Drawing on work with a Malawian LGBTI-rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), this article’s entry point is the “fake gay,” a person who, according to state political discourse and news media, allegedly fakes a marginalized sexual identity to gain access to foreign resources channeled through NGOs. For LGBTI-identified persons in the NGO’s orbit, meanwhile, fake gays—infiltrating inauthentic gays—breed fear and resentment amid circuits of scarce resource distribution and homophobia. This mythologized figure, rooted in racialized arbitrations of fake or real, sincere or cunning, reveals NGOs, dismissed in critical scholarship as “unqueer”—for spreading homonationalism, sapping radical agendas by institutionalizing liberal human rights frameworks, and smuggling in Euro-American logics of sexual modernity—to be unlikely sites of queer complexity. Reading NGO spaces as customary forms and drawing on discourse analysis and ethnographic vignettes, the author shows how ritualized practices associated with audit culture in aid economies (monitoring and evaluation, paperwork, counting) operate as queer sites of multiplying possibilities and emergences. Rather than expose faking as duplicity or insincerity, the author argues that faking and normalizing practices rooted in logics of standardization, quantification, and replicability are co-constitutive. In addition to proposing the fake gay as a mode of theory that draws attention to (queer) world-making practices within postcolonial aid geographies, this article broadens understandings of the (queer) customary beyond narrowly defined cultural practices such as customs, rituals, and traditions.

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