Corey-Boulet, Robbie. “Love Falls On Us: A Story of American Ideas and African LGBT Lives”, Zed Books, 2019.
Not the Same in Africa
Robbie Corey-Boulet’s “Love Falls on Us,” looks at the complicated relationship between African LGBTQ activism and American foreign policy and its shifts on gay rights which have often exacerbated their difficulties simply by giving a global spotlight to ways of living that might have been unnoticed. Corey-Boulet keeps his focus the three countries of Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Liberia and on activists and individuals there rather than attempting to take on the entire continent. He looks at the peculiarities of these countries’ respective political and cultural contexts.
With the major changes regarding LGBTQ rights in this country, there is little consensus on how to advance those rights beyond the United States and Europe. LGBT activism and allies have created international winners and losers. This is especially true in Africa where those who easily identify with the identities of the global movement find support, funding and care. Those whose sexualities do not match up and left out in the cold.
Corey-Boulet shows that LGBT liberation does not look the same in Africa as it does in the United States or Europe. We are now at a time when there is great interest in LGBT life in Africa and there are actual attempts at reversing LGBT rights across much of the “developed” world, we see that there have been failures in the past. There must be a right way to come together on LGBT issues in Africa and it is in this book that we begin to learn how to do so. Reading this helps us to understand those who do not have the same rights as the free Western world.
Corey-Boulet has great knowledge of LGBT rights in Africa and a deep connection with local activists. He understands “the complex relationship between well-intended outside human rights groups and the local activist community.” He is both sensitive and connected to the people whose lives and struggles he writes about giving him a great advantage.
When Hilary Clinton gave her speech on International Human Rights Day in December 2011, announcing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights”, it was, in part, directed at the African countries where homosexuality was and, in some places, still is a crime punishable by death. She was lauded in the West due to growing popular support for LGBTQ issues. However, in Africa, the speech might have had negative consequences for LGBTQ communities that had gone underground and away from public view.
Corey-Boulet makes it clear that his book is a series of looks and not a “single, generalized picture of gay life across an often maligned and misunderstood continent.” He is very much aware of the common mistakes that are made by writers and journalists make about Africa and that is basically “the mistake inherent in conceiving of sexual minorities in one city, or one country, or anywhere, as a kind of monolith”. Therefore, he avoids hierarchical language and stereotypes choosing to humanize his subjects by showing the complexities and differences among LGBTQ lives, closeted or not.
We gain. understanding of lives “beyond the persecution described in Western media.” We see the importance of awareness to avoid sensationalizing minority life, and to show its full range. The writers and the activists that we meet here are critical of those from the West who seem to be looking at this issue that a colonial mindset which simply means not allowing Africans “to discuss the issue on their own terms, but instead to respond to what Westerners were doing and saying.” What we really see is the challenge that exists when we attempt to raise the regularity of LGBTQ life in Africa to those who simply want to live peaceful lives free of persecution in the countries of their choice.