Gay in Zambia

Published: July 23, 2012

Those of us who are black and gay approach Africa with deeply conflicted feelings. On a recent trip to Zambia, along with my point-and-shoot and anti-malaria medication, I packed equal parts pride and shame, curiosity and fear.

Homosexuality is illegal in nearly 40 African countries, and in the harshest nations — including Sudan and parts of Nigeria — it remains punishable by death. Violence against LGBT people is common, including government-sanctioned beating, stoning and whipping. And in South Africa, the most progressive nation of the continent, lesbians are frequently the victims of brutal corrective rape, intended to "cure" them of their sexual feelings toward other women.

Zambia, while not as transgressive or dangerous as other African countries, remains problematic. Being gay isn’t illegal, but homosexual acts between men are outlawed under the Zambian constitution. The day I arrived, a headline in the Zambia Daily Mail screamed "No Gay Rights." The article made it clear that gay rights would NOT be including in a new draft of the country’s constitution.

Facts are one thing, but I also wanted to see — and fee l– for myself what it was like to be LGBT, African and out. Lundu Mazoka gave me that opportunity. An outspoken activist, he is the executive director of Zambia’s small, but feisty LGBT rights organization, Friends of Rainka, based in Lusaka.

Lundu offered an intimate look at what it’s like to be a gay man — out gay man — in Zambia.

We began with the universal queer touchstone: the coming out story. I told Lundu about my mother’s evolution, beginning when I came out years ago in college. She progressed from "no daughter of mine is a lesbian" to "I love you exactly the way you are, now figure out a way to give me some grandbabies"–with only five years of screaming, threats, silence and tears.

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