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February 19, 2019

Let the gays out

So in case you haven’t heard, Binyavanga Wainaina came out as a Kenyan homosexual man.

He is the founder of the Kwani? Trust, and when Bono of U2 guest edited the international magazine, Vanity Fair, Binyavanga got to write a 3000 word spread.

Vanity Fair is not the writing Oscars, but it’s damn near close. Recently he published the book, Some Day I Will Write About This Place and it was reviewed by The New York Times; and now he has come out of the proverbial sex closet and told the world, ‘I am gay’.

 For him I feel a blend of pride, fear and exhilaration. The world is filled with persecutors and they will come after Binyavanga, so that makes me afraid for him.

The most overwhelming feeling however, is admiration of the sheer badassness it takes to make such a declaration in Africa right now. Then just to add more balls to the courage soup, he announced that he is going to Nigeria and Uganda. I love it!

 History tells us that hate loses out in the end. Those who persecute others for what they classify as ‘being defective’ defection lose out in the end. Those who persecuted Jesus lost, Hitler lost, our colonialists lost and if you are a fear mongering homophobe, you will lose.

 Binyavanga’s coming out makes this a hot topic and it is the coming out of prominent people across the globe that has advanced the fight for gay rights.

The hot guy from Prison Break? Gay. Barney from How I Met Your Mother? Gay. Freddy Mercury (arguably the most famous Tanzanian)? Gay. Queen Latifah, Ellen Degeneres, Miranda from Sex & The City, Tracey Chapman etc etc etc… all gay.

 In Kenya, men who have sex with men are at very high risk for HIV infection. Because we have chosen to criminalise their sexual expression, this group is marginalized so that they do not receive proper information about safe sex, HIV testing and how to remain healthy despite being HIV positive.

Our bigotry coupled with this lack of information has created a vicious cycle that facilitates further infections. This may seem like a cycle that will eventually see all men who have sex with men infected and dead from Aids but it does not work like that.

Having spoken to a large number of Kenyan lesbians and homosexuals, I have found that exclusive homosexuality is a predominantly Western concept and that Kenyan queers express themselves differently. Many Kenyan homosexuals are not exclusively homosexual; rather they have relationships and sometimes marriages with the opposite sex.

 The West did not teach Africans to have sex and homosexuality is not ‘un-African’. Just like other human beings, heterosexual Africans have been raising homosexuals for eons.

Let us not fall into the trap of using disgust as a basis for lawmaking and persecution. Let us be kind to members of our society and follow Jesus’s lead. He cautioned (I am paraphrasing) that we should "judge not, lest we be judged".

 I do not think many of us would survive the kind of judgment we impart on others. A few minutes of thought will lead you to the conclusion that having homosexuals running free amongst us will do no harm to our society, in fact if stereotypes are to be believed, it might make Kenya more colourful and artistic.

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