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22.05.2007 Feature Article

TREADING ON TREACHEROUS TERRAIN

I have generally stayed clear of the sticky topic of Gay and Lesbian lifestyles, even when I have bitterly complained, or remonstrated, over the virtual linguistic proscription, and cannibalization, of otherwise semantically genial words like “gay” and “faggot.” It is almost as if a Language Imperialist suddenly appeared on our cultural landscape and arbitrarily determined that the foregoing highlighted words were the new Sovereign's especial vocabulary preserve or arsenal. For me, the preferred term ought to simply be “homosexual,” which, of course, could be further broken down, as deemed to be functionally relevant, into “bisexual,” “transsexual,” “lesbian,” “transgender” and what have you.
Interestingly, about three years ago, when a young, lesbian-identified New Jersey (USA) woman was brutally murdered for spurning the sexual advances of a prospective male suitor, and the entire question of homosexual conjugal legitimacy came to the fore, with even President George W. Bush weighing in on the side of heterosexuality, I suggested that, perhaps, the most apt terminology for “gay marriages” ought to be “GAYRRIAGE,” particularly in view of Mr. Bush's adamant refusal to recognize the equal validity or legitimacy of hetero- and homosexual matrimony. Also, the fact that many scholars and intellectuals who claimed homosexual orientation appeared to be agreed on the fact of such orientation being an “alternative” lifestyle, logically presupposed the need for the appropriation of a new terminology once gay and lesbian matrimony began to be accepted across the United States. And here, also, it is significant to point out that not all states or localities of the “Union,” that is the 50 states of America, recognize the judicial legitimacy of “GAYRRIAGES.” And here, I am quite pleased to observe that since I first coined the terminology of “GAYRRIAGE” in The New York Beacon, an African-American weekly, several other writers have been known to have appropriated this term; at least I know of one such instance via the Internet.
Interestingly, however, what motivated the writing of this article was the recent publication of a feature article on Ghanaweb.com (5/20/07) by a Mr. Theo Yakah, of South Carolina's Wake Forest University. In his article, titled “On Gays and Lesbians in Ghana: Stopping the Culture of Hate and Discrimination,” the author identifies himself as a bona fide Ghanaian and attempts to put up a vigorous, and spirited, defense on the need for tolerance of homosexual lifestyle within Ghanaian society. And, indeed, the writer marshals several cogent points to shore up his argument. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Yakah does not advance any farther than his discursive opponents, the anti-gay and lesbian Ghanaian community in the country.
For instance, while the writer carps Mr. Kwamena Bartels, Ghana's Minister of Information and National Orientation for having vacuously made the following statement: “Government does not condone any such activity which violently offends the culture, morality and heritage of the entire people of Ghana,” by aptly and poignantly countering that “homosexuality can't possibly 'violently offend…the ENTIRE people of Ghana' if indeed some Ghanaians share that orientation,” interestingly, Mr. Yakah also makes the following patently subjective observation about mainstream Ghanaian and, by logical extension, African cultures: “African poverty and hopelessness, beyond an unfair world order, is a function of a failing culture. I therefore cringe when I hear our intellectuals promote [sic] the idea of 'propping up' our culture from collapse….”
A gross contradiction of ratiocination – or logical reasoning – indeed! For upon what scientific, or objective, basis is Mr. Yakah presuming that his concept of “African poverty and hopelessness” is an absolute phenomenon or reality? In other words, if the author really wants his readers to take his pro-gay argument seriously, why does Mr. Yakah pretend that the ENTIRE African continent is engulfed in an abject state of inexorable poverty and hopelessness, and thus the logical need for Africans to gladly and silently watch our cultures collapse or die their supposedly natural deaths?
And to be certain, matters are not in the least bit helped, at least in the logical trend of Mr. Yakah's, when in assuming a supposedly charitable Christian stance, the author also makes the following patently patronizing observation: “I thought our greatest calling as Christians is to love our neighbors as ourselves? Jesus even calls on us to love our enemies! Homosexuals are only supposed to be in error – they are never a threat to us yet we hate them so much…. Didn't the Bible say in Galatians 6:1 that 'if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently'?” In brief, here, Mr. Yakah assumes that gays and lesbians perceive themselves to be “sinners.”
Needless to say, I would very much like to hear what Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah has to say on Theo Yakah's rather cynical “pro-gay and lesbian” defense or apology, should I say? But without even waiting for his ever-measured riposte, I can almost see Professor Appiah chuckle and say to himself, under his breath: “Absolutely pathetic!”
And just what sort of Christian, spiritual restorative balm would Mr. Yakah prescribe for the likes of Professor Appiah?
Anyway, the question of whether Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah is, indeed, the foremost Ghanaian philosopher is one that we think must be ceded to serious practitioners of the discipline, even assuming that Mr. Yakah qualifies to make such a judgment call. Likewise, the question of whether getting the opportunity to teach at such major American academies as Duke, Cornell, Yale, Harvard and Princeton necessarily correlates with one's unbested stature in any particular discipline, is at best a moot question, one which even the quite humble Professor Appiah is very likely to heartily laugh off. In the end, though, the details may be in the “Gates.”
Still, on the question of an alternative lifestyle, I prefer to let the experts do the talking, at least for the foreseeable future.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph. D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

This author has authored 4560 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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