Psssst… Hey Ghana, come over here, I’ve got a little secret to tell you. You know me and Jürgen, the guys you welcomed so warmly into your country for three months? To whom all of your people were so polite and friendly? The guys who had such a wonderful time visiting your villages, exploring your nature, and meeting your citizens? Yeah, us. Well, we didn’t want to say anything until now… but we’re gay. According to your laws, we’re not allowed.
There’s a reason we’re writing this post well after our departure, and that’s because homosexuality is illegal in Ghana. Strictly speaking, homosexual acts are illegal, and you’d have to get caught having sex before they’d throw you in jail. That can and does happen, of course, but the more immediate danger is societal. LGBT people are subject to widespread hatred and discrimination in this extremely religious country. Children are kicked out of their home, and gay men and women are victims of violent assaults tacitly condoned by society at large.
The tragic thing is, it didn’t always use to be this way. Homophobia is relatively new to Ghana, imported by the colonialists, along with their “enlightened” religions. Before the arrival of the Europeans, homosexuality was common and accepted in all levels of Ghanian society, even to the point of allowing marriages between two men or two women. Transvestism was widely practiced, without any sort of stigma. It wasn’t until Britain criminalized homosexuality in 1860, that Ghana learned to hate it.
So how was it for us, as two gay guys traveling in a country which seems to hate us? Actually… it wasn’t that bad. We simply never made a thing about it; we never told anyone we encountered that we’re gay, and never drew attention to ourselves. And even if people suspected, as I’m sure some must have, it didn’t seem to bug them. In fact, we got into so many long conversations with Ghanaians, almost on a daily basis, and never once did we detect or hear anything slightly homophobic. I’ve experienced more outright bigoted behavior back home in Ohio, than in Ghana. So that’s something.
Ghana’s policy toward homosexuality was nearly enough to keep us away in the first place. We thought long and hard about spending so much time in (and promoting) a country who criminalizes our existence. But in the end, we felt it would be a good chance to shine a light on this backwards policy.
So, if you’re gay and debating whether to visit Ghana… we wouldn’t necessarily push you one way or the other. It’s a shame not to see such a wonderful country, but it’s understandable that you might not want to hide who you are, or support a homophobic government with your dollars.
If you’re Ghanaian and gay… we feel for you, and hope that things get better. Your country seems to be modernizing in so many ways, and change can come quickly. More quickly than you might expect.
If you’re straight, and feel bad about this policy … we hope you take the time to support your gay brothers and sisters by standing up for them publicly, if the opportunity arises.
And if you think that this policy is perfectly fine, that gays are sinners and belong in prison … well, we hope you open your heart a little. If you reflect on it, I doubt you actually hate us all that much. In fact, we’re pretty lovable. Just like everybody else.