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Coming out in Japan, lesbian lives in Africa

Member of Osaka assembly comes out. Now that takes balls.

In a move rarely seen by a legislator, Kanako Otsuji, a member of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, told reporters Friday that she is a lesbian and is publishing an autobiography that centers on her quest for sexual identity.

When she ran in an election for the 112-seat prefectural assembly in April 2003, Otsuji, 30, gave up the idea of coming out to the public because she was unsure she could win understanding about her sexuality from the general public in the prefecture with a population of 8.84 million, the second largest after Tokyo.

Book blows the lid off lesbian stereotypes in African nations. A new book researches female same-sex relations in Southern and East Africa.

The book, Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives: Female Same-Sex Practices in Africa, goes where only the odd anthropologist ventured before, a world where gays are denied and considered unAfrican. The co-editor, Saskia Wieringa, says: “There is not a lot of information on lesbianism in Africa. What has been written is in academic journals. This book, we hope, will be useful to both academics and to others.”

…In different countries it is often just the nicknames that change. A “tommy boy” in Ugandan gay circles is slang for a “butch” woman. In Namibia, a butch woman is a “lesbian man”.

The research brought its own challenges. One of the researchers, Baraka, didn’t want to use her full name as she was concerned she might be arrested when she returned to Kenya. “Once she had gained access to Nairobi’s small gay community, Baraka was introduced to women, some married, who sneak away to have picnics with their lovers or to go out clubbing.

Liz Frank said: “My partner, who was involved in the project in Namibia, found that many of these girls were desperate to speak about their experiences.”

Wieringa believes that the book will go a long way towards exposing the challenges facing many women in Africa. “This research proves that African women have been loving each other in many different ways for a long time, and declaims the hate speech of African leaders who claim that homosexuality is unAfrican.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding