You must be wondering who the “them” applies to but first let me tell you why I am writing this article…

I am of those people who hate “Injustice” and by hate I mean that most of the times it creates a feeling of ANGER in me. Unfortunately, it is often about a situation that is either none of my business or a case I can’t do anything about (like standing up for those who are being offended/mistreated) even if I would like to – try to imagine then how I feel anytime a colored person is killed by a police officer (with no meaningful right to do so – especially in the USA) and gets out with no more than a few months in prison (or even nothing at all).

So today, I know that a number of those who will read this won’t agree with me but I am also pretty sure that there are some out there who share my opinion.

In Africa, Homosexuality isn’t well seen. I’ve lived in a West African country and once, at school, something happened that got me thinking…

You know how September smells books, uniforms, and teachers… Back to school life. The time to meet new classmates and so… That year, there was that new gay guy at school. Everybody knew he was by just looking at him: the way he walked, dressed, talked, his manners… everything could tell he wasn’t “straight”. Then a few weeks after the beginning of classes, all the girls in his class were already his best friends and the guys were just there, hating him so bad until one afternoon, after classes, some guys went out and started beating him up, brutally. He was on the floor, screaming, unable to get himself out of there but thankfully, the guy got out safe in the end (with just some scratches, his shirt torn up and his glasses broken). What’s good is that the guy remained (and still is) confident. His “I don’t care about what you think about me” game was strong enough that the other boys had no other choice than to let him live.

One other day (same West African country), I went with my little sister to a market. At some point, I got to put my arm around her shoulder or hold her hand so we don’t split up and end up losing each other. Suddenly, I heard a man behind me saying: “ Eeeh, il faut la lâcher, elle ne va pas tomber, il ne faut pas l’attraper comme cela” (he was telling me to move my arm from her shoulder, that she wouldn’t fall if I didn’t hold her – with his west African French accent obviously). I got confused a little bit and didn’t understand right away what he was trying to tell me. I replied to him that she was my sister so I didn’t have to remove my arm. He would keep on telling me that I shouldn’t be holding her that way; that it only looked gayish. Meanwhile, my sister was scared but I told her to ignore him (while heading to the car because I was kind of scared too :P).

In Burundi, our culture doesn’t give place to homosexuals. You are either born a boy or a girl and both genders are meant to be attracted by people of the opposite sex. Contrary to West African countries were I believe people are more extrovert, in Burundi, we are all (boys and girls) somehow raised to be abapfasoni, abahungu n’abakobwa bitonda/bisonera. Which means that if you aren’t straight, you tend to hide it because of the way your family or people around you would see you or react. Once again, the lucky ones are those who have an understanding family or have got a strong character to assume their sexuality. Unfortunately, not all the homosexuals have that chance.

I don’t have a lot of gay friends (one or two) and I am not even gay myself… I just strongly disagree with the fact that they should be beaten, sent to prison, neglected, chased out of their family homes, unloved, judged or even killed. I can’t stand what people say about them. I sometimes ask some of my friends “what would you do if one of your kids happend to be gay?” Most of the answers I get are chocking: “Nomukubita ga yemwe, gushika yemeye ko abiheba”, “Nomuzanirako abakobwa. Bomuhindura umugabo ku nguvu” as if it was something they can easily change.

Nowadays, even people of God have decided to take that issue personally. I admit that they’ve got a point (all that gay thing may be against nature) but what I hardly get is how people can hate gays and think that they should be criminalized for being what they are. I know I am not a good Christian and don’t know much about what the Bible says, but I believe that some people see what they want to and ignore some other stuff. What about the part in the Bible that says that we shouldn’t judge each other? What about the part that says that we should love our brothers and sisters anyway? If you believe you should prevent them from living their lives because it’s what a good Christian would do, then I think you are as much a sinner as you think they are. Some would say nobody is born gay while some others would try to explain the opposite but I believe that, either way, gay or not, anybody is created by God and that same God loves each one of us. We all are sinners, we all have a bad side but for some of us, that side is less tolerated by the society we live in than for others. Why would you hate somebody in the name of God while God himself loves that same person?

What’s worse and frustrates me most is the way the homosexual “debate” has taken too much space in peoples’ minds. Don’t we have more important issues to care about instead? Burundi is suffering from poverty, people are dying of hunger, innocents are being killed or sent behind the bars for no reason, but still, we are more interested in disrespecting homosexuals’ dignity and freedom – even if they are a minority, Human Rights still apply to them too. If only Burundians could put their much anger to fighting bigger problems our country faces… I guess this is why most African countries can’t really develop themselves: people are still purblind.

You can’t change homosexuals no matter what you do to them, and neither can I… Why shouldn’t we just accept and love people besides their differences, even if we don’t agree with what they aspire to (as long as it doesn’t cause harm obviously)? If there was a law that criminalizes people for not respecting the 10 Commandments of God, nobody would be left. So since when are we the ones to decide which verse from the Bible about what’s forbidden is more important that another? Gays deserve freedom too. Let them be…

By Dede, who currently lives and studies in Canada.

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