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10 June 2009

Black Gay Male Spectatorship in the United States The Reception of the films Dakan and Woubi Cheri

Gender and Representation Series
Black Gay Male Spectatorship in the United States. The Reception of the films Dakan and Woubi Cheri by Beti Ellerson. First published in Africultures, 23 October 2008
Screen captures from Dakan and Woubi Cheri

In his critique of Mohamed Camara’s Dakan in Ecrans d’Afrique 20, 1997, Burkinabé film critic Clément Tabsoba highlights the role that African filmmakers have taken on to address pressing issues in their societies. He questions however, the relevance of the subject of homosexuality as an example. In the case of Dakan, Tapsoba also raises longstanding questions in African cinema criticism: For whom do African filmmakers make films? What message are they presenting to their audience? In rather harsh terms he suggested that Camara’s film was more about his interest in western tastes than African audiences. My project evolves from a desire to further address Tapsoba’s concerns in a different way; to explore black gay male spectatorship in the West, specifically the United States, as it relates to the film Dakan, which was well received among gay men. Tapsoba makes a point and then asks a question: "Homosexuality has become a fact of society in the west. What is the situation of this phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa and how can we interpret it through the film Dakan" ? A question I may ask is, did Mohamed Camara make his film Dakan to please a western audience curious about the subject of homosexuality in Africa? During my interview with him he gives a categorical « no ». In fact, he goes on to state that he was quite surprised at the overwhelming interest in the film by gay black men in the United States.

It is true that the film’s trajectory among the U.S. gay public was very different from the majority of African films. While attending a screening of the film hosted by a black gay male group in Washington DC in 1999, I was struck by the audience interaction with the film Dakan and the questions posed to the filmmaker Mohamed Camara afterwards. I later interviewed Mr. Camara and based several of my questions on the discussion session after the screening. In this project I want to explore black gay male responses to identities, masculinities and homosexualities in relationship to the films Dakan and Woubi Cheri, especially in light of recent developments in men and masculinities studies. While Camara was eager to begin a debate of a controversial and « taboo » subject, he was not in the habit of coming face to face with an informed audience of gay black men who were familiar with western debates on homosexualities in Africa and who were prepared to take the discussion further than « opening a dialogue of homosexuality in Africa », Camara’s stated reason for making the film. The audience was prepared to have a much more complex discussion on African masculinities and identities and the diversity of homosexualities and sexualities. Masculinities studies as a theoretical framework provide the opportunity to frame the conversations with black gay men on spectatorship and the visualization of homosexualities to better discern the tensions that took place during the debate after of the screening of Dakan as well as to appreciate the existing dialogue on homosexualities and subjectivities as was evident in the organized screening and discussion of Woubi Cheri for this project. A masculinities studies approach provides a framework for discussing the tension between the « straight » filmmaker of a film about homosexual love and the gay black men who had multiple-layered responses to the film.

When the film Dakan hit the scene in the United States, it was welcomed enthusiastically in black gay communities. African gay men living in the United States expressed excitement at seeing images that reflected their experiences, feeling a sense of affirmation and visibility. The film had « Africanized gayness », by presenting African specificities of homosexuality. Many gay film festivals included Dakan in their film listings. As a critic of African cinema, I began to take notice that gay communities had given the film another life outside of the general African film circuit in which the majority of African films circulate. The film had become a kind of manifesto both for gay Africans who live in the West as well as black gays of African descent. At the same time other non-black gay men showed a strong identification with the film as a universal story of same-gender love.

The film was screened several times in Washington DC during filmmaker Mohamed Camara’s tour in the United States in 1999. A screening was organized by the Black Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Coalition. The majority of the audience was comprised of black gay men. The debate held after the screening revealed both the level of interest that black gay men from the African Diaspora had in getting more specific information about homosexuality in Africa, and it also showed the level of affirmation that African men experienced. In one instance a man came to the open microphone to express his pride in being a homosexual from Senegal and stated that it was the second time that he had seen the film and was deeply touched by it. After receiving applause from the audience, he thanked Camera in the name of the entire gay population. He stated that the film had pulled back the curtains of hypocrisy.

Several of the African Diasporan men recounted specific details that they had heard about homosexuality in Africa and were looking for even more information from Camara. After the event, I discussed the film and debate with some of the men who were in attendance. They expressed their frustration that Camara was not able to give them a deeper understanding or perhaps more detail about homosexual life in Africa. For instance, they wanted to know if in fact the scene at the end of the film was realistic, that a homosexual couple could go away and live their lives together. Could two people in a homosexual relationship really live openly together, at least in Guinea? Another person wanted to know about homosexual experiences beyond the « fete divas » and « party dandies » that Camara described as his knowledge of homosexuality in Africa. According to him, these « effeminate men » were accepted in some circles-especially among women-as entertainers.

During the debate one man said to Camara:

You stated that the first time that you met or saw a homosexual was when you were in Europe at the age of twenty-three, I wonder if you could tell us a little about your earlier years back home in Guinea, what you experienced in the way of stories that you heard, or any other type of information you received vis-à-vis homosexual life or homosexuality in Guinea or other parts of Africa for that matter.

He further stated:

I have a friend from Africa who told me stories about growing up that revealed a rich life, perhaps not equivalent to homosexuality or homosexual lifestyles as is known in U.S. culture, but that there was the existence of homosexuality and that there was mention of these experiences during the generation of his parents and grandparents.

Camara replied:

It is true that gay relationships or homosexuality presented in the film is not the way that it is viewed by the great majority of people in my country. Homosexuality is very much accepted in the community. The reason is simple, in people’s view a male homosexual is someone who is very feminine and who imitates women, they are the friends of women or they are close with women. So when there is a party or a social gathering it is the homosexuals who come to make the party alive. Because they know how to do the traditional dances, they dance well and they make people laugh. So in that sense homosexuals are very accepted and integrated into society. But the minute that you say that a homosexual is a man who makes love with another man or a woman who makes love with another woman that is when the problem starts. Because they don’t even understand how that is possible. So there is a certain level of confusion in people’s understanding about the situation.

In the context of my project on black gay male spectatorship, I found that the film Woubi Cheri (1998) by Philip Brooks and Laurent Bocahut served as a follow-up of sorts to Dakan in the sense that it provided answers to some of the questions posed by black gay audiences in the United States vis à vis homosexuality in Africa. While Dakan presents a fictionalized version of what could happen between two lovers in a same-gender relationship, Woubi Cheri presents a documented reality of some men in same-gender relationships.

During several discussions after screenings of Dakan and Woubi Cheri, I was able to get an array of responses from black gay men regarding their impressions of the films. The first gathering was an informal discussion held after the screening of Dakan at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, « Reel Affirmations, » among whom were several gay men from various parts of Africa who expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about being able to see representations of themselves and their experiences on screen, they were especially excited about seeing the film at a movie house at full-capacity on a big screen. There was a clear level of euphoria that they could for once leave a movie theater and discuss images and experiences that reflect them.

The second informal discussion took place with two men, from Africa and the African Diaspora. Both had seen Dakan as well as Woubi Cheri, thus the discussion centered on a comparison between the two films. Both identified more closely with Dakan. The African Diasporan man felt that Dakan fit more into his ideal of a relationship with another man. While it was a fictional account he felt more in touch with its characters and their romance. It was the way he would like to imagine the representation of homosexual love. While Woubi Cheri was a non-fiction account, he felt more removed from it. It did not represent for him how he lives out his life as a gay man. The African man also felt that Dakan reflected more realistically his experiences as a gay African man. He expressed disappointment in Woubi Cheri, asking why it had to focus so much on the « excesses » of that life. Why did they have to show drag queens and transvestites, why couldn’t they show just regular gay people? While he was not embarrassed, he appeared to be concerned about the general impressions that outsiders would have. He felt that because there were not many films about gay Africans, this film might leave the impression as the definitive representation. I suggested to him that perhaps these men had less to lose by « coming out » publicly on film than other men who preferred to be less visible. I asked him would he have been willing to come out in this film. He agreed that he is dealing with the issue of « coming out » in a videotaped presentation of a performance group of African gays and lesbians. The group is dealing with the whole issue of audience. The members are asking the question, « who are they really 'coming out' to in terms of presenting their work publicly? »

The third session was organized for the express purpose of discussing black gay male reception to the film Woubi Cheri. Most of the people in attendance had never seen an African film before. The majority in attendance had not seen Dakan. I told the group the purpose of my project; I asked an initial question and from that point, the group engaged in a discussion with each other.

I asked the group how many of them had ever seen an African film before Dakan or Woubi Cheri, the majority said they had not. I asked the same question while waiting in the long line to get tickets to see Dakan at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Most of the people that I queried also said they had not. While it is true that in the United States African films in general are not released in commercial movie houses and on rare occasions--outside of film festivals-are programmed in art houses, Dakan and Woubi Cheri were embraced by a group who generally do not go to see African films. Also, both films have been screened in various black gay social venues around the United States. My preliminary research in black gay male spectatorship as it relates to these two films confirms the long held attitude that specific groups, whoever they may be, seek to find what the Washington DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival title suggests « Reel Affirmations »--a play on the homonyms, « reel » and « real » the former in terms of film, and the latter in terms of the actual--an affirmation of their experiences and life.

During the group discussion, an African Diasporan man from the United States talked about what he perceived to be similarities between gay life in the United States and Africa in the film Woubi Cheri:

While I had never seen an African film before, I was amazed that the gay life in Africa was as similar to the gay life in America. We have always heard that there is no gay life in Africa or that there is a very small gay population. From the film, you can see that there is a gay life and at every level, lesbians, homosexuals, drag queens, bisexuals. If you were to take people out of that setting and bring them here, it just matches very well.

Another African Diasporan man felt moved by Woubi Cheri:
I found it to be inspiring, as an African American gay man it is always inspiring to see other people of color who are gay, willing to take risks to be who they are, so for me it was touching in some ways, and I appreciated the opportunity to see it.

The transgender aspect of the film drew the attention of several men:

#1: I enjoyed the trans-genders in the film because I did not think that Woubi Cheri was--well not unbelievable--but I certainly imagined that there were experiences of other gay men. I thought it was good to see trans-gender people, I don’t know that I necessarily see trans-genders on the continuum of homosexuality but I like seeing that it is a calling, something innate and it was good for me to see them choosing to live what they felt inside, and I thought that was encouraging.

#2: I thought that it was interesting that the trans-gender people became the focus of the film. It leaves a question as to what extent it is an aspect of gay life in Africa, as opposed to the gay life in Africa. I suspect that it is an aspect of gay life in Africa as in America; where with most gay Africans, like gay black Americans, we are less out front about who we are.

#3: Barbara (1) is fascinating; she is so good!! They should just bring her here. You know it is interesting that drag queens have always been in the front, on the line of the gay movement. She is such a good example of that; she is so good at disarming people’s fears and prejudices.

#4: I think that happens with trans-genders even in our [U.S.] society. I think of RuPaul and how society picked that one to accept and to put her in an old navy commercial, have her own talk show; she is somewhat mainstream. But, on many levels I still see most societies treating trans-genders like they use to treat African Americans, as minstrels; « It is okay to entertain me and make me laugh, and yes she can come to my parties and add a certain amount of color. But, I don’t know if I am really going to accept you, or invite you to my church or join my social organizations or anything like that, but it is okay if you entertain me. »

The above statement confirmed the predominant attitude regarding the « queen » or « folle » that Camara described as the general impression that he and many other Africans have of homosexual men.

The idea of family within gay communities was also a point of comparison. One figure in the film, Laurent, stated: « your real family is the one you create. Nobody has to hide anything. » As is discussed below, in the film Paris is Burning by Jenny Livingston (1990), the family, as part of a « house » is an important social outlet for some gay men.

One comment was made:

It was interesting to see how they have to carve out their own families. In the same general population, many times we have to do the same thing--carve out our own families. Family has a different terminology and a different definition and to be in a position where you are in a community that is welcoming and embracing--many times we choose our neighborhoods and places we go and the things that we do because of the comfort level, of not being chastised or ridiculed. It was much the same in the film and I find that to be interesting. It was very enlightening, heartfelt, and affirming.

The African member of the audience talked about his experiences with both Dakan and Woubi Cheri as well the general responses he receives as a gay African in the United States:

Being African and being gay, I was not at all surprised to see these kinds of films about Africa because I have been through this, seeing these boys coming out. I hope that we have more and more people seeing these kinds of films, so that these people who ask these questions about homosexuality in Africa after seeing films like this will no longer do so. I have been asked: « what is the difference between an African gay and an African American gay. » The question was a surprise to me because a gay is a gay. I do not see the difference. People ask me does my family know and so on. But yet, here in the United States there are many, many gay people who are not out to their families.

Two comments were made:

#1: There are reasons for black Americans to think that there are no gays in Africa because there are religious and social groups here that tell us that there is no such thing as gays in Africa and I was told that if they were, they would be stoned, which is shocking in itself.
#2: Well there is this whole myth that when homosexuality exists among blacks it is a white « disease » and it came from white people and it is not something indigenous to or inherent to African people. It is white, bizarre and perverted.

Drawing from the film, Woubi Cheri, the group had varying perspectives regarding what they perceived to be supportiveness and tolerance of homosexuality in Africa.

#1: I found it interesting that there seems to be a level of tolerance that I saw in the film among the straight community. I was thinking had that been filmed here in America would the response have been the same. People did not seem to be « freaked » out by it. I don’t know if that would necessarily have been the case here. I did not see any gay bashing, I am sure homophobia exists in Africa; I think I got a bit more knowledge about the attitudes. They seemed to be more tolerant. It did not seem to be such a big deal and people who talked about it disclosed it to their family. Here it is uncommon for people to disclose to their families. But it appeared that the family was very supportive. I did not hear about people being beat up, people were actually celebrating. Again, I don’t know if I could have seen that here. I think that there can be a lesson learned, that the African community…well it is our nature [as black people] to be more tolerant and we should give ourselves more credit.

#2: I hope you are right but Barbara did talk about being stoned during the daytime.

#3: And they wanted to have parties only in certain communities because they thought it was safer.

#4: They also said that they wanted to be away from journalists who came out of curiosity. They wanted to have some level of privacy.

#5: There did not seem to be anybody who was homophobic, repulsed, or opposed.

#6: I am sure that they could have walked up to the average person and gotten the homophobic response. I think for this kind of film they were trying to show the positive aspects of being a gay person. They did not show any lesbians in the film, which may have been more balanced.

#7: This just proves that the goals of gay life are the same, to be whom you are and to enjoy your life.

#8 (white audience member): I wonder how they selected the straight people, the two women that Barbara was talking to and then the group of guys. I wonder if the producers picked out people who appeared more sensitive than others. And asked them would they be willing to talk about gender issues. Maybe nine out of ten refused but the ones that we finally saw agreed. Documentaries are not as objective as people think they are. When I visited Senegal, for instance, I never saw people as comfortable talking about gay sex. This is the second time that I have seen the film [Woubi Cheri] and I see more the second time, and I would love to see it a third time since I will be able to pick up even more from the subtitles. It is wonderful that there is a complexity in the social structure...In terms of how the straight people were selected. Barbara seemed to have a relationship to the two women. They did not seem to be strangers. They know people themselves, and they know who is going to be receptive and who is going to be friendly.

#9: From what I saw from the film it seems like a great place to go if you are gay (laughter).

#10: Yes I am thinking that is where I wanted to be.

The African member of the audience gave a different perspective about responses to homosexuality in Africa, suggesting that the level of tolerance is different from country to country. At the same time, he agrees with the attitudes that Camara expressed about the general stereotypes that people hold about a gay person:

It is not easy being gay in Africa. It is not easy to just say so openly that you are gay, perhaps it exists in Cote d’Ivoire, but it is not that way in Senegal, people are not as free to be open. People will get beaten up. I remember only one person openly cross-dressing in Senegal. He was a very famous gay. Gorjigeens (2) are what one may call the « folles » or queens, they are entertainers who cross-dress and perform at weddings and parties. They dance and make the guests laugh. They are not like the young gay men that you see in Cote d’Ivoire having intimate relationships. It is difficult to come out in Africa. I came out when I was seventeen, for five years my father did not talk to me at all. My mother did not talk to me for three months. It is hard; it is not easy.

Labeling and role playing within couples was also a point of comparison:

#1: One person in the film said that he refused categorically to be put into labels. But yet it was clear that he fit into the category of yossi (3), where he was not « effeminate » and he was clearly the « male, » and I guess that meant in role-playing also, he was going to be the « top » so to speak. I doubt that you will find a yossi who would bottom. So they are still fitting into these sorts of categories. That is sort of primitive lingo. None of us here likes to discuss our sexuals that way. Everyone protests, « oh I want to get beyond that stuff. » And it is true it is kind of BS [bullsh*t]. He says he wants to get beyond those definitions, yet he is still planting them. He is a yossi, why can’t a guy who wants to be a « normal » guy, i.e. non-feminine, why can’t he be the bottom, it doesn’t look like they give themselves the opportunity. If you are going to bottom then you are going to be a woubi. So it’s complex but it’s simple.

#2: That’s sort of typical here to. We use roles as well, butch/femme, top/bottom; it’s the same.

#3: In Senegal too, gorjigeens, act feminine, they want to be the wife, they want a man as a husband. Similar to the roles of butch and femme here.

#4: I remember during the debate after Dakan when the audience asked Mohamed Camara did he know any gay people and he said « no! » He meant no, in the context of how he presented it in the film, men loving men. Men overtly expressing love for each other, he said no. And the people in the audience could not accept his denial. He said well, in fact I only knew them as the entertainers, as the « folles », « queens » who would come to parties and give everybody a good time. And so, they would never be taken seriously. Heaven forbid if they start saying, « I love him, we make love together. » It is as if to say: wait a minute; you can dress up, as long as it is fun and we are entertained but that it is only to this extent.

#5: In fact, this is the same attitude regarding the gorjigeens in Senegal, but at the same time, if I could talk about the scenario in Dakan, I don’t think it is realistic either. That was not something that I lived in Senegal.

#6: If I could compare this film with Paris is Burning and look at the ball scene and the houses (4), we notice that the role models for the drag queens were white women. What I found interesting in Woubi Cheri, was that, while you did have some who wore lipstick and straight wigs--and of course Barbara, who seems to have studied every mannerism of a westernized woman--you had the head wraps and the boubous, so that even when there was the cross-dressing, there was that African aspect to it and I found that interesting, it was not always the emulation of westernized white women in terms of make-up, hair and dress.

#7: Talking about Paris is Burning in another context, I think it is interesting that when we were talking about a timeline, I don’t think that Africa, in terms of the gay community, is so far behind us. People talked about when Paris is Burning came out that this would be the new thing and there were going to be all these black gay representations on the screen and that did not happen and Paris is Burning came out less than ten years ago and there has not been a major influx. And now there have been two films, and of course, Africa is not a single country. There have not been many other black gay films in the United States, beyond Marlon Riggs.

#8 (white audience member): I was struck that one of the men [in Woubi Cheri] was a seer. You think for instance in Native American culture, where gays are accepted they are made to fill a role almost as a spiritual character. Vincent appeared to rise above the categories of gender and he could be whatever he wanted to be, his relationship with the older woman was full of imagery. The two of them were spiritual leaders almost. It is almost as if there has to be this obligatory visual representation of the gay man who is a spiritual character. Whereas Paris is Burning, which is an incredible film--actually the first time that I saw Woubi Cheri was in tandem with Paris is Burning, it was a very self-conscious pairing, there were many parallels made--but, there was not the spiritual character like Vincent who rose above it all, throwing cowry shells to predict the future.

#9: Yes it was incredible, I found it interesting that the man who came to see the seer was also gay and the reading was a prediction about his future relationship with another man. I also found it interesting that Vincent’s experiences were presented as « a glance in the life of an Ivoirian man ».

#10: I was struck by the range of people; we saw a cross-section of gays with different identities, and we saw the yossi, the woubis and the transgenders.

The audience members discussed the demographics of gay representation in the United States. The discussion was in response to a comment about how homosexuality is experienced in an African village from which ensued a comparison with gay life in small town USA.

#1: I found it interesting in terms of class or social milieu, I found that there was a glimpse of the life of gay men in popular areas of the city, to some extent in the outskirts of the city as well as the rural areas, in very simple, everyday neighborhoods.

#2 (white audience member): My first experience in Africa was two and a half years in a village. Naturally, I contrast my first experiences on the continent with that. In the village there is nothing like anything we see in Dakan. I saw Paris is Burning when it came out a long time ago so it is good to have that kind of association now, Paris is Burning was a very foreign experience to me. Very urban in that sense. In rural communities, I did not see any of that; it is not talked about. In a village, a man is expected to have a wife or two or three or four, and to have as many children as possible and get a plot of land. Yes he may travel and go to town and so on, but this manifestation of gayness would not be an experience of people in the rural areas, nor would it be something that would, from my impression, be talked about and considered to be a kind of life outside of traditional male, female roles, which is the whole fabric of society, the kinship and the agrarian-based society and so I think it is a very urban phenomenon. You would see it in Abidjan, or in a big city, but I don’t think you would see it just anywhere. And people who grew up in small towns here in the United States; gay men get out of their small towns and go to big cities where they can find their own families. I think it is an interesting contrast, and even in the villages here in the United States people say, » oh no we don’t have that here, it is not in the village », and it is a conception of… it’s just like a villager saying they have never seen a two storey building, or they hadn’t seen the ocean or what have you, it is not a part of people’s reality.

#3: I think that is what people mean when they ask the question that someone mentioned earlier about gay people in Africa. I had the impression that there are gay people in small town America, there is not necessarily a gay life you may have a couple of gay friends but nobody else knows they are gay, of course, and then you live your role to your family, you perhaps get married you have children. I don’t think that a lot of people feel there are no gay people in Africa, but is there a gay life? Because « gay life » is a very western concept, and a form based on constructs in industrialized societies and notions of « modernity ». Many of us are brave, but we choose to be brave still when we leave home, when we leave whatever town we are from, we come to the big city, we come to Washington DC, or we go to New York and then we live this « gay » life. But I know many people who did not live that life when they were in their particular community.

#4: There is no social context within which to really act out ones gayness in Africa; other than South Africa, there are no gay bars.

#5: Or the whole notion of « coming out » is a more recent phenomenon itself in the United States. So it is very interesting to have this film from Africa where they were certainly coming out on screen to be seen by thousands of people.

#6 (white audience member): I also wonder what was the impression of the people in this film, that this film was going to be distributed in Abidjan or is this something that is going to be taken across the water and distributed in Europe and the United States.

#7: That is an interesting question, what were the expectations of the participants, what did they feel? I also wonder if they generally felt, that they had nothing to lose.

#8: Even within the gay community here in the U.S., not everybody would accept being in this film. It is not being afraid that your family is going to see it. It is something about a sense of privacy.

I found during these discussions, that African gay men felt a powerful affirmation from the attention that African gayness received, African Diasporans exhibited a sense of shared experience with their continental brothers and felt a strong sense of parallel experiences. And while it was not overtly stated, there was also a sense that Africans were not so different than African Diasporans, thus debunking false perceptions that the U.S. media presents of Africans in general, which often cause misconceptions and alienation by African Diasporans. I also felt that other men of color as well as white men felt affirmed that the diverse homosexualities and masculinities were universal.

The two films released in short intervals added an important element to the discussion on spectatorship and African films among the gay men of different racial and cultural backgrounds. In African cinema discourse, there is often the question: « for whom are African films made? » especially since so few Africans on the continent actually get to see these films. Since my query focuses on spectatorship in the United States, I will say that if films like Dakan and Woubi Cheri initially attract the attention of people in search of a commonality vis-à-vis their sexual orientation, because they also show African faces, life and the reality of Africa in general then it serves a larger purpose. I remember hearing about a gay African Diasporan man stating after seeing Dakan that he was struck by the close-up images of African faces on the screen. These were faces, with features and dark pigmentation that he never sees on U.S. television and movie screens, unless it is to ridicule or stereotype black people. He felt that these were faces of people presented in a beautiful and careful way. So in a way, as a black person, while he came to see the film because of its gay subject matter, he left better appreciating Africa and its people and at the same time identifying himself with them not only as a gay brother but also as a black brother. Perhaps in that way Dakan and Woubi Cheri were able to break through a well-defined African film viewing circuit and reach another group of people who will now seek out African films in general.

Bringing together the two films, Dakan and Woubi Cheri allowed the possibility to discuss the continuum of male homosexualities and masculinities that emerged – a secluded, same-sex intimacy within the complexity of African traditions to a close-knit gay community that included a very open transvestite. While the emphasis on the very "female-looking" Barbara is a dominant element of Woubi Cheri, there are also very diverse masculinities that other men express within equally varied sexual identities. (5) The films Woubi Cheri and Dakan shed light on the debates around the « un-Africanness » of homosexuality that gay African Diasporan men have to refute constantly or that gay African men must challenge when confronted with claims that it is a « white man’s disease » introduced to black people. The emergence of masculinities studies that encompasses discourses on homosexualities and sexual identities is an important contribution to the reading of visualizations of African masculinities.

1. Barbara, a prominent figure in the film Woubi Cheri is a transvestite and the leader of a very close-knit transvestite group. She is the president of the Cote d »Ivoire Transvestites Association. Bibiche and Tatiana, two other figures in the film, are cross-dressing prostitutes.

2. Ousmane Sembene includes a brief presentation of a gorjigeen in his film Xala (1974) as a cross-dressing waiter at the wedding of the protagonist El Hadj. In Touki Bouki (1973), Djibril Diop Mambety depicts a wealthy homosexual named Charlie. In this almost utopian environment where women and men live in luxury and bliss, their homosexual lifestyle is presented as just one among others. As an « iconoclast » Mambety inserts this scene as a shock effect, as Charlie flirts with the character « Mambety » on the telephone and suggests that they will get together later.

3. An explanation of terms is given for various expressions used among the « woubi » community, as follows:
 woubi: is a male who chooses to play the role of « wife » in a relationship with another man.
 woubia: gayness
. yossi: bisexual
. controus: homophobes
. toussou bakari: lesbian

4. The film Paris is Burning is a documentary depicting one aspect of the lives of a gay subculture in New York City. « Balls » are events where gay black and Latino men dress and role-play in a variety of categories for competition. « Houses » are the families that the men construct in order to have a sense of solidarity, companionship, support and friendship.

5. Similarly, filmmaker Jenny Livingston’s focus on the transgender people and transvestites in Paris is Burning de-emphasizes the diverse identities and masculinities that the other men played out.

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