Friday, June 18, 2010


This is the second part of a look at life in Gay Africa, most specifically Kenya.  The essays below represent the lives and experiences of two gay male Kenyans. 


I am the only son in a conservative Muslim family. I have both my parents and a sister who is in a wheel chair. I am 46 years old, a not very normal for a Muslim to be single. I come from a Shia Muslim sect, which has very strict rules of do's and dont's. I consider myself fairly religious. I fast Ramadhan, pray as and when I can and have also performed Haj.
I believe I am born gay, and during my childhood, I used to wear my mum's clothes, and sometimes apply coloured chalk over my eyes as eye shadow, and apply lipstick. This was when I was about 8 years old, and surprisingly my mum used to watch all this, and never stopped me, or got angry with me, funny eh???
As I grew up, my feelings for men grew stronger. At the age of 14, I had my first encounter with a gorgeous looking Muslim Shia man. He is a family friend, and his name is Onali. It was a family gathering, in Mombasa, a coastal town in Kenya. I was 14, and had to share a room with Onali, for five nights. The first two nights we slept on separate beds, then came the 3rd night, and Onali got into my bed. He was about 21 years old, and he started kissing me, and starting caressing me, and I felt his warm body, our lips locked. I even did not know how to kiss. Then suddenly I had the urge to rush to the bathroom, and guess what I saw, some white stuff, I got scared and thought I was sick, I rushed back to Onali, and told him what happened. He held me tight, and whispered in my ear, that it is ok. He masturbated and showed me the white stuff come. This was the first time I felt sperms, and cum. My very first ejaculation was with Onali, and that with a man. The rest of the nights, Onali and myself slept together, and I always looked forward to being with him in bed. He was my very first experience with a real man. I loved every moment of it.
Then I had a relationship with another Muslim guy in high school, his name is Minu, and we were in the same class. It was here that I had my first “girlfriend", as a disguise. I never kissed her, but just held hands, with my feelings. My lover in my high school was a great guy, and funny enough I still see him, but he has blocked his school experience! He is married with a family.

It was in my college days, in my late teens and early 20s, that I had a conflict with my sexuality and religion. I am always felt dirty after being with a man, and I thought I was sick, and asked Allah to help me!! And guess what I did, I got married to a family member. Her Name is Tasneem, and she is my second cousin. I married her to "cure" myself, I felt my attraction for man was a sickness that would be cured my marriage. How wrong was I, it became worse, and my desire for man grew stronger. My marriage lasted for a year, and I decided to end it, I was not being fair to my wife and myself. I wrote a letter to Tasneem saying that we need to separate, since “there was no chemistry between us", we were actually sleeping in separate rooms six months from being married. My mum noticed it, and she asked me if everything was ok, I said NO!! She suggested I get a divorce.

The divorce takes place, and a lot of dirt is thrown at me, accusation that I am impotent, gay etc etc!! But I had no choice, because I could not pretend, and let my wife suffer. The divorce was the only solution. In my culture it is a taboo to divorce, but I did it.

It was after my divorce, when I was in my late 20s when I actually accepted my sexuality, and was comfortable being gay. I confided in my best friend, a Shia Muslim friend about my sexuality, and to his wife, and they both accepted me, till today we are great friends. It was after my divorce, that I could talk about me being gay comfortably

I got involved in Activism, and am now active member of Gaykenya, and sit in the steering committee of GALCK (Gay and Lesbian coalition of Kenya).

I have lots of pressure from my community members to re marry, but happy to mention that there is no pressure from my parents.
Being Gay in Kenya is not so easy, then add to that being an activist. There is no influence from outside the continent; it is just who and what we are, though we have funding coming in from various donors to push forward the agenda of our basic rights. Gaykenya has also received funding from two donors. One for domesticating the Yokarta principles, another for the office set up. Though, funding is not a lot.

Within the local Kenyans there are quite a lot of Kenyans who are gay, and they want their rights respected, freedom of association, easy access to basic amenities, e.g. education, medical, employment etc. There is discrimination if you are found or being suspected to be gay, therefore the activism, and have the gay community recognised.
Also note, we are not fighting for the law to recognize same sex marriages, all we want now is decriminalization of the penal codes, which sentence you to imprisonment for being gay!
S.H.Y- Kenya

I Was Never A Virgin

The Article That Has Taken Me 5 Years to Write
I have arrived at that point in my life when sex is no longer the most important thing or activity in my life. I am not impotent or asexual or God forbid, even celibate! I get aroused, my gonads are fully functional and I can still get my freak on. But, ever since I moved out of my grandmother’s place to my own house, ever since I started to work and immerse myself in the LGBTI movement and the gay Kenyan community, I have started to refocus and shift some of my earlier and otherwise frivolous aspirations -men, sex, parties, fun- and now aim for something more concrete and valuable. My work, my life, my friends and colleagues are now the primary things in my life. Let me give you a normal day in my oh-so boring life. It’s a four tier system: home, work, bar, home. I leave home in the morning heading to work; from work to the bar- where I get one or two cold Tuskers- then from the bar back to home. This is my daily routine.
As a gay man, the pressure to have sex with as many people as possible is unforgiving. Sad thing is that sex among most of the gay men I have met is short, meaningless and fleeting. Short in the sense that once the act is done, there is nothing is looked forward to. Meaningless in that there are no emotions or importance or dare I add, romance attached to it and its fleeting in that it’s not lasting and is seen as something to be done and get over with as hurriedly as possible. Another thing to be noted is that most gay men do not have lasting committed relationships: they would as soon move to the next person.
I have had my fair share of fun. I have been to countless gay parties, both in clubs and house parties and done things too graphic to be penned down. If it is sex, I have had it with men, with women, and even with myself. If its beer and alcohol, I have drank countless times and on different occasions. If it’s dating and relationships, I have a colourful repertoire. If it’s going partying all night and having sleepover in strangers’ beds or hotels, I have done it all. But many are the days I have woken up from the floor with a hangover and feel like the scum of the earth. I have cried, felt sad and become pitiful of my sorry self. Whenever I wake up and get bearing of where I am or who is sleeping next to me, I always ask myself, ‘How did I get myself here?’
Of course, I never learnt my lesson. Weekend after weekend, night after night, the cycle would be the same. And even with regret and the vow to change, I just couldn’t. I never could keep or save money. All my money went to buying drinks or handed out as fare money to my drinking buddies. I had such a huge ego (call it flamboyance) that if I went to a club, I would buy round after round of drinks to all my buddies and their friends too just to show I am loaded. I can remember once, in the height of my folly, and under the influence, I told, no, ordered, the waiters to give everyone drinks and bill it to me. You can guess how much I had to part with! I could spend all my money on drinks and funny enough manage to ignore to save or buy more basic stuff.
I feel so sad and disappointed when I do such that sometimes I wish and wonder that perhaps, just perhaps being gay is not me. I admit I was never a virgin.
(originally published as an artticle on the GayKenya website:
DN- Kenya

For more information on gay Africa: (a comprehensive website about issues dealing with the LGBT community throughout the continent)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It's June and Pride, Gay Pride that is, is showing up everywhere.  In the 1970's the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance coordinated the first anniversary rally in honor of the June 1969 Stonewall Riots,  The Stonewall Riots marked the start of the gay rights movement here in the United States.  In 2000 President Bill Clinton proclaimed June to be Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

In honor of Gay Pride Month, I thought it only fair to highlight lesbians and gays of African descent- but with a twist.  Since early 2010 the news has been flushed with the indignities being done to the LGBT communities thoughout Africa, with Ugandas hateful anti-gay bill that would criminalize homosexuality, calling for death as a penalty, Malawi arresting and trying a male couple for holding a wedding ceremony and Zambia's harsh anti-gay sentiments being espoused by members of the government but little has been heard here in America from those living under the harsh anti-gay laws that are on the books in some form in most African nations.

So I put out a call for essays from the African LGBT community asking friends of mine and them asking their friends.  I wanted essays from Africans from all over the continent and of both genders and representations.  For one reason or another I didnt get the response I was looking for, but the personal essays I did get were enlightening and quite different from the bleak picture painted in the news about "gay Africa."

All the essays are from gay men living in Kenya and run the gamut from the role of gay liberation in Africa, coming out to family in homophobic communities, and makes one realize that being gay is the same regardless of if it is in California or Nairobi, Kenya. 

For more information on the state of Gay Africa:


There is a gay character in the British sketch comedy, Little Britain, who believes that he is the only gay in his Welsh village. When I had come to terms with my sexuality, I too thought that I was the only gay in ‘my village’.
Nairobi, the Kenyan capital is the one place in the country I have always felt at peace. But is the setting for the current chapter in my story, being gay and living in Africa. When I came back to Kenya from my four year stint abroad, I arrived a different man; confident in my personality and comfortable with my sexuality. There were issues of faith, that I was dealing with, but that is another story for another day.
I had vowed not to go back to closet and I knew somehow there were others like me living in Kenya. I needed to make contact and once that was made, I was literally home free. It was affirming to know that I could be still be gay in Kenya.

We may not freely live our sexuality openly, but we live. The hallmarks of the gay lifestyle that are apparent in most western countries are lacking here, but the rules of the game though different are universally the same. The cruise will always be the cruise. Networks and friendships that I have developed have made it possible for me to grow as a gay man. There have been no parades or marches to affirm who we are. We do that for ourselves, by ourselves within ourselves.

I have met other like minded individuals, who have chosen to live their lives. Choosing to be middle aged and older and single, not bowing down to demands from relations and society, to get married and have kids. Those who ask me, when I will get married, I respond by telling them, that we can’t all be married. Those who push, I ignore and dismiss.

I chose to break free of the expectations set on me by society and coming from a family that I would describe as fairly liberal and independent, I am not bound to keeping up the Jones’. The only people in my immediate family who don’t know about my being gay are my father and step-mother. This, I hope to change soon. I have three male siblings, one older and two younger, then there is my mother, who was the first person in my family I came out to. She wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t surprised. We have not spoken much of it since. When it did come up, she used the word feelings. My brothers have told me that they love me for who I am.

I have come out to my close circle of friends. For me it was part of the homecoming, part of the process. I felt I needed to do that. By and large all of them have accepted it, though they have mentioned that they don’t agree with my decision to live the lifestyle. I must mention most of the teen years and early adult life was spent in the church and so most of the friends have strong Christian beliefs. Did I know I was gay during this time of my life? Yes, though I was able to suppress most of my feelings and chose not to think much of it. I was somewhat asexual. So, coming out to my friends was important, but one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome. I have made new friends, but try to hold onto my old friends. They are still a part of my life. I may not get that many invites for social functions or golfing weekends, but I harbour no hard feelings and at times I decline a number of the invites. I am the single ‘uncle’ and I don’t always want to show up alone and yet I want to respect their space. I have tried to separate the old and new, it makes things easier for me. There are fewer questions to deal with.

There is that constant struggle not to become bitter and angry towards a society that is by and large homophobic. The cynic in me, says that Africa needs to be buggered just once, then there eyes will be open to fact the there are gay Africans, peppered across the continent. But yet again, I live in a country and continent where choice isn’t freely exercised, individuality is seen as selfish and rights of the minorities don’t make the top agenda, political or otherwise. I strongly believe that not until more is done for the women’s rights movement on the continent will only then will any headway be made. Africa’s largest minority is still not free. Once this is done, then I believe things will change for all other minorities.

I am not be able to show affection to my partner in public, I may not have a night club where I can dance shirtless and in hot pants or in chaps nor have a sauna to go to, so as to get my groove on, but I am alive. It can get frustrating, not having physical representations of the lifestyle, but we rely on the social aspect of the lifestyle to keep on going. We’ve gone round this through friendships, networks, the internet and a bond that ensures that we still represent our brethren. The rainbow flag is hoisted proudly within me, free!

KM- Kenya


I am stuck to think of a fancy or intellectual title for this and being gay and growing up gay in Kenya is too long and boring so am just writing it down as thoughts and observations of times and spaces in my life…. Ahhhh! That’s the title – Times and Spaces in my life.

I remember realizing I was gay when I was about 14 years old, the earliest funny memory is standing in front of a mirror trying to figure out if I wanted or was brave enough to try a pair of tights I had found in a cupboard somewhere at home.  In a strange way I have never had the experience of a before and after snap shot in time. It’s always just been I realized this is who I was. And with that came all the ingredients for a life lived in different spaces and ways.

In primary school – ages 8-15yrs old – it was a mixed bag of nuts. The first 6-7 years there sex and sexuality was not part of my life or realization or consciousness oyu could say. In the last 2 years, 14 and 15 years old, the body wakes up with a bolt and a sweat…lol. Boys around, galore, hormones raging, embarrassment, envy, lust, the works… I knew I was attracted to boys and there was no one to talk to just sneak read whatever books I could find, I was an avid reader, James Hadley Chase, Jackie Collins… excellent sexual awakening books for teens on the 80’s NOT! They were full of sex scenes and the imagination went riot.

Then off to high school for the next 5 years. Here in Keya most people send their children to boarding school for high school. So imagine a city kid like me born in a middle class family off in boarding school in what can only be described as a cultural shock exchange programme. In boarding school boy’s brag all the time about sex, women they have slept with, how, techniques, truth and lies meld into a tales of what man hood is or should be or is expected. And with no discerning force this is what we grew up with. Now when you look at all of this through the eyes of a culture and environment where being gay on a good day is simply taboo and on a bad day evil and immoral, you start to see what it was like to be afraid, alone, lonely and at the same time trying to define for myself who I was not only for myself but for my family, society and culture. There were many embarrassing nights of lies and conversations gone along with for bravado and image, in the first year of boarding schools there is a lot of bullying that goes on for the newbie’s. A comparison but not identical is like the hazing that goes on for frat houses in the USA.

All in all there was a lot of conversations about sex, not so innocent sexual innuendo bullying going on, don’t get me wrong no molestation or anything like that, but crotch grabbing and inquisitions about sexual conquests, sisters, female cousins, sister school girlfriends.

The thing I remember the most about that period of time was the aloneness and fear of being found out, of being a fraud counting his days and because had no experience or knowledge of hetero sexual sex, the idea of lying was made larger than life for the fear of saying things that were clearly not possible but not knowing lol its funny the books and the lies went hand in hand…

I went to the UK for university, and the one regret I have in life so far is that I did not take full advantage to find out, speak to, date, get into relationships during that time, I think all the fear and shame had been so set in me that even the thought of doing anything had the repercussion called what if my parents find out??? It’s a common conversation I have heard form colleagues now who all went abroad to study, the what if? Conversation and family image conversations. Kenya like a lot of developing countries is big on family, and especially extended family, and gossip and nosey or moral or religious relatives etc so a member of your family finding out always carries for many gay men and women an extended fear of the rest of the family finding out.

My biggest fear coming back home was my family finding out and me being rejected, kicked out, all that. My saving grace was the first lot of friends I MET WHEN I CAME BACK TO Kenya were a gay white couple of 17 years together at the time and a host of other liberal open minded people so the transition for me to come out was ironically seamless and to happen here in kenya and not in liberal open Europe.

The conversation for coming out to my parents happened when I was 30 and took approx 8 minutes. I think was October 28th… lol strange what we remember as details. At the end of the conversation my mother had basically said she always suspected and my dad had said we care about your health, well being, savings or lack thereof and the rest is your life. I am lucky and one of the few to have that response in Kenya and even fewer to come out to family. Marriage, children and the down low culture exists and is a growing phenomenon in my opinion and meetings in the last few years. In the last 6 months I have had no less than 5 married men chat me up and ask to meet up/hook up.

I have never had anyone I have told am gay react negatively, I have very very rarely denied or actually omitted to correct someone when they speak about why am not married and I say not found the right person yet and they say you will find HER. Some situations require that omission.

Meeting other gay men, potential boyfriends, or mature relationship martial single men is hard enough anywhere I imagine and that much harder here. In a country with a highly religious, moral and righteous sensibility, it more scandalous and shameful to be gay than to beat your wife senseless everyday for years, or rape and molest children as a school teacher. We live in strange times and spaces, filled both with innocence and guilt, spiced with shame and morality, and oven baked with political plot forming and familial and societal conformity.

NG- Kenya

Monday, June 7, 2010



This year marks the 145th Anniversary of Juneteenth, a day that observes the end of slavery for the very last of those held in bondage. On June 19th 1865, General Granger of the Union Army came to Galveston Texas announcing the end of the civil war and issued a general order freeing the slaves that resided in the state:
The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer. . . .
Little did those slaves know that they had already been freed two and a half years previously by the Emancipation Proclamation. Thus began the celebration of Juneteenth.
Although Juneteenth has a long history, only Texas recognizes it as a legal holiday. The tradition spread to other states as African-Americans migrated to neighboring southern states and eventually California. San Francisco is known to have one of the biggest celebrations in the west and this year won’t be any different as the city celebrates the 60th anniversary of its Juneteenth celebration. Though in years past the celebration was to commemorate the end of slavery and the beginning of black liberation, presently, the anniversary is a way for African Americans to reflect, reassess and renew our pride in our history in the United States.

For additional information, check these websites: