationship even better than what we had before because even though we were close, I had withheld from her a vital part of who I was. I sought to repair our relationship by calling regularly. I re-invited her into my life by sharing details of my success at work. Slowly, the gaps in our conversations narrowed. We were not like before, but we were healing.

Contrary to my fear that I would be alone forever, in 2008, I found love. Her name is Ellen. We met a few days after Barack Obama became president and the change she brought into my life was as exhilarating as the mood in America. She is amazing. She is super smart, very loving and comes from an extremely supportive family. On our first date, we went out for dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory. Like any new couple, I wondered if I had spinach in my teeth or if she thought my laughter was too loud. But by the time we walked from the restaurant to the movie theater, hand clasped in hand, I knew I wanted to build a future with Ellen. Naturally, we have our ups and downs like any other couple: She is neat; I am messy. She loves to dress in frills and bows and I am happy in Birkenstocks and sweatpants. However, we love each other to bits. In 2010, we visited Ghana together and mum met Ellen for the first time. When I look back, I appreciate the fact that even though she was still coming to terms with my sexuality, mum welcomed Ellen and treated her with respect.

Buoyed by the success of the trip, I called other family members and one by one, I told them that I was gay. Their reactions run from polite to embracing. I felt like a load had been lifted of my chest. Once I became comfortable in my own skin, our relationship blossomed and Ellen and I talked about starting a family. Earlier this year, we welcomed Araba into this world.

My mother was overjoyed to be a grandmother for the first time. She sent a mass email to announce to her friends that “Adwoa had a baby!” She included a picture of Araba, but she omitted to mention Ellen. I was hurt, but I know she needs time. Our community thrives on gossip and I don’t want her to be subjected to the vitriol that often accompanies such an announcement. Words cannot describe how much I value and appreciate the fact that she has accepted me. I particularly love the fact that she has a wonderful relationship with Ellen. That notwithstanding, I know that if God were to grant her one wish, she would say “make my daughter straight.” Nevertheless, I know my mother loves me and I love her too.

It has been a long and difficult journey coming out as a gay African. However, the birth of Araba, has motivated me to live a purpose driven life. Monday’s child is full of woe, they say, but by coming out of the closet, mine are finally behind me.

 

30 thoughts on “The Gay African

  1. Wow Amma, your talent with using words to describe the depth and breadth of the human experience is truly a blessing. Thank you for being brave enough to bring this particular story into this space.. not surprising to me, as you have done same, with many other stories that need a forum/space such as this.. Often times it is a frightening sense of fear of breaking past the bounds of what we have known to be “truth”, that feeds our prejudices.. Against others and against ourselves. The good news being, perfect loves casts out all fears

  2. I love your story and the courage with which you came out to share it; which most gay people epecially in Ghana dont do but rather tend to exhibit the rebellion and arrogance when addresses with the issue. I also like the fact that you know God and His take concerning the homosexuality issue. I want to believe you are a Christian and that you know your life is supposed to please Him; I hope you have a personal relationship with him. I also like the fact that you tried to suppress whatever you felt during those times. But i think you should have turned to God since He made you and everything you consist of. He knows you more than you know yourself and He knows why He made you the way you did. I think you should have told him about whatever you were going through and asked him to help you out. For me its not too late for you,its all up to you;the decision is for you to make. I also think its beautiful you found someone and you both have a daughter but to God’s standards its just not right. He loves you, Ellen and the baby so much (that’s why He allowed her to be born) and I dont think He’d be happy with same sex relattionship. Wish I could say more but I’ve got to go;maybe later. Love your command of the English Language. Dont forget God loves you beyond your imagination.

    • @Kuks thank you for your take on it although I am not too sure where you stand. In my conversation with Adwoa, she did seek God’s guidance, but she was unable to ‘pray the gay away’ anymore than you can ‘pray your straight away.’ The leader of a church that professes to cure gays just stepped up to apologize to gays for the hurt they have caused them. As you clearly put it, God loves Adwoa, Ellen and Araba. If that is the case, is it not time to put down our weapons?

      • This is one area where there are simply no simple answers. I sense that much of this discussion references the Christian tradition, so i will keep that in mind.
        these are real tensions. homosexuality is not a mere invention of the mind. the feelings are real, the love is real – really not unlike any heterosexual relationship. now the other side of the coin. many if not most christians find it hard to reconcile their biblical instruction with the reality of homosexuality. i’m careful not to paint all christians with one brush stroke because that would be simply inaccurate. but here’s a scenario that applies (as I see it): many christains find their scripture discouraging homosexuality, and therefore they act accordingly in speech or deed. however, the same bible advocates love for all people and this leads christians to reconcile this tension in forms from acceptance to “tolerance”. in either case, a subtle problem is created – christians are also expected to proclaim the truth. so if you believe that homosexuality is wrong, AND that you should love all people, then you “should” convey this truth not as judgement or damnation, but as a “mercy” maybe?
        I have no answer for this. i believe that all people are deserving of dignity regardless of belief, orientation, race (and the list goes on). I’m grateful for forums like this because they provide an avenue to talk about and solve these tensions. i wish Adwoa, Ellen and Araba all the best and pray they have full and happy lives simply because they are like any one of us. people.

      • As a Christian, as u said, Did you ask God as to whether or not this is good? Did God really allow u to do this? Its just a questio, please.

    • @Emmanuel, Adwoa and Ellen had the baby through In Vitro fertilization using a sperm bank. Ellen carried the baby to full term. The beautiful baby’s dedication was performed by a Ghanaian priest

      • Wondering what criteria went into choosing at the sperm bank and what will be an appropriate answer to Araba when she is old enough to ask who her father is

  3. Beautiful story. Absolutely, lovely. And I’m so glad you, Ellen and Araba are happy, that is something not to many people can honestly claim. God bless you.

  4. I think its very amazing the way adjowa story goes, but experience is also a way of believing. Since her story starts with forces beyond her control, besides all her attempts through religious, social, physical to retard this phenomena was fruitless. Therefore, we those who are ignorant to such phenomena should try to accept the idea of homosexual as she described it and look for solutions rather than criticising it. Doesn’t demons exists. Doesn’t people loss their mental ability and was it their folt.

  5. Congrats on accepting that there’s no shame in being who you are. The only shame is thinking that the gift that God gave you and the person that you were created to be is not good enough to show to the rest of the world. That’s where shame comes….

  6. beautifully written and very touching….

    thank you for sharing… amen for finding what makes you happy, and the courage for being…

    God is Love, so when you find love, you have found God. How can any religion not understand this?

    It is sad that too often Religion is used to deny love rather than to promote it, but I believe time will heal all…

    God bless you..

  7. It is funny that you would think being “fed”the Bible was a sure way to purge you of homosexuality. The Bible spells that out clearly. Accepting Jesus and walking according to His Truth is a personal decision. No amount of flogging or external persistence can lead you to receive Him in truth. This comment of yours even goes to show you are not conversant with the Bible you were”fed” with.
    Why am I talking about your faith? You may ask. It’s cuz it is now the norm for homos to establish in arguments that they are committed to their religion and so if they are still gay and not cleansed by Godafter such commitment, then it must be natural. Wrong!
    As I have already explained being in church all Sunday does not make you a Christian any more than the mouse that lives in the church.
    A true Christian believes the Word of God above all things and thus lives according to the Word and not the dictates of man. The Word spells out clearly that homo is evil, simple. Do not try to rationalise your wrong by saying if I like it, then God wants me to like it. If this were so,we would have a long queue of rapists, pedophiles, perverts, kleptos etc. all lining up with the same speech, ” I have liked it since I last remember, it must be from God”.
    Who says evil spirits cannot possess a child? They can possess anything from a man, woman, child, trees to pigs (yes from the Bible). The evil spirit does not have to be entertained just because it entered somebody when the individual was young. When I say evil spirit, do not start dreaming of the ones you see in Hollywood. They make it seem like you have to sign a contract with the devil before an evil spirit recognizes you. There is a spirit for all sin.
    In summary, Adwoa, if you want to defy your societal norms and religious norms and practice an abomination, you are free for now to go ahead. just don’t parade around like a devout Christian who suddenly realizes homo is okay cuz God must probably work at Amnesty International and is unhappy that people don’t allow you to exercise your right to sin.
    You are sinning, with an excuse chit from Gay Rights Observers.
    And oh, please do tell us more on how your baby arrived, the details on that were less than sketchy.

  8. To me God likes all people homos (lesbians )but hates that acts call homosexuality.God said come to Him and He will remove all your burdens away .I know one day Adwoa and her comorades will leave homosex then come to God beautifully and willingly.Amen.

  9. ah i totally agree with dyno. Dont blame God for your ‘bowlegged’(default). Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Remeber God loves you more than Ellen does please and obey His commandments and you will find rest and clarity in your identity crisis. ****GOD LOVES YOU**** RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE*** thank you.

  10. when i read the headline, i was like smh “fag”. then i read the whole thing… beautiful story.
    I do not support homosexuality at all but one thing i know is that i have no right to judge anybody. so goodluck i guess.

  11. Amma,
    Thanks for sharing. I am not sure why we are being so judgemental and self righteous. “take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

  12. As usual, Amma, I love the way you weave a beautiful tapestry with your words. You’ve allowed us to connect with someone’s journey and given everyone the opportunity to express unconditional love and practice non-judgment.

    Adwoa, I hope you can wear your truth proudly! I have learned that the people who judge the most are not yet comfortable with living authentically and are still afraid of being criticized for their own secrets. There is so much freedom in being honest and allowing people around you to love you just as you are. Having the courage to share your story on a forum like this will help so many others and that is what is important. May you continue to grow in perfect love, experience more blessings, and sending congrats on the newest addition to your family!!!

    “Give yourself permission to be yourself, God knew what he was doing when he made you.”

  13. I’m often amazed how we leave gossip, lies, stealing , backbiting etc in the parking lot of out own homes and walk out barefoooted in an attempt to pull out weeds from someone’s home when we have a bush right in our homes…
    We thank God that human opinion doesnt determine our salvation and sucess in life
    Well written

  14. Interesting read. The idea that being gay or homosexual is demonic or morally unacceptable is very prevalent in Ghana and most African countries in this 21st century. Even amongst my own friends this is a topic that people get very emotional about and somehow feel like they can beat it out of a person. I really think that these people are about 200 years behind the western world. Very sad.

    • Richard, your idea of backwardness is sad, very sad.
      Why do you think following the West is the proper thing to do? We don’t need to agree with them on every issue. They decided to allow racism, was that good then? Maybe they will realise their mistake on this one too in the future.
      They allow nudists,I am sure you will soon be promoting that too in the name of catching up with the West. Then soon after, public sex, then sex outside marriage, then on and on, decaying our morals.
      China for instance has realized the folly of following the West, thinking of what is good for its citizens. The Arab world if the best example of this. They are being labeled as terrorists and enemies of democracy.
      Since when did US democracy become compulsory in all parts of the world? Each community does what it deems best. Egypt is reaping their rewards. Libya too.
      Say what you want to say but rejection of homos is not a sign of weakness, or backwardness or netting naive.
      Its the other way round.

  15. Beautifully written Amma! I think everyone is free to live their life the way they want to. Life is too short to care about what happens in the love lives of others. Peace.

  16. God our heavenly father have given every human his or her agency..that is the right to chose…we cannot expect everybody to make one choice but judgement is for God. He ask the Pharisees let he who never sinned throw the stone first and what happened..they all left one by one…so brothers lets leave judgement to God the creator..he is the only one who have good heart for all even including me a sinner

  17. I HAVE A QUESTION? YOU SAID YOU CONNECTED TO HOMOSEXUALITY WHEN U WENT TO THE WEST. WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD STAYED IN GHANA ALL YOUR LIFE?

  18. I tried to post a comment earlier but I’m not sure it went through so I’ll write it out again & pardon me if it’s already posted. This is going to be a long post so forgive me but I have a lot on my heart that I want to say. I’m a Ghanaian lesbian who’s in a relationship with another Ghanaian lesbian. I love her so much & she’s really my better half :) We haven’t actually told our families as we didn’t have Adwoa’s courage lol but our families have figured it out & they still love us. We’re hoping to move into our own home soon & maybe in a few years adopt.

    Whenever someone tries to tell me I chose my orientation or I can change it if I just ‘try hard enough’ I laugh at them. I ask them when they chose to be heterosexual? Cos if they can tell me when they chose then I can also tell them when I chose. Then I ask them that in Africa where gays & lesbians are killed, raped & discriminated against – why would anyone, including me, choose to be gay? My girlfriend & I were all ‘strong’ members of notable charismatic churches/ fellowships; we tried to ‘pray the gay away’ but praying doesn’t change it. I have known that I was a lesbian since I was 4 years old. This is something you’re born with not something you choose. Anyway, eventually we left the churches/ fellowships when we realized that there’s nothing wrong with us & that the churches were wrong. Instead of targeting gays/ lesbians, these churches should stop taking money from the poor to give to their rich, fat pastors & they should focus on fighting all the social injustices in our society such as corruption, irresponsible fathers etc.

    People are so ignorant. They claim that homosexuality is unnatural & yet they have no idea that scientists have discovered over 1500 species of animals which engage in homosexual conduct (if you doubt me google it). They claim that it is unAfrican yet ancient paintings in walls in Egypt & by the San people of Zimbabwe show that our African ancestors used to be more accepting of homosexuality. & we have so many customs in Africa that stem from the acceptance that our ancestors had for sexual minorities. Go & research into the origins of woman-woman marriages practiced today in West Africa & see how the ancient Egyptians practiced the same custom as a lesbian marriage. Find out more about Azande warriors & their male lovers, the Dagara/ Dogon people & their gatekeepers some of whom were gay etc. Homosexuality has been with us & our ancestors since the beginning of time & they lived with it. It is rather the Europeans who introduced anti-gay laws, religions & sentiments into our continent & even they have changed now.

    As for those who have quoted extensive Bible verses here; first of all, not everyone practices your religion & so all those verses are irrelevant to those of us who don’t. 2ndly, please go & research your own Bible. Go & find out when the word ‘homosexual’ was put into your Bible for the first time (1946). Go & find out the meaning of ‘arsenokoites’ used by Paul which has been loosely translated as homosexual & yet meant temple prostitutes & pedophiles & NOT homosexuals in committed relationships. Finally, tell me why I should translate the Bible literally when even you don’t do so. If you did, you’d have sold all your belongings & given to the poor (luke 12:33), you’d ask your MPs to criminalize divorce cos although Jesus said divorce for any reason but infidelity is adultery, he never said a peep about homosexuality (matt 19:9). Had we followed your Bible literally, Black people in the US would still be slaves cos your Bible says that slaves should submit to their masters & not revolt (colos 3:22, ephe 6:5, 1 peter 2:18).

    So please spare us all that. We’re queer & we’re here & we’re not going to leave because you kill us or abuse us or spit in our face. We’re going to stay here & get stronger & stronger. & one day, your descendants are going to weep with shame when they find out how shabbily you treated your own brothers & sisters all in the name of religion. Love & light to you all

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