Men: As You Check Your Privilege, Remember, You ARE Trash!

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.

Men are trash

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!

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I Will Listen…

When I post updates like, “If you watch Godzilla backwards its about a dinosaur who passionately pieces a city back together before moonwalking into the sea.” you smile. And that makes me​ happy. But only for a moment. When I bake and post a picture of the cookies I made. You like the pictures and ask me to bake you some. It makes me happy. But only for a moment. When I post about my new job and you congratulate me, genuinely happy for me. It makes me happy. But only for a moment. 

For a very long time, I have been dealing with depression. It is a horrible thing. It eats away at you. Makes you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Makes you distance yourself from those who love you. Makes you the worst version of yourself. But some of us are able to mask it. Live for those moments when we are made to feel good about ourselves…while dying inside. We have to keep pushing on though. We do have a purpose in life. To make a difference in people’s lives. To put a smile on a sad person’s face. To do the things that make us feel good. 

I realise that that is easier said than done, but if you are dealing with depression like I have been, please seek help. Know that you are not alone. 

I have been lucky. I have found someone who understands me. Who understands my moments. Who understands my way of communication. I have found Mark. The man I will soon be married to. The man I am in love with. He has helped me know me better. 

You do have someone who loves you. Who would do anything for you. Who would move mountains for you. Who will always listen…
“But I don’t.” I hear you thinking…
I am right here. I will listen. 

And to everyone else…be kind. You really have no idea what demons the person walking beside you is dealing with. 

The Politics of Sex Work

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I’ll quote Bitange Ndemo’s piece on Taiwan’s Link between Personal Conduct and Economic Success, “Asian countries emphasise six key values that can be introduced to young children as well as older people. These include Respect (acknowledging others with simple greetings), Responsibility (taking care of your mess), Resilience (accepting failure and never giving up), Integrity (honesty), Care (helping those around you) and Harmony (accept others who may be different or do things differently), and re-emphasising all the time the living by these values in every decision or action that we take.” This does not make what follows an analysis of Taiwan, or Asian countries for that matter. It is however very much about the linkages that exist between personal conduct, public conduct, morality, crime (and the lack of it), exploitation, choice, class and economic success. At this point, I will emphasise on “harmony” as one of the key values. Keep that in mind as you read this.

Sex work. Prostitution. Intimacy for compensation. Umalaya. Hustling. The sex trade. The sex industry. Hooking. Arguably the oldest profession known has been in the headlines a lot. Amnesty International sparked international debate mid last year when the organization’s International decision making forum voted to adopt a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers. The resolution recommended that the highly influential international organization develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work and called on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence. This recommendation came after a two year research concluding that this is the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights and lessen the risk of abuse and violations they face. One thing that seems to have escaped most commentators’ attention is the fact that the policy would also recommend that any act related to the sexual exploitation of a child must be criminalized. Recognizing that a child involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law, and that states must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Amnesty International was not  the first international organization to recommend the decriminalization of sex work. The World Health Organization in its 2013 publication, “Implementing Comprehensive HIV/STI Programmes with Sex Workers: Practical Approaches from Collaborative Interventions” stated that community empowerment includes working towards the decriminalization of sex work and the elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers, and recognizing and respecting sex work as a legitimate occupation or livelihood.

Last year, the United States Department of Justice arrested the CEO and six employees behind the online male escort service rentboy.com calling said site the largest “internet brothel”. While there may be legal justification for taking down the website in the United States as prostitution is illegal in that country, this move has sparked quite some debate all over the world about criminalization and what that means not only for the providers of the internet service but also for the users of the same, especially due to the fact that RentBoy has operated openly for the last twenty years.

The op-ed “Buying Sex Should Not Be Legal” by Rachel Moran in the New York Times, (coincidentally published on my birthday) and an interview with a friend, colleague and sex worker activist John Mathenge from the Global Network for Sex Workers raise an incredibly complicated set of issues that I wish to analyse on this incredibly complicated topic.

Mathenge says that the reasons for becoming a sex worker are incredibly broad. For some sex workers, poverty pushes them to it. Poverty and the fact that the individual does not have other professional options. He notes that indeed, there are individuals who are coerced into sex work through human trafficking and challenges at home while incredibly young. Ms. Moran’s story is quite tragically one of those. Forced to sell sex at 14 years of age. This is a story that has been heard countless times the world over. On this point, I agree wholeheartedly with her. Our children need to be protected. Our young girls and boys need to be protected from those who wish to sexually exploit them. Mathenge says however that sex work is different from human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, both of which the sex workers in Kenya are completely against. In fact, he says, his organization, in conjunction with the Africa Sex Worker Alliance and the Kenya Sex Worker Alliance have conducted a project to link young people selling sex (children under the age of 18) in various countries in Africa with organizations working with children and encourage those willing to go back to school. Most of those reached did indeed go back to school.

There are sex workers however who actually choose the profession. For some, according to Mathenge, due to the fact that there is nothing else they are capable of doing. For others, like Mr. Rob Yeager, for convenience; so that he can have the ability and time to take care of his disabled partner. Even others actually enjoy the profession for various reasons including the sex and perhaps the fact that it makes more money than anything else they could have done. For these people, for these adults, it becomes a matter of choice. The freedom to choose what to do with their own bodies. The freedom to choose to get into a willing buyer, willing seller situation where the product in question may include a sexual act.

Which brings me to the question of commoditising the body. Commoditizing sex itself. Reasons for not doing this vary greatly. They are often influenced by the society’s understanding of morality and religion. They are often a product of having been brought up believing that sex is something so intimate that it cannot be spoken about in polite company. That the only reason sex can be had is when two people need to procreate (is it really?). That it is something about oneself that one needs to keep hidden. These reasons are a product of not nearly enough talk about gender and sexuality. Because if we did actually open up, and I have been successful in getting random groups of people to open up about gender and sexuality, we would uncover so many aspects of the same that we didn’t even know existed. We would get to a point where we understood that components of our gender and sexuality are so broad that understanding them would probably be near impossible. A conversation about gender and sexuality needs to happen when we are talking about sex work because that is exactly what it is about. Gender and sexuality. Our maleness, our femaleness, our cisgenderness, our transgenderness, our heterosexuality, our homosexuality, our bisexuality and all the other possible continuums in existence. It is about all that and the human need to exist in their space without prejudice, stigma or discrimination. To be allowed to make choices as long as these choices do not harm the next person.

The bottom line is this, sex work has existed in our society from time immemorial. Fun fact, it even exists in animals (although I’m yet to figure out when animals became our moral compass)! Sex work is going nowhere. We may continue to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that by increasing punitive measures that in some countries target persons under the age of 18 who sell sex, we will get rid of it. We may try creative punitive measures like the Nordic model where only the buyer is criminalized which in essence does an injustice to the sex worker. As much as some studies have claimed that this model has had some success, it still doesn’t make logical sense to make the buying of a product illegal and selling of the same legal. With due respect to Ms. Moran, our children are getting into the sale of sex at an incredibly young age. But that is not sex work. That is exploitation of children. That is paedophilia. That is wrong and the perpetrators of the same need to face the full extent of the law. Women are being unwillingly used for the sexual gratification of other men and women. Some men are being unwillingly used for the sexual gratification of other men and women. That is not sex work. That is sexual exploitation of human beings. That is wrong and the perpetrators of the same, just like the paedophiles need to face the full extent of the law.

Existing resources (meagre for most countries) need not be used to target adult consensual sex workers and the buyers of their services. They need to be utilized in eradicating human trafficking. In ensuring that our children are protected. In ensuring that women and men are not being exploited sexually or otherwise. In my opinion, sex work needs to be decriminalized. It then needs to be regulated. Regulated in such a way that people are not exploited. That everyone gets their due wage. That sex workers are able to report the violence they face to the authorities without the fear that they will be arrested. That sex workers are empowered enough to negotiate condom use with their clients thus reducing the rates of transmission HIV and other STIs. That sex workers get to contribute meaningfully to the society by having the trade taxed. I intentionally did not use statistics here because while numbers do wonders in giving us an outline of a situation, this conversation is not about numbers. It is about human beings who simply want to be allowed to live and do what they do. It’s about people. In the beginning I asked that you keep “harmony” in mind. It’s about just that. Accepting others who may be different or do things differently.

A Plea to the African Group at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly

Resolution 32/2 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 30th June 2016 was a huge victory for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It called on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It stressed the need to maintain joint ownership of the international human rights agenda and to consider human rights issues in an objective and non-confrontational manner. It also undertook to support a broad and balanced agenda, and to strengthen the mechanisms addressing issues of importance including fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in all their forms. It reiterated the importance of respective regional, cultural and religious value systems as well as particularities in considering human rights issues.

This resolution deplored the use of external pressure and coercive measures against States particularly developing countries, including through the use and threat of use of economic sanctions and the application of conditionality to official development assistance, with the aim of influencing the relevant domestic debates and decision-making processes at the national level. It underlined that it should be implemented while ensuring respect for the sovereign right of each country as well as its national laws, development priorities, the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and should also be in full conformity with universally recognized international human rights.

This resolution then made history by, for the first time ever, creating the mandate of an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution was however heavily contested with Saudi Arabia requesting a no-action motion saying that motion was a last attempt to make co-sponsors understand the consequences of this deeply divisive proposal that failed to recognize cultural differences.  They said that the draft was contrary to international human rights law and would disregard the universality of human rights. Nigeria supported the no-action motion saying that the draft was divisive and was concerned that the lack of definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity and the attached human rights and fundamental freedoms carried certain responsibility for States. They said that the controversial views of those issues could not be imposed by some Member States and that the adoption of the resolution would ensure that the attention on sexual orientation and gender identity issues as seen by the Western States would take root in the United Nations, without taking into account the views of a large number of States.

A myriad of amendments that would have weakened the resolution were tabled most of which were rejected by The Council and those that were accepted, actually increased the scope of the resolution. This resolution not only faced opposition from within the Human Rights Council, but also from a section of civil society who were concerned, understandably so, that the creation of a mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity would undermine the intersectionalities of struggle that exist within our society. This matter was heavily debated and I do not believe that there will ever be a consensus on it, as with most civil rights issues. The resolution passed with 23 states voting in favor, 18 (including Kenya) voting against and 6 abstentions (most notable of the abstentions being South Africa, a State that was previously seen as a beacon of hope for LGBT people what with it having constitutional protection everyone regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity).

The reason why I give such a detailed background on Resolution 32/2 is because this historic resolution is under threat. I realize “threat” may be a rather strong word but that is essentially what the African Group is doing. The African Group has proposed a resolution that seeks to “…defer consideration of and action on Human Rights Council resolution 32/2…on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to allow time for further consultations to determine the legal basis upon which the mandate of the special procedure established therein will be defined.”

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Botswana expressed deep concern over attempts to introduce and impose new notions and concepts that were not internationally agreed upon, particularly in areas where there was no legal foundation in any international human rights instruments. The African Group was even more disturbed at attempts to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors, while ignoring that other types of intolerance and discrimination regrettably still existed. While deploring all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, hate speech and violence, the African Group stated that adoption of resolution 32/2 would be at the detriment of issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development. The African Group also believes that notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments. They then called for the suspension of the appointed Independent Expert’s activities, pending the determination of clarity on the issue.

While a call for deferment of consideration of and action on the resolution may not technically be a no-action motion, it effectively does exactly what a no-action motion would do. The resolution by the African Group as drafted does not give a time period for the deferment and what it does is indefinitely defer any action on resolution 32/2. One of the mandates of the Independent Expert is to address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Look at the hundreds of LGBT people who have died in violent attacks all over the world including in Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa. Some of these violent attacks go unreported because of the stigma that comes with being LGBT.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not new notions. They may be recent terms but people have had different sexual orientations and gender identities the world over, including in Africa since time immemorial. We have contributed to the society’s development, we are your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, we are your friends and neighbors and we cannot change who we are. Yet we constantly face violence and threats of violence due to the fact that we are of a sexual orientation or gender identity that is different. The intolerance and discrimination that we face is just as real as any other intolerance and discrimination that exists in our society. We face those too. Resolution 32/2 as I mentioned earlier supports the strengthening of mechanisms that address these intolerance and discrimination.

Notions of sexual orientation and gender identity are linked to International Human Rights Instruments. There is a legal foundation for the mandate of Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As Arvind Narrain says in his blog post about South Africa, The principle of universality of rights and the principle of non-discrimination on any status are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the ICCPR. Further the Human Rights Council under OP2 of GA resolution 60/251 has the responsibility for “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.” We should not face violence or discrimination not because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but because we are human beings, and any measure taken to address this violence and discrimination should not be opposed but supported in every way.

This is therefore a plea to the Africa Group. While you propose to defer action on resolution 32/2, hundreds of LGBT Africans are facing violence, discrimination and even death on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity. While you call for the suspension of the appointed Independent Expert’s activities, hundreds of citizens in your countries are being beaten in the streets, face mental anguish due to stigma and are even facing corrective rape. Resolution 32/2 respects the sovereign right of each country as well as its national laws, development priorities, the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people. It is rooted, in its entirety, under International Human Rights Instruments. Your proposed resolution not only ignores the lived reality of LGBT citizens of your countries but also undermines the mandate of the Human Rights Council. Please don’t let your citizens down.

No Room for Gays in Kenya. Really?

As much as the literacy rate in Kenya is far better than in most other African countries, quality education is something hard to come by. Most students graduate from school with degrees upon degrees but unable to apply what they’ve learned in school to help better their living conditions. About 50% of the entire Kenyan populace live below poverty line according to the new multidimensional poverty index with the unemployment rate around hovering around 40%.
Although youth education especially girl-child education is helping a lot in breaking the cycle of new HIV/AIDS infections in Kenya, the number of children orphaned by HIV in Kenya is as high as 1. 3 million.
 
Like in most African countries, about a large percentage of the total population of Kenya are subsistence farmers who grow crops and rear animals just to feed themselves and their families and in times of crop failure, most of these families go starving. The unpredictable climatic conditions in Kenya sometimes worsen the situation. From the tropical regions along the coast to the arid interior regions of Kenya, natural havocs such as recurring drought and unpredictable flooding during the rainy seasons sometimes put many rural families in nothing but absolute poverty.
Corruption and poor leadership are the other major concerns faced by Kenyans. Corruption in Kenya has become so bad that citizens consider corruption a “normal” part of everyday life. Incompetent leadership and poor governance continue to tear Kenya into pieces.
On the 16th of May 2014, twin explosions at Gikomba market claimed the lives of more than 10 Kenyans. On the 4th of May 2014, homemade bombs were exploded on two commuter buses on the Thika Highway in Nairobi killing 3 Kenyans and injuring at least 62 others. On the 3rd of May 2014, twin terrorist attacks in Mombasa killed 3 Kenyans. In Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, 6 Kenyans were killed and dozens more injured when terrorists exploded bombs at two separate locations. On 2 April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, killing 147 people, and injuring 79 or more. These are just a few of the deaths that have happened in Kenya due to insecurity. 
What isn’t and shouldn’t be an area of priority for our leaders is homosexuality. Two consensual adults loving each other should not be reason for Kenyans to stop what they are doing and go out in the streets to demonstrate. Gay and lesbian people suffer the same insecurity, corruption, unemployment and everything else that the rest of the Kenyans are facing. Yet the deputy president, backed by other politicians and religious leaders says that there is no room for homosexuals in Kenya. Let us break that statement down for a moment. 
A gay man owns a hotel. He provides employment to more than 50 Kenyans. He pays his taxes. He provides services as hoteliers do. He supports the declining tourism market. A lesbian woman has a kiosk selling vegetables. She provides sustenance to members of her community. She does no wrong. She pays her taxes. Another gay man owns a beauty salon. He beautifies ladies so that they look good enough to attend political functions with their husbands who are the same politicians who say that there is no room for him in this country. He also pays his taxes. There is no room for these people in this country? These people whose hard earned tax money goes to pay these politician’s hefty salaries? These same politicians who claim that there is no room for these people in this country use the same tax money to grab land owned by schools, issue questionable contracts among other scandals (allegedly).

We need to place priority where priority is due. My relationship with another man has no effect on you whatsoever. I do not threaten any family. I do not cause you not to eat your Ugali for dinner. I do not cause you any harm. Corruption, insecurity, unemployment; these are the things that affect you. No matter what any politician says about homosexuality. Consider the fact that they are only using homosexuality to divert attention to what they are doing or not doing in their capacity as leader. They are using this highly emotive issue to get attention away from that land they grabbed. Away from that contract they irregularly offered. Away from all the issues that actually affect you and yours.

I bid you a fond farewell, Felicia.

I do have the audacity to say that gay and lesbian people pay taxes on national TV because, guess what, we do.

I don’t normally respond to hate messages online. The reason I do so now is because I feel the urge to state the obvious. That I am the same person who spent 4 years with you in high school. I haven’t changed one bit. Granted there is a bit of facial hair and a bald spot on my head where they didn’t exist back then but I am still essentially the same person. You didn’t seem to have any problem with me back then. Why is it that you do, now that you know that I am gay and support the rights of gay and lesbian people?

I have known that my sexual orientation did not conform to the “norm” since as far back as I can remember. I knew I was gay when I was in high school. I didn’t say it then because I didn’t know anyone else who was like me. I lived an incredibly lonely life. A lonely life that I didn’t choose. A life that was filled with questions to myself and my maker. Why did I have to be the one person that society shuns. The one person who will bring shame to my family. The one person who will be violated, beaten, spat on, stigmatized and ostracized by society. Why? I went on a journey of self loathing to understanding and finally accepting myself for who I am. This is a journey all gay and lesbian people have to take. Unfortunately for some, acceptance doesn’t happen and they end up taking their own lives. I almost did.

So, yes. I do pay my taxes. I contribute to society. I provide employment to fellow Kenyans. I am a brother, a son, a friend, a confidant and an incredibly patriotic citizen of this beautiful country. I live through the same security concerns that all Kenyans live through. I experience the same rise in cost of living that all Kenyans experience. I am Kenyan. If my being gay, something I have absolutely no control over, or supporting “gayism” is cause for you to feel ashamed, for you to feel like I am shaming my former school, if my sexual orientation causes you to call on Jesus who, as the Bible so clearly says, preached love, if you have a problem with who I am, what I do, where I do it, then bye Felicia.

Just Because He Breathes – My Response


All my life, I have had a love/hate relationship with religion. On the one hand, it presents human beings with a sense of hope. Hope that there is more to their lives than what they see, feel and experience. On the other hand, interpretations of some of its teachings (and this is true for most if not all religious doctrines) condemn people for being who they are, advocate for violence against non-believers and preaches hate for some members of society. The key word there is “interpretations”. Religious teachings could be interpreted in so many ways which is why we also have religious factions that do not condemn people for being who they are, do not advocate for violence against non-believers and do not preach hate for some members of society. This is the reason for my love/hate relationship with religion.
Earlier today, I read an article that brought tears to my eye. A story about parents tragically learning to truly love their son. Their gay son who came out to them and due to their religious beliefs, they wouldn’t show him the love that parents should show their children. They inadvertently made their gay son hate his sexuality and himself by asking him to choose between Jesus and being gay. Their gay son who ended up dead from drug use. A habit most likely born of the self-loathing that we gay men and women are subject to when society treats us like we ought not to exist. Treats us like we should not be a part of it. Denies us basic human rights. Attacks and vilifies us for no other reason other than that we express love in a way that is different from what society perceives as “normal”. You can read the story here.
When I read this story, as much as I had tears in my eyes, I had such mixed reactions. I wanted to be angry at the parents. As a matter of fact, I was incredibly angry at the parents. I am not a parent but I do know a thing or two about parenthood. You bring a child into this world, you are expected to show them unconditional love. You are expected to always guide your child in the “right” way. I recognize just how relative “right” is. A parent is not expected to abandon their child at any cost. I say this with a heavy heart being a victim of abandonment by my father but that’s a story for another day. Yes. I was incredibly angry at the parents. I do not understand how a mother would choose religion over her own flesh and blood. One reader commented and said that what they couldn’t wrap their head around is how the parent could chose something intangible over their own flesh and blood. That there is absolutely nothing that should be more important than your child. This reader said that they will never understand how anyone can rationalize diminishing their child because of something they have no proof of. But this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? It is at the very heart of every human being’s belief in a supreme being or the lack of one. The question of faith or the lack of it. The question of the existence of a universal morality. The question of who defines what “normal” is. The question of love and hate and the many interpretations of religious doctrines. The question of life itself.
I would have been one of those readers who instantly reacted in anger and wrote something like “Anyone who would choose religion before family deserves no sympathy”. But I didn’t. I thought about it. The one thing that came to mind over and over again was that no one, no matter how ignorant and misinformed they are, deserves to lose a child. Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences in a parent’s life. Even though said loss may be of their doing, the parents still don’t deserve to lose a child. These particular parents saw the error of their ways. They learn to love their son. They live, every passing day with the knowledge that what they did caused their son’s death and from what I have read, from the heart breaking letterfrom the father to his dead son to the even more heart breaking responseto the people to hate them for what they did, these parents are torn. They are hurting. They are suffering the consequences of their actions. They are using their story to inform other parents out there, many of whom are making their gay sons and daughters hate their sexuality and themselves because of religion, learn that love is what these children need. I am angry at these parents. But aren’t we all human? Don’t we all make mistakes? Some of the mistakes we make have dire consequences. What will happen to us if we don’t learn from our mistakes? If our mistakes are not used as lessons for others in similar circumstances?

I do not believe in organized religion. There. I said it. However, that does not mean that I hate anyone that does. It does not mean that those who believe are inferior. As a matter of fact, the belief that others have in God makes me respect them more. The Bible in Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.I may not relate to that but I respect those who do. This world is a mix of differences. There are gay and straight people. There are believers and non-believers. There are black, white and many other races. This world is diverse in so many ways. The moment we all learn to accept the diversity, to respect the differences we have and live with and to spread love and not hate for our fellow human being, that is the moment when harmony in this society will prevail.

Why Did God Really Destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?

I respect everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Gay, Straight, male, female or other. I keep saying that the world is a collection of diversities and once we learn to respect these diversities, the world will be a much better place. That said, The Bible story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been used time and time again to justify violence towards gay and lesbian people. I read comments on stories about sexual orientation and inevitably, someone will quote Sodom and Gomorrah. Here are two of the comments from various sources;

“In whose eye???my understanding.bible or GOD cursed gay when they wanted to rape tha angels in sodom and gomora and they were made blind so i dont think we r equal at all”

“that is a self answered question i will never support gayism my reason is simple GOD MADE THAT ABSULITELY CLEAR WHEN HE DESTROYED SODOM AND GOMORA”

I hate copying and pasting from Wikipedia but here are some excerpts from the article on Sodom and Gomorrah that I think people should know;

Rictor Norton views classical Jewish texts as stressing the cruelty and lack of hospitality of the inhabitants of Sodom to the “stranger”. The people of Sodom were seen as guilty of many other significant sins. Rabbinic writings affirm that the Sodomites also committed economic crimes, blasphemy and bloodshed. One of the worst was to give money or even gold ingots to beggars, after inscribing their names on them, and then subsequently refusing to sell them food. The unfortunate stranger would end up starving and after his death, the people who gave him the money would reclaim it.

A rabbinic tradition, described in the Mishnah, postulates that the sin of Sodom was related to property: Sodomites believed that “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine” (Abot), which is interpreted as a lack of compassion. Another rabbinic tradition is that these two wealthy cities treated visitors in a sadistic fashion. One major crime done to strangers was almost identical to that of Procrustes in Greek mythology. This would be the story of the “bed” that guests to Sodom were forced to sleep in: if they were too short they were stretched to fit it, and if they were too tall, they were cut up (indeed, in Hebrew and Yiddish, the corresponding term for a Procrustean bed is a “Sodom bed”).

In another incident, Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, went to visit Lot in Sodom and got in a dispute with a Sodomite over a beggar, and was hit in the forehead with a stone, making him bleed. The Sodomite demanded Eliezer pay him for the service of bloodletting, and a Sodomite judge sided with the Sodomite. Eliezer then struck the judge in the forehead with a stone and asked the judge to pay the Sodomite.

The Talmud and the Sefer haYashar (midrash) also recount two incidents of a young girl (one involved Lot’s daughter Paltith) who gave some bread to a poor man who had entered the city. When the townspeople discovered their acts of kindness, they burned Paltith and smeared the other girl’s body with honey and hung her from the city wall until she was eaten by bees.  It is this gruesome event, and her scream in particular, the Talmud concludes, that are alluded to in the verse that heralds the city’s destruction: “So said, ‘Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, I will descend and see…'” (Genesis 18:20-21)

A modern orthodox position is one that holds, “The paradigmatic instance of such aberrant behavior is found in the demand of the men of Sodom to ‘know’ the men visiting Lot, the nephew of Abraham, thus lending their name to the practice of ‘sodomy’.”

The scholar and activist Jay Michaelson proposes a reading of the story of Sodom that emphasizes the violation of hospitality as well as the violence of the Sodomites. “Homosexual rape is the way in which they violate hospitality—not the essence of their transgression. Reading the story of Sodom as being about homosexuality is like reading the story of an ax murderer as being about an ax.” Michaelson places the story of Sodom in context with other Genesis stories regarding Abraham’s hospitality to strangers, and argues that when other texts in the Hebrew Bible mention Sodom, they do so without commentary on homosexuality. The verses cited by Michaelson include Jeremiah 23:14, where the sins of Jerusalem are compared to Sodom and are listed as adultery, lying, and strengthening the hands of evildoers; Amos 4:1-11 (oppressing the poor and crushing the needy); and Ezekiel 16:49-50, which defines the sins of Sodom as “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and did toevah before me, and I took them away as I saw fit.” Michaelson uses toevah in place of abomination to emphasize the original Hebrew, which he explains as being more correctly translated as “taboo”.

Now this was the sin of Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. —Ezekiel 16:49-50

In the Gospel of Matthew (and corresponding verse) when Jesus warns of a worse judgment for some cities than Sodom, inhospitality is perceived by some as the sin, while others see it fundamentally being impenitence:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. —Matthew 10:14-15

Within the Christian Churches that agree on the possible sexual interpretation of know (yada) in this context, there is still a difference of opinion on whether homosexuality is important. The Anglican Communion, on its website, presents the argument that the story is “not even vaguely about homosexual love or relationships”, but instead “about dominance and rape, by definition an act of violence, not of sex or love.” This argument that the violence and threat of violence to foreign visitors it the true ethical downfall of Sodom (and not homosexuality) observers the similarity between the Sodom and Gomorrah and the Battle of Gibeah Bible stories. In both stories, an inhospitable mob demands the homosexual rape of a foreigner or foreigners. As the mob instead settles for the rape and murder of the foreigner’s female concubine in the Battle of Gibeah story, the homosexual aspect is generally seen as inconsequential, and the ethical downfall is understood to be the violence and threat of violence to foreigners by the mob. This Exodus 22:21-24 lesson is viewed as a more historically accurate way to interpret the Sodom and Gomorrah story.

Now, as my friend and colleague Eric Gitari said in a TV interview, never have you seen a group of gay men both young and old gather outside your house wanting to forcefully know someone. As far as I’m concerned, the LGBT movement in Kenya is against all forms of rape. Let us not pick and choose parts of the Bible that we want to and leave out others. The Bible is against fornication, it is against adultery, divorce and many other things that we are all guilty of. Advocating for stoning of gay people just because you don’t like what they are is hardly Christian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodom_and_Gomorrah

On Hating Gay People

I just watched the Second Reading of the England and Wales Marriage Equality Bill. It was an interesting debate that brought about quite a number of questions. The one that really resonated with me is, does voting against the bill make one a homophobe? I don’t think it does. People have different opinions which they are completely entitled to. However, so many sentiments were brought out in the debate that got me thinking about homophobia…specifically in Kenya, and other places. By the way, everyone should read the speech by David Lemmy on Same Sex Marriage today. It was brilliant! “Thank goodness we solved that whole financial crisis unemployment recession thing and can now focus on important things like stopping love.” I read that quote on Twitter sometime back. Why stop love? Why hate gay people? Why hate anyone at all? These are questions I have asked myself countless times and they are questions I am sure many have asked themselves (except of course those people who go around hating others for no apparent reason whatsoever), the answers to which are not usually forthcoming. This is why I set about thinking critically about the issue. One of the common reasons why homophobes hate gay people is religion. Now religion has been attributed to some of the world’s worst atrocities. This, I should put out clearly, as much as that statement may appear as a vendetta against religion, it really isn’t. I am simply stating facts. The fact is that the homophobe will be quoted as saying something to the effect that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. The homophobe will also be heard quoting Bible verses. The favorite of which can be found in the book of Ecclesiastes (something something) that talks about man lying with another man as with a woman (whatever that means). So why is religion such a hater of gay people? Why does the homophobe use the one book that says “Love thy neighbor as thou lovest thyself” (pardon the loose use of the “King James” tongue) to hate another person just because of who they are? I am also pretty sure that there is a surat(?) in the Quran that says something about loving everyone. But why pick out the one verse that says something about lying with another man and use it to hate on other people? Why not also consider the fact that the same book in the Bible talks about shellfish and eating it and hate on people who eat the same? Is this not a case of double standards? I think this particular class of homophobe has mastered the art of picking out from religion the one thing that he considers easiest for him to do and has spun it out of proportion. So much so that he doesn’t even have the capacity to see what else he is missing out on. Another argument that the homophobe uses to hate gay people is that homosexuality is against nature. This particular concept has even been encapsulated in legislation. The law talks about “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. Now this is a question that was asked in my Jurisprudence class and is a question that has been debated on by many. Who defines “nature”? Who has the authority to tell what is “in the order of nature” and what is not? I for one think that two people loving each other and caring for one another is one of the most natural things in the world. It doesn’t matter what age they are, what the color of their skin is, it doesn’t even matter what sex they are. I think that it is extremely natural for a man to love a woman. In the same light, it is extremely natural for a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman. But the question remains, who defines what is “natural” and what is not? Is it what is considered by the majority as “natural” that should be so? As a minority (of whatever caliber) do you think that what the majority say should always apply to you and that you do not have a say about it just because you do not belong to the “class” that is the majority? In the African context, the homophobe also talks about homosexuality being un-African. They say that it is a western import and that it did not exist in Africa before colonization. There have been countless studies whose details I shall not go into that show how rampant homosexuality was in Africa way before colonization. These studies with the proof they carry within them make this argument, to a very large extent, extremely moot. Calling homosexuality a western import and using religion to make your point is possibly the worst case of double standards one can think of. How one can use a western import to hate on another “western import” is beyond my understanding. Which brings us to the Kenyan context. The Kenya National Commission for Human Rights recently released a report on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in which it recommended decriminalization of homosexuality so as to improve the sexual rights situation in the country. This report has been received by mixed reactions. It has stirred so much debate that the homophobe has woken up using the usual arguments to hate on homosexuals. The homophobe has even managed to steer the debate away from what it is exactly that the movement wants, which is equality and non-discrimination, to gay marriage. I personally applaud the National Commission for not only focusing on reproductive rights but also including sexual rights in its report. It was a bold move on its part considering the immensely homophobic environment we live in and it was a very necessary move. Africans need to understand that among them, there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people. These people are African by every sense of the word. The Kenyan constitution itself recognizes them as such when it states that every person should be treated equally before the law. Nowhere in the constitution does it say, “Every person except the gays”. It recognizes each and every Kenyan as a person. It is this lack of understanding that leads to Kenyans hating their fellow Kenyans. Much akin the ethnic differences that we have witnessed in the recent past. Until people are properly sensitized on the law and what it says about PEOPLE, until the homophobe learns that the arguments he uses to hate the gay person really are redundant in so many ways, until the gay person comes out and decides that he/she has had enough of the hate and is willing to speak up and speak out about himself/herself and against the hate, then we are going nowhere. Fast!