The Internet is, indeed, a communication medium that has effectively made us, earthlings, “a global village,” as the famous Canadian media expert Marshall McLuhan predicted some two generations ago. For shortly after the publication of the first part of this article, I received an E-mail from somebody who described himself as a freelance journalist who had written quite extensively on Uganda's anti-gay movement. I would promptly respond by the contact phone number that the surprisingly unassuming writer, a Mr. Warren Throckmorton, had provided.
Ordinarily, I would have pondered and waited several days before responding. But in this instance, particularly with the writer making a specific reference to MyJoyOnline.com, and obliquely to the outright barbaric call by the Western Regional Minister, Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo, for Ghanaian gays and lesbians to be confronted in the sanctuary of their own homes, rounded up and prosecuted for daring to express their humanity in a nation and society that prides itself in being the lodestar of West African democracy, I could not tarry over this one until things got out of hand.
Like me, Warren Throckmorton is a college professor. Unlike me, however, he has been front and center of this issue, being also a doctoral degree holder in psychology and a distinguished practitioner in his sub-discipline of college counseling at Grove City College, Western Pennsylvania, where he directs his college's counseling program.
Interestingly, although I did my graduate studies at Temple University, also in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until two Sundays ago, I had never heard of either Grove Township or Grove City College. But what makes this “hi-tech” encounter with Prof. Throckmorton quite fascinating has to do with the nature and thrust of the nearly one-hour discussion – more in the vein of an interview – that we had on the issue of gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgender-oriented people in Ghana. Until this conversation, the historical origins or development of gay subculture in Ghana had not particularly piqued either my attention or interest.
What I basically know about this issue, I told Prof. Throckmorton, is that like heterosexuality, homosexuality has always been known to exist in Ghana ever since I came into adult consciousness of the same. One only needed to visit the marketplace in almost any sizeable township to witness cross-dressers and traders who exhibited a gender outlook that appeared to be quite different from the norm of the societal majority. At Akyem-Asiakwa, where I partly grew up, for example, one well-known gentle-giant of a male figure that routinely cross-dressed had been jovially, if not affectionately, nicknamed Auntie Naa. There were also male hairdressers, especially in urban areas, which were known by most members of their communities to be either homosexual or bisexual. At Okwawu-Nkwatia's St. Peter's Secondary School, which I attended during the mid-70's, and which was an all-boys school, the sexual act of sodomy, popularly called “Oso,” was widely known to exist and be practiced among some of the pupils. And during my 5-year residency at the school, several pupils had been caught flagrante delicto and promptly expelled.
Some of these pupils, like Kwesi Badu, who was a year my junior and a member of Augustine House, were even known to have girlfriends at such neighboring coed schools as Nkwatia Secondary School, Mpraeso, Obo, Nkawkaw and Abetifi. I would later, now resident in the United States, come into a quite stunning awareness of bisexuality.
Anyway, I also told my Grove City College colleague that I firmly believed that homosexuality was fast becoming a national outrage because, for the first time in living memory, Ghana's liberal democratic culture had created a theoretically protected environment which made gays/lesbians feel comfortable enough to come out of the closet. At least these members of a hitherto effectively marginalized “Queer Subculture” now have Ghana's Fourth-Republican Constitution to back them up, even if some aspects of statutory ordinance appeared to endanger their civic and human rights. Then also, I am fully convinced that the fundamental determination of whether a particular approach to human sexual expression and/or orientation requires the seal of moral approbation, is one that effectively lies outside the purview of the laws of a secular, albeit largely Christocentric, society like Ghana's Fourth Republic. And about the only grounds on which the anti-gay movement could be legitimized would be the highly unlikely scenario of gay-/lesbian-oriented people launching a crusade or a jihad in which these “queers” attempted to summarily impose their brand of sexuality on the rest of society.
I also told my Grove City College colleague that much of the clearly mischievous complicity of Ghanaian politicians in the scandalous activities of the anti-gay movement, particularly politicians affiliated with the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), largely stems from the woeful inability of the corruption-ridden Atta-Mills government to solving such basic problems as an effete and rundown health and educational systems, to speak much less of economic development. And with Election 2012 fast approaching and a deeply divided NDC in the jitters, making convenient scapegoats out of gays and lesbians as a diversionary tactic seems very attractive to the neo-Fascist ideologues parading as social democrats among the ranks of the National Democratic Congress.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of 22 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]