NO MAN NO CRY

Why we are lesbians: Trio defend sexuality

Nature, peer influence and upbringing cited for orientation regarded as taboo in Kenya

In Summary

• Three girls in their twenties admit to same-sex attraction and relationships.

• They encourage parents not to discriminate against children who have different sexual orientations and preferences

A scene from the film Rafik
A scene from the film Rafik
Image: COURTESY

They are flashy city women, look incredibly attractive and educated. One would expect them to be in very serious relationships with fine, well-groomed young men.

But the word “man” in an intimate relationship does not apply to them. Their focus is only on women, and they have a dying affection for fellow women. And they are loving it.

Welcome to the world of lesbianism.

LEAVING THE CLOSET

Before coming out, those with different sexual preferences should contact local helplines or support groups to receive the advice and confidence they need to move on with life. 

Living in the Mukuru slums, 27-year-old Kin* (not her real name) says her sexual preference was influenced by the fact that she was born intersex.

"I more or less grew up like a man because everyone in my family and community knew I was intersex," she says.

Kin says she had her first same-sex encounter when she was a teenager in Malaba, Busia county.

Kin says her parents are aware she is involved with a woman, but society is yet to fully embrace her. “It's both tough and smooth for me," she says.

My first encounter with a woman completely made me have no desire to be with men, and I prefer acting as the 'man' in the relationship"
Kin, 27

ORIENTED BY PEERS

Unlike Kin, Nicky*, 23, says she was oriented into lesbianism by peer influence, when she was 15 years old.

Some of her lesbian friends in high school would encourage her to try it out, but she was resistant at first.

"I gave in after a while, and I must say the experience for me was awesome, and from then, I became addicted to girls," she said.

Nicky is a plastic retailer in Kasarani, and since her first encounter, she has had sexual intercourse with seven women.

"I have never been with a man in my life, and I prefer playing the role of the 'girl' in the relationships," she says.

Jez*, 24, is a mother of one who lives in Mukuru, Nairobi, with her elder brother.

"I grew up with boys, loved playing with them and also dressed like boys. I was a tomboy. I think because of this, my affection is drawn towards women, just like boys are," Jez said.

"I have been sexually attracted to women since I was 14, and I prefer being the 'man' in the relationship," she told the Star during an interview.

While she admits to having been with a man before and not regretting it, Jez says her first encounter with a woman made her ‘discover’ her sexual orientation.

"I have so far been with four women, and I discovered that I get more pleasure when I have sex with a woman, unlike with a man," she told the Star.

"I have no desire to be with any other man, unless it is for some kind of benefits," she says.

I have never been with a man in my life, and I prefer playing the role of the 'girl' in the relationships.
Nicky, 23

LESBIAN PARENTING

Jez tells the Star being a lesbian does not limit one from being a parent.

“It all depends on how you want your children to grow up, and the strategies you and your partner have in mind on how to raise children,” she said.

Jez says her child is still too young to understand sexual orientations and preferences, but she will be supportive if she turns out homosexual.

Jez, Kin and Nicky encourage parents not to discriminate against children who have different sexual orientations and preferences.

They said parents should understand and accept them as they are, instead of rejecting them.

"Parents should communicate with their children to understand them better and also provide them with the freedom to be who they are," Kin said. 

Dr Belinda Kamundi, a HIV testing counsellor and child protection officer at Ruben Centre Clinic, says people in same-sex relationships are everywhere, regardless of their social status.

"There is a population of about 200-300 homosexuals, but this year, we have treated 29 males from Mukuru slum," she said.

Strained access to healthcare and stigma causes most people to refrain from seeking medical help, and Kamundi says this could be a reason why the number of lesbians seeking help at the facility is still low. 

"While scientists have not yet explained why people get attracted to people of similar sex, there are two theories that try and explain it. They are the nature versus nurture theories," she said.

Kamundi says nature is a natural phenomenon, which relates to a child being born intersex and, depending on the hormonal levels, is sometimes attracted to people of the same gender.

"Nurture is when people willingly get involved in these relationships by emulating traditions from western culture. Also, when you raise a girl in the midst of girls or a boy in the midst of boys, they tend to grow up with a romantic attraction for people of their sexuality,” Kamundi says.

COMING OUT

Kamundi advises that before coming out, those with different sexual preferences should contact local helplines or support groups to receive the advice and confidence they need to move on with life. 

"This, too, can be stressful because this may be the first time you have admitted to anyone you are a lesbian. But remember, the people you are talking to have been in the very same or have witnessed the situation before, so use their guidance as a tool," she said.

"You may want to come out to the people you think might be supportive first. The more positive reactions you receive initially, the better for your self-confidence and the more likely you will be to come out to more people."

Kamundi told the Star she focuses on ensuring her patients receive appropriate services so they can protect themselves against diseases. Also, she says there could be mental, physical and social factors as to why sexual orientations differ.

On intersex cases, Kamundi says they should be given an opportunity to realise themselves so they can make the choice on whether to be a man or a woman.

The counsellor says homosexuals are also entitled to acquiring services in the community because they also have families and are at greater health risks.

"Hospital services mostly are important to them since they are at risk of acquiring diseases such as Aids or sexually transmitted diseases, which spread quickly to people in these situations," she said.

PARENTING OPTIONS

Dr Kamundi says homosexuals, like everyone else, have the ability to parent children, as long they have parental affections.

"They can either choose to adopt or father and mother children with different people. Lesbians can decide between them who is comfortable to have an encounter with a man and get pregnant," she said. 

"For gay couples, they can also decide who will have an encounter with a woman and father the child."

Kamundi encouraged people to deviate from stigmatising homosexuals, saying it happens everywhere, and urged them to stop shying away from seeking medical services.

MORE: