02 August 2008

Gays, Africa, Two Spirits, and Astrologers

Many ancient and traditional cultures have had the wisdom to reserve special roles for persons who displayed other than heteronormative behavior. These gifted ones would be recognized in childhood and raised differently, often as transgendered as they were thought to have two spirits. They were regarded as "good medicine" by North American tribes and, naturally, as intermediaries between earth and heaven, this world and the next, due to their synthesis of both male and female polarities. They would become the tribes' or societies' priests, shamen or soothsayers; in some West African traditions they were known as gatekeepers who controlled the portals to the divine. Such a role is given to Elegba in the Orisha tradition where he oversees doorways, entrances and crossroads. In his Haitian manifestation as Papa Legba he is the loa of gays.

We have retained much of our African spiritual roots in the syncretic practices of Pocomania, Kumina, Myal and Revival. It would be logical to expect that an intermediary role of some description would have survived and be ascribed to two-spirits. There is a strong homosexual dynamic at play in the phenomenon of a male adherent being "ridden" by a male deity.

Unfortunately, the homophobia that prevails in Jamaica would preclude any academic study of this aspect of our heritage; scholars who happened to be homosexual would not risk being outed by association, and straight ones would not wish to become tainted, even for the sake of intellectual pursuit. By now we should have deconstructed much of our African past, our slavery experience and the effects both have had on our collective psyche. Alas, our centers of learning have not the academic and intellectual freedom to free our people from mental slavery. The majority of our people will continue to labour under the delusion that homosexuality is a latter-day phenomenon inflicted on black people by white colonials. The irony is that it is to the fundamentalist Christianity and anachronistic laws that were used by the white masters to control the natives that we now cling so defensively.


richard said...

great post! i had a lot to say about it on my blog! nuff respect


anacaona said...

A book to check out: Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Participation in African Inspired Traditions in the Americas.