Browse Tag: Spectra Speaks

Celebrate LGBTI Africa’s Pride Everyday (and Everywhere, Not Just Uganda)

Uganda’s first gay pride has been hailed as a milestone of achievement for LGBT Africa. 

We often hear about African LGBTI people being persecuted by their governments, and in addition, being raped, murdered, and socially-ostracized from their communities. Their infantalization in the media is evident via the plethora of news reports that have essentially chronicled the queer African movement as mainly a series of violent acts, political debates, and perceivably (at least to the west) rare moments of triumph.

But is there ever triumph without steadfast resistance? More importantly, what exactly is triumph to queer African people whose lives and humanity exist in the every day, and not just within the 5 minute scan of the latest sensationalized news story?

How often do we hear stories about two African lesbians falling in love, not as part of a political debate, but as idle banter over fish and chips? When was the last time we heard about a group of LGBT Africans partying just because — and not necessarily tied to a social cause?

When people think about queer African people, how often do they imagine them as happy, empowered, and even ordinary? Can we really only picture their liberation as a photo of a scantily clad African man wearing a fusion of traditional garb and rainbow colors, an imported western symbol of gay pride?

Given the viral sharing of the photo of gay Africans participating in their first gay pride in Uganda (a country described by BBC as “the worst place to be gay”), my guess is that the west has succeeded in painting the faces of LGBT Africans as sad, helpless victims by default, rendering testaments to the opposite surprising, an exception that warrants mass (international) celebration.

Make no mistake. I am thrilled beyond words for my brothers and sisters in Uganda. Given all what they have faced these past few years — from that dreadful “Kill Bill” to the loss of an endeared community leader and activist, David Kato, and even amidst their pride celebration, harassment and arrests by the police – the images of Uganda hosting their first pride backed by a group of happy kuchus is undeniably a powerful symbol of hope.

As Sokari Eine writes on her blog, “If Ugandan Kuchus could march through the streets then so could we all – Nigerians, Liberians, Cameroonians and well the whole continent.” No matter the politics of pride (or even the looming threat of US imperialism through the western foundations that support them), big acts such as the Uganda pride festival are an important part of Queer African history, and thus, worth documenting.

However, during my short time in Cape Town, South Africa, which I’ve spent almost exclusively with individuals from the LGBT community, I’ve seen other remarkable acts worth celebrating.

Nearly every day, I have been reminded of the power of the mundane acts we each take towards our own fulfillment: discussions about family and coming out with my Zimbabwean host, invoking both tears and laughter over Buchu tea; an eruption of giggles by an aspiring human rights lawyer after her girlfriend whispers something in her ear; the silence of a crowd of black South African lesbians as a passionate feminist poet spits truth about the impact of corrective rape on young girls.

I have witnessed the daily grind of empowerment of black South African lesbians, watched them sink and wade through the cultural stigma that surrounds them like a mist, clouding the world’s perception of their lives as ordinarily human. Thus, I have come to re-affirm my belief that we must also celebrate our proud perseverance, our steady survival, just as fervently as we do big, bold acts of bravery. 

For those of us who have chosen media as our battlefield, it can be easy to forget that LGBTI Africans don’t just live online, or on the streets, for that matter, holding up cardboard signs in perpetual protest; they occupy small apartments with leaky faucets, the residence halls of liberal arts colleges where they hope to launch their careers, and small bungalows in the impoverished rural townships.

Their “pride” may not come in bright rainbow colors, but in the dull pastels of pink and blue collared shirts that call them “lady” when they wish to be “sir”, the dusty brown of their sneakers after practice with teammates that call each other “fag” in jest. Their “pride” will not be heard in the deafening blow of a bullhorn, nor from a platform or podium, but in the awkward silence that follows when they reveal themselves to the people they love, and amidst the painful sighs they let out when they are alone.

I have come to deeply appreciate activists who often have no time to engage in sensationalized international discourse, because they are too busy doing the heavy lifting that comes with supporting LGBTI Africans living in rural townships. I  have come to honor the “others” who don’t call themselves activists–the every day queer African with financial commitments, awkward first dates, the pursuit of lucrative careers to sustain their families, and who despite all odds, wake up every day and renew their determination to keep living.

Unfortunately, many of these small, every day “triumphs” hardly ever get the attention they deserve. Perhaps part of this has to do with the tendency of western countries like the U.S. (who are operating from a different cultural and legislative framework) to re-tell and shape our stories and, in so doing, suggest which parts are worthy of global applause. Or, perhaps many of us are too deep in the trenches to reflect upon our work (and our lives) long enough to view them as achievements in the larger context. In any case, I believe it is time LGBTI Africans begin chronicling our failures and successes as we define them, and more importantly, fill in the spaces in between the bigger milestones, with our voices, our stories, our personal anecdotes.

So, as we celebrate Uganda’s first pride, consider these ten milestones – both big and small, personal and political – that are also part of the Queer African movement and history. These brave and remarkable acts provide me with daily inspiration to celebrate LGBTI African pride everyday, and everywhere, not just in Uganda:

5 Political Milestones

1) Health: The opening of an LGBT clinic Kampala, a milestone that would mean year-round care for LGBT Ugandans (vs. a single day-long festival) is worth celebrating, which is why QWOC Media Wire covered it: This is What Africa’s Resistance Looks Like

2) Entertainment: Miss Sahara, a Nigerian Igbo woman, competed in the Miss International Queen pageant for transgender women, and came in second!

She became Nigeria’s first openly transgender celebrity. Her visibility (and success) at the pageant, incited many conversations about what it means to be a trans person from Africa.

My name is Miss Sahara, and I’m from Nigeria …I just want to make a statement that because I’m a Nigerian doesn’t mean I can’t be a transgender woman… I would like to believe that I am beautiful. I’m here to make a statement.

3) Politics: Joyce Banda, president of Malawi, released a statement asserting she will support LGBT rights and protections, making her the second African woman president (after Liberia’s president Sirleaf) to come out in support of LGBTI African people, sort of.

4) MediaPambuzuka Press recently announced the release of the Queer African Reader, a collection of writings, analysis and artistic work (intended primarily for an African audience).

The anthology, edited by activists, Sokari Eine and Hakima Abbas, focuses on intersectionality while including experiences from a variety of contexts including rural communities, from exile, from conflict and post-conflict situations as well as diverse religious and cultural contexts.

5) Community: Amidst the racism and xenophobia in Cape Town’s male- and white-dominated gay scene, HOLAA (Hub of Lesbian Action for Africans), a new Black South African queer community-building organization and group blog hosted their first event, Poetic Just-Us. Simply put, it was beautiful.

5 Personal (And, Yes, Also Political) Milestones

6) The Power of Community: My Africans for Africa fundraising campaign to offer free social media and online fundraising training to African women and LGBT organizations surpassed its goal of $7.5K and raised well over $10K! Over 160 individuals contributed to the idea that LGBT African people can and should speak for themselves; the support I’ve received via this project has re-affirmed my belief in the statement, “It takes a village…”

7) The Power of Friendships: My best friend, who I nearly lost due to a clash between her religious views and my sexuality, came full circle after nearly five years apart and wrote a guest post for my blog, “Homophobia is UnChristian.”

8) The Power of Words: A queer Nigerian reader and supporter sent me a message recently letting me know that my writing had inspired her to come out to her own parents!

“Just wanted to say, thank you for all that you do… Your bravery and humongous heart have inspired me to come out to my Nigerian parents as well as ignited a passion to aid LGBTQ Africans, especially Nigerians in our fight to be visible.”

What I love about this milestone it’s that it’s actually not one, but two; it is mine, certainly, for knowing that my words are meaningful, but it is also my dear friend’s, for taking the big leap and sharing her whole self with the people she loves.

9) The Power of New Media: As a wonderful addition to my Curve Magazine feature, “This is What an African Lesbian Looks Like”I was featured in Ms. Magazine as an African feminist blogger to watch.

Not only was I the only queer-identified one (which is important to note as LGBT Africans often experience silence in feminist spaces), but renowned black feminist scholar and NBC show host, Melissa Harris Perry, shared on Twitter that my interview was one of her favorite reads.


10) The Power of Love: I recently made the “the ultimate commitment” to my partner :) In a world in which queer Africans are persecuted simply for loving, the bold, boastful, boundless love I have for my partner (and that she has for me) is absolutely an act of rebellion, or healing, of liberation, worth celebrating.


What other remarkable acts should the LGBT African community be sharing? What acts or milestones often go unnoticed? Why do you think that is? How can we be mindful of sensationalism and the hierarchy of achievement it perpetuates in our movements?

BEEcome BUZZworthy: My Social Media 101 Training Workshop for Passionate People

Here is a sample of a social media 101 workshop I’m offering to Artists, Activists, and Non-Profits (aka “Passionate People”).

Are you a passionate person who is interested in learning how to use social media more effectively, to share your ideas, market your services, advocate for an issue you care about? Are you already sold on the power of social media but struggle with the time-drain of managing multiple profiles?

BEEcome BUZZworthy(TM) is a workshop geared towards activists, artists, change makers, and/or anyone who is interestd in learning how to use social media to impact social change, as well as gain access to resources beyond their immediate networks. My own personal passion stems from my work in the philanthropy, media, and art sectors. However, this workshop will be helpful to anyone who wishes to increase their influence online in order to increase their influence offline; whether you’re looking to better advocate for an issue you care about, run a fundraising campaign, market a valuable service, or build a network around a shared interest, social media is for you.



Social Media 101 for Artists, Activists, and Non-Profits 

Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, Oh My! There’s so much BUZZ about social media these days and it seems everyone’s catching on. But perhaps there’s too much buzz coming from too few BEES. How to make sense of all that noise coming from the HIVE? Who can tell us where to find the HONEY?

Did that make sense to you? Probably not. It was a silly analogy. But it got your attention, didn’t it? :)

Hi, I’m Spectra. And I’m here to tell you how you can use of social media to… well, make sense to other queen bees (including to yourself) when “buzzing” in the virtual world that has fast become an intrinsic part of our lives.

My approach is simple: social media is socializing, in a very big room.

If you’ve ever attended a networking event, made a new friend, hosted a party, or applied for a job, trust me, you already know how to introduce yourself, build relationships, maintain them, and subtly boast about how interesting, talented, and all-round awesome you are without appearing to be doing that at all. (It’s okay, we all do it, there’s nothing to be ashamed about). In the real world, we build relationships, then tap into their value, all the time. 

So here’s the secret to doing it online: it’s no different.

Yup. The same rules apply. So, if you’re personable in real life, chances are using social media to build relationships online will come naturally to you. Whether you’re an independent artist who’s trying to get people to support their work, a small business owner who could use some more visibility, a new social impact organization interested in spreading their message to potential supporters/members, social media is for you. Moreoever, whether you access the web through your school library, internet cafe, laptop, or your mobile phone, social media offers free, do-it-yourself tools to connect with people who should be connected to you.

But in a room full of BUZZING BEES (oh! there goes that analogy again), it can be difficult to hear yourself, or anyone else for that matter. However, it’s absolutely crucial that we find a way. 

Think of it this way: You have really important ideas to share, products and services that people actually really need. But what good can you really do in the world if no one knows who you are or what you’re about? The world needs you. Yes, it’s true, you and your own unique brand of honey could make the world a better place. No doubt about it. 

Yet, it is also true that social media can be time-consuming, and so many of you are already so busy. So many of you may think, “I get it. I know social media is important. But how do I find the time?”, or “Why would anyone listen to me? I’m just a ___”, or my personal favorite, “Does any of this really make a difference?” But don’t worry, you’re not alone! This is where I come in! (See, I finally landed on my point). 

Attend this workshop, and I’ll show you how to BECOME THE BEE THAT OWNS THE HONEY.

It’s my job to make sure that you’re both seen and heard by the people that matter to you, by the people that need you. This hands-on workshop is structured such that each person maps out their own strategy over the course of the session, and has time to address their own specific needs.

What You Will Learn

  • Why social media should be an integral part of your awareness-building strategy
  • How to build your brand/identity/vision into your social media strategy
  • Tips and tricks for online engagement (e.g. “How to Boast without Sounding Boastful)
  • Tools and resources for efficient automation and time-management (e.g. scheduling content ahead of time, “bucketing” ideas for future use, etc) 

I’m Sold! Show Me the Honey! 

If you’re interested in joining the swarm of regular every day people who are using social media to make a positive impact in their workplace, communities, the world, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss booking a 4-hr workshop for your organization, group of colleagues or friends, or arrange one-on-one consultation services (1-hr calls, once a week, for a month). Rates are negotiable. 

Please note: Basic internet savvy is required of all attendees. Projector screen and PC laptop hook up for interactive presentation required. U-shape conference seating arrangement is ideal, but classroom, lecture, or informal lounge seating can also work. At least one wired internet connection is required, but a venue with high-speed wi-fi is preferred. Minimum of 6 attendees required to schedule a group workshop.

Click here to schedule a workshop!

Decisions, Decisions: Group Workshop vs. Individual Consulting Sessions

If you’re already familiar with social media and are seeking support for a specific project (e.g. fun a fixed period online fundraising campaign, increasing Facebook Page engagement, etc), then I recommend the one-on-one consulting sessions. I would also recommend the one-on-one sessions for busy professionals/activists who already have a platform (i.e. executive directors of non-profits, activists who blog etc) and would like to promote their thought leadership more strategically. Again, we would treat these goals as specific projects in order to jumpstart their progress. Additional sessions may be purchased as-needed. 

Conversely, group workshops are ideal for people who have familiarity with social media but are not yet sure how they can use it to their advantage. As I’d like to say, they haven’t yet identified their “honey” or what makes them unique and buzzworthy. The workshop is intended to help people identify (and articulate) their value within their niche or community, and map out a strategy for garnering support, improving their engagement, and increasing their influence. To that end, learning about social media in a group format — in addition to drawing from the experiences of multiple people — provides an instant support network via which you can continue practicing.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to BEEcome BUZZworthy? If so, I encourage you to schedule a workshop or consulting session with me. I look forward to hearing from you.


As I’m constantly creating new workshops and training modules to better support every day people whose voices should be reflected in the media, your stories (of successes and challenges) are an essential part of learning how we — as passionate people — can better make ourselves heard. So, please share your experiences with social media in the comments below.

Are you a passionate person who is interested in learning how to use social media more effectively, to share your ideas, market your services, advocate for an issue you care about? What areas of using social media do you struggle with? What has been helpful to you? What has been the most challenging?

It Takes a Village: Fikelela Shelter for Orphans with HIV/AIDS Fosters Community Advocacy

“It takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when I reflect on my visit to the Children’s Center of the Fikelela Aids Project, a program of the Anglican church that fosters orphaned children living with HIV/AIDS.

Villas of Hope

On the morning of my visit, Rachel, the founder and project leader, picked me up from my residence and drove me to Khayelitsha, where the centre is based. On our way to the site (about a 20 min drive from town), we both chatted about our passion for philanthropy. Rachel shared that a friend of hers, Villa, had been the inspiration behind Fikelela; Villa had always dreamed about opening a home for children who were HIV+, called “Villas of Hope”. Villa passed away from AIDS, and Rachel has since kept that dream alive.

Rachel may be the visionary behind Fikelela, but the centre’s operations are heavily driven and overseen by Kate, a social worker by training. Over some very delicious tea, she outlined the program’s vast operations, of which there are many moving parts: child developmental activities led by Kate, play and care by the staff carers, medical services (TB and HIV/AIDS testsing, general health check ups for which they partner with local clinics), and a variety of art activities and fun outings for the children. What struck me about Kate was her unwavering love and commitment to the children; every bottom line she described, whether fundraising, reporting, hiring new staff, working with other non-profits, social works, and government agencies, were all articulated via impact on the children.

Love Fills These Playgrounds

After speaking with Rachel and Kate for a bit, I received a tour of the facilitites. The girls and boys each have their own separate quarters, rooms with individual bunk beds and cribs with their names on them. I arrived during nap time for the younger ones (2-4 yrs), and the older kids were still away in school. I didn’t want to snap photos of the children as they were sleeping, but I did capture one little girl, Nikkie, who had woken up early and wanted everyone passing by to pick her up! Her smile won me over.

I noticed that the bathrooms have towels and toothbrushes labeled with the children’s names. Kate explained that children naturally want to feel special, and thus, in a group as large as theirs (up to 40 children at a time), Fikelela tries to affirm them as individuals in as many ways as possible. The children have a wonderful playground at the back of the centre. They’re even getting a pool very soon, donated by a supporter of Fikelela. They have bikes to ride around on, and indoors, an assortment of toys and games.

I spoke with a few “carers” (women who tend to the children — bathe them, feed them, play with them etc), too, and was moved by how much love they expressed for their work. One of them, Pindiwe, has four children of her own; she works at the centre three days a week, and on the days when she isnt, tends to her children. I accompanied her as she prepared a daily booster (immune system strengthening drink) for a few of the children. When I asked her how she could love so many children at once, she replied, “I just really love children. I can’t help it. They make me so happy.”

More Than a Shelter, A Dedicated Community

A good number of the kids that come to the centre are HIV+. Yet, the centre is literally bubbling over with love, laughter, and joy. The few children that I saw awake were smiling and happy. The staff were themselves upbeat and positive. And, in fact, Kate explained that they hardly ever disclose which of the children are HIV+. “Everyone is treated the same. If I wear gloves for one, I wear gloves for all. If I kiss one, I kiss them all. Visitors who come in to start mourning are asked to leave. I don’t need them bringing in negative energy. My children are happy.”

“It takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when I reflect on my visit. From the driver who shuffles the children back and forth from school, picks and drops off ARV meds etc, the carers that tend to the children (change their diapers, feed them, lead playtime activities), the social workers that visit to facilitate developmental activities (so that the children can eventually become better and be reunited with their families, not just physically, but emotionally), and the volunteers who stop by to help (cleaning, painting, projects for the children etc), Fikelela is more than just a centre for orphans; it’s the hub of a truly extraordinary ecosystem of childcare.

Everyone working there spoke frankly about the love and passion they have for the work they do, but were also realistic and forthcoming about challenges; despite having a stellar reputation with the department of social services — who are constantly recommending them — it’s clear that Fikelela is an organization that is constantly pushing themselves to accomplish even more than they have, for the sake of the children fortunate enough to be in their care.

In the words of their founder, Rachel, “… thinking about the millions impacted by HIV/AIDS, it’s easy to get discouraged. Making the differences in the lives of the one or two is what keeps me going.”

Villa would be so proud.

If you’d like to learn more about Fikelela, visit their website, or donate to them via their profile on GlobalGiving.

Africans for Africa Project Update: Outreach Means Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Today, I am off to visit my first non-profit — Fikelela’s Children’s Centre, a rural township short-term shelter which places young orphans (of mothers who have died from AIDS) in foster homes. I was lucky to secure a ride from the project leader, as Khayelitsha, where it’s based, is far from the city.

I’m realizing that many of the non-profits I’m visiting are in some very remote areas and it’s going to take more $$ than I imagined to get to them. For instance, it will cost me $75-100 to get to the MOSAIC Training, Service, and Healing Centre for Women (an NGO with a specific focus on preventing and reducing abuse and domestic violence, particularly for women and youth living in disadvantaged communities) from the city centre by Taxi; I’ve been advised not to take the bus (only a taxi that will wait).

It’s funny, no matter how much you plan and budget, you can never anticipate the true cost of living (or traveling) anywhere until you arrive. Now that I’ve been here for a few days, and have gotten on the phone with folks I’ve been emailing back and forth for the past month, it’s clear that they’re either farther away (or getting to them will be less straight forward) than I’d imagined. Mind you, this isn’t the case for everyone. But it is for enough that I am now being forced to be extra conservative with the funds I do have.

My fundraising campaign has done so well — raised over $9K — but before the campaign is over (by July 30, 6 days from now), I am going to need to reach $10K to be on the safe side. Remember, this trip is costing me well over $15K to plan. I’ll be gone for 6 months; that’s 6 months worth of living expenses outside of your home. I’ll need all the help I can get.

You all are the reason I made it here in the first place. I have my savings, so I’m sure I can manage quite nicely till the funds raised from my campaign are disbursed in mid-August. But given that transportation to rural areas (in which many of the non-profits I’m visiting are based) is more expensive than I imagined, I’ll definitely need more relief funds than I’d originally anticipated.

Most importantly, I do NOT want to have to tell anyone that I can’t make it to visit them based on lack of funds. They are already used to hearing the white people that are based in Cape Town constantly talk about how “dangerous and unsafe” their communities are; I won’t be another voice that echoes that. I’m going where I’ve been invited, even if it costs a little extra to get there.

Would you be able to donate $10-50 more to make sure I can reach all the non-profits I promised I’d visit? With 140 Love Warriors who have contributed already, reaching the $10K mark is definitely a possibility; if everyone donated $20 more dollars, we’d surpass that goal. So let’s make it happen. We’re only $855 away!

Contribute one more time to help finish what we started:

Let’s do this :)

Lessons Learned from a Straight African Woman: Homophobia is UnChristian

Dear Readers,

A few weeks ago, I shared a short photo essay about my best friend, ChiChi. We’d been estranged for four years due to my sexuality and her Christian faith, but then recently reunited to find our friendship changed for the better.

Not only has it been as if we’d never been apart, but she’s now also one of my biggest cheerleaders; she donated over a thousand dollars to support my Africans for Africa project (via which I’m traveling through Southern Africa for 6 months, training African women’s and LGBT organizations in social media, communications, and storytelling).

When I published the piece, ChiChi was very moved, and told me that the only way she felt she could adequately respond was to write something for my blog. Hence, I’m so delighted to share her post with all of you.

All too often, ally voices are regarded with a deep (yet justified) suspicion; either allies are great, or not so great, advocates or saviorists. Due to our fear of being overshadowed, silenced, or having our narratives sidelined by society’s dominant voices, we rarely affirm their own stories. But there are certainly occasions in which we should.

In my experience, stories like “Confessions of a Straight Girl: What It Means to Be an Ally” (written by my Sister) or “My Straight African Brother’s Reflections on a Very Queer Christmas: Two Couples and a Sibling” resonate just as deeply with LGBT people of color who hope to someday experience love and acceptance from their families. I still receive emails from people who have been touched by how much I’ve shared about the ups and downs I’ve experienced with the allies in my life. Yet, we distance ourselves from their narratives, call them “allies” all the time — just to make sure they know their place. But these “allies”, sometimes, are simply the people we love, and hope to be loved by.

Given the ongoing battle between religion and sexuality, what ChiChi has shared below re: her faith, journey to deeper connection with God, her Love of me, and even her own exploration of her sexuality — not in spite of, but because of her faith — is nothing short of brave. This offering of Love from the place of a traditional practice of Christianity is most appreciated given how much oppression of LGBT exists in the name of religion.

I am very proud to share ChiChi’s words here, and encourage all of you — as we often preach — to affirm her own experiences with the Love and respect we expect in our lives. In any case, I hope her words encourage you, heal you, and give you hope that the loved ones you may have shunned you on the basis of religion will eventually come around.




“Anyone Who Loves God Must Also Love Others”

When Spectra published “Keeping the Faith: Religion, Sexuality, and My Best Friend’s Pool Party” her piece about me, our friendship, the pain of 4 years apart, and the beauty and joy in our reconciliation, I was humbled and moved by how many people were touched by our story. The response to it reminded me of the power of stories to inspire, to unite, and to encourage. So I decided to write a response piece to affirm her words, and to tackle the loaded combination of religion and sexuality as I’ve experienced them.

For nearly four years, Spectra and I sought our identities in divergent paths—she as a queer activist, and I in exploring depth in my spiritual Christian faith. Because our paths seemed irreconcilable, I never anticipated that valuable lessons learned during my quest for a deeper relationship with God would bring me full circle back into relationship with my friend. But they did, and I’d like to share a few of the lessons I learned with all of you:

1) In my attempt to practice sexual abstinence, I have come to the conclusion that SEXUALITY is OVER-POLICED in Christian communities.

OK let me back up on this one—

In the 20 years that I have been Christian, the constant rhetoric in the Christian community has been that the sex life of a single, Christian woman should be, well, NON-EXISTENT. Therefore, as I grew in my knowledge and faith in God, I decided that I was not going to cut corners on the sexuality issue. I would practice sexual abstinence. Yes, I would remain abstinent until my wedding bed where with multiple orgasms, my husband will make the wait well worth it, and from thence we will live together in a one-partner, heterosexual marriage till death do us part.

But while this paradigm worked for me, was this the “correct” sexuality for everyone? Is there such a thing as “correct” Christian sexuality? What about those people for whom there is no biblical precedent, e.g. intersex individuals? What does a “heterosexual” marriage look like for them?

If abstinence is always the way to go, why is there an epidemic within the Catholic church of repressed priests unleashing on little boys and girls? Why is masturbation discouraged? Why does the Pope get to have an opinion on how a man and his wife should stem the number of children they would have? And, hmmm… why am I, suddenly, physically unable to insert this tampon???

Yup. In my abstinence practice, I unwittingly programmed the muscles around my vagina to SLAM SHUT when anything approached. And because the contraction was involuntary, gynecological examinations and tampon insertions had suddenly become terribly difficult. Even when I wanted to “open sesame”, it’s was like my vagina never received the override memo. (This is a sexual condition. It’s called vaginismus. If you’ve never heard of it, read about it here.)

Luckily, I don’t have this issue anymore. A couple investments in books and toys, and I was able to RETRAIN my vagina to function correctly. But more importantly, I learned that any sexual practice that undermines YOUR PERSONAL spiritual, mental, emotional, AND/OR physical health cannot be “correct” for you.

2) At the Core of My Faith is LOVE

The more I learned about God, the more I learned to open my heart, to be vulnerable, to be humble, to admit when I have been wrong, to ask for forgiveness, and to LOVE. Why? GOD IS LOVE. From the bible:

(1st book of John, Chapter 4, verses 7-9)–
7- Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8- Whoever does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE. 9- This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

3) Homophobia is UNChristian. (phobia = fear, hate)

Again, the Bible says this is so:

(1st book of John, Chapter 4, verses 18-21)–
18- There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19- We love because he first loved us. 20- Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a Liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21- And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

4) People are PEOPLE, not ISSUES.

When Spectra first came out to me, in an attempt to avoid coming to terms with her new identity, I instantly compartmentalized her being out as “her politics” and “her sexuality” which I placed as separate entities from the Spectra that was my college bestie, my sister. When she realized this, we had the falling out. As painful as the period apart was, it was important that it happened so that I could learn to wrestle with the issues that made me uncomfortable instead of simply sweeping it under its compartment. It was important that I learned to love her COMPLETELY in the way that she deserves to be.

So there you have it: four lessons learned from four years deepening my relationship with God and re-commitment to practicing the core principles of my faith. I hope it offers some guidance to Christians who are still struggling to reconcile their spirituality with the LGBT community. Choose Love. It always wins.

Spectra, I love you.  I am proud that your search for yourself culminated in the unearthing of the earth-changing, ass-kicking, turn-the-universe-up-on-its-head, Nigerian, Igbo, queer, activist tour-de-force that you are. And I pray that as you travel to spread your love, knowledge, and solidarity at home in Africa, God will guide your path, and reveal to you all his plans for you. AMEN.

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