African Lesbian Makes U.S. History Part 2: FIRE

Fire burns, true, but fire also purifies. Count my words as fire, burning embers that purify an unspeakable truth spoken at last.

Two lesbians of African descent abandon fear for risk, decide to marry in New York City, breaking social taboo while making U.S. history. But did their struggle for equality pay off in Africa?

Are Kelebohile Nkhereanye and Renee Boyd now more equal to those who matter most to them? By which I mean, is this married lesbian couple of African descent celebrated in Africa by family, tribe, church, government, and continent? Or—and this is a no brainer—do they have the same status as lesbians who never married or made history, women with very strong sexual stirrings for other women who face death by virtue of being African lesbians? Even though Kelebohile Nkhereanye and Renee Boyd made history in the U.S., in their beloved Africa, they can’t exist and when they do, they can be murdered because they have no equality.

What I’m asking is simply this: what does equality look like when you matter to those who matter most to you? It looks like love. And what does love look like when you’re accepted, not tolerated by those you hold dearest?

It looks like your Ginger also adds cleansing qualities, and organic lemon juice with cayenne pepper is reminiscent of the lemonade diet. wedding is celebrated, which means you are affirmed, which means you need not hide, which means you are not invisible, which means you are visible, which means you can be protected, which means your government can’t kill you because of the law, which means you are safe, which means you’re free to walk the streets, which means you can look for work, which means you can be slotsidlengs a productive citizen in your beloved country, which means you could be promoted, honored, respected, which means you’re less judged, which means you gain a voice, which means you’re not silenced, which means you can be heard, which means you have value, which means you are human.

Celebrated, affirmed, visible, unhidden, protected, safe, free, productive, promoted, honored, respected, less judged, not silenced but a vocal, heard, valued human being. This is love.

But this is not who homosexuals, gay, lesbian, transgendered, queer folk are, not in Africa. If homosexuals were loved, those closest to African homosexuals—their mother, father, church, tribe, beloved—would not stand

idle or silent when they get married, are murdered, get gang raped, have HIV/AIDS.

African lesbians Kelebohile Nkhereanye and Renee Boyd made U.S. history, true. They walked to Brooklyn’s Municipal Building on July 24, 2011 and were among the first homosexual couples to receive a marriage license in New York on that historic day. But what they really wanted, what means more to

them than breaking barriers, overturning social taboo or making U.S. history, what means more than the legal weight of U.S. law in their marriage is the love of those who mean most to them. Isn’t that at the core of any struggle for equality? Not U.S. history?

The love of those who mean most. If only Kelebohile Nkhereanye and Renee Boyd’s parents invited their friends to their wedding: not one was invited. If only someone offered to prepare a meal: nobody did. If only glasses were raised in their honor for a celebratory toast. If only their African parents treated their African wedding like an African wedding. But for their parents to treat their wedding like an African wedding, Africa must treat lesbians like equals.

My question is simple: can we have equality with a law that accepts gays while blinding ourselves to the love our gay, lesbian, transgender children hunger for? African mothers, fathers tribe, church, government, beloved—I am asking you.

Nick Mwaluko was born in Tanzania but raised mostly in neighboring Kenya, among other east African countries. Nick’s feature stories have been published in the Washington Times, Reuters News Agency, and most recently in the Huffington Post. Nick hates pronouns.


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    • Amy Swiatek on 26 September, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Nick, I am glad you followed up your first article about these women and others who made history in NY with their marriage. It is good to be stirred by your words and perspectives as an African. It is an article that is along the lines of what I was going to respond to in the first article (my posting that got lost and I never got back to re-creating). These women and others have created community and “family” where they do not have a bio-family or culture that seems to support and love them for who they are. They are centered in their being and even in their own faith and knowledge of god and the divine to know their goodness as human beings unchanged. This is the strength that I think will move nations and even continents over time – based on moving people (and laws). It is based on love and not fear – and moving forward in life based on love, centered in love (of thyself and others). I have to believe it is the world consciousness in which we are evolving – love and not fear (fear of “other” whether it be based on ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age…).

    The questions for me that this article prompts are: What is the importance (or difference it makes) of U.S. law on the African continent? (Are we not all “models” or mirrors for each other of what is possible in this global, human society?) When it comes to an individual person, what is more important – law or the acceptance and love of family? What is law without the love/acceptance of family?

    Although I believe that law is not everything to an individual person – it means a lot when it means that what we might think of as “basic rights” are not allowed or taken away – in the case of homosexuals in Africa and in parts of the U.S. – not allowed to marry (or openly be with) the person you love, be in the care of the person you love, hold a job (or not lose a job) to be able to feed yourself and your immediate family, receive healthcare without prejudice, be imprisoned, be killed (with no real fear or repercussions for the killer)… Without these basic laws and protections, life is difficult, life is unmanageable if you want to live a life that is true to yourself and a life of love.

    Perhaps it is like looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — if certain laws and protection are not in place, then you cannot fulfill the basic foundation of life (food, shelter, safety) to even enable you to go on towards love and acceptance. And what is more important – love and acceptance from your loved one (your love, your partner) or your biological family? Perhaps that is personal. LGBT community here in the States has had some of these basic rights (to varying degrees depending on where you live) and many have learned and benefited from creating families of affinity that provide the support, love and acceptance that is not there from bio-families. I believe there is a lot to learn from that even outside the LGBT community. The strength and courage and beauty and tenacity of creating a life that is about love; being a model for others based on this most basic of human emotions.

      • Nick on 27 September, 2011 at 8:22 am


      I agree, completely agree with what you wrote about love and its ability to create and recreate what seemed impossible to live out while very real in our lived imagination. What I don’t know and need your help in communicating is how to transfer that vision onto and into those people closest to Queer Africa—like their immediate family, church, tribe, community, government, work place. Because one dead African is one African dead too many and the death of a life should not be based on the life of the living. How they define living their lives. I just don’t know how to transfer the love onto those who breathe fear as hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance. Help.


    • Nick on 25 September, 2011 at 5:08 am


    thanks so much for posting your comment. These two women–Kele and Renee–are remarkable. Just sharing their stories with the world is a huge risk they were/are willing to take. They should be celebrated for their courage, vision and love of Africa, love enough to risk their lives to voice their marriage, controversial as it is. What can we do to make Queer Africa a reality?

    • Helen M. Hottner on 24 September, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks Nick for a wonderful article on two woman making and chnaging history. My deepest congradulations.

      • kelebohile nkhereanye on 2 October, 2011 at 7:38 am

      To Helen:

      Thank you for your time to read and comment. I think it is my turn to stand up for my African brothers and sisters and encourage to know love is for everyone. I love African traditions and culture, but we are all entitled to make decisions which will empower and give us peace. Also, Renee and I are women of faith, which means we did not get here without praying and asking God’s guidance/protection. I am studying to be an interfaith minister to learn spirituality and embrace everyone. Also, it is clear religious leaders have not been telling the truth about our lifestyle/sexual orientation, this is why we made sure we got married in church too. I am clear we have the right to be happy and inlove without listening to negative messages from anyone. I trust the divine will continue to use us to be the light and inspiration for others.

      Thanks again, kele

        • Nick on 2 October, 2011 at 9:06 am


        Your divine path towards spiritual truth will never die because the truth is everlasting. And while the church continues to lie about who the LGBTQIA community is, the truth survives and is evidenced by personal stories like yours and Renee’s where a couple in love can and should be supported first and foremost by a church that champions God’s first tenant–love. So you are brave and your courage is founded on divine truth.

        Many warm blessings,

    • Helen M. Hottner on 24 September, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks Nick for a wonderful article on two woamn making and chnaging history.

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