By Henry Ominde.
A commonly stated goal among LGBTQ+ movements is social equality for queer people, but there is still denial of full LGBTQ+ rights – Human rights. Combating homophobia, transphobia and biphobia hasn’t been an easy responsibility for activists but in my opinion I can gladly say that the endeavours are yielding great results with 9 countries having decriminalized homosexuality since the 90’s.
Driven by culture, tradition and religion , Africa is affected by patriarchy and gender inequality. From birth we are taught the social and cultural norms expected from the base of our anatomy. Boys being told not to play with dolls, that pink is a girlish colour and that boys had to be masculine. Girls are told to always be neat and organised, that they should not play with boys. Even chores and duties were segregated, having girls do the house chores and boys assigned outdoor responsibilities. Masculine girls are praised while feminine boys are shamed.
Gender inequality doesn’t magically appear, it grows up with us from childhood and matures into harmful disparities. Basically our cultures teaches us that biological sex and gender is binary when in reality it is a spectrum.
The effect of this unjust paradigm has affected the LGBTQ+ community in many ways. For instance in the gay community, some believe that a gay man has got to be ‘girly’ , dramatic and fashionable. Bottoms are being shamed and their masculinity is undermined. Infact in some instances a muscular gay is assumed to be top while slim gays are assumed to be bottoms.
In lesbian relationships, the common question of “Who is the man?” , is asked. And no, not only from heterosexuals but also by members of the queer community. In most cases, a masculine lesbian is viewed as authoritative and respected while a feminine gay is dimmed to be weak and likely to be a dependant of a muscular gay. The thought of two bottoms being in a relationship is said to be impossible just as two masculine lesbians are said to have non-progressive relationships.
In some extremes, this way of thinking has led to conflict within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. With some feeling superior to the other leaving others feeling more vulnerable and as misfits. The issue of proper usage of terminologies has also worsened the situation with some not understanding what certain words mean ultimately using them incorrectly and offending others.
The Nomenclature War – A featured article covered on the HuffPost by Dana Beyer, a contributor and Executive Director, Gender Rights Maryland covers this. This article shares an incident whereby a term turned out to be offensive to a community member.
Well, the reality of Gender Inequalities is that they are real and harmful. They are experienced by all of us. It is our responsibility to fight gender inequality and thankfully we have a tool that not only empowers the LGBTQI community in Africa but helps advocate for social equality within the community as well as outside.
The LILO Identity workshop is a personalised approach to exploring identity and sexual orientation. It responds to high levels of self-stigma in KPs, working therapeutically with individuals to raise awareness of the self, to reclaim and reframe personal narrative, and promote self-acceptance of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The workshop aims to move individuals towards a positive identity, a strong self-concept, and a high regard for themselves as individuals. Participants are encouraged to integrate their identity with their other qualities and roles – and to see themselves as complex, multifaceted human beings with many strengths and skills. Topics cover language, the emergent development process of exploring sexual orientation and gender identity, relationship skills, creating a circle of positive support, skills for coming out and understanding the impact of prejudice and discrimination. The process allows for individuals to start addressing discrimination and also combat the harsh and biased paradigms.
Looking forward, I believe that this methodology will unite the LGBTQ+ community and impact us with positivity allowing us to push for our agenda in one voice and understand. I believe that social equality is achievable not just for the queer community but the general population.
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