Recently I listened to an episode of Candelo’s Corner entitled ‘Palo and Homosexuality‘. I’ve been listening to the show for roughly the past two years. It had been recommended to me by my yayi who found it a good resource for learning outside of the munanso. This summer it’ll be a year since I’ve been initiated ngueyo. But here’s a fun fact: I’m also transgendered and queer. So, when I found out Candelo finally decided to tackle this thorny subject, I decided to take a listen and see what he has to say about it.
What I found interesting right off the bat was that, although Tata Candelo mentioned that there were other prominent gay paleros, he did not mention who these gay paleros were. I can understand from a safety or a privacy standpoint, or perhaps not wanting to ‘call anyone out’. Which, to me, beggars the question of what kind of environment people are cultivating, that to be “out” as queer in Palo is a bad or dangerous thing? What I also found interesting was that there was not one Palero within the GLBTQA that called in to speak out and share their story. The entire show was other heteronormative people discussing homosexuality in Palo. Most of these people aside from the tatas speaking on the show had very little or no experience with Palo, their experience falling within the circles of neopaganism and wicca. Neopaganism, wicca and satanism has no bearing on Palo, and can’t even be compared. Where are the queer Palo voices, and why are they not speaking?
Of course you understand these are rhetorical questions, presented to the reading audience. The answers seem obvious. In this case, silence speaks louder the answer to said questions. But silence isn’t going to work. Silence also perpetuates bullshit. I think it’s high time we cut out the bullshit and start the discourse. Ultimately, I don’t care what you do in your munanso. Your munanso, your spirits, your business. But who are we to judge who is and isn’t to be initiated based on sexual orientation? In another broadcast, Tata Candelo discusses how sexuality has absolutely no bearing within the ATRs. He is, of course, entirely correct. So, the question I would like to ask is, if sexuality and sexual matters have no place within the ATRs, why is it such an issue what someone’s sexual orientation is? In fact there are quite a few issues, which I’ll break down nicely. These I pulled both from my observations of co-religionists, from the radio show, and from discussing matters within my own munanso.
The gays will fall in love with the ngangas!
I’m starting out with this one first, because it is, by far, the most ridiculous. The idea behind this being that, since the ngangas throw off so strongly such masculine and macho energy, the homosexual will fall in love with the nganga. This, to me, is a nonissue. What about the feminine gendered ngangas? They do exist, and they aren’t to be trifled with. There isn’t an issue with tatas falling in love with female ngangas, is there? Also, why is this not an issue for women within the
religion falling in love with ngangas? Is it because of an
assumption that women are seen as objects with no sexual assertiveness
of their own, or is it because men are more hypersexual and thusly
unable to control themselves? Both assumptions are equally problematic. But then again, to me the issue boils down to this: If you have someone (anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation) getting as randy as a damn horse over ngangas or other spirits and spirit-vessels (let alone the serious sexual misconduct that can occur between heterosexuals in munansos), then this is a serious issue with the person independent of any sort of orientation whatsoever. This person should have been weeded out in the beginning, NOT for being a homosexual, but for having some sort of sexual and/or impulse control disorder, in which case said person should be seeking professional therapy instead of initiation!
Why is sexuality being brought up AT ALL, if sex has no place within the ATRs? But moving right along.
Gay people aren’t part of the balanced lifecycle/Homosexuality is unnatural/etc
This statement also makes absolutely no sense. Same-sex interactions exist everywhere. They are found in nature in numerous animal species. To the people who subscribe to this sort of thing: do these people mean to say that Nsambi makes mistakes? What made these people the final arbiters on what the natural lifecycle is or what it should be? Much of this line of thinking falls into the whole reproduction argument, which I will be addressing in a later section. But to pronounce that someone or something is “unnatural” just because it threatens your sense of manhood only betrays a severe ignorance and lack of comprehension on how the natural world actually works.
It’s Tradition! It’s always been this way/The Ancestors were never gay, etc.
How do you know that there were never any queer ancestors? To assume that there weren’t is the highest form of arrogance and presumptuousness. Basic logic and facts point to yes–there were many queer dead, just as there are many queer people living now. Abrahamic faiths, colonialism and slavery are really damn good at completely fucking up entire cultural dynamics and spiritual systems. Do these people who perpetuate this line of thinking dare to be the final arbiter of ancestral will? Or so they only pick and choose who they will speak for, because their supposed manhood would obviously be too threatened? It all goes back to the whole idea of sorting the wheat from the chaff, of sorting what is in fact true messages from the Bakulu, and what is meatsuit nonsense–personal opinions and politics and insecurities. There are some that may say that’s exactly what I’m doing, and so be it. But their argument would be entirely irrelevent. By completely ignoring or denying the existence of queer ancestors, what right would they have to judge me? That those who are queer are so “unnatural” that they can’t leave ancestors? An argument that stands on very shakey ground when you consider that even basic human familial ties transcend genetic relations and breeding.
This all then brings me to my final argument…
Fertility and Reproduction: Homosexuals cannot create life, birth, and etc
There is quite a big difference between “birthing” in a ritual sense and birthing in a literal one. People in same-sex partnerships can and do have children, this has been happening throughout recorded history and beyond. There is a very prominent double-standard at play that persons who are sterile due to medical reasons are still welcome to seek initiation into Palo. In many munansos, a woman isn’t allowed to receive an nganga until she reaches menopause. So clearly, medical ability to produce children has no bearing in initiation status. It only seems to become an issue when LGBTQ persons are involved. However, if sexuality has no place within the ATRs, then who someone is attracted to (or not attracted to), and what the structure of anatomy a person has, should have absolutely no bearing upon birthing in the context of ceremony. Sexuality and attraction should have no bearing and no place in ceremony. Full stop.
Let me make this clear: This isn’t about trying to soothe hurt feelings, or putting on kid gloves or powdering asses. This isn’t about being ‘politically correct’. I’m not here to strike down tradition or go against the grain. But what is ‘tradition’ needs to evolve. I don’t give a fuck what you do in your house. What you do with your spirits and your people is your business, and I’m not about to jab my nose in your business. So hey, don’t jab your nose in mine. Gay and queer Paleros DO exist. Whether or not you feel they are or aren’t legitimate is entirely irrelevant. The final arbiters are the Nkisi, Spirits, and Bakulu. They have final stay on who goes and who stays. Regardless of your feelings, this isn’t going to go away. Let actions and let the manifestations speak for themselves. And I would like very much to thank Tata Candelo for having the coconuts to bring this topic up and get people talking about this. Dialogue is important, and ultimately the only way for traditions and human bonds to strengthen is through the vehicle of dialogue, which hopefully will give way to understanding in time. For those of you who read this far, thanks and Nsala Malecu.
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