October 27, 2014 – Reported by Rutger’s University – Rutgers senior Derek J. Demeri, who has lived openly as a gay man since he was a high school sophomore in Hawthorne, explored uncharted territory last year when he studied in Ghana, where same-sex relations are criminalized, and concern for his own physical safety was a frequent refrain.
His parents were accepting when he came out, Demeri recalls, and he took his first steps toward political activism that year, raising awareness of California’s Proposition 8 preventing same-sex marriage and later forming his school’s gay-straight alliance.
Living in a nation that had only recently confirmed its opposition to homosexuality would be unsettling, he knew.
“I would be lying if I told you that fear wasn’t in the back of my head,” says Demeri, who is putting the finishing touches on a short documentary recounting his experiences, which he hopes will serve as a guide for others in the LGBTQ community considering a similar study-abroad trip.
“There were times when I felt comfortable, but at the end of the day, homosexuality is still illegal in the country.”
A political studies major at Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences with minors in history and African studies, Demeri spent the spring 2014 semester in the West African nation as part of the Center for Global Education: CIEE Study Abroad Program.
“I was always personally inspired by movements to decolonize the continent, and Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from colonial rule,” he says. “I believed Ghana would be most representative of pan-African approaches and issues.”
Demeri’s trip was funded in part by a Study Abroad Diversity Scholarship. Rutgers’ Center for Global Education sponsors these scholarships to promote diversity among students taking part in foreign learning experiences…