Mandela's LGBTQ advocacy fallen on deaf ears in Africa and African diasporic communities
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As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela - who was oftentimes affectionately referred to by his Xhosa clan name "Madiba," or as "Tata" (Father)—I, too, like so many LGBTQ activists across the globe, give thanks for his unwavering support on behalf of our civil rights.
During his tenure as president Mandela modeled for the world what an LGBTQ-inclusive democracy entailed. For example, under Mandela, South Africa's post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The country was the fifth in the world, and the first on the Motherland to legalize marriage equality. While in office Mandela appointed an HIV-positive gay man, Edwin Cameron, to the nation’s highest court. And long before his son, Makgatho Mandela, 54, died of AIDS, Mandela was the country's most vocal and visible HIV/AIDS prevention advocate campaigning against both its stigma and silence.
But, sadly, Nelson Mandela's LGBTQ advocacy and his impact on the Motherland as well as African diasporic countries and communities across the globe have shown little or no light. Much of the opposition to LGBTQ civil rights deriving from these countries and communities around the globe—Africa, Caribbean, European and the Americas—when not fueled and funded by Western right-wing homophobic Christian groups—was that no credible heterosexual Alpha male role model could possibly exist and also be African of a royal patriarchal warrior/chief lineage. But as a former boxer and son of the chief of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu tribe in South Africa, Mandela was the quintessential paragon of African royalty, black power and black masculinity. However, Mandela's forward thinking and actions neither tamped down nor stemmed anti-gay rhetoric, murderous acts or homophobic witch-hunting.
For example, to hear of human rights abuses in Uganda’s is sadly, not new. The country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill dubbed “Kill the Gays bill” criminalizes same-sex relations. And depending on which category your homosexual behavior is classified as—”aggravated homosexual” or “the offense of homosexuality”—you’ll either received the death penalty or if you’re lucky life imprisonment. David Kato, father of the Uganda’s LGBTQ rights movement, however, didn’t live to receive either punishment. On a list of 100 LGBTQ Ugandans whose names and photos were published in an October 2010 tabloid newspaper calling for their execution, Kato was murdered in January of 2011.
Throughout the African continent there are numerous stories of homophobic bullying, bashing and abuses of its LGBTQ