I am a lawyer, a brother, a son, a friend, a neighbor, a confidant, a student of life and I am Kenyan.
Became a human rights activist so suddenly sometimes I ask myself if this really is something I wanted. But I have come to embrace it. I have come to realize that I like what I do. That on some level, what I do makes life easier for someone and hopefully, eventually, for myself…Probably the best way to describe me is in the words of Winston Churchill, I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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,
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.
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.
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”.
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”.
laws act as restriction access to services and limit provider efficacy, whether
intentionally or not. Hence, protecting the rights of LGBTIQA+
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+.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
As my Facebook “friend” who loves Africa so much agrees with the incredibly vile assertions of his friend.
And it went on…
And then I had to say something…
After sending that comment and receiving that response, I tried really hard not to engage further. But the baiting…the baiting was harsh!
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;
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.
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.
I shall not discuss Kenyan politics with you.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
Somewhere in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi, stands this house. A 3-bedroom house that is a much needed shelter for 10 individuals who were forced to flee Uganda for fear of, and for most of them, actual persecution because they happened to be different. They happened to be of a sexual orientation that the Ugandan government and society deems unnatural, evil, abominable and deserving of being eradicated. These ten people left their homes because they feared for their lives. They now live in this house. Somewhere in Ongata Rongai, Nairobi.
Michael and I were received by our hosts today with a hearty meal. Matoke, ugali, g-nut sauce and a piece of chicken. A meal I am sure is not had daily in this house. But we were their guests and as Africans, we do everything we can to ensure that our guests feel the utmost hospitality. I ate what Michael said was more than he had ever seen me eat. It was absolutely delicious.
I was then given a tour of the house. As you walk into the house, you see what is obviously a workshop.
Beads, bags, table mats scarves and many other odds and ends. All made by the residents of this house. The talent they have is amazing. The drive they have to be able to sit for hours on end to make these items and attempt to sell them online is inspiring. Especially while having a fear in their minds that the workshop may not be available for too long. Thinking about family and friends left behind. Thinking about the stigma and discrimination and violence they faced back home and continue to face in Kenya as they await to be relocated. Inspiring.
They attempt to sell their craft online through their social media page but it has been tough seeing as they don’t have the reach they need to break even. I have committed to setting up a little online store for them which shall have all the information about the safe house.
I was then taken to where they sleep. It broke my heart. For a 3-bedroom house with one bed to house 10 people, the individuals have to make a lot of compromise. More than two people sharing a paper thin mattress on the floor.
When Michael was in Kampala, it became evident that there is a need for lubricant. He found out, while visiting Icebreakers Uganda that one of the most successful methods of getting people to test for HIV is by offering lube and condoms. With the crackdown on homosexuality in the country, distribution of lube is seen as promotion of homosexuality. This meant that lube was so difficult to find and is an incredibly expensive product. In the US, they hand them out for free. He therefore spoke to some of his friends in a sexual health organization and they shipped them to him.
Today, we took a package of lube with us to the safe house for delivery to Uganda. Michael had to carry them on his head feeling like a right African lass.
The relevance of this delivery is the fact that some of the individuals in the safe house are HIV positive. They have a level of access to their medication but due to the fact that they belong to a different sexual orientation and are not from Kenya, the stigma they face in some hospitals in Nairobi dissuades them from seeking health services when they need it. The nearest LGBTQ friendly health center is way too far for them to access. There is however a possible reprieve for them on this with some organizations stepping in to assist.
They are Team No Sleep Foundation. I have seen their files and they are intricate. Every single receipt is filed. Every single doctor’s appointment is documented. Every single purchase is recorded. They clearly don’t sleep. They are however in need of your help. Their rent needs to be paid. Water and electric bills need to be paid. They need to be fed. They need medical assistance. I do understand that their plight may be similar to others out there. I know that the world is a tough place to live in. But they are human beings. Being in that space gives you a sense of hope. It shows a side of humanity that lights a fire in your heart. And they do need your help.
It is about time that people in power who take advantage of those who look up to them have their actions questioned. They have gone unchecked far too long and that is wrong. Harvey Weinstein has been accused. He tried to quash the stories but they came out. Speaking of coming out, Kevin Spacey did just that when he was accused. Effectively coming up with something completely new to the LGBT world; a wrong time to come out. All these stories are, in my books, success stories. Someone who had been violated found the strength to say what happened to them. Say it and make an impact. Say it and allow others who had had the same happen to them find the strength to say what had happened to them. It is sad. It is beautiful. It is empowering.
But no. This is not that kind of post as you may have guessed from the title.
If I had to name them, the women who have accused men, powerful or otherwise, of sexual abuse and had their narratives dismissed as a call for attention or a search for fame or a quest for a big cheque or the myriad of other excuses that we come up with, I would be listing names for a very long time. A very very long time. It took Kevin Spacey’s very problematic coming out for me to say this. The reaction we collectively have when a man says he has been violated is completely different from the reaction that we collectively have when a woman says she has been violated in the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way condoning what the man allegedly did. It was horrible. It should not ever happen to anyone. Yet it is happening. To men who just want to get a foot on the ground. To men who are simply seeking to be loved. To men who are trying to ensure that the love they are made to believe exists is reciprocated. It is happening. I am not condoning this at all. All I am saying is that we need to check our privilege. As ugly as this is, we need to see it as it is. That a woman will be violated and we will say, “Well, she shouldn’t have placed herself in that situation.” And when a man is violated, we instantly ostracize the accused.
We need to check our privilege. And while we are checking that privilege, we need to acknowledge the fact that we are all trash. Now I know that this will not go down well with my fellow penis havers, but the fact that it took one of my kind, in more ways than one, being accused to have me say this makes me trash as well.
It is not equality I am speaking for here. It is basic humanity. When no consent is given or when consent is coerced or when consent is withdrawn, none of us has a right over the body of the other person. THAT is basic humanity.
So yes. Men are trash. And please don’t say, “Not all men!” That just makes you trash. Be a man. Acknowledge your privilege. And then stand up for what is right. Speak up for the woman in your life who is being treated oh so differently because of the fact that she is a woman. Understand that she really doesn’t need you to speak up because she can very well do that for herself only problem being that you and your privileged self, shut her down. Note that while you may not personally play a part in shutting her down, you do nothing about those who do. Admit that by your very existence, you are one of the oppressors. Accept that you are hating me so much right now for calling you out.
Once you are done being trash, do something to make a difference!