That Beyonce song is everywhere in Ghana. I had one day where I swear I heard it on five completely separate occasions. I still have not listened to all the lyrics very carefully, but lately I have felt a pressing desire to–perhaps not to *be* a boy, but to have the ability to transform into one at will. I want to be able to piss by the roadside with impunity, without being extraordinarily vulnerable just because nature calls. I want to be able to get to the end of a street without hearing lips being smacked and calls or hisses of “sweetheart … sweetheart …” I want to be able to wear what I want without worrying about how Ghanaian society perceives me as a result. I want people to consider the possibility that I might be physically capable, whether I am so in reality or not. I want to not have to defend myself against the sexual intentions of nearly every male conversation partner.

Is this too much to ask?

I suppose, though, that I want not only to be a boy at will, but a straight and fairly conventional boy at will. This ain’t no easy place to be queer. A couple of weeks ago, on Bob Marley’s birthday, Amadou and I went to a late-night reggae party at La Beach, headlined by one of Ghana’s biggest reggae stars, Black Rasta. Black Rasta has a nifty song about Barack Obama, so I was excited as well. (It’s nice to be proud of my leader; it’s been so long.) With his full backup band in Barack Obama tank tops, between songs and during a couple of songs Black Rasta preached some of the most nastily homophobic bullshit I’ve ever heard live. His thesis, basically, is that homosexuality is a disease of the West, we don’t have that in Ghana, and that all gay men, all of whom are obviously white and from England and America, are pederasts.

Very little makes me feel as frustrated or helpless as being present for such homophobia in a foreign country. Eleven years ago I did a two-week homestay in the south of France, with a very hospitable family who proceeded one night in the car to call homosexuality a mental illness and get into a very intense discussion in which all agreed on this thesis. I had enough French to understand, but not enough to respond in a manner that allowed them to take my responses seriously. I felt trapped, and listening to Black Rasta was the same, a culture barrier thick as language.

So it’s not just a boy I would have to transform into. It’s a very specific type of boy.

My theater classes started this week (!!!), and it may, in fact, be the first time in my life that I have taught drama classes with a balance of male and female students. It doesn’t happen often in the States; there’s no sexual orientation stigma attached to boys and drama here as far as I can tell.

In my primary school class, the balance seems fairly even. There are a couple of talkative boys, a couple of talkative girls, and a lot of inordinately shy or anxious children. I have one boy, Bright, who is clearly queer in a very stereotypical fashion, which makes me curious again about genetic and biological origins of effeminacy, as he certainly has no girly male public figures from whom he could have learned the behavior here. I ache for him; it will not be easy to be him as he ages. He’s also taller than I am, and his best friend in the class, Kweku, probably does not top four feet. It’s very amusing to see them walk together.

In my junior high school class, so far, the boys’ voices dominate. It has been so long since I had that problem in a theater class that it had not even occurred to me as a possibility. Fortunately, there is an intellectual rivalry between Samuel and Thelma, who go to the same school, that I think I can exploit to gendered advantage. Thelma is clearly going to be the female leadership powerhouse.

Wow, do I love group dynamics. But it has been a long time since I have truly had to see student dynamics from a fully gendered perspective. I will be interested in seeing what develops as I observe more Ghanaian classes in schools, and maybe even have conversations about gender and sexuality with Ghanaians other than Amadou.

Perhaps this is the blog’s least coherent post so far. They say coherence is the first thing to go. Who “they” are and where coherence goes, I could not say.

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