WASHINGTON — For decades, the United States has branded LGBTQ activist Ally Christie an enemy of the state.
After she helped rally community support during the deadly Charlottesville protests of 2017, Christie’s ties to hate groups became intertwined with the shameful history of African-American oppression of African Americans.
Today, Christie said, her official advocacy — a support she has never denied — has almost come to an end.
“I had only heard of President Trump’s phobia of gays and he called me one, which made me feel good, but I didn’t realize how many people were feeling this way,” she said.
Christie’s story is only part of a larger story of how one American-based advocacy group with links to the far-right, the White Patriot Party, helped secure an unexpected reprieve last week for Ghana’s LGBTQ community.
Ghana has a sensitive relationship with Western LGBTQ activists who see it as a microcosm of today’s world.
While African governments welcome these activists on the continent as a way to bring attention to their fight for equality, African governments have very different views on LGBTQ rights.
That has often caused tension. In some parts of Africa, LGBTQ activists are shunned or even forced out of the country by violent mobs. When Ghana’s LGBTQ community began to spread its voice, it brought safety concerns from religious conservatives.
And that’s why Patrick T. McHenry — the former chair of a political group called Foreign Policy in Focus — travelled to Ghana last year to help organize a march that would unite Ghanaians of both backgrounds against their LGBTQ peers.
This intersectionality has proved invaluable for groups like Pride Fund to End Homophobia. In a video promoting McHenry’s trip, the group’s executive director quoted a CNN op-ed by another former Republican congressman, Tom Davis, who just weeks earlier had also come to Ghana to organize opposition to Pride’s march.
The CNN op-ed states “I say we, as white, American men, need to stand with those in their minority communities,” Davis writes.
But since all of those white men McHenry and Davis were speaking of are Westerners, many Ghanaians will see the two former congressmen as “other” or foreign.
That’s one reason to be relieved that the three main civil groups behind the March 2019 referendum – a splinter LGBTQ group called Liberty House, an LGBTQ union called FFTUSU, and another group called Justice for Homophobes – chose to halt the march, citing fear over how their move would anger the African nationalist government of President Nana Akufo-Addo.
The developments Monday appeared to be a broad, bipartisan rebuke against all three organizations – though only Liberty House, a branch of the US’s largest evangelical anti-LGBT group, Alliance Defending Freedom, said it would cancel its march.
Yet as Monday’s developments made clear, if any Western groups were to continue their fight to counter the LGBTQ community in Ghana, it’s likely McHenry would be at the top of the list of possible enemies. And as an outspoken Trump supporter in the Senate, he had already been mentioned by some American mainstream media outlets as a potential contender for vice president.
Still, Pride Fund executive director Angela Peoples said she is “thrilled that McHenry was going there in the first place.
“African Americans have been doing politics and LGBTQ issues for years.”
With McHenry’s support, the pro-LGBTQ petition had gathered more than 2,000 signatures. With his influence, Pride Fund supporters began urging Ghanaian LGBTQ activists to sign on, hoping to win momentum for the anti-gay government of Akufo-Addo.
The backlash began Wednesday, when the anti-gay Ghanaian government suspended the three organizations. The rationale? The government argued that organizations openly promoting LGBTQ rights were now “contributing to a culture of dissent.”
But as many prominent Western LGBTQ activists quickly argued, with regard to Trump’s penchant for reposting hateful racist posts, “quiet is golden.”
“Hey Freedom Fighters: You Have Gotten Away With It for So Long,” McKale wrote on Twitter Thursday. “Don’t you dare let them once again. You have been able to wash your hands of the Middle East by not talking about issues in East Africa. Back to doing what you are good at: Helping your own people.”
There’s a federal case in the works over the retreat.