In August 2012, I decided to start ALA’s Sexuality Discussion Group (SDG) with my colleague, Robyn Sweetman. It came as the result of two years at ALA realizing that as much as Diversity is a foundational value of the Academy, many of our students have very one-sided views around diversity of sexual orientation. Where our value says “Diversity: We respect others,” I know that many people on the continent do not, in fact, respect others who differ from them with regard to sexual orientation. I believe today, more than ever before, it is important for Africa’s young leaders to be exposed to new ideas and to learn about the great differences that exist in our world. These issues, as we have seen in Uganda and Nigeria, will be hotly contested topics of the future, and our young leaders need to be prepared with knowledge and nuanced perspectives. SDG’s goals are explained in the title of the group—we want to create an open environment for discussion around issues of sexuality. We discuss issues like prostitution, social conceptions of virginity, and gender roles and expectations, along with issues that face Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities around the world. SDG has ranged in size from 12 to 50 over the last two years and always, like ALA, represents a diverse body of students. Last May, the group organized a forum for International Day Against Homophobia, where 50 members of our community got together to explain how they overcame homophobia. At the moment, we are continuing that work and launching another anti-homophobia campaign called “Love is Love,” with a Facebook page you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/SDGloveislove. We are also creating a digital collection of stories from members of the ALA Community talking about how they overcome homophobia, in an effort to make such narratives available to young Africans thinking about this issue.
By Kate Kraft, SDG Faculty Advisor