This was scheduled to be posted a few days ago, but I held off posting in the wake of the horrific mass murder in Orlando. 😦 But then I realised, maybe that’s the reason I should post it. Because not only are hate crimes still happening, but anti-homosexuality laws are still a thing, now, in 2016.
From my research for Blood & Milk, and from all I have learned, I can tell you the prospects for LGBTQI people in Africa are pretty grim. In fact, according to ILGA, out of the 83 countries in the world where anti-homosexuality laws are still in place, 33 of those countries are in Africa. Punishments include imprisonment, torture, and death.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania where, if found guilty, the sentence is imprisonment. And as we see in Blood & Milk, the Maasai laws for this “crime” are not so lenient.
I have had the help from a LOT of different people for this story, including several people from Africa. But the most help has come from a woman by the name of Santa Aziz, who works “in secret” helping African LGBT people, but who also lived in Tanzania with first-hand experience, information and guidance on Maasai language, diet, and culture. (I have an interview with Santa which I will post asap – she really is an amazing woman.)
But Santa has helped me with so much more than just the technical things.
I’ve doubted myself with this story, a hundred times more than I have with any other thing I’ve written. And every time I get to the point of not publishing the book, Santa says something to me that drives me forward.
The first time was before I sent it to my editor. Santa told me she works, in secret, with LGBT people in her country who live in fear for their lives everyday, and she sneaks them my books for them to read. She said it gives them hope. Real, legitimate hope, and it makes their nightmarish days a little brighter. And having something they can relate to would mean more to them than I could possibly imagine.
Her email touched me so deeply, I cried. I sent the manuscript to my editor that day.
Then when it came time to load it into Amazon for pre-orders, again I struggled for hours trying to decide whether I should publish this book at all. I knew some people would be opposed to me writing this story…
Then Santa sent me another long email of hope and gratitude for giving these people, her people, a voice, including this:
i know it might be difficult to comprehend the importance of such small gesture, but believe me when i say that it will be a HUGE thing for us. really… for anyone in Africa speaking swahili and who can understand that.
And you know what? I hit publish right then and there. Because it’s not about me, and it’s not about whether someone else thinks I don’t have the right to write this story.
It’s about giving hope to LGBT people in a small part of Africa. Real hope for real people who struggle every day, for whom this story will make a positive difference. And if this story can do that for even one person, then it should be published. When LGBT African people plead with me to please please publish this story because they need something they can relate to, then I absolutely should.
I’ve contacted The African Human Rights Coalition, an organisation who do wonderful work with LGBT people in Africa, about donating a percentage of royalties of Blood & Milk. I will post more when I have the confirmation.
If you’re interested and able, you can donate at the following links:
Because, in light of the hate-crime that cut short the lives of 49 people in Orlando, it’s more important now than it was before that we speak up for those who cannot. Not just in America, or Europe, or Australia, but in Africa too.
Because love is not, nor should it ever be, a crime.