Mwizenge S. Tembo
Author of “The Bridge- A Romance Adventure Novel”.
Professor of Sociology
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) sexual orientations are openly advocated today from President Obama of the United States and the First Lady Michelle, in American schools, institutions of higher learning, the military, some churches, in work places and families. Same sex marriages are now legal in 36 of the 48 states in the United States. Ireland just voted to legalize same sex marriages by 62%. Bruce Jenner, the most celebrated and decorated Olympic male athlete in the United States now calls herself “Caitlyn” as a woman at the age of 65. She is transgender and her photo is on the front page of the famous Vogue magazine.
The change in attitude is happening so fast that if anyone today appears to sit on the fence, question, or equivocate about supporting LGBT or homosexuality and same-sex marriages, the individual will have an avalanche of vicious criticism fall on them like a ton of bricks. They will instantly be called homophobe, gay basher, anti-gay, uneducated, uninformed, a reactionary, oppressor, close minded, supporter of human rights abuses, religious conservative fanatic, and Hitler. And these are just the name calling that can be printed.
There is something about the issue that ignites our most primal passions today whether you are for or against the issue. How did we get to a point where most Americans and Westerners are about to accept homosexuality and same sex marriages? Why do individuals still spend so much emotional energy to oppose same sex marriages? Since this author cares deeply about children, how will children turn out during all these tsunami of social changes? What should Zambians think about this because social changes that start in the Western society very quickly often sweep to Zambia through media followed by Western inspired NGO human rights campaigns?
History of Human Sexuality and Gender
Over two hundred thousand years ago when as the first human beings we lived in small bands in Savannah Africa including in Zambia or when God created us, all types of sexual orientations might have existed. Heterosexuality was sexual attraction between people of the opposite sex or between males and females. Homosexuality, gay or being a lesbian was sexual attraction to someone of the same sex. Intersexuality was people whose bodies (including genitals) have both female and male characteristics. Hermaphrodite was an original Greek term which referred to intersexual people who have both female ovary and male testis. Transsexuals are people who feel emotionally they are one sex (male for example) even though biologically they are the other sex (female for example) or vice versa. Bisexuality is sexual attraction to people of both sexes. Asexuality is a biological lack of sexual attraction to people of either sex. Sexual pathologies existed such as pedophilia which is being sexually attracted to children, bestiality having sex with animals, sexual addictions including pornography, peeping toms, nymphomania, sexual phobias, and fetishes all existed. What is the relevance of all this to today’s conflicts about homosexuality and same sex marriages?
Two hundred thousand years ago it was a matter of survival for a man to have genital sex with a woman because that was the only way babies could be created. Because human babies are the most vulnerable and unable to fend for themselves until they are probably about 18 years old, (today it might be as old as 30 years old in some families and countries) marriage between a man and the woman and the extended family were very crucial for human survival. So the very strong culture of monogamous heterosexual sex, marriage, family and kinship were developed. All the cultural rituals and customs including groups such as hunter and gatherer bands, villages, clans, communities, Chiefdoms, and Kingdoms were built on the foundation of the biological productive unity of the monogamous union between the man and the woman. Without highly emphasizing that original heterosexual sex between a man and a woman, we would likely have gone into extinction. I emphasize this point among our earliest first human African ancestors in Chapter 17 in my book: “Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture”. Our human population grew from an estimated18,000 people1.2 million years ago to 7.2 billion in 2015.
Brilliance and Wisdom
The monogamous heterosexual family centered on a man and a woman was found to be the best and most intelligent and wisest way to produce and raise children for survival. Our African ancestors created sufficient strong networks of kinships relationships so that no baby or child was ever an orphan, abandoned and had the best chances of being raised to adulthood. The author was raised in the last days of those historic African village community in the 1950s which he regards today as heaven on earth because as a child he could never have had a more enriching social environment to live and be raised in. It takes a village to raise a child to day is just for the most part a cliché that we are no longer able to live by especially in large cities.
LGBT, Same Sex Marriages, and Homosexuality
Since our reproductive ability, personal physical security and technology have improved so much that there are 7.2 billion of us, there are virtually no threats from nature to humans anymore. Humans should be able to and are going to more freely express their sexual orientations. But the only universal criteria that should be enforced is that everyone should abide by same strong moral code of wholesome sexual conduct that heterosexuals or married men and women have followed and insisted on through customs and reinforced by religious codes for thousands of years. It is when we have all these uniform moral sexual codes that children will be raised in very stable marriages, families and social environments. If people in all kinds of marriages refuse to abide by these strict moral codes, it should not matter what sexual orientation they have, they should not choose to have children. Because it is always the case that when there are so many social changes and upheavals, it is always children that suffer.
Sexual Orientation Changes in Zambia
Since independence in 1964 and the openning of the University of Zambia in 1966, we have never even through formal research paid attention to how our society indigenously and traditionally regarded all these forms of sexual orientation. Because I am sure these forms of sexual orientation have always existed and do exist today. My own interpretation from growing up in the village and informal observations in Zambia over a period of 50 years is that we never took seriously, regarded with hate and disdain informal sexual relationships outside heterosexual relationships between a man and a woman. I am sure going back to two hundred thousand years ago, women had sex with women and even held each other’s hands during the day. Some boys and men had sex or were homosexuals. But all of this may have been ignored and deemed insignificant or unimportant. All the human and collective community effort and energy were sorely focused and invested in heterosexuality. Puberty rituals for girls called Chinamwali (Chewa), Chisungu (Bemba), and Mwalanjo (Lozi) were all preparing the girl for marriage for sex with a future husband who was a man. All boys and men underwent initiation rituals including use of herbs in preparation for marriage and sex with a future wife who was a woman. Although sex itself is enjoyable but its purpose was mainly to produce children that would ensure community survival.
First Night of Heterosexual Marriage
After months of preparation and a wedding ceremony, the first night the newlyweds spent the night together was very crucial. Today we might even laugh about some of the first night rituals. The one I find most fascinating is when Yizenge Chondoka describes in his book: “Traditional Marriages in Zambia”. Chondoka says among the Valley Tonga, after the first night the groom and the bride had spent together:
“To find out how strong the man is, the girl is asked to break a number of short pieces of sticks from along stick according to the number of times they made love the previous night. If, according to the elders’ judgment, the number of broken sticks is less, then they start looking for medicine to help the young man.” (Chondoka, 1988:129)
I make similar descriptions about the first night of the newlyweds:
“If the groom has successfully had sex with her, he tossed hot embers outside the door. This was a symbol of success that brought cheers and ululations to the people gathered outside. The following morning the bride was asked how many times they had made love during the night. Four times was the yardstick. If the man failed to perform, the bride rushed out with the bad news and that could be the end of the marriage.” (Tembo, 2012: 111)
- Chondoka, Yizenge., Traditional Marriages in Zambia: A Study in Cultural History, Ndola: Mission Press, 1988.
- Tembo, Mwizenge S., Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture: Social Change in The Global World, Xlibris, 2012.