How to respond to Uganda’s Fascistic Anti-Gay Law?
The parliament of Uganda has voted for laws imposing lengthy prison sentences for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer or who are found to have promoted homosexuality. It establishes the death penalty for homosexual acts with under-18s, people with disabilities and several other groups, plus sets out punishment for failing to report suspected gay relationships – so criminalising the families and friends of LGBTQ+ people.
How on earth do we queers in the West respond to such a devastating fascistic act? The applause in the parliament building when the law was approved was a terrifying sight. More than 30 African countries have anti-gay laws, and the start of 2023 has been marked by a wave of new anti-lgbtq bills and rhetoric in Ghana, Kenya, Burundi and Zambia. The Voice of Africa website reports that human rights activists fear that Uganda's law could be the impetus for similar far-reaching legislation across Africa as anti-gay sentiments grow.
The justification used in these laws for harsh punishment of homosexuality is that gay sex is "carnal knowledge against the order of nature." This notion, which was not adopted by any other religion around the world other than the monotheistic Judaeo-Christian culture (even Islam had a tolerant attitude to homosexuality until relatively recent times), has been thoroughly debunked by scientific works that detail the diverse, queer behaviours in the animal - and plant - kingdoms.
“The Jewish peoples - perhaps by way of protest and reaction against the excesses of the surrounding Syrian tribes - insisted on a complete divorce between sex and religion; and that alienation of the two has lasted on down the Christian centuries. But in much of the old pagan world it was just the contrary. Sexual rituals were an intimate part of religion; and the wonder and glory of sex were a recognised manifestation of divinity.” Edward Carpenter
A historical dive
The belief that sexual relations between people of the same gender, or that people who embody both male and female in their person, are somehow 'against nature' is based on religious teachings that can be traced back to 1st century Jewish neo-platonist Philo of Alexandria… He described the men of Sodom as violating a 'law of nature' - “deep drinking of strong liquor and dainty feeding and forbidden forms of intercourse... men mounted men without respect for the sex nature which the active partners shared with the passive”. He condemned people who transform their “male nature to the female.. debase the sterling coin of nature” and said that those who love them “pursue an unnatural pleasure.” This view was certainly not a common one at that time in history, when same sex relationships were common, and when transgender/queer priest/esses were present everywhere in Goddess temples, as they had been for hundreds, even thousands of years.
2000 years ago, pagan Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus also condemned all adulterous sexual relations but singled our homosexual acts as a particular outrage against nature. But such ideas had little impact on public opinion or behaviour. The reputations of Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian were unsullied by their pederastic relationships, which continued the ancient Greek tradition of love between the erastes-eromenos. It was considered normal in the Roman era for men to have sex with both women and younger men.
2nd century Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria denounced same sex love as nonprocreative, therefore unnatural. In the 3rd century Tertullian wrote those who engaged in passions beyond the laws of nature should be banished “not only from the threshold, but from all shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities.”
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) insisted there are “those foul offences which be against nature, to be everywhere and at all times detested and punished; just as were those of the men of Sodom: which should all nations commit, they should all stand guilty of the same crime, by the law of God, which hath not so made men that they should so abuse one another.”
It would take centuries for the man-made idea that any sexuality could be 'against nature' to take hold, but gradually it infected the minds of western Europe, from where it was exported to the rest of the world. Political leaders from Emperor Justinian in the 530s to Henry VIII in England to the politicians of Africa today have taken the religious prejudice as a basis for legislation to control the personal lives of their populations, to target political opponents and to create scapegoats for when things go wrong, such as climate disasters: Justinian blamed earthquakes and disease on gay sexuality in the 6th century Byzantium and some American Christians beat that drum still today. Homophobic laws in Africa are the direct inheritance of the colonial laws imposed by Britain and other countries in their attempts to control native populations in the late 19th century. When the Europeans left Africa, India etc they left their homophobic laws behind. American Christian missionaries have worked hard in Africa to reinforce the prejudice ever since.
We should note that virtually all fathers of the Christian church praised virginity and abhorred sex of any kind. Sodomy and fornication both came in for criticism. Saint Basil of Nyssa, founder of xian monasticism, wrote in 375 to another bishop, “he who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.” Saint Gregory of Nyssa in 390 wrote that both heterosexual adultery and homosexual intercourse were unlawful pleasures.
John Chrysostom (in Against the Opponents of the Monastic Life) calls homosexuality a foul, disgusting corruption responsible for the destruction of Sodom. To protect boys from pederasty they should be sent to live in monasteries for one or two dozen years to protect them. This proposal was not to work however, as monasteries became safe havens for queers and monks associated with gay sex in the Middle Ages, leading to a fierce clampdown from the 12th century.
In 1179 the Third Lateran Council adopted a canon against “incontinence which is against nature”, with penalties of degradation from office and encloisterment for clerics, as well as excommunication for laymen. Pope Gregory IX made this a permanent part of common law, and the penalty was reiterated by many synods in the next century.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) distinguished masturbation, sodomy (with a partner of the same sex), improper intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex, and bestiality, as distinct forms of unnatural vice. His teachings were to set the tone for the Middle Ages and all barbarism against gay people ever since, leading to the horror going on in Africa today.
The idea became so deeply embedded in the collective beliefs of the western world that in the so-called 'Age of Enlightenment' English jurist William Blackstone described homosexuality as a 'crime against nature.'
But in the 18th century the sodomites themselves, influenced by enlightenment ideas of natural laws, realised their sexual conduct could not be unnatural. Anonymous homophile play, L'Ombre de Deschauffours, witten around 1739, characters discuss causes of homosexual inclination: “In nature”, one says “ everyone has his own inclination.”
The Marquis de Sade wrote in a 1795 essay: “It makes absolutely no difference whether one enjoys a girl or a boy... no inclinations or tastes can exist in us save the ones we have from Nature... she is too wise and too consistent to have given us any which could ever offend her. The penchant for sodomy is the restul of physical formation, to which we contribute nothing, and which we cannot alter...”
In 1790 a French pamphlet Les Petits Bougres au Manege (The little buggers at the riding school,) endorsed slogan 'all tastes are natural.'
English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was of the opinion that same sex love was innocuous and rebutted arguments for its criminalisation - but did not publish these writing fearing prejudice against homosexuality would jeopardise support for his reform programme.
The French Revolution brought decriminalisation of homosexuality to part of the European continent, but in the anglo-saxon nations the battle went on. The 19th century produced more queer voices rebutting the idea that gay sex, or transgender people, could be against nature, such as Karl Ulrichs in Germany, Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds in England. These men saw queer people as playing a crucial role in human consciousness: Ulrichs named queer people 'Uranians', making an association with the Greek goddess of same sex love, Aphrodite Urania. Carpenter called queers 'Intermediate Types' and detailed the contributions to community life, particularly its spiritual/ritual aspects (and also in military history, education, art and culture etc) made by such people throughout history and in cultures across the world. Symonds wrote: “It is of the highest importance to obtain a correct conception of the steps whereby the Christian nations, separating themselves from ancient paganism, introduced a new and stringent morality into their opinion on this topic, and enforced their ethical views by legal prohibitions of a very formidable kind.”
The spiritual aspect is the key point here – far from being the abominations of nature, gay, lesbian and transgender people have often held prominent – sacred – roles in the faith cultures of pre-Christian cultures around the world. This is the hidden history of queer spirit on planet earth, one which the barrage of hatred that pours out of so-called Christian mouths attempts, as it has been doing for centuries, to eradicate all together. It is essential to grasp that Christian, and Hebrew before it, rules against gay and trans expression were part of “separating themselves from ancient paganism.”
We live now in a time when traditional wisdom cultures around the world are once more seen with respect and honoured for their sacred knowledge – but at a time when the priests and priestesses of those original cultures are still the victims of prejudice imposed by western, Christian, invaders.
The Two-Spirits of Native America are in the process of reclaiming their sacred roles, exploring their spiritual powers and nature – and are an example to the whole world of what has been lost in the centuries of Christian domination.
At Queer Spirit Festival, coming up in August 2023 in the multi-cultural mix of races and religions that is the United Kingdom, we will be reclaiming and celebrating the spiritual gifts of being queer, whatever your background and ancestry! We are RECLAIMING QUEER NATURE from the vile minds of homophobes and taking it to the next level!
Please Africa! Wake up to your own history and to your own wisdom teachings!
Malidoma Some of the Dagara tribe of Burkino Faso told the world back in the 1990s that in traditional Africa, as in indigenous cultures everywhere, people were not defined by their sexuality – and that those people we today call gay or trans were seen as having a special, spiritual, purpose:
“Why is it that, everywhere else in the world, gay people are a blessing, and in the modern world they are a curse? It is self-evident. The modern world was built by Christianity. They have taken the gods out of the earth sent them to heaven, wherever that is. And everyone who aspires to the gods must then negotiate with Christianity, so that the real priests and priestesses are out of a job. This is the worst thing that can happen to a culture that calls itself modern.”
This Dagara teacher spoke of queer people as gatekeepers:
“The Earth is looked at, from my tribal perspective, as a very, very delicate machine or consciousness, with high vibrational points, which certain people must be guardians of in order for the tribe to keep its continuity with the gods and with the spirits that dwell there. Spirits of this world and spirits of the other worlds. Any person who is at this link between this world and the other world experiences a state of vibrational consciousness which is far higher, and far different, from the one that a normal person would experience. This is what makes a gay person gay. This kind of function is not one that society votes for certain people to fulfill. It is one that people are said to decide on prior to being born.
“So to then limit gay people to simple sexual orientation is really the worst harm that can be done to a person. That all he or she is is a sexual person. And, personally, because of the fact that my knowledge of indigenous medicine, ritual, comes from gatekeepers, it’s hard for me to take this position that gay people are the negative breed of a society. No! In a society that is profoundly dysfunctional, what happens is that peoples’ life purposes are taken away, and what is left is this kind of sexual orientation which, in turn, is disturbing to the very society that created it.
“I think this is again victimization by a Christian establishment that is looking at a gay person as a disempowered person, a person who has lost his job from birth onward, and now society just wants to fire him out of life. This is not justice. It’s not justice. It is a terrible harm done to an energy that could save the world, that could save us. If, today, we are suffering from a gradual ecological waste, this is simply because the gatekeepers have been fired from their job. They have been fired! They have nothing to do! And because they have been fired, we accuse them for not doing anything. This is not fair!
“...the thing about it is that humans are going to be begetting gatekeepers, no matter what. This is the chance that we’ve got. So maybe that means that sooner or later we’re going to wake up to the horror of our own errors, and we’re going to reconsecrate our chosen people so that they can do their priestly work as they should.”
The only thing going on here that is against nature is the judgement, hatred and homophobia being espoused by people who hold positions of responsibility, in churches and governments who hold power over the lives of others. To those people I suggest they listen to the words of their own holy teacher, such as these from the Gospel of John, the book that also happens to tell us that Jesus had a boyfriend - the 'beloved disciple':
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” John 4:20
Homophobia is against nature.
Homosexuality is not.
Transphobia is against nature.
Trans people are sacred.
GOD IS LOVE. ONE LOVE
How to respond to Uganda’s fascistic anti-gay law?
BY EXPOSING THE LIES, THE HYPOCRISY AND THE IGNORANCE BEHIND IT…
BY REVEALING THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF QUEER SPIRIT… BY RECLAIMING QUEER NATURE.