Seeing it from the Perspective of LGBTQI+

I have noticed with interest the ongoing discourse regarding the rather provocative subject of homosexuality and other sexual orientations. I decided to write on this topic in part because I consider myself a big fan of the marketplace of ideas, but perhaps more importantly, I feel compelled by the unanimity of speech and thought with which the media houses and Ghanaian people, including politician and religious groups, have condemned LGBTQI+. After all, it is in the nature and character of a democratic dispensation to not only stand up and speak but to also sit down and listen.

Not that it should mean anything, but such is the nature of people’s cynicism these days that I must first mention that I am neither an LGBTQI+ nor do I belong to any group with the objectives of this group. Another point I would like to make early in this piece is the fact that the issue of closure of LGBTQI+’s office is fundamentally an issue of freedom of association. The group’s office was not a brothel where homosexual acts were committed. They were not violating any legal constructs by merely congregating with people with shared views to advance their common interests.

While the LGBTQI+ community must be aware of the current sociolegal climate regarding their sexual orientation, they have every right to associate and devise plans and strategies to advocate against what they consider unfair social and legal treatment. We cannot tell LGBTQI+ people to jump and expect them to just say “how high?”. On 8th January 1950, Ghanaian masses embarked on a "positive action" strike that continued for 21 days, against what they considered unfair treatment. Positive action marked the beginning of what would culminate in our national independence. Over 71 years later, most Ghanaians think that it is right to not only deny people their fundamental human right but also their right to associate and fight this unfairness. I think I have said enough about this singular incident.

Speaking broadly, however, marriage is arguably the most fundamental institution of our society. It is also a civil right that could help bring an end to promiscuity and a sense of fairness to gay men and women, who for a long time, have been made to hide and met with hate and stigma. To the LGBT+ group, this would be a recognition of their active nondestructive presence in our communities and an admission that contrary to popular illusions, they are sane and share the dreams, disappointments, and excitements of their heterosexual counterparts. I wish the intolerant masses would approach their inquiry, if at all they are willing to inquire, more open-mindedly and sympathetically. Often, arguments offered against LGBTQI+ are parochial and prejudiced and do not stand the test of careful examination. I address a few of them here.

Perhaps the most common argument put out by opponents is that a family is fundamentally a procreative unit that is critical for raising healthy children and transmitting the values that form the basis of our culture. This is obviously an invalid presumption. Be it valid, our laws would forbid marriage between those who by reason of their career, age, feminism, or infertility, cannot have children or make this unpopular choice. Like the LGBTQI+ people, the burden of proof is not on any group of childfree people to justify why they do not want to have children, but rather on the others to justify why anyone should. Some also base their vehement repulsion on sanctimonious illusions while others make the lazy, bigoted, and paternalistic characterization of LGBT+ as ‘insane’ and ‘abnormal’.

The most recent argument often cited, however, seems to have some merit, at least on the surface of it. Opponents of LGBTI+ have suggested that if we ‘succumb’ to LGBTQI+, it would be the beginning of a slippery slope that leads to incest, plural marriages, sex with the underage, and even bestiality. I hope that everyone can see the gaping distinction between homosexuality and sex with an underage. First, children are incapable of giving consent for similar reasons why there are ages of criminal responsibility – from a neurobiological standpoint and more, they are presumed not to have the mental capacity to make these decisions. If it is necessary to add, a dog is also incapable of giving consent. Moreover, having sex with animals, both domestic and wild, could be the genesis of the next pandemic. With incest, I would say that, again, the answer to this question is deep-rooted in the biology of genetics and variation, if detractors care to look.

On the issue of polygamy and polygyny, I would say that opposing plural marriage should not be the burden of the LGBTQI+ community. I am uncertain that the case of same-sex marriage has more merit than plural marriage, my knowledge of which is admittedly limited. I am, however, not an advocate of plural marriage particularly at a time when no group of Ghanaians is lobbying for it. Having said that and noting that polygamy is already allowed by our traditional marriage institutions, I want to indulge but only to highlight the differences between the two, not to condemn another form of coupling that I disapprove of.

Fundamentally, the LGBTQI+ community is asking for the chance to marry someone, not to hoard partners. Thus, while rich polygamous individuals may withdraw the opportunity to marry from people who are in marital relationships, same-sex marriage extends the opportunity to those who lack it. Moreover, polygamous cultures are associated with higher levels of rape, kidnapping, murder, assault robbery, and fraud (1). Monogamy, on the other hand, promotes a more egalitarian distribution of women, which reduces male competition and social problems. It also results in significant improvements in child welfare, including lower rates of child neglect, abuse, accidental death, homicide, and intra-household conflict (1). Contrary to plural marriages which would require a series of contentious social and legal decisions to rebuild marital arrangements in response to questions regarding divorce and alimony, and who has primacy in medical decisions, same-sex marriage would require only small institutional and legal adjustments.

The social impact of a behavior or activity is a necessary but insufficient factor when deciding on the nuanced nature of issues on the public policy agenda. A case in point is the legalization of cigarette smoking in almost all parts of the globe despite its documented impact on the health of the smokers themselves as well as others. Marriage, unlike many other issues, is fundamental to our very existence. In such issues, I would concur with John Stuart Mills who argued that ‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant', noting here that ‘harm’ may be broadly defined. In other words, the burden of proof should be on the government to demonstrate why the marriage between LGBTQI+s shouldn't be, not otherwise. It is better assumed that persons should be permitted to marry whomever they choose unless the country has good reasons for rejecting their choice.

Opposition to LGBTQI+ often stems from the instinctive revulsion of the masses. A popular journalist whose work I otherwise admire, recently remarked that he did not study the anus as a sex organ in primary school. It is particularly unfair and frankly ludicrous to suggest that the rights of men and women should be denied because of the limitations in your primary school science syllabus and its contribution to your confusion about sexual orientations in adult life. People from half a century ago didn’t read about planned parenthood but that has not prevented the influx of contraceptives on the market. LGBTQI+ folks understand your confusion, they simply disagree that it is a sufficient or even a necessary basis to be denied what they are due.

Unsurprisingly, this discussion has highlighted the extent to which mainstream Ghanaian’s sense of security seems to be inextricably tied to their ideology of an appropriate familial relationship. I would urge my fellow Ghanaians to put above all, in human relationships, the quality of the human interactions than the entrenched observance of traditional structures. Recent discussions have caused excruciating pain to the LGBTQI+ community as they have been forced to listen to hateful speeches of politicians and religious leaders. The paternalistic imposition of our prejudiced will on LGBTQI+ people, does little except violate their fundamental human rights and nourish our bigotry and Aristotle complex. The government should approach this issue with an open mind and begin to work towards identifying patterns of family arrangements that actually exist and that endure throughout time. It should then facilitate these families to prosper unless a strong objectionable reason exists for believing that the arrangements cause significant harm. With the president remarking that same-sex marriage will not happen under his presidency, which I agree, he knows, and so do I, that it will ultimately happen. Throughout history, there has never been any oppressed group, that wasn't ultimately liberated.