Tswanarising global gayness: the 'unAfrican' argument, Western gay media imagery, local responses and gay culture in Botswana.

Published: November 21, 2012

Abstract

This paper is a strategic intervention in the debate over the value of globalised gay identity for emerging sexual minority communities in the South. Focusing on self-identifying gay men in Botswana using semi-structured interviews, it explores their views of what characterises ‘modern gay culture’ and relates these to international media clichés of a glamorous, stylish, hedonistic gayness. I argue that identifying with what is so visibly a Western image of gayness exposes sexual minority communities to the most dangerous of the justifications for homophobia in Africa, the argument that sexual dissidence is a neo-colonial conspiracy to subvert ‘African values’. The ‘unAfrican’ argument has to be taken very seriously, not only because it taps into the intense, conflicted emotions at the heart of the post-colonial condition, but also because it contains an undeniable germ of truth. This poses a dilemma, since global gay discourses, including the media clichés, are an important source of inspiration for African sexual minorities. A communication activism strategy is proposed to undermine the unAfrican argument by cultivating and asserting the ‘tswanarisation’ of gay culture in Botswana that is already taking place. A similar strategy may also be effective in other African societies.

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