Binyavanga: Disturbing the Peace (Part I)

This is not news anymore. Binyavanga Wainaina came out in the most literary article I have ever come across in my life here. That was on January 19, 2014, that is why it is no longer news. His coming out coincided with his 43rd birthday and according to him, in a television interview (#theTrend), that was his birthday present to himself. Then he proceeded to release a documentary (six series), which I love, on YouTube entitled ‘We Must Free Our Imaginations’. His humor on the documentary is quite something. I will not critique the documentary here but it does raise some serious questions. A lot has been said about his coming out, locally and internationally. Do not forget he is a renowned writer who has several accolades under his belt.

The purpose of this post is not to judge or in anyway comment about his coming out, but a response to what has been written and said in the media, electronic, print, broadcast and social media. Some have written positively and passed messages of goodwill and encouragement to Binyavanga and others have purported to satirically comment about his coming out. Please note that the reasons of his coming out are none of our business and of no concern to this post.  Unfortunately, none of the articles I have read are satirical as they purport to be, but a shocking display of bigotry that is the Kenyan middle class! I will explain this with a few misconceptions about queer people that I have noticed with the commentary. Please not my choice of word, queer. I trust you went to school and diligently attended English and literature class if you are reading this. Queer is the word. I will interchangeably use gay too! I don’t like the term homosexuality, just as a matter of personal preference.

Misconception 1 – ‘Queerness (gayness) is a Western thing!

I have no idea where this idea came from. I will use a personal experience to explain this. I will not say, like Binyavanga, that I knew I was queer when I was 5. No! I did not even know myself when I was that age. Coming from a conservative family where, religion,  homework and studies were given a priority, I never grew up with the influence of the television or cinema. I never interacted with any Western or white people when growing up. I never travelled to Europe or the ‘West’ until I was old enough and by which time I ‘knew’ myself. So, neither TV nor ‘Western’ interaction made me queer. ‘I was born this way’ is too cliche for a learned person of my calibre to use as an explanation to my being queer. It is a much more complicated situation that people never understand, even some us queer people! Of course there are those who belong to the ‘I-Was-Born-This-Way’ school of thought, which I respect. So this whole argument about homosexuality being an ‘Western’ thing and ‘Un-African’ is nonsense and hogwash!

Misconception 2 – Queer (gay) people want to convert straight/heterosexual people!

This is the most stupid thing I have ever heard! Why on earth would I want to convert a straight person? No one converted me! Unfortunately the protagonists of this misconception are homophobes who, as we all know, might be ‘closeted homosexuals’ and are afraid of being themselves! However, not all homophobes are closet cases, just saying! I know you might say, ‘what about that gay man/lesbian who was trying to hit on me in church or the club or in the office?’ The answer is very simple. Gay people love chasing, just like straight people like chasing and darting everywhere! It’s human nature! If at all a queer person tried to hit on a straight person, then it is because that straight person was oozing some ‘gayness’ or hinted at a possibility of something. Gay people are not blind to hit on just anyone! So check yourselves before you spew hate and baseless accusations!

Misconception 3 – Queer (gay) people are dirty (unclean), whores, untrustworthy, liars…..the list is endless!

Shock on you! Your father, who is a senior manager at a multinational company is gay! Your brother or nephew or niece or cousin who is a pilot with a reputable airline, or a doctor in a prestigious hospital or an engineer in a big construction company that is bagging all the government tenders or is a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, or is a priest in the church, or is a Judge of the High Court is gay! You just don’t know it! Most gay people are normal people like you and they exist right under our noses! Yes, normal just like you! Of course there are a few who are flamboyant and flashy and I don’t blame them for their lifestyle choices. In fact I don’t like it when the flamboyant ones try to rub it in my face. I hate it! The point is, queer (or gay) people are normal people leading normal lives, earning decent incomes, paying taxes and building the nation just like the rest of you! The sad thing is that queer (or gay) people have been portrayed as sex workers (who need special protection or rights) by the so called LGBTI activists busy bodies who are out to collect a few thousand dollars or pounds of donor funding to maintain or sustain their jet-set lifestyles. These busy bodies will be the subject of another post, not this one!

So before you go on hating on queer (or gay people) look around you. Chances are you might not see some us, the majority of us who are comfortable with ourselves where we are, which is not in the closet. We were never in the closet. It is the stereotypical non-progressive and intolerant people that have tried to push us into that closet.

These are just my opinions! You are not obliged in anyway to agree or disagree with them! Unfortunately straight people think that queer people demand or ask for their understanding or special treatment. No we don’t! We are not special! We are just normal!

Comments are welcome! Keep the hate to yourself!

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