As Africa rolls out strict laws to crack down on homosexuality, famous Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina has gathered the courage to come out.
"Thank u Martin Kimani and June Arunga my closest peeps 4 hosting a surprise party of love 4 my birthday and coming out," he tweeted this weekend. Binyavanga turned 43 years old on Saturday, January 18.
In his blog on the South African website Chimurenga Chronic, Binyavanga describes his sadness at not being completely open with his mother about his homosexuality. “I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five,” he says in the blog.
"I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life," he imagines telling her on her deathbed.
He was unable to get back to Kenya from South Africa before she died because of issues over his work permit. In the blog, he talks of his confusion and says, "I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine."
Social media has shown widespread support for Binyavanga's decision to come out. “I salute our brother, Binyavanga Wainaina for courage and leadership in the face of bigotry and hatred,” tweeted writer Pa Ikhide from Nigeria which has just criminalised gay relationships.
Some people on social media have however warned Binyavanga to be careful and to be prepared for the backlash he will receive for revealing his sexuality. When called for comment, Binyavanga said, “There is nothing more I wish to add.”
The Ugandan parliament recently passed a law to jail homosexuals but President Yoweri Museveni did not assent to it. Museveni's spokesman said that homosexuals are sick and need to be "rescued" so the bill is not a priority for Uganda.
Binyavanga Wainaina won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. He was born in Nakuru in Rift Valley province. He attended Moi Primary School in Nakuru, Mangu High School in Thika, and Lenana School in Nairobi.
He was the founding editor of Kwani?, an important source of new writing from Africa. He is currently a Bard Fellow and the director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College. In January 2007, Wainaina was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a "Young Global Leader.