It was in February 2012 when I received a text from Peter, my longtime friend from childhood and volunteering partner at a local NGO- “I honestly don’t know why I even told my parents I’m gay even though I live in one of the most homophobic countries in the world,” he said.
” I was literally kicked out the house and my Dad threatened to kill me if I ever go back home.
Now I’m at a friend’s place. I told him and his family that my parents are on vacation and I’d have to crash at their place for a few days. I can’t stay at my friends place forever. And honestly, I don’t know what to do. I Just want to kill myself. I honestly have no clue what to do. No friends that I can to talk to about this. I can’t go to my relatives because my parents must have told them about me being gay. I can’t believe one mistake has caused this – I am so done.”
Reading this text broke my heart and I texted him back “Please don’t give up! Let me call you in a few we talk.”
In the process, I contacted my networks in the LGBTI Field and within no time, an American, who was doing a research on MSM health within Kisumu, reached out and offered to sponsor him.
He promised to connect him with people that could get Peter out of Kenya.
“I know you’re hurt and upset and in shock– you have been betrayed by the people who should love and accept you,” he told him through a mail.
“I know you feel suicidal– those feelings are natural. But they’re not permanent (I’ve also survived a suicide attempt, and much betrayal at the hands of my family). Please don’t give up!! try to carry on as much as you can – and help your friend’s family with chores and be useful. Show them your gratitude. If you decide you are ready to leave Kenya, I would gladly sponsor you and you may live with me here in the US. I’d expect you to finish your schooling, and I would be happy to mentor you for college or whatever you want to do as a career. Feel free to contact me. You have options. There are many here will support you with a few dollars, friendship, and good counsel. Hang in there!!”
The two emailed several times.
Peters friends’ parents demanded to know why he wasn’t on vacation. Fearing his parents would tell them what happened, he gave them an incorrect number. Because they were ‘uncomfortable’ with him staying with them, he knew he couldn’t stay there for long.
For some time, I thought Peter was on a good path until Hurther ( US Contact guy) contacted me to inquire if Peter was OK.
“The last message I heard from him was that his mother was helping him find his passport. His father had already come looking for him and it was clear they intended on doing something harmful to him. This young man is afraid and I hope that he is out of the danger now and contacts me soon.” Said Hurther. I tried reaching him too but to no avail. It like he had gone into hiding.
Two weeks later, Peters sister wrote on Facebook that “It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Peter has decided to take his own life.” he said.
“His body was found lifeless in his friend’s house along with a letter written as follows:
“I’d like to thank all those have reached out to this past few weeks for your support and care. It has not been easy for me. As much as I would like to believe there is hope at the end of the tunnel, nothing can replace the rejection from family. I know I have let many people down, but it’s the only way I can truly find peace. Thank you all and may peace be with you.”
I was shocked, couldn’t respond but let my tears flow freely. I attended Peters funeral two weeks later and was more shocked to hear the Dad give a speech on why he doesn’t understand what could make his son take away his own life.
I felt like jumping on him with kicks and blows. I simply stood and left the function without a second thought. I miss my friend, I wish I did more to save his life, maybe he could still be here! May God have mercy on his soul to rest in peace till we meet again.
Douglas Otieno Owila,
Public Health Officer and Human Rights Activist.
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