Michaela Coel wants Ghana to see her playing a queer warrior in “Black Panther”

Michaela Coel, Black Panther, Wakanda Forever, queer, LGBTQ, Ayo, Aneka,
Michaela Coel as Aneka Photo: YouTube screenshot

Michaela Coel is opening up about playing a lesbian superhero in Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The I May Destroy You star and creator graces the recently revealed cover of Vogue’s November issue, and in the magazine’s feature profile, Coel says she accepted the role of warrior captain Aneka specifically because of the character’s canonical sexuality.

In comic book series written by both Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, Aneka falls in love with fellow warrior Ayo, played in Wakanda Forever by Florence Kasumba.

“That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer,” Coel tells Vogue. “I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.”

Coel, whose parents are Ghanaian, hopes her portrayal of an openly queer African hero will help push against Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ laws. LGBTQ Ghanaians face widespread hostility in the majority-Christian nation. Same-sex sexual acts between men are illegal in the country, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment has only worsened in recent years. After the country’s first LGBTQ support center opened in January 2021, public outcry led to a police raid and the center closed within a month.

Soon after, the so-called Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill was introduced in parliament. Critics have called the bill the “most homophobic document the world has ever seen” and “a homophobe’s dream.”

Under the proposed law, LGBTQ Ghanaians would be forced to choose between jail time and so-called conversion therapy. Public displays of same-sex affection would be outlawed along with distribution of pro-LGBTQ materials. It would also be illegal to form an LGBTQ organization.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s fine, it’s just politics.’ But I don’t think it is just politics when it affects how people get to live their daily lives,” Coel says. “That’s why it felt important for me to step in and do that role because I know just by my being Ghanaian, Ghanaians will come.”

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