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Biography Essay Horror Humanities Journal/Diary Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities

By Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, 2021

A significant contribution to anthropology, history, and gender studies that reveals the denials of homosexuality in traditional and contemporary African societies to be rooted in colonialist ideologies. Among the many myths created about Africa, the claim that homosexuality and gender diversity are absent or incidental is one of the oldest and most enduring. Historians, anthropologists, and many contemporary Africans alike have denied or overlooked African same-sex patterns or claimed that such patterns were introduced by Europeans or Arabs. In fact, same-sex love and nonbinary genders were and are widespread in Africa. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands documents the presence of this diversity in some fifty societies in every region of the continent south of the Sahara. Essays by scholars from a variety of disciplines explore institutionalized marriages between women, same-sex relations between men and boys in colonial work settings, mixed gender roles in east and west Africa, and the emergence of LGBTQ activism in South Africa, which became the first nation in the world to constitutionally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Also included are oral histories, folklore, and translations of early ethnographic reports by German and French observers. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands was the first serious study of same-sex sexuality and gender diversity in Africa, and this edition includes a new foreword by Marc Epprecht that underscores the significance of the book for a new generation of African scholars, as well as reflections on the book’s genesis by the late Stephen O. Murray. This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to the generous support of the Murray Hong Family Trust. Access the book online at the SUNY Open Access Repository at “Will Roscoe’s books have been a great inspiration to me, and a great education as well. Growing up queer in a conservative Christian household in the 1980s and ’90s, I came to believe that my love was a sin, punishable by eternal fire. His book Queer Spirits: A Gay Men’s Myth Book gave me my first clue as a teenager that my queerness could be beautiful—even spiritual. His book Changing Ones then helped me begin to understand the extent to which queer people of color have been excluded and erased from the ‘official’ histories we are all taught in school. More recently, in my work as a scholar of Black queer history, I have joyously returned to Boy-Wives and Female Husbands again and again. Each time I learn something new about our African queer ancestors, their lives, their loves, and their forgotten role in the many cosmologies of the mother continent.” — Channing Gerard Joseph, University of Southern California

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