The girls were busy admiring a ponytail of some man who was checking in at the Hamburg Airport. They told me, he was obviously gay, but they had this feminine fixation with the ponytail, almost sulking that he had better hair than them.
There was Anna, a tall, beautiful and happy German national who is the happiest person I have ever seen. For the five days I was in Hamburg, She was almost smiling. And beautifully so. For a moment, I thought that she was perpetually high. I was wrong. At some point I thought, someone let her into the laughing gas room. I was wrong. It is simply her nature. Wish we had more like her around here.
Anna was green with envy and complained that, it is forbidden that a man should have better hair than women.
“So gays walk around here in the open, just like that?” I asked her.
“Yeah, nobody minds them. They are accepted.” She told me, obviously irritated by rather inappropriate question.
Of course I had seen gay shops and outfits dedicated to gay stuff. I tried talking with her some more but she said that my English was rather fast for her and she later told me that she is not a fan of small talk stuff in a mail she sent me.
Two days after I got back to Nairobi, Anna did send me a rather long Facebook message where she told me the state of homosexuality in Europe and to me she was more of a tolerant person and sympathizer of the gays. It got me thinking about homosexuality in Kenya and the only way I can tell this is to share my experiences.
Two years ago, this month, the editor of Adam magazine (the highly rated but now defunct magazine) asked me to write about the state of homosexuality in Kenya. Instinctively, I almost turned down the offer, for you will ever meet a more homophobic person than me. But that was a guaranteed check beckoning and I was broke. I took the offer, more curiosity than for the money.
Either it had to do with the well publicized gay wedding or some constitutional debate that had spurred the editor to give me the difficult assignment. My role was to look for gay men, interrogate them, talk to straight ones, and get an expert here or there and patch up some 2000 words and heck, bring some enlightenment and pick up the check. Too bad that it was within the same time that Adam closed shop.
For the longest time, I had always wanted to meet a man who will confess forthright that he is only attracted to fellow men and he goes to bed with men. There had been talk that many individuals are closeted gays given the virulent homophobic nature of our society. So this was the opportunity to learn and understand homosexuals. When I told my friends, their immediate reaction, even though in jest was laughing at me that I have turned gay…
My immediate task was to get gays to talk to. I assigned myself the responsibility of visiting rumouredly gay joints in Nairobi and find out how they go about their stuff and hoped that no man will tap my ass and whisper something into my ears, because that meant one man in prison and another man dead. I took my chances and off I went to joints I had been referred to.
I went to Westlands, which is the place God will send a tome of fire first before he razes other parts in Nairobi. Westlands is the sin city of Nairobi. In Westlands, last time I checked, women are on the verge of going into clubs naked. Cars function as brothels on Thursday night and you meet some of the most outrageously beautiful women who have personalities of walls. Who behave like bitches on Thursday and behave like spoilt bitches on Friday and Saturday. The men are so immature; they shoot each other for merely laughing at someone’s fake teeth or fake reams on the car…
I hate Westlands when it comes to clubbing. Not because they sell beer at 2sok. I hate Westlands because it is so plastic you might think Kenplast have a branch there. Westie is for the pretentious in Nairobi. The fact that women from Umoja and Buru Phase five are the regulars only complicates matters over there…any way back to the topic?
I went to a club in Westlands called Havana on a Wednesday and it was business as usual. I did not see the men kissing. I did not see anything unbecoming. I only saw, plenty white men with local, slender Kenyan women who are basically prostitutes making a living off the randy, old, divorced white men with plenty of loose change to pay a dime for rapturous sex and other orgies.
I waited and concluded that may be typical of Kenyans, they had exaggerated everything. I talked to a taxi driver who was not equally informed but spewed his homophobic thoughts on me, before I went to another famed club. There, I spoke to a watchman, they are always informed, but he told me that they kicked them out altogether and now the gays have moved into residential to carry out their perverted activities. He informed of queer parties but could not disclose the location and expressed some impatience at my nosiness and I saw a menacing look that promised to kick me out and I concluded that it is never that serious and I had to take my investigations to the next level.
I called on my boy Wizzy who is better informed and exposed and most likely could know a gay somewhere in Nairobi. At the time, he had a female friend called Tabitha, a very fat mama, loud mouth and of Nigerian descent. Tabs was lesbian and had a cousin Larry who is openly gay. She later linked me with Larry, then a student at Kenyatta University. She linked me with Larry and gave me her number. At the time, I had two Larries in my phone and had problems on to save to his number…Larry Shoga, Larry Gay and what have you.
I called on Larry and he agreed to meet me. He stayed in Buru and we agreed to meet on a Sunday morning. On the Sunday, I bought a newspaper, put on my red T-Shirt, blue jeans and open shoes and strode to Buru and it was the most nervous Sunday morning of my life. I kept asking silly questions are gays fully human, are their brains fully functional? Forgive my ignorance but my homophobic self was quite infuriated that with so many beautiful women in Nairobi, beautiful asses, beautiful boobs that some men had guts to be attracted to men. What debauchery.
I set foot in the crowded Buruburu Shopping Centre. I searched for a place that was a little hidden, lest I could be mistaken that I was his latest catch, a very unflattering idea. I went to one of those better groomed bar for Kikuyus(for they mostly play Kikuyu music) and bought myself a cold coke and started reading Mutahi Ngunyi in the Nation. Then he called to go back to Tuskys and panicked. I never wanted to be seen in public with a homosexual. But I had to interview him. He spoke in a normal masculine tenor.
As I walked across the dusty estate, I had in mind a man with a ponytail or some permed hair with earrings and nose rings. But I was in for a rude shock. Larry was your ordinarily smart dressed man, well trimmed hair without anything effeminate about him. He spoke like a man and one would assume that he was dating some fat mama who was giving him trouble. I was legitimately disappointed. I mean, it can be excusable if one was born effeminately looking and talking in a soprano, but how does Larry, with his beard and masculine stature turn out gay. Life is not fair…When was the last time England won world cup?
He shook my hand firmly and we exchanged pleasantries that involved him thanking me for such an initiative and him thanking our magazine for such a courageous move. If only, he knew. He asked me to walk him to his house because he was leaving to Jo’burg at two and it was already eleven and he had not even packed. Alarms went off in my head. I decided to walk with hi, hoping that he never harbored any funny thoughts?
“So you have been gay since when?” I asked him.
“Ever since I was born. I have always been attracted to men.” You could have seen the frustration on my face.
As I walked with him, I was quietly nervous. He told me,
“Speak, you look so afraid” in a rather feminine way, or was it the voices in my head. As we wade through the well groomed estate, he stopped at a pharmacist and bought something that was wrapped in a small black polythene bag. I thought I saw condoms and my brains hit the hyperdrive gear. As we walked through the abandoned estate very ugly scenes were playing in my head as we were going deeper and deeper into the estate.
I remembered my friends laughing at me, “leo Silo unabreakiwa uvajo,”(Today Silas, your virginity will be broken). I rehearsed my failed Karate classes about self defense skills, and men, was I nervous.
We got to his house and there were three other young boys there. Two looked effeminate and one really manly. It was in a separate independent compound, well fenced with a metallic gate. I thought I could jump over.
“Huyu ni journalist leo mtajiona kwa TV,” he told them jokingly, to which they all laughed indifferently. He started packing as we talked and it was rather inappropriate. I asked him if we could conduct the interview through email, since he was in a rush. He agreed that we could conclude it over the net. I was relived when I stepped out and I literary run towards the road. For a moment I had scary images of me being raped and beaten. We did conclude it over the net and Larry did shed some light over the net that opened room to interrogate other professionals such as sociologist Ken Ouko and renowned psychologists Christopher Hart. I also met an HIV positive young gay and his story was touching but he seemed to me more like he is looking for money with his weak case. I could believe him though. He seemed a con. But you never know.
Well, homosexuality as topic sucks to most Africans. Even those in the West who are straight are never quite comfortable with homosexuality. It is both repugnant but lately it is intellectually fashionable to accept them in our midst or at least tolerate them. The West is on the verge of cutting aid to Africa if we don’t constitutionally accept gays.
Well my two cent worth into the debate, why should gays be treated any better. Are we under any obligation to know individuals sexuality. Straight people are never under obligation to state their orientation, why should gays lord it over us. Any straight person might not admit it, but we are very homophobic. Those tolerant tend to classify homosexuals as disabled and deserve some understanding. It is all in the mind. All I can say is that, homosexuals should just keep their dealings in their bedroom and spare us their shenanigans that we need to tolerate them. Sexuality is very individual, besides, we cannot be forced to be tolerant or accept them just like that.
It will take time for them to be fully embraced. But no one is interested in knowing the next man sexuality. Period.