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.

Advertisements

Dear Kenyans,

This is a family in Romford, United Kingdom. They have been in darkness for 15 minutes. The trauma of having to use the light on their iPhone7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 is debilitating. They are not alone. They need your help!

£1 a month will go directly into their electricity bills.

Send your donations via PayPal (yes! We have PayPal in Kenya) to:

anthony.n.oluoch@gmail.com

As a thank you, I will say “Thank You!” out loud.

Please help this poor family and others!

Love!

A Kenyan.

Earlier today, I posted a video on Facebook of a lady talking about being an immigrant in (I believe) the United States. In it she says something that I considered really profound. She said, “If you have not walked in my shoes then you have no say in my world.” Jesse Williams in his brilliant speech at the BET awards said, “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.” Well, this is a critique of Black Lives Matter – Toronto. I have walked in your shoes. I shall not compare oppression because, context. I have an established record of critiquing OUR oppression. So this is I. Standing up and giving you a piece of my mind.

Toronto Pride

What you did at Toronto Pride definitely needed to be done. Black people have for a long time been oppressed in your country. Black queer folk even more for reasons we all know, understand and live. But what point did it make? You said that it began a conversation that needed to be had. But what conversation exactly did it begin? Your list of demands, the signing of which let the parade continue was quite inclusive. But was it really?

Now I speak as a proud black person. A proud gay person. A proud African person. A proud [insert all my diverse identities] person. I am going to answer all my questions above.

What point did you make?

Yes. Black queer folk are oppressed. You have said that Pride Toronto “has shown little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years.” This is the point you wanted to make. Unfortunately, though, this is not the point you made. Black Lives Matter is an incredibly important movement. The spirit of it is systemically being watered down by those who say that it should be “All Lives Matter”. While I agree that all lives do matter, when a section of “all lives” is constantly being negatively targeted by the rest of society leading to grave injury and death, the plight of that section needs to be highlighted. Not by limiting the rights of another section, but by showing said plight and making sure that everyone else understands it.

Your sit in did not do that. By stopping a parade, political as it may be, to raise a political issue and make demands of the organizers, you made a point. That Black Lives Matter – Toronto is all about themselves and nobody else. That Black Lives Matter – Toronto exists in a bubble. One that is constantly poked and prodded by the rest of society but a bubble nonetheless. That no other person should be until Black Lives Matter – Toronto is heard. But this isn’t the case in reality, is it? We black queer folk exist in an incredibly diverse society. We have white neighbors, cousins who are police officers and homophobic parents. The moment we start making the points you made in the sit in, that is the moment we start alienating ourselves.

What conversation did it begin?

Your sit in began a very important conversation. Not one that you expected I believe (you have got hundreds of incredibly threatening hate mail due to it: a terrible thing unfortunately), but one about actually thinking through our actions. As a queer man living in a country that criminalizes homosexuality with a penalty of 14 years in prison, I constantly have to ask myself what impact something I do with the aim of helping those in my community will have on them. I have to think about society’s reactions to it. I have to think about the benefits it will have to my community. I have to constantly consult to figure out if that is the best way to go about the matter.

Judging from the reaction to your action, it was not very well thought through. It did have the best of intentions but all it did was alienate the black queer community. It tarnished the spirit of Black Lives Matter. I am all for radical thinking and radical action but radical’s limit is where its intentions get blurred, and in this action, they were. So this conversation has to go on. A conversation about the limiting of black queer spaces needs to begin however this was not it.

Were your demands really inclusive?

They absolutely were! Continued space, brilliant! Self-determination for community spaces, great! Adequate funding, can’t question that! Double funding for Blockorama, not sure what that is but I’m pretty certain it’s something fabulous. Reinstatement of the South Asian stage, why was it excluded in the first place? Prioritizing of hiring of black transwomen, indigenous people and others from vulnerable communities, affirmative action works! More hearing impaired interpreters for the festival, fantastic! Removal of police floats, Really? THAT is exclusion.

The police have been some of the biggest perpetrators of violence towards black people. The police have been some of the biggest perpetrators of violence towards black queer people. This is true even in my country. I however do not blame the entire police force for the actions of a few of them. If I were to exclude every section of society in my life, some of whom have shown some form of discrimination or hate towards me then I would live alone in an island which I would probably not even be allowed to own because my government considers me a criminal.

I read the letter from the gay cop to Toronto Pride with a heavy heart. When he said that he had seen his first pride only to be excluded from the next, I shed a tear. I shed that tear for all the other queer police officers who would be excluded from the next pride. Some of whom are black. I understand that we live in different contexts and our struggles are different. What I know is that as a community we queer folk are looking for acceptance. We are looking to be included in every facet of life. Being exclusionary and not accepting dialogue will never achieve us that. What this demand unfortunately did was reinforce the rhetoric that Black Lives Matter is anti-police which in my opinion, it isn’t. Some who subscribe to it might be, but in essence, Black Lives Matter seeks to show the violence faced by black folk in the hands of some police officers among others.

We are at a point in our lives as black folk where we can’t afford to alienate ourselves from the rest of society. We can’t afford to be exclusionary. We can’t afford to seem like we are looking to be treated better than everyone else. We have suffered. But we are not looking for any special treatment. We simply want equality. We simply do not want to be racially profiled in the streets or shot dead in cold blood or arrested for being black. We simply want to exist. The action at Toronto Pride will not do this for us.

 

Dear Mr. President,

I am not one for political commentary, which is really silly seeing as words are the only way I know how to express myself, but I feel like the time has come for me to say something. This doesn’t mean that my words will mean much, I mean, I’m sitting here eating last night’s leftovers of ugali and sukuma wiki while your offspring (allegedly) racked up a bill of one point something million shillings for champagne to wash their hands in order to smoke two packets of Embassy Lights (which reminds me, I only have 5 sticks of those left). I feel that it’s time for me to say something because the potential and hope that most of us had when most of us elected you, even though that last bit was contested but that is not the point here, that potential, that hope, that belief that our country was going to go into heights of prosperity, has all but dissipated from our minds. I am sorry Your Excellency but I put the blame on you.

Now I am not saying that you have not done good things for this country. You have! The Standard Gauge Railway, fantastic! We are now over 50% connected to the power grid, although I might have a word or two to say about Kenya Power. Look at the roads you’ve built for us, and the enrolment in our schools by much needing children. You also beat the International Criminal Court emphasizing our sovereignty which clearly is a big deal for the Kenyan people. You have ensured that the fight against the Al Shabaab continues even though that has inadvertently caused a rise in terrorist attacks in our country killing hundreds of people. That war however has to continue, Al Shabaab has to be stopped. And not forgetting, you were selected as the Daily Maverick’s African of the Year in 2014. Not a small feat for the incredibly charismatic person you are.

My problem however is one of your biggest failures. You, Your Excellency, have failed to unite Kenyans. It was a part of your manifesto back in 2013. In fact, I think there was a whole chapter on “Umoja” (not to be confused with the estate). You were to use affirmative action to ensure that underrepresented and marginalized groups were properly represented in every respect. You were to ensure that all IDPs were settled and where possible returned to their homes in accordance with the law and have a decent place to live. You were to ensure that 30% of all appointees to public bodies and parastatals were women (HA!). You were also to actively promote the appointment of young people, persons living with disabilities and marginalized groups to public positions. All this was to tackle the challenge of Kenyan politics becoming mired in personal animosity as political competitors fail to conduct themselves in a professional and civilized manner. Too often this animosity being allowed to turn into ethnic rivalry with hate speech employed to rouse fear and despondency among different communities, all for political gain (from your manifesto).

This country is however more divided than ever before. We have the Jubilee Kikuyus and the Cord Luos (which would make me, as has been evidenced in recent past: Read Brexit, Jubord or Corilee). While you are not solely to blame for this, you are the head of state. You are my president. You are not a Jubilee president but the President of the Republic of Kenya. I am a Kenyan citizen (who happens to be gay but that is a conversation for another day) and I do not like the ethnic divisions I see in my country. You have failed to unite us when you take way too long to rebuke the hate speech spewed by some MP’s who support you. You have failed to unite us when you fail to uphold the 30% women appointees that you promised. You have failed to unite us when you pledge support for your Deputy President in 2022. I understand political pandering but by God, you are our President! You have failed to unite us when you see a country divided and take no visible steps to rectify it.

Your Excellency, firing your hashtag generators (while retaining the main one) is all well and good. But it is not enough. Fight corruption and let us actually see you doing it. Engage in dialogue with the opposition, who by the way are also on my [expletive deleted] list. Let us actually see some initiative in you, our President, in reducing the hate and division that is now plaguing this beautiful country that is so diverse and full of potential. Please Mr. President, let us not have our people brace for violence in 2017 which, I should tell you, we already are. Mr. President, I beg of you. UnitTribe kenyae us.

Sincerely

Concerned Citizen

I edited the original poem by the brilliant Dominick Pupa to apply to the Kenyan context. At the time, we were expecting the ruling in the anal testing case which came through today. The court ruled that it’s perfectly OK to poke and prod people to get evidence of anal sex. Now I mourn some more.

Us gays.
We make you look prettier.
We dress you for your important occasions.
We plan and attend your weddings even though you take vows to an entity that hates us.
We are involved in every movie you see.
We are involved in every TV show you watch.
We are involved in every song you listen to – even the homophobic ones.
We teach your children without having to tell you it’s us.
We protect your communities without having to tell you it’s us.
We nurse you back to health without having to tell you it’s us.
We clean your gutters, paint your houses and mow your lawns without having to tell you it’s us.
We fix your pipes without having to tell you it’s us,
We govern your citizens – sometimes openly, sometimes only until we’re involved in a scandal after years of spewing homophobic rhetoric.
We are on every, single one of the sports teams you root for, but are usually hesitant to say we’re there because we don’t want shit thrown at us on the playing field.
We are at the root of every cue you take in life – even those of you who wish us dead.
We fight and die on your battlefields without letting you know it’s us
We police your neighbourhoods without letting you know it’s us,
We clean up your messes.
Without the guarantee of safety and respect in return.
Can you imagine doing ALL of that work without DECENCY as a reward?
So don’t tell me I have to view #PulseOrlando as an attack on a Western country instead of an attack on gay people.
Because we’re not Kenyans when you call us faggots, we’re not Kenyans when you legally fire us, we’re not Kenyans when you evict us leaving us with no place to go, we’re not Kenyans when you say that we should all be stoned to death, we’re not Kenyans when you say nasty shit to us when we’re walking down the street looking “different” (and yeah, we do hear you), we’re not Kenyans when you legally force us to undergo intrusive anal testing to determine whether we had sex, we’re not Kenyans when you deny us health services or throw us out of school.
In all of those circumstances we’re just gay people, and being a Kenyan doesn’t matter.
So, out of respect for everyone who fought and died before me, I’m going to take a few days to mourn as a gay man before I mourn as a global citizen.
And then after that, you can resume telling me I have to be at war with people I don’t know, even though I’ve been at war with my own countrymen my entire fucking life.
Be happy you’re at war with Al Shabab. Because you are definitely going to lose the war against us.

(Original post by Dominick Pupa 06.13.16)

Why are we so shaken today?vigil It is because we are so used to living with fear, we are so used to the little put-downs so often described as “jokes”. So many of us were bullied at school and rejected by our families that we don’t trust the world around us easily.

We know that we are inviting verbal abuse and the danger of physical attack if we walk around holding our loved one’s hand or kissing in public. We know to check and not behave in a way that is “too gay” if we’re out on the street at night, especially if you’re on your own.

We know we are at risk, and what this foul act of terror in Orlando has done is take that fear and make it concrete.

For many of us, our clubs and bars are the only places we can be ourselves. They are safe spaces away from families, from fellow employees and others who might laugh and jeer. They are often the only places we can relax and show who we are and openly show our love for partners; these are spaces where we can hug, kiss, and just act like the rest of the world does every day.

This month is Pride Month. Our community’s way of taking a stance against the discrimination and violence most of us face every single day of our lives.

Well, on 12th June, one man silenced the voices of 49 individuals. Wounded 53 others and traumatized the whole world. One man hated so much that he caused so much pain to families, friends, lovers and acquaintances.

On 12th June, the world was shown, in sheer unadulterated horror, the result of preaching hate and denying diversity. This is not an isolated incident; thousands of people lose their lives every day. I remember the 147 lives lost in the Garissa Massacre. I remember the 67 lives silenced in The Westgate Mall shooting. I remember the 19 Yazidi girls burnt to death for refusing sexual slavery.

We stand in solidarity with all who have lost their lives in senseless killings the world over. Today, we honor those who died on 12th June. To honor those who lost their loved ones. To honor those who survived the ordeal. To honor those who have been affected in any way.

34-year-old Edward Sotomayor Jr, 22-year-old Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22-year-old Luis S. Vilema, 23-year-old Stanley Almodovar III, 36-year-old Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 25-year-old Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 50-year-old Franky Jimmy Velazquez, 40-year-old Javier Jorge-Reyes, 21-year-old Cory James Connell, 19-year-old Jason Benjamin Josaphat. These are just 10 of the 49 hopes and dreams that will never come true. These names may mean nothing to you. These names however mean everything to their parents, their friends, their brothers and sisters. They mean everything to the people who loved them.

These names could also belong to your parents, your friends, your brothers or sisters. They could belong to people who you love. And that is the message here. We are human beings. We are one people. We breathe, eat, sleep. We love, we are loved. We are one. Even though we may be one, we are diverse. We love differently. We eat differently. We are of different races. We are all different individuals. We must all embrace this diversity. We must all accept this diversity. We must all understand this diversity. That is the only way we will live in peace.

Completely unnecessary, the killing, maiming and traumatizing of all these people two days ago. Completely unnecessary, the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that drives people to committing such heinous acts. Hate is completely unnecessary. It is unnecessary because it never wins. Love always wins. We are not here to condemn anyone, any religion, any political affiliation. We are here to say that love always wins. And even as the families and friends of those who lost their lives start the process of healing, our message to them is this. Love always, every day, forever, wins.

 

feminism_small-00319-year-old Ouma is brutally raped by police officers who are charged with the task of serving and protecting Kenyans. Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero slaps Women Representative Rachael Shebesh to the glee of quite a number of Kenyans. As at 6 years ago, 16% of women in Kenya still lacked basic literacy skills compared to 9% of men. 95% (1,370 of 1,450) of ward members of county assemblies in Kenya are men. Honorable Malulu Injendi on 21st April 2016 said that the fact that Honorable Janet Nangabo’s (Trans Nzoia MP) hair may have cost KES 10,000 to do means that the women have money as a reason to reject changes to the law setting up a special fund to give all women candidates in the country campaign money in the next election. Women in Kenya are constantly being harassed, discriminated against, disempowered and whenever some of them do get to a point where they are at a position of power, we, the men, refer to them as entitled bitches. I realize that these may seem like incredibly generalized statements, but if we actually took some time to analyse the status quo, we will realize that said statements are actually true.

I therefore write this from a position most men do not want to admit. That of privilege. A privilege stemming from the fact that I was born with a penis and not a vagina. A privilege that affords me opportunities that our womenfolk are not afforded as evidenced from some of the statistics herein. A privilege that assumes that I am the stronger sex. I write this knowing that my masculinity and the society’s perception of it has been used to perpetuate some of the most heinous crimes towards women. The violence and abuse, the lack of equality in pay, the expectation of sexual favors in exchange for promotions at work among other things.

I am a feminist. My particular brand of feminism is one that envisions equality for all women tempered with respect for them. It envisions a world in which our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunties are not viewed as weak. A world in which they will not be denied the opportunities we men have just because they are women. A world in which class is shattered and the voice of the mama mboga in Dandora is heard in the same space as that of the business executive in Lavington. Where we all experience life, not from positions of power but from an understanding that we are all human beings. Where personal moral convictions will not let a woman belittle the struggles of another just because they are queer. Where women are allowed autonomy over their bodies without having the predominantly male controlled state and religion tell them what to do.

Most people say that feminists are anti-men. I say, as a male feminist, I don’t hate men. I love them. As a queer male, I love them even more. I don’t believe that women don’t need men to survive in this society. I believe that as human beings, we need each other. I don’t believe that every man, by virtue of being just that, is an oppressor. I believe that some men have oppressed women. I don’t believe that every woman by virtue of being just that is a victim. I believe that there are some female victims of oppression and I believe that feminism should give these people a voice.

I have said this before and I will say it again. I want to live in a world where no one is treated differently because of something they have no control over. Being born with a vagina or a penis, how one expresses themselves in dress, being of a different sexual orientation or gender identity or belonging to a different social class. A world where we consider the differences in others as something to be celebrated and admired and not vilified and condemned. Where our sisters, mothers, cousins, grandmothers, neighbors and friends can feel safe in the knowledge that the men around them care about their well-being. I am a feminist. No, I do not have a vagina. I will however continue calling out the sexism in our society. I will continue trying all I can to make this world a better place for the women in my life and I will strive to ensure that someday, true equality prevails.

So this is meant simply to elicit conversation…

Human beings want to understand the origin of everything. In order to understand the origin of ourselves we invented God. The creator of all. The one “being” we attribute everything we cannot understand. The unexplained healing of a man’s illness. The magnificence of a perfect sunset. The fact that a heavy smoker lives to 90. Isn’t “God” then the incredibly simplistic cop out? I don’t understand this therefore someone greater than I am made it happen?

Now it is easy to attempt to understand our existence by placing the same on a higher being. I’m not trying to answer the existence or otherwise of God. I’m simply stating my thoughts…

Just how many lives need to be senselessly lost before we as human beings start treating each other better? How many families are we willing to destroy in the name of “morality”? What is “moral” about beating a person to death because of something he has absolutely no control over? Which are these African values that we so earnestly yearn to preserve that justify the level of violence that is faced by gay and lesbian people in this continent? Are we not all African regardless of the differences that we all have? Are we not a part of this incredibly diverse society? What gives you the right to take my life or deprive me of employment or evict me from my dwelling place just because I love differently?

We will now never know what Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi would have brought to this world. His life was taken by people who felt that he didn’t deserve to live a full life because he was gay. His life was taken in the cruellest of ways. I keep wondering what must have gone through his mind in his last moments. Was he grateful to have been taken out of a world where fellow human beings hate him and others like himself so? Was he forgiving of his attackers? Did he regret that he chose to live his life authentically? Did he curse his maker for having feelings he couldn’t control that caused him the pain he must have gone through?

I’d like to think that in his last moments, in all the pain he must have been going through, in all the psychological torture he must have been going through, I’d like to think that he forgave his attackers. That he prayed that what happened to him does not happen to any other person. I’d also like to ask those who are saying that he deserved to die to think about his last moments. To think about the fact that this person could have been your brother, your father, your uncle or your best friend. Just think about what would be going through that person’s mind.

We are all human beings. We are all different. It is that difference that makes this world a beautiful place. Let’s embrace it. Let’s not hate others simply for loving differently. No good ever comes of hate and violence. Love always wins.

Rest in Peace Akinnifesi Olumide Olubunmi. You are in a better place.