The African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) has embarked on a competition to give a platform to African LGBT communities to celebrate and express their diverse sexual identities.
Explaining the aim of the competition Tendai T. Thondhlana of AMSHeR said, “Firstly, it is about celebrating and expressing the LGBT sexual identities.”
He added, “In most African countries and indeed in many countries in the world, homosexuality receives so much negativity from religion, tradition, politics and law and individuals who identify as homosexual or who engage in same-sex sexual behaviours feel ashamed and guilty for being who they are.”
Thondhlana explained, “With this competition, we want LGBTI people to embrace who they are and have reason to express and celebrate their sexualities. We are who we are and we need to value and love ourselves and eventually other people around us will follow suit.”
Thondhlana emphasised that with the competition AMSHeR wants “To shed light on the lives and the existence of the LGBT community in Africa, and do so in a positive way.”
He added, “It has been the argument of politicians, and other decision makers that same-sex loving people simply do not exist in their countries and whenever there is talk of gays and lesbians, it is within the context of murders, violent attacks, HIV, STIs and sacrilege.”
Thondhlana argued, “We would like to bring the positive human element by showing that LGBT people are human beings and hold the same normative values as all people do. We have families, go to work, have homes and are a real component of any community or society. We are not defined by our sexualities but are regular people taking part in everyday existence. We are African.”
Participants have until midnight on October 31, 2011 to enter. The most creative, fun picture will win an Acer eMachine Netbook, the first runner up will win a Nintendo Wii and the second runner up will win an Apple iPod Shuffle 2GB.
Clarifying the criteria Thondhlana said “Winning images will be those that are authentically African and are fun and creative. I realise that this is a vague description, but we don’t want to put a cap on anyone’s creativity. Have a go and have fun with it. Be expressive.”
He added, “That having been said, images that give a sense of an African environment would be ideal. We would like to see diversity and spatiality in all the images collectively and the most authentic and creative image will win top prize. All submitted images MUST contain our logo to be valid.”
Taking note of the legal situation in many African countries, Thondhlana said, “I want to emphasize that it is NOT necessary that one takes a picture of oneself or have their face in the image. The sad reality is that there can be negative consequences to doing that, so we advise entrants to keep their individual safety in mind and exercise due discretion. It also goes without saying that explicit nudity, blood and gore and other such images will not be considered and members of our Facebook community found to have submitted such risk banishment. Let’s keep it tasteful and clean.”
To take part in the competition, Thondhlana explained, one has to ‘Like’ the AMSHeR Facebook page and thus become a member and “then you will be able to post your image directly on our wall. Alternatively you can e-mail your image to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will upload it on your behalf.”
He added, “We encourage people to enter, not only to add their voice to the call for the empowerment of LGBT people but also and simply because, we have awesome prizes that must be given away.”
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