Even though international sources recognise East African media as one of the most vibrant in the continent, LGBTQI voices are virtually put in the back-burner – to only be used for hits, to distract from issues, to generate comments, or for caricature. Even more non-existent are “ally” voices – persons who, though not identifying as LGBTIQ, are equally important, in conversations around sex, and sexuality.
An ally is someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTIQ social movement, and challenges the hetero-normative, patriarchal, capitalist, and other interlocking systems of oppression that continue to put down, silence, and shame LGBTIQ persons for who they are, among other injustices.
Allies believe LGBTIQ people face discrimination, and thus are socially, and economically disadvantaged. They aim to use their position to fight against these injustices, raise awareness on the lived realities of LGBTI persons, while promoting the human, and health rights of all persons.
An ally furthers conversations we have around LGBTQI rights – to show that the pursuit for human rights is not just something LGBTQI persons or activists are doing on their own, but they have a pool of friends, family, acquaintances who are supporting their efforts.
This year’s IDAHOT theme was ‘Alliances for Solidarity,’ and was chosen to highlight the to reach out to new partners to raise awareness of our commonalities, and build solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities, as the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are left unchallenged.
Allies are uniquely placed to use their spaces and platforms to discuss and promote conversations around sex and sexuality. They are uniquely positioned to inform, direct, and promote open dialogues wherever they are. By doing so, they can respond to some of the reservations that the general population may have on SOGI/E and LGBTQI. They are the main drivers the front runners of these debates. And so they can relate to whoever they speak with.
Everybody deserves to live free from discrimination and violence. Everybody deserves to grow up being cared for by their families, to have the fighting chance that education provides, to be able to express themselves as they see fit. None of us would dispute that–except when it comes to those who may identify as being gay or trans.
If you are gay or trans in East Africa, your families may disown you. You may be thrown out of school. You may be forced into inappropriate, violent–and lasting–psychiatric or medical processes–that treat you as though you are crazy. Or take away your choice about your bodily expression.
It is our collective responsibility to stand up for and alongside those East Africans who identify as gay or trans. There are those who already doing so, and they do not identify as gay or trans – they are your everyday down-to-earth-saints. We salute their courage which we hope will inspire all East Africans to do the right thing as well. It is long overdue.