The Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR) has recently published my article, ‘Queer Love in a “Christian Nation”: Zambian Gay Men Negotiating Sexual and Religious Identities’. The article is part of a roundtable on LGBTIQ persons in Africa, resulting from a panel on ‘The Souls of Queer Folk: LGBTIQ Africans and the Decolonization of Religion’ at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion.
On the basis of a study of a group of Zambian men identifying both as gay and as Christian, this article explores the negotiation of sexual and religious identity and critically addresses the “surprise” some scholars have expressed about the general religiosity of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people in Africa. The study demonstrates that participants are not just victims subjected to homophobic religious and political discourses but have agency: resisting discourses of demonization, they humanize themselves by making claims towards the universal category of love—both their own inclination to loving relationships and their share in God’s love. Hence they claim space for themselves as full citizens of Zambia as a “Christian nation”. This article particularly highlights how some aspects of Pentecostalism appear to contribute to “queer empowerment”, and argues that the religiosity of African LGBTIs critically interrogates Euro-American secular models of LGBTI liberation.
Other contributions to the roundtable are:
- Joseph Hellweg: ‘Same-Gender Desire, Religion, and Homophobia: Challenges, Complexities, and Progress for LGBTIQ Liberation in Africa’ (introduction)
- Chet Mitchell Jechura: ‘A Pearl of Great Price: Reframing a Queer Critique of Sexual Norms within Postcolonial Uganda’
- John Blevins and Peter Irungu: ‘Different Ways of Doing Violence: Sexuality, Religion, and Public Health in the Lives of Same-Gender-Loving Men in Kenya’
- Gabeba Baderoon: ‘“I Compose Myself”: Lesbian Muslim Autobiographies and the Craft of Self-Writing in South Africa’
- Syed Adnan Hussain: ‘Response: Civilizational Sexualities’