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Kwesi Yankah Writes: Kojo Besia Encounters

As we grew up the issue of ‘Kojo Besia’ emerged more boldly. These were largely men who were also women. In recent times when this became a national issue, people suddenly recoiled and avoided open debate for fear of being finger-pointed.

Kojo Besia, a topic Ghanaians broach only in hushed tones and sealed lips in recent times. In our early years, the verbal taboo was much more relaxed. In high school it existed only in whispers, and colleagues would point to one effeminate Ghanaian instructor saying he occasionally invited students over for masturbation.

At Legon, finger-pointing continued in the direction of two or three hippy-looking expat lecturers in the humanities with a huge student following. They had lovers among the student boys was the rumor. It was all as if the ‘devils’ were strangers only. As for the local boys they were innocent victims, except for the big gifts they enjoyed.

But the seeds were fairly visible among student girls in high schools where the phenomenon of ‘supi’ was no secret in and out of dorms. It was the domain of the senior girls, who would select from fresh students trickling in, and consider these as intimate ‘protegees.’ A few of the younger ones would sing their song openly and giggle while drifting away. Whatever the giggle meant nobody knew.

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As we grew up the issue of ‘Kojo Besia’ emerged more boldly. These were largely men who were also women. In recent times when this became a national issue, people suddenly recoiled and avoided open debate for fear of being finger-pointed. I pity colleagues in parliament who are vehemently against the famous anti-LGBTQ Bill, but dare not cough since their electorates are watching. If you say you are against the Bill, you incur the wrath of voters who will decide your fate this December.

In my recently-launched memoires (The Pen at Risk), I broach the topic and narrate one encounter during my doctoral days in USA, 1980s. I consider that episode as one of my Top 10 nightmares in life. Listen to my Pen (in Chapter 25).

My Unusual Friend

In my first few months, I lived in a dorm where I needed someone to help me cope with the new way of life America offered. Happily came a kind companion. Call him Tom. Looking for the laundry, Tom was there to help; going to the grocery there he was; and I needed none other to teach me cafeteria norms and all. Tom was a tall black undergraduate.

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I was in temporary housing, awaiting to move to family lodging on my family’s arrival in a few months. But something unusual happened that got me wondering about Tom. Browsing through the photo album I brought from Ghana, Tom one day kept asking me questions about Aboagye, a male colleague in Ghana, expressing open admiration for his picture. One day Tom asked me how he would find Aboagye, and if he was married.

My eyeballs widened.

My first outing with Tom to experience nightlife in Bloomington gave me a broader picture. The Bowinkle nightclub had been carefully chosen by my Good Samaritan. It was about 9 pm that day, and the very first spectacle at the night club’s entrance numbed my senses. Two young men in a close-up were locked in a warm embrace, lips to lips, deeply fondling, caressing. The scene inside the club house itself sealed my suspicion. An entirely man-to-man affair in the entire clubhouse: neck to neck, cheek to cheek and moving in rhythm to cool background music. That was enough to abort my very first night out. I asked to
be taken back home, almost furious. Would I survive America?

The blurred picture got clearer the next day, when I realized someone in my absence had slipped a bizarre magazine under my pillow—a glossy, raunchy magazine, rather hard to browse. Complete male nudity, replete with open, unmitigated sex and orgies from cover to cover. It did not take long for Tom to tell me the story of his life, and why he was
discharged from the U S army.

I was utterly baffled and disappointed! But I thanked my stars my family was arriving from Ghana the following week. Redbud Apartments, a family housing unit, became my refuge; and I lived happily thereafter.

It was indeed a nightmare to have had as my good Samaritan in America, a Kojo Besia!


Writer’s email: [email protected]

 

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