n Gender Questions - Being gendered in Africa's flag-democracies : narratives of sexual minorities living in the diaspora

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2309-9704


Critical engagement with existing scholarship reveals that many postcolonial African states have set up legal frameworks which institutionalise heterosexuality and condemn counter-sexualities. Clearly discernible from this body of literature is the fact that non-complying citizens constantly negotiate 'the right to be' in very political and gendered ways. Ironically, narratives of how these non-complying citizens experience such homophobic contexts hardly find their way into academic discourses, irrespective of the identity battles they fight on a daily basis. To fill this scholarly gap, I first insert the question of diaspora into the argument made extensively in literature that gender, sexuality and homophobia are intrinsic to defining national identity in postcolonial African states. Subsequently, I capture the experiences of queer Africans that emerged out of fieldwork conducted in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, between 2011 and 2014. The focus is on the narratives of sexual minorities who migrated permanently to South Africa to flee draconian legislation and diverse forms of sexual persecution in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria. Juxtaposed with the experiences of South African sexual minorities, deep reflections of how queer foreign nationals have experienced their bodies beyond the borders of their respective homelands tell a particularly interesting story about the meaning of the postcolonial state, read through the intersections of gender, sexuality and diaspora discourses. Local and foreign sexual minorities' experiences are replete with contradictions, which make for rich and ambivalent analyses of what the reality of being a sexual minority in (South) Africa means. Contrary to queer Africans who construct living in South Africa as an institutionalisation of 'liberty', sexual minorities of South African origin frame the country's democracy as an intricate and confusing space. Although analysed in this article, this conundrum paves the way for further engagement with the interplay between sexuality, homophobia and migration/diaspora discourses, which are often invisible to queer research on the continent.

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