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January 22, 2019

Why we must talk homosexuality

I was a guest on Jeff Koinange’s show with Binyavanga Wainaina about 2 weeks ago.

In case you have just emerged from a media fast and have no clue, Binyavanga is Kenya’s first openly gay man, the founder of Kwani? and arguably our most celebrated writer.

 So anyway, there we were, the three of us, discussing homosexuality and what it is like to be gay in Kenya. A few days later, I was in my mother’s kitchen cooking for my sister’s soon to be in-laws, who were visiting to initiate the whole wedding process.

My mother said that she had watched the show and did not understand why gays think it is important that we all know what kind of sex they like.

She wonders why they cannot keep it to themselves and why those of us in media cannot find other, more pertinent topics to discuss, such as the rampant rape of children.

 I pointed out that both topics are pertinent, that the rampant rape of children is being discussed and that the two are ultimately related under the taboo banner of sex.

 Western population studies indicate that homosexuals form about 10 per cent of the population. Despite racial differences, I am keen to apply that statistic here in Kenya because ultimately, we are human beings and homosexuals are a manifestation of our species. Assuming that we are about 40 million in this nation, that would mean that we house four million homosexuals.

 The acceptance of homosexuals in the west has led to protection of their human rights so that they can find and keep jobs, raise families and live what we consider ‘normal’ lives.

The choice to criminalise homosexuality marginalises these people, puts them at risk of suicide, addiction, HIV and Aids and discriminatory behaviour that at its worst, culminates in murder.

 To continue to view sex as a taboo means that even crimes like rape do not get reported and prosecuted accordingly. It means that we lack vocabulary to name feelings and reactions in the sexual realm, be they pleasurable or painful.

I have been asking for years and have yet to find the word for rape in any of our tribal languages; if you know one, please email me? [email protected]

 Sex sits at the very heart of our families. Done right, between consenting adults it can be the manifestation of all that is right with humanity.

Done wrong, without consent or to cause others pain, it can be the genesis of all that is wrong with human beings - humiliation, shame, physical ailments and self-loathing to name a few.

 I do not think that homosexuals necessarily want to engage you in a conversation about what they do behind closed doors, in fact I think what they are trying to do is advance the conversation out of the bedroom and into the larger sphere of the society we are creating and living in.

Do we want to live in a society that fosters acceptance and self-expression or one that preaches bigotry and hate? We, as individuals, are the SI unit of society and it is up to us to create that environment. Are you preaching love or hate?

 The refusal to acknowledge the plight of a human being who is being marginalized inherently facilitates our own marginalisation.

The tools of cruelty, how it is meted out, they haven’t changed; they were the same during slavery, they were the same during colonialism, post-election violence and now with homosexuals.

Paint another as different, cultivate disdain and eventually hate by calling them disgusting, and you will get the permission to treat them as less, and exercise all manner of cruel behaviour.

The dehumanization of people so that you see them through a one-dimensional lens called, race, creed, religion, gender or sexual orientation has allowed for all the cruelty we have seen on this planet. This is why we must talk about homosexuality.

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