On a number of occasions, various researchers or journalists have asked me if I can introduce them to LGBTQI activists or organisations. I always struggle with requests like these. What are they looking for exactly I wonder? Someone who has LGBTQI in their Twitter bio? An out lesbian? Or could it be someone who speaks up on a range of issues affecting women including LGBTQI rights? So my response tends to differ from day to day. Sometimes I say, ‘I speak up on all feminist issues including LGBTQI issues’, but then I wonder, am I claiming and taking space that is not mine to take? Often I get the sense that the people asking me to introduce them to lesbian activists want a ‘proper’ lesbian, one who looks the part, and can speak to the discrimination and stigma she faces in a society like Ghana. And that’s not something I can speak to as a straight presenting woman who is currently in a relationship with a man. Once or twice I’ve reached out to one of my friends and said something along the lines of, ‘Hey, this journalist wants to interview a lesbian activist, are you interested?’ Her answer the last time I asked her this was no, only for her to turn around and tell me a few months later, ‘Do you remember that person you wanted to introduce me to? I ended up meeting up with her. Lots of people just kept reaching out to me asking if they could do an introduction and eventually I gave in.’ That makes me feel bad. I don’t want my friend to be treated like the only gay in the village. I don’t think only people who are out, or even only people from LGBTQI communities should speak up for their rights and justice. At the same time I know that certain voices need to be centred, and I recognize that those that are the most marginalized, and stigmatized should be the ones whose stories get privileged. But how does one do this practically in a country such as Ghana where homophobia and stigma means that these voices often do not desire, or feel safe enough to claim the spotlight.
If I choose to speak up about LGBTQI issues in the media am I taking up space that someone else needs to hold? Thoughts? Please share in the comments box.