One of the strongest messages that we learnt from this year’s World Aids day is that whereas it is bad enough for one to die from the epidemic it is important none of us dies from ignorance. There has been a rallying call to action to all HIV stakeholders to unite and overcome injustices caused by violence and the exclusion of people on the basis of gender, class, race, nationality, age, geographic location, sexual orientation and HIV status.
However we have every reason to worry because we remain a reserved society and we choose what to discuss openly and what to shun or do it in low tones. By choosing to shun some of the issues that affect our society we discriminate as well as cause division.
Take for example the issue of homosexuality. It’s a reality that it exists in our country isn’t Binyavanga Wainana a Kenyan? Get it right this article is not advocating for homosexuality. However let us be real with ourselves the topic of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Queer (LGBQ) is a very difficult one in Kenya because it goes against the very core of our beliefs.
Homosexuality goes against our tradition, culture and practices. Maybe this is why we choose to pretend that it is not happening for our own sanity. It is unfortunate that in reality, people are actually living double lives because they are gay. I don’t know the reason for people’s sexual orientation but with the spread of homosexuality, I think it is high time people talk about it. I understand that being gay is classified as being taboo but we still need to talk about it.
The reality is that homosexuals do not come from out of space. They come from within the society. They come from respectable families who are also struggling to even think that one of their own is gay. These families suffer the same stigmatisation that they suffer and even more because it is neither their choice nor their preference. The situation is really sad and complicated. My take is that we should bear with the families that have to deal with that. We have universal human rights that are ours by virtue of being human. One of those rights is the right to freedom of expression. This right can be claimed by homosexuals. The other right is the right to dignity.
I’m not saying we should encourage homosexuality. I’m saying that we should talk about it because it’s happening. Talking about it will help us to see the intensity of the situation and deal with it. We are encouraged to discuss sexual issues with our young people. For many years at the onset of AIDS, Kenyans lived in denial. By the time reality hit on us families were being wiped away, churches that had spent most of their time condemning the ‘the people of the world’; sooner than later realised the number of members infected was stunning. AIDS almost crippled our country because we had deliberately refused to speak about it.
So when saying we should speak about homosexuality we are not telling them how to turn a man on, or how to get a woman into bed. No. We are discussing the morality issues attached to sex before marriage, the risk of diseases, the consequences of teen pregnancies and how they ruin people’s lives. The same thing happened with HIV/Aids. People didn’t want to talk about it regardless of the rate at which it was spreading. Now people talk about condoms and testing but it took a long time to get here.
This is the same that should happen with homosexuality. We should talk about it and discourage the youth from doing it. Tell them about why it’s a taboo. Tell them why its morally wrong if that’s what you believe, and how it’s offensive to God. These are but a few of the reasons that I hear from people after they get over trying to get rid of the discussion.
I know how people feel about this, but as is typical of Kenyans as we choose to keep quiet because we fear what people will think of us. But we have gays on our screens every day and even on cartoons so not only are we lying to ourselves that homosexuality doesn’t exist, we are lying to our young generation and we need to rectify that.
First published by Standard Media Group