COMING OUT

I am gay — former BBC journalist Njeri Makena

She looked herself in the mirror and declared it, and she finally felt free

In Summary

• She said she is 'Chris Njeri Makena' and bold enough to speak about her orientation

Former BBC journalist Njeri Makena
Former BBC journalist Njeri Makena
Image: Courtesy

Former BBC journalist Njeri Makena has opened up about her sexual orientation.

In a video posted by an international media platform, TedX on behalf of TedX Parklands, Makena said it had taken years for her to accept and admit the fact to herself.

Narrating more about her, Njeri shared a story of her childhood friend with whom she loved suits and would spend hours in restaurants speaking of how fashion had constantly evolved.

"He hated Christmas and dreads coming back home coz those trips come with questions that made him sad. Where is she? They ask. We are growing old and we want grandchildren, we are so happy you have become successful but now we want children."

Makena said the questions started gentle but kept on becoming less gentler and her friend hanged himself.

"My name is Chris Njeri Makena. I am happy, I am free and I am bold. For a very long time, I could never introduce myself like this but somewhere along the journey, I started to discover what it meant to live your truth. I started to discover who I was and I decided to be loyal to my authenticity."

The former 'Tahidi High' actress said for the last decade, she struggled to live a normal life, "conforming to the different societal norms that have been placed on us from a very young age".

"At 19 years old, coming to the city, I wanted to act and become a superstar featuring in different TV shows. But I knew for a fact that the battles I had been going through as a teenager will be tested in this city. I realised that what society wanted me to take wasn't the case for humanity and me," she said. 

"I remember for the first time in my life after very many years looking at myself in the mirror and I said to myself, I am gay, I am unique and this is my truth."

She added that after that a weight was lifted off her chest as she was finally free. 

"This was was a victory for me without knowing it would be a journey to boldness."

She said the first place where she encountered the choice to be bold was at her workplace. 

"As an actress, I got to a point where I had to turn down some scripts which did not work for my gender identity. Being a producer, I was constantly ridiculed for picking up jobs that were supposed to be men's," she said.

"I walked in church coz I believe the universal language should be love, but it was one very place I received hate, gossip, stares, such a pain that I had to retreat to worshipping my God the way I needed in solitude, and that still works for me to date."

The former BBC journalist also recounted a day when rumours about her orientation hit the interwebs after a girl had vandalised her Mercedes Benz, alleging she had cheated on her.  

"I woke up with over 1,000 messages and over 500 missed calls. My blood went cold, I knew something was wrong. I did not know I had become a trending topic overnight."

She says the trolls took a toll on her and for three months, she was constantly down and almost fell into depression.

It was then she started speaking boldly about the LGBTQ community, and she has since opened an organisation called Bold Network Africa that highlights stories of the community.

Makena Njeri strongly believes that stigmatization is as a result of an uninformed society. As a gay woman living in Kenya she has received a lot of hateful comments online because of the choice to be bold and outspoken about her identity. Makena is the CEO & Founder of Bold Network Africa and she believes that by educating the society in Africa through story telling she can help to eradicate hate towards members of the LGBTQ community in Africa, both for this generation and the ones to come. Makena Njeri is the founder and CEO of Bold Network Africa - an organization based in Nairobi, Kenya that aims to educate the society in Africa about the LGBTQ community through Films, documentaries, and training. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx