Discover more from Queer Lore: a POC perspective on LGBTQ history and folklore
LGBTQ+ people in West Africa
Non-heteronormative unions in Ghana, transgender people in traditional cultures of Nigeria and Senegal
Agɔnwole agyalɛ (Nzema)
Agɔnwole agyalɛ can be described as a non-erotic same-sex marriage that is not exclusive of heterosexual marriage.
The distinctive feature of … agɔnwole agyalɛ (friendship marriage) lies in the fact that it takes place between two persons of the same sex…[It] is considered on the conscious level as the nobliest expression of friendship…
According to Signorini’s account, there were two levels of friendship below the friendship marriage, one being casual friendship, and the other being the “great friendship”, which is an arrangement recognized by the families of both parties. It may involve financial obligations. It was not acceptable for a “great friendship” between members of the opposite sex to turn romantic. The role of the “great friend” is similar to that of a relative: they can provide input on the marriage choices of their friend and is obligated to defend their friend from domestic violence after marriage.
The friendship marriage takes the “great friendship” one step further. The proposing party (usually the older person) pays bride gift to the father of the party being proposed to. Some couples have a wedding ceremony and a reception.
Yan Daudu (Hausa)
Ameera is known as a yan daudu, shorthand for “men who act like women” in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language. The phrase means “sons of Daudu”, a fun-loving, gambling spirit worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice…For more than a century, hundreds of yan daudu were tolerated as part of an unremarkable but fringe subculture in the Muslim north, famed for their playful use of language, sometimes even accompanying politicians during election campaigns.
Nigerian gay activist Bisi Alimi said in If you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history | The Guardian:
the word for “homosexual” is adofuro, a colloquialism for someone who has a*** sex. It might sound insulting and derogatory, however, the point is there is a word for the behaviour. Moreover, this is not a new word; it is as old as the Yoruba culture itself.
The old Wolof name for homosexual men is gor-digen, or men-women. Armand Marie Corre, a French navy doctor stationed in Senegal in the 1870s, writes how he met many locals “with feminine dress and demeanour… In the 1930s, European reports about the exotic gor-digen increase in numbers… Traveller Geoffrey Gorer reports the men-women are “a common sight” and that “they do their best to deserve the epithet by their mannerisms, their dress and their make-up; some even dress their hair like women.”
Not an exhaustive list.
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