Ignatius Annor, a journalist in Ghana, came out as gay during a live television broadcast on Monday (22 February), a stunning move in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Annor had been brought on to discuss how one of the country’s few LGBT+ safe spaces has faced off against a so-called “family values” organisation pleading for its closure because, well, homophobia.
“This is going to be the very first time that I am using your medium to say that not only am I an activist for the rights of Africa’s sexual minorities, what you will call the LGBT+ community, but I am gay,” he told host Ayisha Ibrahim.
“Obviously, I denied it because I was afraid of losing my job, I was working at an incredible television station in Accra and also for the fear of what would happen to me personally.”
After LGBT+ Rights Ghana both fundraised and built a new office, which also functioned as a crucial community centre for queer Ghanaians, homophobes quickly took aim.
The campaign for its closure has been led by the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values (NCPHSRFV), a coalition of various faith leaders and officials that once drew international outrage for running a camp that “treated for homosexuality”.
Resilient, LGBT+ Rights Ghana has refused back down even as the coalition’s leaders calls for president Nana Akufo-Addo and police to shut it down and arrest its members.
Gay Ghana journalist Ignatius Annor: ‘It doesn’t feel like I am a human being’
But to Annor, an LGBT+ safe space is vital “because you are not allowed to openly say who you are” in Ghana.
“What my community is asking for is the opportunity to love like all humanity loves, particularly in the case of Ghana heterosexuals.
“It doesn’t feel like I am a human being who deserves the right to employment, the right to education, and normally the basic rights to be able to walk, drive around to wherever that I want to go to in Ghana as an openly gay man.
“It doesn’t feel OK, it feels dehumanised and awful.”
NCPHSRFV’s vitriolic campaign has made headlines in the press, becoming a flashpoint in the ongoing “debate” over homosexuality.
The office, which received the backing from European Union officials, has become a pinched battleground between a fledgling queer rights group and a small but powerful cadre of religious conservatives.
In Ghana, homosexuality is illegal and anti-LGBT+ sentiment is common, spouted by lawmakers and faith leaders and codified by its colonial-era laws.
Queer residents have escaped being burned alive by vigilantes, robbed, abused and blackmailed by Grindr catfishers and the country’s chief imam has blamed the coronavirus on “transgender and lesbianism” and called LGBT+ people “demonic“.
Such laws, Annor hopes, “could be scrapped” one day so “that people like myself who have life, who work, and contribute to the socio-economic fibre of Republic of Ghana can be accepted as human beings deserving of respect, kindness and dignity”.