Boy-Wives and Female Husbands
edited by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe
The contributions to this volume unequivocally refute claims that African societies lacked homosexual patterns and had no words for those who desire their own sex. Evidence of same—sex patterns has been reported or reviewed here for some fifty African societies, all of which had words—many words, with many meanings—for them. These societies are found within every region of the continent, and they represent every language family, social and kinship organization, and subsistence pattern. There is substantial evidence that same—sex practices and patterns were “traditional”and “indigenous.” While contact between Africans and non—Africans has sometimes influenced both groups’ sexual patterns, there is no evidence that one group ever “introduced” homosexuality where it had not existed before. Since anthropologists and other observers have rarely inquired systematically into the presence of homosexuality in Africa (or elsewhere), absence of evidence can never be assumed to be evidence of absence. Considering that this collection represents the first serious study of the subject, undoubtedly future research will identify many other groups with distinct patterns of homosexuality.
Boy Wives and Female Husbands is the basis of the short play by Caryl Churchill, Pigs and Dogs, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in July, 2016.
African Terms for Same-Sex Patterns*
kimbanda, diviners; esenge (pl. omasenge), man possessed by female spirit; eshengi (pl. ovashengi), "he who is approached from behind"
wändarwäräd, "male-female"; wändawände,"mannish women"
jigele ketön, reciprocal anal intercourse
mzili (pl., inzili); buyazi
kitesha (pl. bitesha), male and female
mokobo, tongo, sterile men
akho’si, lagredis, court eunuch; gaglgo, homosexuality
m’uzonj’ame katumua, male lover; m’ndumbi, "podicator"
onek, active male
’dan daudu (pl. ’yan daudu); k’wazo/baja, older/younger men; kifi, lesbianism
okutunduka vanena, anal intercourse; epanga, lover; oupanga, erotic friendship (male or female)
Boy-Wives and Female Husbands is organized geographically according to four broad regions of sub-Saharan Africa—the Sudan, Horn of Africa, and East Africa; West Africa (including coastal West Africa and the interior sudanic region); Central Africa (from the tropical rainforests of the equatorial region to the Congo basin and east to present-day Tanzania); and southern Africa (from Mozambique and Zambia to South Africa and Namibia). Each of the four regional sections begins with a survey of historical and anthropological reports of same-sex patterns by the editors. The volume concludes with a review of the literature on woman-woman marriages, a general conclusion, and an appendix in which correlations between same-sex patterns and other features of African societies are analyzed. . . .
londo, nonmasculine males
tubele, nonmasculine males
mke-si-mume, "woman, not man," male and female homosexuals; mashoga (sing. shoga), male; basha (pl. mabasha), partner of mashoga; msagaji, msago (pl. wasagaji, misago), "grinders," lesbians
tinkonkana, boy wives
koetsire, sexually receptive males; soregus, friendship bond; ôa-/huru, /huru, mutual masturbation; /goe-ugu, "tribadie"
agyale, "friendship marriages" (sex denied)
eshenga, gender-mixing male shamans
a bele nnem e bango, "he has the heart [aspirations] of boys"
umuswezi, umukonotsi, "sodomite"; kuswerana nk’imbwa, kunonoka, kwitomba, kuranana inyuma, ku’nyo, male homosexuality; ikihindu and ikimaze (Mirundi), "hermaphrodite" priests
nkhonsthana, tinkonkana, nkonkana boy wife; nima, husband
chibadi, chibanda, chibados, jimbandaa, kibamba, quimbanda
omututa, (male) homosexuals; eponji, "lovers"
gor—digen, men—women; yauss, insertors; oubi, "open," insertees
inkosi ygbatfazi, "chief of the women" (diviners); amankotshane, izinkotshane, inkotshane, boy-wife; skesana, cross-gender males; iqgenge, masculine partners
“A superb collection of primary research articles and literature review essays on the organizations of homosexuality and the complexities of same-sex patterns.”
“...will likely become regarded as a groundbreaking and vital addition to several fields of study. It soundly refutes the notion of homosexuality as 'un-African' and forces readers to rethink many of the basic Western concepts they take for granted.”
copyright Will Roscoe 1998—2010