A Humanist, Model, Photographer, Researcher, Campaigner, Community builder with expertise in Sexual Health, Human and LGBTQ+ Rights. Alex Kofi Donkor is the founder and current director of LGBT+ Rights Ghana, a movement of mostly young LGBTQA persons who are championing a safe, inclusive and free society for LGBTQI+ persons in Ghana. He studied Development Education at the University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale, and served as Project Manager for Priorities on Rights and Sexual Health (PORSH). He worked on several types of research in HIV/AIDS among gay, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), Such as the Ghana Men Study II, Stigma Study, C5 Study, and JSI-USAID Care Continuum Project.
Alex appeared on many International Television stations, including CNN, BBC, DW TV, Bloomberg, and other media platforms. In July 2021, he was listed in Vogue Magazine as one of 7 Activists fighting to improve LGBTQ+ Rights Across Africa was selected again in December as African of the year by The Continent.
All right, thank you so much. Alex, thank you for your time. I’m excited that we can do this. So, my first question will be, what inspired you to start the LGBTQ community in Ghana?
I think my inspiration comes from personal experience in a sense that before coming to the fullness of my identity as a gay man, I faced many struggles growing up from a Christian home and from a very conservative society like Ghana, where one’s sexuality is demonized, antagonized even before the person gets to know or realize in full view what it means to be an LGBTQ person. So, with that experience, I was very hard on myself growing up because I couldn’t come to terms with how I felt and what was being told to me by the church and then society in general. So, through my university age or stage, I began exploring what it means to be an LGBTQ person and the spectrum in which sexuality and then gender identity takes.
It was at those moments that due to the literature and the information out there, I understood and realized what it means to be gay, bisexual, transgender, and the spectrum to which gender and sexuality take, which was different from what I had been told growing up as being LGBT is demonic and evil. So, having to know and then experience as a queer person living in Ghana inspired me to start this community to empower other queer persons. I had the opportunity to use my university knowledge to research what it means to be queer, which others may not. Therefore, it was necessary to disseminate information on social media pages to persons who might not necessarily be exposed to such information to make informed decisions about their lives and achieve or realize their full potential in the society or the communities in which they live.
Last year was very challenging for the community. The police looted the community center. Twenty-one people were arrested unlawfully for holding a conference, and then a bill will criminalize LGBTQ+ people in Ghana. Now, how are you guys doing physically and mentally?
Yeah, that’s challenging. My simple answer would be that we are just hanging in there. We know and acknowledge the hard times in which we are in now. And to be honest, we anticipated that there would be that time when the nation will be confronted with LGBTQ issues, and we will have to push or fight continuously and move from there. The time we are in now is one that we knew would happen. When you look at movements and human rights struggles worldwide, you realize that what we are experiencing in Ghana is no different from what has happened in other parts of the world. And so, for us, we are hanging in there. We are encouraging ourselves and supporting each other in all of this process because it is challenging and, the fact that, first of all, our security is at stake, so many instances where we’ve received reports of threats, firstly, the police threatened to arrest us, and then different waves of attacks from the media and the public. Even on our social media platforms and my personal social media pages, Oh, you don’t want to see the comments. It is challenging physically and mentally, but we encourage each other because we know these are troubling and challenging times.
What will be the next step for the community if the bill is passed?
“I will be jailed for five years in prison as a gay man and 10years as an activist. Making it 15 years in prison which is just ridiculous as it comes, and this is how draconian this bill is to a 21st-century democracy”.
Yeah, honestly, I cannot begin to imagine the bill’s impact once it is passed. And the reason is that there will be various waves of attacks from different communities across Ghana. We’ve seen incredible attacks on LGBTQ persons, and these perpetrators are doing it with impunity. We have noticed an increase in the eviction of people known or perceived as LGBTQ persons. So, the passage of this bill will only give legitimacy to the increasing abuses and attacks that the community is going through. It also means that I will be jailed for five years in prison as a gay man and 10years as an activist. Making it 15 years in prison which is just ridiculous as it comes, and this is how draconian this bill is to a 21st-century democracy. And it’s an affront to even our constitution that binds us all as Ghanaian citizens. I see this bill as entirely unnecessary, completely useless. It doesn’t serve anyone or any Ghanaian, and, in this case, if I say anyone, I mean the government, families, schools, and institutions, both public and private, any good if anything at all is causing division and a recipe for disaster in the sense that so many groups and families will be divided.
What kind of support do you need as a community?
We need various forms of support. Firstly, financial aid cannot be overemphasized. We are faced with the magnitude of Ghanaians, which means that much work needs to be done. The work that we are doing also requires much workforce. And it’s only fair and best that people at the forefront pushing against this bill can be supported financially. The project, initiatives, and programs that we have introduced can equally be supported to derail this bill and its impacts on human rights and, specifically, on LGBTQ people.
Secondly, Ghana is not an island. Ghana is connected to many other countries in bilateral and multilateral relationships and contracts engagement. Ghana is a proud member of the United Nations and a signatory to almost all the U.N. treaties and conventions and charters and documents. So, there is the need for a soft push from all these international organizations and institutions and individuals and human rights groups and countries to make Ghana aware that in the 21stcentury, this is not allowed and so whatever push that can be targeted towards the governments to expose the impacts of such draconian bill needs to be made. We also have a campaign called “We are all Ghana” to counteract this bill, hashtag on social media called Kill the Bill so people can continuously spotlight and amplify the conversation around We are all Ghana and the hashtag #killthebill to equally push our voices to those that matter within their various society to cause the government to change their mind and attitude towards this bill.
As a leader of the LGBTQ+ community in Ghana, living in an unsafe environment, what is the one quote or motivational word that keeps you going?
One thing that a leader cannot at any point do is to give up. Once you believe and have that conviction about a situation that needs change, fear is the last thing or even possible, shouldn’t be there. One should always believe in oneself, believe in the cause, and continuously push. There is going to be a time that things are going to get better and that is motivating and encouraging enough for every leader to push for change constantly.
Thank you so much, Alex. It was excellent speaking to you.
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