Original Article: bit.ly/1y3mRIk
We feared the case of Ebola in the neighborhood next to mine. And even when I was tested for malaria, nothing proved to be more challenging than living as a gay student in Dakar.
I wouldn’t have survived there without my running shoes and a black pen. Jogging along the Atlantic Ocean and journaling in my notebook allowed me to catch a break from hiding in the closet – again.
In Aug. 2014, I arrived in Senegal to spend four months interning at a global health organization, researching my thesis and finishing coursework. I never realized that I was headed back into the same state of mind that I had just escaped after coming out of the closet.
Senegal is one of 38 African countries that outlaw homosexuality. It is illegal in 70% of African nations. After living in the closet for 20 years, moving to Senegal forced me to lie about my identity, except this time in French and Wolof.
Living openly gay in Senegal seemed dangerous. In Feb. 2014, the Associated Press reported the story of two Senegalese men who were sentenced and imprisoned in Dakar. Many gay Gambians have fled to Senegal to escape President Jammeh’s crackdown on LGBT citizens. He hopes to “fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
In courses at Albion College, I examined identity crises in francophone countries. It was stuff I read about and stuff my professors talked about, but I never related. When I lived in Dakar, I soon developed a similar identity crisis. These were not the subjects of my academic essays or assigned readings, but rather real life experiences.
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