ABUSE IN QUEER ACTIVIST SPACES: YOUR ABUSER IS A WOKE ACTIVIST CUM RADICAL FEMINIST.
What happens when your abuser is a woke radical feminist cum human rights activist in a queer activist space both of you share? As a person who has heard stories of abuse of all ages, myself included, I find it difficult to learn from other activist women (I'll speak for women here) are being abused by fellow activist men and women who are "woke".
These interrelated issues of sexism, misogyny and homophobia in queer circles so rampant that it's so unsurprising that queer women are abused physically and emotionally by activists, men and women with whom they work with on various projects. Men and women who take to social media to passionately defend their rights. I know of various relationships between activist men and women in which the latter is being abused if not physically, then emotionally. I know of people who are with me in Kisumu Feminists' Forum and are so passionate about the cause yet they still beat up their partners or verbally abuse other people in their circles and no one calls them out.
When women try to speak about the abuses they go through at the hands of woke individuals, they will be shunned by those in their circles. Some people will tell them to get over it, or to focus on "real" misogynistic assholes like prominent political figures who blatantly disrespect women or other people who don't identify as queer. Others will tell them to not let their "personal problems" get in the way of "doing the work" and some will make them a topic of gossip groups for a few days. Now, this abused woman will certainly struggle emotionally, is somewhat expected given that she is experienced abuse, either physical, verbal or emotional yet no one will care about her or her problems.
The shame that comes with telling people that you have been abused is made even worse by the responses you get from people in your circle. Rather than be empathetic, many people are always disappointed in you. Many times, you will be told by people that they are "surprised" to find out that you had "put up with that shit" because unlike "weak women," you are a "strong" and "opinionated" woman who knows what she wants. This response is misogynist as fuck because it denies how dominant patriarchy and hatred of women and the "feminine kind" is, and instead tries to place the blame on women. That is, we are to quick ignore that women are being abused and instead emphasize the character of women as the definitive reason for why some are abused and others don't "put up with that shit."
Regardless of one's beliefs, women are being abused. Anyone who refuses to believe this either doesn't listen to women or isn't thinking about what women go through on the regular.
This is because they are just biased towards recognizing how pervasive and normalized patriarchy and misogyny are; both outside of and within queer circles. Alot of us want to believe that queer activist men and women really are different from our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, boyfriends, girlfriends and the strangers we confront in our daily lives.
We want to have some faith that the person who takes to facebook to write a blog on sexism and posts it on their website is not writing it just to make themselves look good, to get laid or to cover up some of their extremely dangerous practices towards women but that they truly believe in queer women being respected for their skills, energy and commitment. We want to believe that if a feminist 'person' makes an unwarranted advance towards a lady or physically/sexually assaults an activist woman, it would promptly and thoughtfully be dealt with by organizations and communities they belong in. We want to think that queer groups are not so easily enticed by the skills that an activist brings to a project that they are willing to let a woman be abused or have her recovery go unaddressed in exchange for their ideas. We would like to think that "security culture" in queer activist circles mainly focuses around how to deal with misogyny, patriarchy and heterosexism both outside of and within the activist scenes.
How about activists who troll political spaces like predators looking for women that they can manipulate or fuck without accountability? Like abusive priests, they literally move from group to group, looking to recreate themselves and find fresh meat among those who don't know them. How about activist women who give their labor and skills to activist people (who don't have any problem with taking the credit) in hopes that that abusive activist will finally get their act right or appreciate her as the human being she is? You know what's sad? The amount of support abusive activist persons find from other activists, male and female but usually from other men. Not only do survivors have to confront and negotiate their abuser in activist circles, they must usually do so in a community that rants too much but in the end could give a shit about the victims' emotional and physical safety. How many times do you have to listen to women's stories of abuse being retold by activist in a hostile and sexist manner, where they often do in a voice that is snide, accusatory and mocking? A voice which makes the victim seem like they (the victims) are lying? Their tone always reveals an attitude that assumes that if activist women take issue with other activist men and women, they are "crying abuse" to cover up hidden sexual desires and anger over being rejected by people who "won't fuck them."
It's sad that women's physical and emotional safety is of little concern to activist spaces in general. While activist men will keep on ranting like overfed rams about how they need to keep their mouths shut when women are talking or how women only spaces are important, people do not want to face the fact that women are being abused by male activists in our circles. When the issue is "addressed," more often than not attention will be given to "struggling with" the man or probably having "beef" with the another person in the circle instead of her being hurt.
The woman will always be labelled "unstable," "crazy" or "too emotional". People would prefer to help a cold, calculating bastard who can "keep it together" while they abuse women rather than deal with the reality that abuse can contribute to emotional and social difficulties among victims as they work to become survivors. All in all, these so called 'woke' queer spaces aka activist groups are no safe space for women because misogynists and abusive men exist and thrive within them regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These abusers use the language, tools of activism and support by other activists as means to abuse women and conceal their behavior. Fuck being woke. Fuck being able to keep a conversation about women's rights going on in high end forums. Fuck abusers playing the victim. Fuck that silence.
Queer women are being abused in spaces where they ought to thrive and feel safe in and its not funny at all.
And while we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there's indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.
So we can't be complacent. Now, more than ever, there's a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.
The world needs strong women.
Women who will lift and build others,
Women who live bravely and women who will break the barriers of hate set by a dysfunctional society.
Growing up, nobody ever told me that love could be queer.
All around me, I saw men and women in love, dying for love and making sacrifices in the name of love but I never saw two women representing the type of love I felt and at that time, I was an outcast. I still am only that currently, I embrace my dissidence like a second identity because it’s who I am and I have accepted it.
I am Beryl but I go by the name Nyar Afrika which is my writer’s name but you can call me Afrika. Everyone calls me Afrika. Well except my mom. She calls me ‘nyako’ to mean girl in luo and I find it amusing.
I am a queer woman in the 21st century, born and bred in Kenya so yes; I am a Kenyan like you. I have a family. A mother who doesn’t know of my sexuality, brothers and a sister who will one day be shocked when they know that it's women who make my heart race, friends and known strangers on the internet who know me as a queer writer from Kisumu, people who don't know me at all like you who is reading this, everyone.
I also have a girlfriend and we all dream of one day finishing school, getting that degree, getting a job and travelling together. Just like any other relationship, this one is not exempted from heartbreaks and breakups and if by any chance we part ways due to unavoidable circumstances, I will still follow my dreams of wanting to work for UN Women, saving lives, doing good and leaving the world at a much better place than I found it.
I remember struggling with my sexuality when I was younger like it's yesterday. When I first realized I had feelings for “women” that were not considered ‘normal’. At that time, my mom had us so much into church and my church isn't the type that openly preach against homosexuality so you must have imagined my dilemma. It's an African independent church so to them, issues like homosexuality and others are dead. Nonexistent. UnAfrican. All this got me so disgusted with myself because I felt like I had let everyone down; my parents, my family, my religion, myself as a person, as an African and so, I fought it.
I tried to 'tone down the queer.'
Ironically, the more I fought it, the more it wanted to be embraced, to be let out, to be allowed to live, to grow and, manifest itself. I went through a depressive phase and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I would lock myself at home, at my aunt’s, watching movies, reading books, refusing to accept my own twisted reality. I had hook-ups with boys so as to try and forget my attraction to women. I stopped talking about it. I internalized my homophobia as a way of defending myself from this but all these were in vain.
I was unable to kill who I was.
So what triggered this "revelation" because almost everyone asks me that when I tell them about my struggle with ‘demonic feelings’? (That's how one pastor called it.)
Well, there was this girl I was friends with. I developed feelings for her without knowing it, feelings that were much deeper than sex. I cared for her. I always wanted the best for her since we were friends. As time went by, my feelings for her grew stronger. They became different. Being around her made me feel 'weird'. It made me want to be a better person just for her sake. It made me feel alive and human again. She was straight though and since I didn’t know that what I was going through had a name, I let it go and we came to part ways, going off into different directions to live life the way we knew best.
This girl still haunts me to date with what ifs. You know? What if I had told her how I felt? Would it be different? Would she have accepted me or lashed at me and went on a homophobic rant? There was a way in which she kept on looking at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. As if she knew I was ‘different’ and was waiting for me to say something, to make a move.
All this shows that I am a person with struggles that cut across all human beings and are relatable irregardless of one's own sex and gender. This also shows that I am human, that I have and that I am not some westernized idea being forced down Kenyans throats as some of us want to believe.
There have been discussions in the light of the petition that is in court that seeks to challenge section 162 of the penal code which puts gay persons at a risk of harm because of their sexuality.
This whole petition is about decriminalizing homosexuality and not making gay marriage legal. No. We are in court to challenge section 162 of the constitution that actually allows the dehumanization of individuals on the basis of their sexuality and that’s sad because every Kenyan; gay, disabled, poor, rich, man, woman or child has rights both as a human being and as a Kenyan as clearly stated in the constitution.
Right now, we are all joining hands saying homosexuality is unAfrican as both Christians and Muslims, coming together to fight this vice in one voice, putting our differences aside, showing the world that we can only be untied when hating and not when called upon to show love.
This also reminds me of some time back when men came together to speak in one voice, making Nyakundi their spokesperson, calling women whores, thots and slay queens but were again deathly silent when the government was killing people from a particular tribe and at that time when their unified voices were needed the most, they were nowhere to be seen. Again, this shows us how we as a people are ready to come together to hate and not to love. I call it the mob mentality.
So let me say, instead of coming together to hate, why don't we come together to love, to treat your neighbour who is different with love and empathy and leave judgment to the deities we all believe in?
Why don't we let love trump hate?
Well, for me I had to. I had to embrace love and embrace the people who love me for who I am and fast forward into the future, here I am, wearing my sexuality around my shoulder like it’s a form of resistance. Like a shield.
My affection for women has matured and it’s deep, deeper than how it used to be back then when I was 17. I stumble and fall occasionally, I mean, human beings are bound to error and I am trying. My 21 year old self is trying.
Right now, I am so for love because there is got to be love. There has to be love. Genuine love between two women or two people or two men or a man and a woman is what we need because yo! Love always trumps hate.
God I call it queer. I call this love, my type of love, queer. Queer like escaping a definition. Queer like daring to be free and I am thankful because finally, I am free.