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Call for Submissions: Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Call for Submissions: Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Author: Edit Team

January 21, 2020

The Growing Season

The past 15 years in organizing of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in sub-Saharan Africa have been at once heady and catastrophic. On one hand, the recognition of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities as citizens, rights holders, and health program beneficiaries has strengthened public understanding of the ways in which our community is denied rights, health, and bodily autonomy. On the other hand, public recognition has not uniformly reduced the violence targeted at us by those promoting socio-political exclusion and cultural hegemony. We lurch from crisis to crisis.

Whatever one’s assessment of what these past years mean for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, it cannot be denied that something momentous has happened. Communities of sexual and gender minorities are burgeoning across sub-Saharan Africa. We are in the midst of the samiatuma, the Dioula word for the growing season, a season in which the seeds that we have planted are beginning to take form.

Our task in this edited collection of essays by emerging and established scholars, writers, and activists is to take stock. To take stock of the gains and losses that have been made across the region, the panoply of community structures we have built to be together, to give each other strength, to garner visibility, to demand services, to have fun, to make love. To see if some plants have grown so large that they are blocking others from the sunlight. To reflect upon the progress and the pitfalls of the movements of activists and organizations in struggle. While they are consolidating and growing, these movements are deconstructing and rebuilding, among other things, the ways in which identity, gender, and sexuality are conceived, discussed, addressed, lived, and practiced.

Our organizations and networks involve different practices, and serve different segments of our community. They are also enmeshed in larger networks that span the globe–networks to mobilize money or sympathy or solidarity, networks to lobby departments of health and departments of police, networks to generate and disperse knowledge or “best practices.” The confluence of all of these players acting in concert with, in competition against, despite of, or aided by, each other form the movement. To make sense of this jumble is no simple task, but we find it an invigorating one to ask: are we cultivating common fields?

Naming ourselves (and stipulating the basis for writing “our” here, and not “their”) is no simpler. LGBTI obscures the fact that most people who say LGBTI often really mean G, and at a stretch, B. It also obscures the many ways of naming, describing, and conceptualizing how we move in the world. Rather than a proper noun, we seek a word for those who experience the pleasures and dangers of appearing, playing, living, loving with themselves and with others in unexpected ways.

Names and networks have interiors and exteriors, and centers and peripheries. Looking from the periphery or exterior might serve us in multiple ways. First, we might learn about those groups who did not benefit from the victories we have claimed over the past 15 years. Secondly, we might learn something about the center and the interior: what our organizing is capable of doing, for whom, and what we need new structures for. Third, we learn about power and expand our analyses to include ourselves – those who see themselves as activists in this movement. By facing the possibility of being implicated in unfair and exclusionary structures, of revealing something ugly about ourselves for the purpose of correcting it, we inch closer to the justice and inclusivity of our dreams.

As we select abstracts, we will pay special attention to authors and activists who are exploring the themes below:

Identity and Mobilizing

  •     Who is included among members of organizations and who is excluded?
  •     What new identities have we created through our organizing?
  •     How do HIV activism and human rights activism shape our politics?

Goals and Utopias

  •     Why do we organize? What do we want to change? What kind of future do we want?
  •     What kinds of pasts do we use as material for our utopias?


  •     What obstacles must we overcome to become a more inclusive movement and network of movements?
  •     Where are we failing and who are we leaving out?

Theories / Political Economy

  •     What are the ideas we use for understanding power in the world?
  •     What are the ideas we struggle against?


  •     What organizational forms do we use to organize? Are they useful or not?
  •     What new kinds of forms are emerging? Should be explored?


Abstract submissions should be sent by June 15, 2020 to We welcome a variety of formats (essays, memoirs, speeches, speculative fiction, etc.).

Abstracts can be submitted in either English or French although French-language writers should know that the book will be published through an English-language press.

Abstracts should be 750 – 1000 words and accompanied by a brief biography of the author(s). Writers are welcome to revise former speeches and presentations for submission as chapter abstracts as long as they have not been previously published.


KELETSO MAKOFANE is a South African activist and researcher focusing on social epidemiology – how illness is shaped by social forces in populations. He has co-authored peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and reports on HIV among gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men. As a member of various working groups and committees he advocates for stronger, more inclusive, and community-centered HIV programs. In 2016, Keletso won the Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research and Community Advocacy and was nominated as an IOL Young Independent – a list of 100 young South Africans who are leading, trailblazing and excelling in their fields. He is currently a member of the governing council for the International Aids Society – the largest association of people who work in the global HIV response–and a doctoral candidate at Harvard University.

MARK CANAVERA is a writer, humanitarian aid worker and activist. His humanitarian efforts focus on youth empowerment and child and family welfare in settings impacted by conflict such as former child soldier reintegration in northern Uganda, small arms control in Senegal, girls education promotion in Burkina Faso, and child welfare system reform in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. Mark was a founding editor of the Harvard Africa Policy Journal and served on the editorial staff of the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy. He received Harvard University’s prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Award for Public Service in 2008 and the 1996 award for Best Feature Writing from the South Carolina Press Association.  He was a co-founder of the Rustin Fund for Global Equality, which galvanizes political and financial support for LGBTI groups worldwide.

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