Homosexuality: Coming out of the African Closet

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So Binyavanga Wainaina, one of my favourite writers, and pioneer of the Kwani literature journal and all it stands for in Kenyan literature today, came out of the closet. To nobody’s surprise there was the usual spewing of vitriol from all the usual religious circles about this ‘decision’ he had made.

English: Writer Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently the savage, uncultured, violent, can’t resist an opportunity to rape unsuspecting men yet paradoxically spinelessly soft, weakling slave of ‘foreign influences’ caricature of the gay man the Kenyan, and African mainstream isn’t enough for common sensed people to know better than ‘choosing’ this life style.

As far as I can understand it the position of my own and probably the vast majority of Christian churches in my country holds on gayness and the nature of the God am I working on developing a personal relationship do not add up. I mean the gap between the vitriol on gayness and the merciful, loving, and just God of these spew-ers of this vitriol is wide enough to drive a bus through. One particular incident sticks out in my mind. I was in 3rd form at the time.

One of my fellow classmates, a Christian Union official and school prefect to boot, was outed as ‘being gay’.

For you see ever since he was in first form he had been living in the prefects cubicle of the swankiest dormitory in the school, and had been conducting a 5:00am fellowships around which rumours abounded of all sorts of sin and demagoguery being forced upon freshers and unsuspecting victims.

Things got to a head when out of the blue the C.U patron called an emergency meeting where I understand the young man was shamed before the school’s entire protestant Christian body and formally ‘excommunicated.’ That was also his last full day as a student of the school.

What I witnessed that day. What I have seen and read and heard in public from public officials, church and other religious leaders in the continent on homosexuality. It just didn’t make any sense outside, concluding that person has some sort of irrational phobia towards people, and or they are definitely trying to leverage that phobia for their own sense of in being in charge, consequence be damned.

With Binyavanga’s status now in the open does the prospect of what happened at my high school, and no doubt many others all over the continent now diminish? Does Binyavanga become a rallying point and a spokesperson for folk who have very much been a soft target for any and most zealots on any given morality crusade?

On a more general scale, does homosexuality, or more generally, discussion about the state of being homosexual graduate from being a straw man slash scapegoat to bash from the bully pulpit? Might a window have opened up, however small for actual informed discourse on the issue here in Kenya? I am not holding my breath. At least I don’t see it happening overnight.

For what it is worth, perhaps with more people taking the time to actually engage with what Binyavanga wrote on being gay, or what he may write in the coming years, perhaps a few people may come to see that where we are in the discourse on homosexuality, is of no use to where we Africans are trying to go in terms emotional well being, spirituality and even public health.

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