Confessions of a gay Kenyan
When he walks into the room, you can see a few women checking him out. He’s tall, muscular and good looking. He’s got an easy confidence about him, and it shows as he makes way across the exclusive restaurant.
Dressed casually in a fitting black T-shirt and khaki shorts, he walks over to where I’m seated. Looking at us, you could easily mistake this for a date or a friendly meet up.
Nothing about the way he looks or acts could give away the fact that this is an interview about being gay in Kenya.
Though he’s comfortable speaking about his sexuality, he asks me not to use his real name because of his family. The last time he was in the media his mother had it rough, he explains.
As our coffee is served, we begin the interview.
When did you know you were gay? Were you always attracted to men?
I had always felt I was different from my peers. I however recognized it more consciously towards the end of my primary school education.
Does your family know? How do they deal with it?
All the people who matter to me know. My mum knows. She loves and defends me fiercely, despite not accepting it as ‘right’. I do not know if my dad knows but I could not care less.
My cousins do not even give it thought. My loving aunties gossip about it among themselves but never talk to me about it. My uncles could not be bothered. It is perfect.
Many people think that people ‘become gay’ because did not grow up in ‘proper families’. What was your family like growing up?
I grew up in a loving home, and I never lacked anything. My father was not present much but I had more fatherly affection in relatives and friends than most children get from a present and active dad.
Did you try dating women?
I dated a string of women, but it never lasted long enough for me to have to show devotion. Many are now my friends and we laugh about it.
Tell us about your first relationship. How old were you when it happened?
My first relationship with a guy was when I was 16. This and the next were more trysts than anything else.
My first serious relationship was when I was 18, and lasted for nearly two years. It was with a local celebrity and we loved each other madly. Sadly, it was reckless and infidelity ruled. I ended it, but we are now friends.
Is it hard to date as a gay man in Kenya?
For me, it is not hard to date at all. I however do not date Kenyans anymore-too small a pool.
I am surrounded by amazing people who are champions for indiscriminate love which makes it easier for me as a gay man living here. Some even try to hook me up with other guys they know.
What is the greatest challenge that gay couples face in Kenya?
Obviously, it is the expressions of repulsion from the bigoted. In the face of such blind vitriol you can’t be free to love openly. And when you do, like i do, you suffer. Grief is the price we have to pay for love.
With all the discrimination, it must be tricky to date/meet openly. So, how do gay couples meet?
Gay people largely meet on dozens of online cruising and dating sites. There are spots across the country established by gay men or shrewd business people that cater to this need as well.
Did you know that there are even lodgings for gay couples? For exposed upwardly mobile gay men, finding potential lovers is easy as pie.
It has been said that gay couples face stigma. Walk us though how this is manifested in Kenya.
It is a fact that gay couples face stigma. I have experienced it myself. I have been jeered at, abused and threatened with death.
Some less fortunate ones have been excommunicated, abused physically, sexually and even killed. For us who face the stigma, depression reigns. You have to be incredibly strong not to drown in all the hate.
Suicides are not foreign to stigmatized homosexuals, but perhaps the most common manifestation of this stigmatization is gay men getting into heterosexual marriages with unknowing women who they will never love. You raise children who know theirs is a loveless home.
So you have a woman who has wasted her best years holding on to humiliation after she’s dumped her husband who is forced out of the closet by the frustrations of his deception. I know more men like this than I care to count, and I do not blame them.
What are the three things that the rest of Kenyans should know about homosexuality?
Homosexuality is not a disease. You cannot catch it, cure it or ‘infect others’ with it.
Homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality is. If you didn’t choose to be straight, then you should not ask a gay person why they chose to be gay.
Homosexuality is not a racial issue. It is not a white man’s agenda. It is not ‘un-African’.
Are you religious?
Yes, but I am still struggling to know God. The God that has been revealed to me through years of Sunday school and watching televangelists is not a God of love.
What’s your take on the stand the church has taken on homosexuality?
The church is a propagandist tool. Look through the ages and see how it has always been used to drive whatever debate raged at the time in the favour of a handful of people. They do this through manipulation of the flock and misinterpretation of scripture.
The church has driven more people away from God than the Satan it says inhabits homosexuals.