homeless today…

Growing up, we were taught about the three basic needs: Food, shelter and clothing. This has evolved over time to include water (which should really be obvious) and in some parts of the world, electricity and an internet connection (who would have thought!). I want to focus on one of those basic needs. Shelter. One of the things that COVID-19 which has been deemed by the World Health Organisation a global pandemic has done is that it has shown us just how incredibly unequal and fragile our society is. There have been people who were able to stockpile food. So much food that the supermarket shelves were empty. Some of the stockpiled food, in several places, was actually thrown in the garbage because it was more than enough and in many instances, perishable and spoiled after only a week. There were people who were able to buy rolls upon rolls of toilet paper. Why? Who knows?

When the time came, gradually as it has in different parts of the world to lock-down cities, regions, and even whole countries, most people had a home to go to. With all the food, water and toilet paper they needed for the period of the lock-down. However, there are those who do not have that place to go to. There are those who do not have money to buy food for the day, much less for a 3-week lock-down. There are millions of people around the world who are homeless. Homeless and at a high risk of contracting the virus. They will contract the virus and will not have any recourse to healthcare, employment or compensation – no welfare safety net.

According to Yale Global, an estimated 2% of the world’s population may be homeless. Another 20% lacks adequate housing. As the virus spreads and people have been forced into self-isolation and countries have been placed into nationwide lock-downs, these are individuals who will not have a safe place they can lock themselves down and prevent themselves from contracting the virus.

Nobody wants to be homeless. Circumstances, often beyond the control of the individuals, land them in the position they are in. These circumstances are not a reserve of a certain type, class or group of people. They could befall anyone. There are homeless people out there with university degrees, with work experiences that could rival anyone. But they do not have a home. The society we live in has completely stigmatised homelessness as self-inflicted and consider the homeless to be hopeless and useless and not deserving of our time or assistance, forgetting that the fate they are looking down upon could very well be their own.

Bradley is one such person. A 39 years old, who worked as a Non-Destructive Testing Inspector for 18 years in Radford, Virginia. Through a series of unfortunate events, he lost his job, lost his home, attempted to commit suicide, was arrested and incarcerated, lost his step-dad while he was in prison, was released with just the clothes on his back and nothing else. No family or friends and no where to go.

To Our House program by the New River Community Action provides winter shelter for homeless people. Bradley was assisted by the program which unfortunately comes to an end on Friday 10 April 2020 after which, he will have no place to stay, he will have no job due to the restrictions that are in place from the US lock-downs in progress, and he will be ‘locked’ out at the risk of contracting the virus with no recourse. He will not have food or shelter. He has not had access to medication that is vital to his mental health for over 7 days.

Bradley is bright, with a great sense of humour. He can draw, he writes amazing poetry. He does have a future…but the calamity of circumstances we spoke about earlier, circumstances that could befall anyone reading this, have made it such that he has nothing and needs your help.

So, this is a plea, on Bradley’s behalf for your help. Click the button below to give to his fundraiser and follow him on Twitter for his art and poetry…or simply to urge him to keep going strong.

He is one of many people who need assistance. Many people who need a roof over their heads. He is one of many people who did not wish for their current living conditions, but they are in it. Something has got to be done. I believe that if governments can spend billions of dollars bailing out corporations, they can spend a fraction of that considering the needs of the homeless. I believe that if individuals can give billions of dollars to renovate a church, they can give a fraction of that to shelter individuals who do not have a home.

I am not trying to belittle anything. All I am saying is that we should all put ourselves in the shoes of the homeless. Shoes that we may very well be in. Think of our fellow human beings and empathise with their situation. Instead of looking down upon them, if you can, help them. Speak to your leaders and try and find solutions to the problem.

Because if there is one thing that the COVID-19 has shown us, it is that every single one of us is vulnerable.

We all need each other.

This might be considered by most a naïve thought, but I believe that humanity is inherently good.

Let us be compassionate.

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The illovo hand-washing lecture: A socioeconomic assault

https://twitter.com/LesegoTlhabi/status/1243827506060431360

By Mark Beare

The events on this video are not patronising.

Patronising is to be ‘politely discriminating’ (if that’s even a defendable concept). This is far worse as it goes to the heart of the political economy in South Africa. Let’s break it down;

Were the workers consulted about how to deal collectively with this crisis? Why were there only black workers being ‘trained’ – where are the rest of the residents? Were workers given the opportunity to refuse to attend – would they get fired if they had done so? Was a trained trainer used – apparently not, so this was not ‘enlightened’ education but derogatory instruction.

Also, we need to address is from both perspectives. The workers standing there likely felt completely disrespected, however from the input side, this is naked white privilege and entitlement. Can one just try to conceptualise (especially as a white observer) the double whammy of being utterly disrespected and powerless to do anything about it – which goes to the fundamentally perverse power relations in our society. Disempowerment of the abused empowers the abuser and this is where incidents such as this insidiously act to empower entitled racist and further acts of violence.

So no this was not patronising this was socioeconomic assault – powerful white residents socially assaulting disempowered black workers with impunity and feeling entitled to do so whilst the workers felt no such sense of being entitled to refuse to partake.


It is the tip of the ugly white iceberg that haunts South Africa – political and economic disempowerment of millions who have no choice but to obey or face the economic and, depending on the context (such as a racist employer out of the glare of accountability), violent outcomes of resisting social assault (aka ‘patronising’ behaviour). The reason this must be exposed is because it needs to be challenged and called out for what it is – emotional and material disempowerment of people who are perceived as ‘less’.

Now let’s go to the motivation. The whites in this video only saw the need to ‘educate’ the ‘lesser’ people because it was for their self-preservation – if the worker doesn’t wash their hands properly, then I could die…or worse we could die…so let’s act collectively to prevent ‘them’ from killing ‘us’ and hey presto you’re back to the ‘swart gevaar’ of apartheid!

I could go on but I think that what is needed here is exposure with critique so that we are not just accused of ‘playing the race card’ or ‘making everything political’ – so let’s try to see if the same people in the video (racists and workers) can be interviewed and critically asked questions such as those posed earlier – so that disempowered workers can be empowered through the exposure and ignorant racist whites have a chance to be remorseful (and not just those in the video but also people exposed to the critique who might have instinctively defended the actions of the racists but with education could reason a more inclusive approach to this and other challenges we face and if not then they deserve all the anger they will get from this).

These incidents can be turned into an opportunity to explore and learn as conflict resolution comes from understanding and pragmatism and here I believe by asking sober questions and getting evidence we can build one incident at a time a better understanding of our beautiful but damaged land and its people to build our communities from the ground up.

This is not meant in any way as a whitesplaining rant but more an attempt to share an understanding and if people believe my thinking is white centric, I’m open to being educated.

Aluta Continua! Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika

#Repeal162: It’s About Fellow Kenyans (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Justice has been delayed. We have to wait 91 more days to know our fate. That’s alright. We have waited 3 years. We can wait. We will wait. As we wait, I know some of us feel defeated. The weight of the anticipation is too much. We have to go through 3 more months of state-sponsored homophobia. Take heart. We are a resilient people. But if it becomes a bit too much and you need to talk to someone, reach out. Drop me a message. Call me. Let’s talk. I will listen.

My name is Anthony Oluoch. I am my mother’s son. I am a brother to my siblings. I am a friend to some. I am an enemy to others. I work. I pay my taxes. I provide employment to other Kenyans. I make mistakes like everyone else does. I love. I laugh. I cry. I cook. I eat. I was born in Narok, Kenya. I have had my heart broken. I have broken some hearts. I make mistakes sometimes. I am human. And I am Kenyan. And I also just happen to be gay.

Why do I have to say that? Because people like me are mistreated, discriminated against, lose their jobs, beaten in the streets, threatened with violence, suffer silently until some cannot take it anymore and they end up taking their own lives. All this because of their sexual orientation. Something none of us has control over. Gay or Straight. None of us wakes up one day and decides, “from this moment on, I will be emotionally and sexually attracted to men (or women).” It all occurs naturally. For me, and I’m sure if you ask many other gay identifying people, it is not a choice we made.

I tried to be different. I tried to fit in to what society wants me to be. It did not work. I prayed on it. I contemplated hurting myself. I finally got to the point of accepting that this is who I am. There is nothing to justify the level of hate spewed on social media towards people who love others of the same sex. Love is kind. Love is selfless. Love is full of hope. Love is full of trust. Love is not proud. Love is God and God is Love. People, diverse as they are, love differently.

So when a mother allows her daughter to commit suicide because she does not like the fact that she loves other girls, when a father beats his son to inches of his death because he is uncomfortable with the fact that his son loves other men. When a landlord evicts his tenant because he never sees women visiting him, just men. When an employer fires his employee because a picture of her kissing another woman was leaked on the internet. When a preacher preaches hate towards people who have made no mistake other than not being able to love others of the opposite sex. When the state criminalizes consensual, adult, same-sex conduct, I question the kind of morality that we as a nation are pushing.

#Repeal162 is about fellow Kenyans. Gay and lesbian people are a part of the Kenyan society. We have been a part of the Kenyan society since our grandparents and great-grandparents’ time. We will still be a part of this society. We contribute to its growth. We suffer the repercussions of our corrupt leaders. WE ARE KENYAN. We are patriotic Kenyans and we will remain Kenyan until we breath our last. The ruling on Friday 24th of May 2019 will not only impact gay and lesbian people, but will also have an impact on the whole of the Kenyan society, and by extension the African people.

HIV: God Cleansing Ethiopia?

Addis Ababa, Friday, December 14, 2018– Alemu (a pseudonym) and his friends were in a hospital taking care of their HIV positive friend who was admitted for opportunistic diseases in Addis Ababa a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, the capital of the country with relative understanding of healthcare need and compassion failed to do just that for one of its own, because of lack of proper treatment, he was not lucky enough to live his dreams. His life was cut short just at the age of 25.

Alemu and his friends now mourn their loss. The sadness grows deeper when more and more people are suffering and losing their lives for the lack of treatment or even proper support.  

“The moment they realized the patient was a homosexual, their approach changed. They immediately started mistreating him. Instead of treating the patient, they said, he deserved what he got. He is a sinner and that is how sinners should get treated”, Alemu said enraged and broken.

There is a wave of hope and optimism in Ethiopia at the moment. The government has given space to conversation and freedom of expression. With new, young and vibrant officials in influential government offices, the reform process of a country envisioned to be amongst the most democratic and middle income countries in the world is aggressively ongoing. There is, however, still no mention of or even any indication that the government will make the LGBTIQA+ community in Ethiopia part of its reform agenda, neither as beneficiaries nor as drivers of change.

The community now feels that things are getting worse and providing relief to those who are anti-homosexual, just last week when Ethiopia published a revised HIV/AIDS road map 2018-2020, yet again excluding the LGBTIQA+ community.  

As BMC Infectious Diseases, an open access, peer-reviewed journal report on Trend of HIV/AIDS for the last 26 years and predicting achievement of the 90–90-90 HIV prevention targets by 2020 in Ethiopia: a time series analysis indicates;

“Achievement of these targets by 2020 is helpful for elimination of HIV/AIDS epidemic in 2030. However, achieving or approaching to achieve these targets highly depends on the trend of HIV/AIDS infection in the previous years, the burden of the disease, commitment and capacity of the leaders and implementation of the designed strategies to achieve the target”.

But because Ethiopian law criminalizes homosexuality, the government as well as the public dissuades key populations from seeking treatment, and health care providers from offering it; this plan is likely to fail. Same-sex consensual activity is punishable up to 15 years for convicted offenders. Anyone found guilty of transmitting HIV/AIDS through same-sex sexual conduct is liable to serving up to 25 years in prison.  

Some scholars and gay activist argue that criminalizing homosexuality prevents gays and lesbians from seeking medical help or counseling in case of suspected sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS for fear of prosecution. For instance, in Ethiopia, the HIV/AIDS protection program and medical experts seem to ignore the implication of excluding homosexual persons from protection and care programs, which might have direct or indirect link to the general population wellbeing.   

“The fact is we don’t know the impact of HIV prevalence amongst LGBT+ community because there is no recognition- so no research. But there’s no reason to believe it is lower than the very high rates in the rest of East Africa. How Ethiopia differs from our neighbors in this prospect is that there is much less knowledge within the community about HIV/AIDS and unavailability of help”, Beky Abiy, co-founder of DANA Social Club, an informal collective that advocates for LGBTIQA+ rights, said, in an interview  http://http://spl.ids.ac.uk/blog/interview-beki-abi-dana-social-club-ethiopia

The country is driven mostly by religion, tradition and general consensus on everything, hence Ethiopians DO NOT ACKNOWLEGDE THE EXISTENCE OF THE COMMUNITY. This ignorance and negligence coupled with winning votes and support from the public led the government to completely ignore the major rights of this key part of the population is supposed to be provided equally with the rest of the population.

Alas, these sad incidents never end. Another gay man who unfortunately needed immediate help went to a clinic to get treated for an anal fissure. The nurses treated him but to satisfy their homophobia they stitched him without anesthesia saying that that is what he gets when he practices sodomy. They told their peers and everyone laughed at him, leading him to a never ending physical and psychological suffering.

Gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately burdened by HIV infection. Laws that penalize same-sex intercourse contribute to a cycle of stigma, homo-negativity and discrimination because of the way the community is treated.

If the government wants to achieve the newly crafted plan it needs to include the LGBTIQA+ community. In a country where buying a condom even for heterosexual couples is a taboo and where there is no available protection for the LGBT community, there needs to be a better approach. Everyone should be angry and demand for equal rights of this neglected but also very much alive and existent part of the population the same way.

“Ethiopia continues to be deliberately leaving us behind, so congratulations on your delusional /empty fornication/ homophobic /Trans-phobic discriminatory plan. As long as Ethiopia continues disregarding its Queer Community, HIV/AIDS will never be eradicated”, says an Ethiopian LGBTIQA+ activist Faris Cuchi Gezahegn on twitter.

Sadly, there are hardly any documents indicating the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of the LGBTIQA+ community or the number of people affected by it in Ethiopia. Social groups like DANA and Addis Alliance  adapted  information from MSM groups in other countries and distribute that to thousands of men and women who have presence on social media.  Members also distribute lube, which is hard to come by, especially in rural places. But obviously this is not enough because Ethiopia is a huge country, much of it rural with many languages and still most people are not online.

A simple Google search, nonetheless, shows that based on a single point estimate, there are nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia at the moment. Anti- LGBTIQA+ bias further enables the spread of HIV by discouraging many in the community from getting tested or treated for HIV for fear of harassment.

An activist from Addis Alliance said, “I would like to emphasize that the HIV epidemic within our community might be considered as cleansing by God for our “sin” but we are part of the society”.

“To assimilate with the general community and to hide, some homosexuals have sexual relations with the opposite sex. As one can imagine, the epidemic doesn’t only affect us. If the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office want to reach its goal, its services should be all inclusive”. 

Anti-homosexuality laws act as restriction access to services and limit provider efficacy, whether intentionally or not. Hence, protecting the rights of LGBTIQA+ is central to achieving Ethiopia’s 2030 goal. 

People should not be deprived of the basic constitutional protections of equality, privacy, and free expression simply because they are LGBTIQA+.


By House of Guramayle (HoG)   

The Ethiopian flag

Choko Huyu Hataishia Airport…

Daktari Hamisi Kigwangalla,

Jambo! (Anyone who knows me knows just how much I hate that word)

I wrote to you a while back, here at a time when, as the Deputy Minister for Health, in a moment of sheer doltishness, you inexplicably banned the distribution of lubricants in your country claiming that this was promoting the spread of homosexuality. You did this not paying heed to the fact that it is not only homosexuals who need to use lubricant during sex. You did this, as a doctor, even as statistics showed the increasing numbers of HIV transmission in your country. You did this just to spite a section of the society that exists in your country, and will continue to exist in your country, because you find what they do as consensual adults in the privacy of their homes uncomfortable.

You are now the in the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. Congratulations on your promotion? I’m not entirely sure where that lies in Tanzania but congratulations nonetheless. This is a ministry that is responsible for, among other things including beekeeping and fisheries, development of tourism in the country. Now, I must tell you, and I can’t believe it takes a Kenyan to tell you this, your tweets have not really helping in the development of tourism in your country at all.

I mean, your country is home to the highest peak of Africa that everyone wants to see. It is home to the Serengeti…Maasai Mara’s cousin who’s simply too close for comfort but works because…you know…wildebeests need to move around. It is home to Zanzibar…a gem I have yet to see but still a gem. It is home to Stone Town and the Ruins of Kilwa…why the hell am I telling you about the tourist attractions of your country? You are the minister in charge of that. Let’s talk instead about the real reason I’m writing you. The gays!

Choko

Choko huyu hatoishia airport!

First of all. You are an entire minister in Magufuli’s government. Why would you even consider using that word in your tweet? Hang on a moment…I think I may have confused the world we live in with a world devoid of the likes of Duterte, Bolsonaro and Drumpf. It is an incredibly derogatory word and the fact that you decided to use it in your tweet ought to tell the people of Tanzania the kind of person you are. You are a person who doesn’t have a sense of decency or respect for the position he holds. You are a person who doesn’t care for a section of your constituents. A section that not only votes but also has friends who vote and family who vote and neighbours who vote. All these people who care for that section of your constituents.

Choko huyu hataishia airport!

Secondly, have you any idea what the purchasing power of the gay community is? I very kindly advise you to Google “pink money”. You are the minister in charge of the development of tourism in your country. You should know.

By the way…remember the welcome that Ellen DeGeneres got in your country?

You are welcome.

Choko huyu hataishia airport!

Third. I have said this before, I will say it again. The Tanzanian population (and in the same way, the population of Africa) has within it, people who are black, white, left handed, right handed, living with disabilities, living with albinism, gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex among many other identities. These people have existed in our society since time immemorial (except perhaps the white people who have also been a part of the human race). Homosexuality was not introduced by the west. Anthropological studies (which you may very well dismiss as western propaganda) have shown the existence of people of different sexual orientations and gender identities even before colonization. There are so many resources with this information and please feel free to contact me for links to them.

Choko huyu hataishia airport!

Number 4: At what point did you decide to be male (making an assumption here knowing I shouldn’t but what the hell)? At what point did you decide to be straight (another massive assumption)? At what point did you decide to be the person you are now? Have the emotions you have now? Have the personality you have now (save the very evident dislike for people who have sex in a way that makes you a tad uncomfortable)? At what point did this happen? I asked you last time to have a conversation with some of us. Hell, I even offered myself as a test subject (with a chastity belt on if that would make you more comfortable). At no point does anyone actually choose their sexual orientation or gender identity. They just are. Why would anyone really decide to be on the other end of your hateful rhetoric? Would you?

Choko huyu hataishia airport!

Tano: Paul Makonda calling for a task force to target us is not only criminal, but it is also a show of just how low those who don’t care for the lives of their fellow countrymen can get. It shows just how low failing politicians can get to pick one of the most marginalized community in the country and use them as pawns because the people are beginning to see the bullshit they spew. It shows that a politician who is drowning will gladly drag a brother, a sister, a father, a mother, a neighbor even a friend down with him because he wants to remain relevant. It shows that these politicians (AND THIS IS MEANT FOR EVERY CITIZEN OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA) will use laws that will infringe on your privacy. Laws that will dictate the way you have sex with your partner. Laws that will tell you that the kind of sex that you have is against the order of nature. And guess what “the order of nature” is…No?…I will tell you. It is when whatever you do to experience sexual pleasure does not result in reproduction…now tell me, who among you is not liable for 30 years in prison?

Choko huyu hataishia airport!

I will thrive. And so will all the other gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer people in Tanzania. Our journeys will not end at the airport. We shall visit the Serengeti. We shall climb Kilimanjaro. We shall get a tan on our black skins on the beaches of Zanzibar. We shall thrive. Your hate shall not stop us. Your derogatory terms shall not deter us. Your depriving us of lubricant shall not dry our mouths. You will not wish away the existence of a people who have been a part of the society centuries before you were a sperm in your father’s scrotum. Your hate will NEVER WIN!

Machoko hawa hawataishia airport!

Because…we are you. We are your brothers. We are your sisters. We are your fathers. We are your doctors. We are your gardeners. We are your cousins. We are your wives. We are your husbands. We are YOU.

You will never wish us away.

NONE OF YOU EVER WILL!

Machoko hawa hawatoishia airport!

When the Movement Breaks You…or does it?

Why am I posting this?

The last many months have been spent planning a conference. The conference happened. It ended. And I am finally at home. Currently watching the new episode of Sense8 sat with my husband and one of my best friends. But this is not a post about rest. It is not one about accomplishing a feat the likes of which none of us expected. It is not one about a team of 10 individuals with a lot of support from other people managed to pull off a 350 person LGBTI conference in Botswana. The biggest LGBTI conference in African history. One that was marred with threats of cancellation less than a week before the start of it. One that had an incredible amount of logistical issues due to delayed planning on our part. But a conference that happened nonetheless.

When I say that the conference was marred with threats of cancellation less than a week before the start of it, I mean that while some people were in the air on their way to Gaborone, some were planning on cancelling the event and having it moved to Kenya. While others were waiting on their flights to Botswana in Johannesburg, others were contemplating how to deal with donor funds already expended in order not to have the conference happen. But we did eventually have the Botswana government grant quite a large number of visas that were originally not expected to be granted.

When I talk of logistical issues, I am talking about the SA Express fleet being grounded and 19 people showing up to a hotel and not having a room to sleep because the hotel decided to sell the already booked rooms. This after spending hours on end traveling, exhausted, hungry and not having a place to lay their head. I am talking about strangers being told that they have to share one bed, this after being told that they will choose who to share a room with. A ROOM. I am talking about people standing in the cold without food because we did not plan for the numbers that showed up to the conference.

ALL these issues were eventually resolved.

I feel the need to say this. Not because someone is telling me to do this, but because I want to show this movement for what it is. I need to say that this movement has broken me. It has broken us. It has brought out in us the worst attributes that human beings possess. It has led us to believe that power is more important than the lived realities of the people we work for. It has led us to shun others just because they are not in the same “class” we perceive ourselves to be. It has led us not to care about the young gay man living in a slum in Accra (where incidentally the next conference is going to take place) and think about how much travel we are going to make in the next two years. It has led us not to think about the violations of the lesbian in Kibera, Nairobi (where incidentally the conference was going to be moved to) and focus on just how much influence do I have in the community.

But the conference happened.

And people loved it.

Others hated it.

Some felt that it should have been organized better. I agree. I should have been a lot more organized in making it happen.

Others felt that we should have had a better program. I agree. The Botswana government should have given us visas.

And even others felt that we should have had more people organizing the conference. I agree. Those of us who actually were working on the conference will also agree. We had very few hands.

But here is my point:

The movement breaks you.

I can remember a time when I woke up in the morning and had nothing to eat. I went to work and slaved away. I then had no lunch. I then slaved some more and at the end of the day I had no meal…well…a glass of borrowed milk and a slice of bread. That time was when I had nothing when everyone thought I had everything. That time was when I was working nights to feed my family and in school during the day to survive. And when one of us went through an incredibly invasive surgery just to fly to Botswana a few days later to look at the venue.

That is how my 31st May to 4th June were for me. That is how 31st May to 4th June was for most of my colleagues. That is when the movement breaks you. It is when you feel like you don’t want to belong to a community that you really want to work for. Not because it is paying your electricity bill, but because you are a part of the community. You are part of the change you want to see in it. You are it.

The movement breaks us. And it is painful. It hurts. It feels like you are the neglected step child. It feels like shit. But we keep trudging on. Because it is not about us. It is not about our inflamed egos. It is not about our need to feel or appear important to our communities. It is about the lives of people. PEOPLE. Individuals. Living, breathing, loving, feeling beings. It is about people. And that, THAT is what keeps me going. And I know for certain that that is what keeps my team going.

But when the movement breaks you…

You don’t want to live in it any more…

EZEKIEL MUTUA: The Biggest LGBTI Ally and Promoter of the Arts.

I gathered a group of my friends to watch a film the other day. A film that was banned in Kenya by the Kenya Film Classification Board. This film by The Nest Collective, Stories of our Lives, is a brilliant take on the lives of LGBTI people in Kenya from different walks of lives. There’s even a book! Look it up. As I was sat there shedding a tear at the story of the lesbian students and being completely narcissistic while listening to my own voice at the closing scene, I suddenly thought of the person who made this happen. The person who made the thing I was doing right then a crime in my country. I suddenly thought of Ezekiel Mutua. So I am dedicating this blog post to you sir. Enjoy.

See, I don’t even know if you will ever read this. You have blocked me on Twitter for calling you Pornstache Man (not that I have any problem with porn or the stache but you got to admit…your face just asks for it). You blocked me on Facebook for calling you out on banning the Same Love music video. You blocked me on Grindr for saying that you are way too churchy for my heathen self (OK, that one may not have happened but in this day and age of the internet, believe EVERYTHING! – Wole Soyinka). I sure hope you get to read this because, contrary to what you might think, this is praise for you Ezekiel Mutua. This is me taking my hat off to you. This is me saying, “Thank you!”. This is me kissing your feet. This is me washing your feet? Where am I going with this?

You, Mr. Mutua (and the gays are going to crucify me for saying this), are the best thing to happen to homosexuals. You really are. Beyonce must have sprinkled you with the fairy dust of homosexual ally-ness. You must have been born singing, “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it!” way before it was ever written. Because, you sir, have done so much for this homosexual community and I will be damned if I don’t thank you. So, Thank you, Ezekiel Mutua. Thank you for being a beacon of hope. Thank you for being the one person I can always count on to make my voice heard. For being the person I can always look up to whenever I feel…well…not talked about enough. I realize that it is about this point where you are thinking, “What the F…inger of God is this homosexual talking about?” You know, because you can’t say the word “Fuck”. Don’t worry, sir. I will explain.

Remember when you banned the music video Same Love Remix by Art Attack? At that time I thought you were a complete prick. I kept thinking to myself, “Where does this closet homosexual get the nerve to ban a very brilliantly done video?” Actually, I lie. Every time I thought of you or heard your name mentioned, there were only two words in my mind. And they rhyme with “gloset bomosexual”. But that was then. Do you know though what you did when you banned the music video? EVERYONE who noticed the ban watched the video. Everyone! The video has, to date, been seen more than 300,000 times on YouTube and that’s not counting the thousands of shares on other media. So thank you for spreading the message of Same Love. Mwah!

And then I called you Pornstache Man and you blocked me on Twitter.

And then there was that time that you banned the film I spoke about earlier, Stories of our Lives. A film that went ahead to earn many many international accolades. You can’t even claim to have one accolade. But don’t you worry Mr. Mutua. I’m giving you one today. Kudos! A film that had my voice in it, so in essence, you banned me! You even got George Gachara, the Executive Producer, arrested. Look how young and innocent George was! And I must have called you something or other on Facebook at that time. I don’t remember what it was…you blocked me. But what that ban did was highlight the plight of LGBTI people in Kenya worldwide. In Kenya, the forward thinking people must have thought, “What’s up with this closet homosexual? Can’t he just let gays keep gaying?” while others thought, “Homosexuality, hmmm…we need to discuss this thing!” And for that sir, I curtsy in thanks!

And then your diplomatic passport was revoked and I praised Beyonce! But come to think of it, “Booooo!!!”

My favorite one though was when you said, in your words, “That is why I will say isolate the crazy gay animals, study their behavior because it’s not normal. The very idea of sex even among animals is for procreation. Two male lions cannot procreate and therefore we will lose the lion species.” And you did not stop there, you said something to the effect that they learn from the gays who go have sex in the bushes, allegedly (yes…I put that word there because it doesn’t quite show what is alleged. Bite me!) And what did that show? That you are one big homosexual ally. I mean, why bring up a thing that has been a part of nature since time immemorial to the fore when you could have just let it be.

And then I called you too churchy and you blocked me on Grindr (allegedly).

And most recently, you banned Rafiki. I haven’t seen it yet, but from the trailer, it looks to be one of the best LGBTI themed films out of Kenya in recent times. The love, the chemistry, the lesbianism…everything. Don’t you think so? You clearly did when you wanted to go see the premiere at Cannes. But you know what your ban did, it ensured that the premiere was one of the most highly attended at the festival, and for that, we thank you!

What I am trying to say is, while most might think you the devil’s spawn, an enemy to the gays, a badly written 60’s cartoon character, a bible-thumping queen, a crazy old man, a closet homosexual, a shit stain on the freedom of expression (I should stop). I don’t think you are any of those things. I think you are one of Kenya’s biggest LGBTI allies and the biggest promoter of the arts. Here is your accolade. “Accolade”

Also, I really think you should get a gay guy to do your hair and make up. It looks absolutely awful.

The Settler Mentality on Land, Racism and the African Plagues

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So this is how my day started. On my timeline last night I saw a post from one of the people I have on Facebook. The post above. And then I read the comments. And boy was I angered.

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As my Facebook “friend” who loves Africa so much agrees with the incredibly vile assertions of his friend.

And it went on…

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And then I had to say something…

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After sending that comment and receiving that response, I tried really hard not to engage further. But the baiting…the baiting was harsh!

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And I folded. I responded with this;

OK I’ll bite.

Like the last time this happened, this will be my very last comment on this thread.

The fact that you read my comment as a “racist and bigoted point of view” is disturbing. It will be perceived as disturbing by most who read this thread but I know you David. You are the perfect embodiment of the Dunning Kruger effect. The comment simply asks people to set race aside for a moment and consider history. Consider that this is not the first time the issue of land has come up. That all the previous times, hardly anyone said anything to stop the same from happening. Consider that this is clearly an issue that has been enshrined in the South African constitution since 1994 and it’s only now that something legal is being done about it. But no, that is a racist and bigoted point of view.

For a man who claims to love Africa and Africans so much, agreeing with your incredibly vile friend who I shall not dignify with a mention nor a response that we “blacks can run nothing.” That we “blacks are hopeless idiots,” and that “Monkeys have more Brains” is disturbing. It will appear disturbing to most who read this thread but I know you David. You came to Kenya hoping to start a business but was burnt. You came in assuming that you know how things are run and were rudely shocked. Now you hate (?) all Kenyans. You consider everyone corrupt. That is your reality. You are allowed to live it.

In response to your long-winded list of contradictions;

  1. Zimbabwe and South Africa are completely different contexts. Zimbabwe was not land reform, it was a land grab. What is happening in South Africa is constitutional requiring decisions taken in parliament, subject to laws. The SA government has the benefit of hindsight. No one in the ANC has suggested racing along with this reform and the president has stated that he will only pursue options that will help SA prosper.
  2. Carlton Hotel did not collapse because of mismanagement and corrupt work practices of the new management. It collapsed due to the increase in crime in the CBD and was actually being managed by Anglo American who have since sold it to Transnet who are now renting it out as an office building among other things. Lots of new better hotels have sprung up in Johannesburg…and that’s the reality of the world we live in. Businesses collapse. Others spring up.
  3. I shall not discuss Kenyan politics with you.
  4. Again, your Dunning Kruger effect kicks in. As a petitioner in the Kenyan case, I know what the defenders of the status quo are arguing. They are arguing the case from a cultural and a religious perspective. The difference here is that South Africa is not defending the status quo…actually, those that do not want the land reforms are the defenders of the status quo. The law can be an arse…and that’s when it is disadvantageous to any group of people, regardless of their race. The status quo here is as it is.
  5. Yes. We will hark about the injustices we have endured. Because we have endured these injustices. I am not justifying murdering white farmers in the same way as I am not justifying the murder of black folk in South Africa. That is wrong. But must be looked at in a more nuanced way.

That is all.

I did say that I would not respond to the thread any more. I don’t consider this a response to the thread rather me trying to understand, as I said in an earlier blog post, the other side. And then came this…

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Do people really believe in some of the things they say? I do not for one moment believe that my thoughts on things are perfect…however…plagues? Really?

That is all.

Here’s to the Women…

Here’s to all our mothers who for 9 months (some more, others less), allowed us to grow in their bodies. Making them ill and tired. Messing with their hormones. Feeding off their bodies even after they painfully brought us into this world. Made them love, laugh and cry as they nurtured us into who we are today. Mothers who toiled day and night to ensure that we would live to see another day. Mothers who loved us every day even when we gave them every reason not to.

Here’s to all our sisters and aunts and cousins. Who have had to deal with constantly being considered last in anything major in the family because they did not happen to be born with penises. Who had to deal with the patriarchy that our cultures perpetuate in the name of keeping a balance in society. A false notion noting that it has always been our sisters and aunts and cousins who kept our societies moving. With strength unsurpassable, wit unmatchable and indefatigable resilience.

Here’s to the dykes. Fetishized by men all over and then raped to show them the “taste of a man”. Fetishized by men all over and then considered abominations. Fetishized by men all over and then put down for being different. Here’s to women who have shown a resolve to exist that no man will ever understand. Women who have defied all sorts of hate and discrimination and stigma and rape and murder yet still stand strong and declare their love and lust and shown their beauty in their non-comformity and their strength.

Here’s to the trans women. Misgendered and insulted. Forced into spaces they cannot possibly be comfortable in. Denied their right to exist. Their right to exist in the body they should exist in. Denied their right to be referred to by the names they should be referred to by. Denied their right to have their documents reflect the gender marker they should reflect. Yet they exist in spaces of beauty beyond anyone’s understanding. They show all of us that it is indeed possible to be who we are inside and out. They inspire us to be more than society expects of us.

Here’s to all the women in our lives. Gay, straight, lesbian, intersex, trans, tall, short, pregnant, new mother, mother, large, tiny…

This message is not written just because today happens to be the day it is. It is an acknowledgement of my thoughts about you every. Single. Day. I have seen you get cat called and molested. I have heard, from you, your encounters of rape and torture just because you are a woman. I have witnessed society treat you less than you should be treated and I am a beneficiary of the male privilege.

My promise to you is this: As long as my heart beats, I will stand by you in your struggle to end the violence. In your struggle for acceptance. In your fight towards non-discrimination. I will stand by you in your fight towards equality for all. I may be a penis-having cisgender man. I will never understand your struggles. I will however stand by you. Always.

On the Threshold of a New Dawn…

I started the day yesterday watching one of those disturbing videos that one finds on social media. And then the day deteriorated from there…aside from a lovely coffee had with a lovely person…but I digress. It was a video from somewhere in Africa of a person being roughed up in the streets. I could not make out the language spoken so I am not entirely sure where exactly it is from. The men tore this person’s clothes off, slapped them, kicked them, spat at them. All so gleefully. I could feel the joy they derived from hurting this person. I could only assume that the reason this was happening was because the victim did not present in the way these men expected them to. Pants that were a bit tighter than the men assaulting wanted them. A shirt that may have been a bit too effeminate. Some make up on the face. These are the things that I am assuming caused this person to be violated so.

I have seen way too many such videos. They should not be showing up on the internet in this day and age, but they still do. And it is such a shame that people will exert their energy to cause pain and harm on another person just because the other person is different. I am beginning to believe that my ideal of everyone accepting, understanding and respecting diversity is incredibly naïve. It would be a perfect world. Where we all know that we will never all be the same. Where we all know that there will be differences in dress, race, thought, religion, sexual orientation, gender among a myriad of other things that make us human. Where these differences are seen as the source of beauty in the world and not a reason to attack each other. This is probably too much to ask for. I am hopeful for that day, but that day seems to be moving further and further away.

Most, if not all countries in the world have laws condemning physical violence with words like, “use of force or violence to strike, beat, wound or do bodily harm to another”. The attack on this person by the mob was an act of violence and the attackers are criminals. The person recording the video did nothing to assist the person being attacked. They may have as well been doing the kicking and the punching. The police who seemed to have been present during the attack did not prevent the mob from kicking and punching this person. This is vile. It makes me so angry to think that incidents like these are happening in my continent. They are happening to people who have done nothing wrong. People whose only “crime” is that they love differently. That they dress differently. That they act differently. All the while, not causing harm to anyone else.

I honestly have no solution to this. If anyone does, please tell us how we can stop people from beating and killing us for being different. I would like to live in my naïve bubble of an all accepting utopia, but in doing so, I keep the status-quo going. I will therefore attempt to understand these people who hate us. The man in the video who jumped on the person’s chest while they were lying helpless and naked on the ground. The man in the video who felt the need to tear off this person’s clothes off his body. The person behind the camera.

What goes on inside their minds? Why cause harm on another human being who has not wronged you one bit? Is it maybe because you are so insecure about your own existence that you get offended by another person living their truth? Is it perhaps because you experience joy in watching another person suffer so you take your phone out to record the incident instead of assisting the person? Could it be because your heart is just filled with hate? Help me understand why. Why thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people worldwide have to live in constant fear of violence. Why we have to constantly hide our true selves from those who would be offended by our existence. All this makes me incredibly angry and sad and I want to hate the perpetrators.

But Martin Luther King Jr said something that has played out in my mind over the last two days. He said, “If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have the compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”

It is midnight right now. We are on the threshold of a new dawn. And I am hopeful. I really am.

Stop The Hate