During my first week in Ghana Same Love by Macklemore came onto my iPhone shuffle. I listened, staring out the bus at the beauty that is Ghana. I reflected on being in a country where gay rights are at a completely different place than back in the U.S. and felt more impacted by the song than I had been before.
Before we came to Ghana we had the opportunity to speak with students who came last year. When we asked about gay rights in Ghana, we were advised it is best to avoid the issue with Ghanaians.
There is seemingly no struggle with LGBT rights in Ghana because there is no format for it. Romance is between a man and a woman. Period. There are no demonstrations, parades, rainbow flags, or public discussion. That is not to say that it doesn’t exist, but it is kept out of the public eye, except for the occasional article railing against it.
It was in that moment on the bus that I decided I was going to be honest about my feelings around homosexuality. Looking back now, I am very glad that I was.
About two weeks into my internship my coworkers commented about their concern over the decline in morality in the U.S. regarding the repeal of DOMA. They turned to me and asked how I felt about gay marriage. I told them I felt love shouldn’t be reserved for certain individuals. I told them about my gay friends and family whom I love dearly and support in having the same rights as me.
Four of my coworkers and I talked about it for some time, sharing our feelings and discussing how Ghana differs from the U.S. We took time to address the religious aspects as well as political and social.
The discussion never got heated, as it often does in my experience back home. It seemed we were all interested in hearing everyone’s views and learning about each other’s cultures. Neither side was persuaded to change their stance, but the dialogue was honest and respectful. If my coworkers are reading this, thank you for always being open with me and receptive to what I have to say.
Many of my roommates had very different experiences when the topic came up with their coworkers. Most were met with disgust and concern for their soul.
After our discussion, I looked up articles written domestically on the topic. All the articles were of the strong opinion that homosexuality posed a major threat to Ghana and should not be tolerated. I could not find any articles in favor of gay rights, despite a member of parliament recently vocalizing her desire for equality.
Then I started reading the comment section of these articles and was surprised. The vast majority of comments in response to these articles were in support of gay rights. Ghanaians arguing that it is time this aspect of life is accepted into their society. Those comments aren’t yet getting the attention the articles do, but they are there, buried at the bottom of the page.
Ghana is not yet ready for gay rights, I don’t know if it ever will be. I am not a part of the culture and it is not my place to say what is right or wrong for Ghana. I will say that it is my personal hope the acceptance and compassion that has been shown to me will be offered to everyone, regardless of sexual preference. I take comfort in the fact that I have seen the beginning of change.
As my time here comes to a close, I am reflecting on the things I will miss about Ghana and things I am grateful to return home to. In its infinite wisdom, iTunes shuffle brought Same Love up once again. Listening to this song for the second time during my trip, it hit me how incredibly proud I am to return home to a DOMA-free country.
I spend too much time dwelling on the many problems in the U.S., but I am truly proud to be a U.S. citizen. It’s moments like these that help me remember that. We are not a perfect country, and the struggle for equality is far from over, but my heart swells knowing I am part of a country that is constantly growing and prides itself in its ability to change.
To those of you back home, take a moment and realize the tremendous accomplishment our country has just made. I am excited to return and continue to help push for equality and acceptance. I am unbelievably proud of us.