“Coming from a third world country and discovering that you have a sexual orientation that requires you to love an individual of the same sex is very depressing,” says 23-year-old Rose. Rose describes herself as a queer feminist. She informs me that she is a lesbian but she uses the term queer because she finds it fancy. She loves the mysterious tone that the term ‘queer’ brings to her sexuality. Rose has always found women to be extremely attractive since she was in primary school.
Raised by a single mother, the first born in a family of four found it very difficult to confide in any of her family members for fear of judgment. “My mom is a Christian and she is against same-sex relationships.” She explains that her mom who is deep into religion thinks that same sex relationships are unnatural and are an influence of the west. She describes her sexuality as very conflicting to her in her earlier years. “Growing up in the slums I never saw, met or interacted with a homosexual. This was very new to me. “
She says that it would be a lot easier for her to come out of the closet, had she been born into a well off family. Her opinion is that people from affluent backgrounds are more exposed and more liberal because they travel a lot, meet different people and this expands their thinking. “It is very hard being born in the ghetto, poor and having a different sexual Orientation,” she reiterates. She explains that most people in the ghetto set up are deep in religion and most religions in Africa are still finding it hard to accept same-sex relationships.
Her greatest fear is her mom finding out that she is a lesbian because it would break her heart and she might disown her. She plans to tell her in future once she is financially stable and can fully support herself in the event she kicks her out.
While she was conflicted and trying to fully understand whether she was a lesbian or it was just a phase she was going through, she decided to have relationships with men. “I have actually dated lots of men” Rose says amusingly “It sounds weird right?” she adds. She thought that establishing relationships with men would take away the attraction she had for girls. “I hated dating men. I did not like it at all.” she explains.
As much as she has had very successful romantic relationships with fellow queers, she has also been a victim of heterosexuals trying to experiment with her. She says that they at times dupe her pretending to be gay, just to have a feel of what it is like being romantically involved with another female. Once she is deep into the relationship and invested her emotions, she realizes that the individual is not queer instead is out to fulfill a certain fantasy. These encounters do leave her feeling used.
“Being gay in Kenya and Africa as a whole is like a death sentence,” she explains. She cannot count the number of times she was physically or verbally abused for being a lesbian. “The abuse came from all quarters from friends to strangers and even online”
She once got in trouble in high school for telling another girl she was beautiful. “I was taken to the principal who later punished me for promoting lesbianism in school. She described lesbianism as satanic.” she adds. Rose thinks that the African society is very intolerant when it comes to same-sex relationships.
Before she fully understood her situation and even got help she slipped into depression and even resorted to self harming. This frustration made her contemplate suicide multiple times. “I pray and hope my siblings are not queer.” she says sadly. She does not want them to go through the physical and emotional abuse she has had to endure from homophobes because of her sexual orientation.
SUPPORT AND ACTIVISM.
She is very outspoken about injustices against gay people. Her main aim is to sensitize Africa about same sex relationships and remind homophobes that gay people are human beings too. The university student credits Facebook and internet for helping her accept her lesbian status. She managed to befriend people with similar sexual orientation as her and even joined queer groups on social media. This is when her journey to self discovery began. These interactions helped her to fully understand exactly what was going on with her. Why she was attracted to fellow women unlike her peers who were attracted to men.
Together with like minded friends, they normally start conversations on social media and even in public forums aimed at sensitizing the public on matters related to same sex relationships. “I don’t think people hate gays in Kenya or Africa, I just think people tend to criticize what they do not understand.” I think the lack of knowledge about homosexuality comes off as hate and in the real sense it is ignorance. “I have managed to talk to my friends and even strangers on same sex relationships and with time we are getting a breakthrough,” she explains
There is a common misconception that homosexuality is an influence of the west something that she refutes and says that it is inborn. Having been raised in a slum set up, she rarely got access to ‘western culture’ because even owning a Television set was a luxury to them.
“I am tired of telling people to accept and love same sex relationships. I am tired of telling people that queers are just human beings like other people. They can go fuck themselves.” she concludes.
She wishes the world could be more tolerant to queers. The Kenyan government should put laws and policies in place to protect people in same-sex relationships against violations and violence. She adds that the police are always selective and adamant to protect gays when they are violated because of homophobia. They feel they deserve the violations. “Gay rights are human rights,” she concludes.
*Rose is not her real name. She requested anonymity for fear that her mum might bump into the article.
by Aluoch Oito