#PrideSoWhite – We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies!

“Oh, there you go, have a seat, Mademoiselle.” – Anonymous

 

Nairobi, July 10

Authors: Nje-ri, Nzioka

 

#PrideMonth We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies

Recently, a UK agency staff posted a picture of her, and her colleagues with a rainbow flag in their background celebrating #PrideMonth. It was captioned: ‘Celebrating love and equality British High Commission Nairobi style.”

Nothing to it, right?

The photo op was all white. “Nairobi style,” right?

The Embassy was the British High Commission in Nairobi. You, know, the same British who exported these anti gay laws to their colonies that we are now grappling with.

Fun fact! That in 1967, after leaving a legacy of anti-LGBT legal discrimination to its colonies, Britain decriminalised same sex –  finding it an area of private morality, within which the law had no business. Meanwhile us guys, English Scriptures in hand, retained the laws, terming them critical to our ‘African values’.

Apart from the clear disconnect of what this photo, at its basic, was all about – #PrideSoWhite – it highlighted how race, classism, and disconnect from issues the photo highlighted. It did not help the photo was by a (privileged) white woman. I mean, I might be wrong, but Pride, Nairobi Pride certainly is not experienced exclusively, cannot be curated, presented, curated as white, privileged, cis, albeit…. It also did not help the whole line up was majorly white.

Queer Africans are typically tired of European and American embassies ‘celebrating’ Pride with their one-off photo op with local queer activists who are invited to these high walled, highly secured buildings, forced to show up at 8am for an 12pm event since its how security works, their personal details taken, fingerprinted, IDs and phones taken away, invitation copy ready in hand, have to be forced to dress up for the black tie occasion, served measly teas and biscuits, just to serve a PR stunt by the Ambassadors and their attaches.

Yes, we celebrated Pride, they claim. We got the black, African, poor, gays and lesbians, invited them – you know an invitation from us is like manna from Heaven, they washed up,  put on deo, dressed in fine silk and linen, because we have to stand next to them for the photos.

Did someone hoist the rainbow flag next to ours? Oh, that must be the proverbial mama’s home-made stew in all occasions. The flag. The rainbow flag is important.

Oh, look at the time!

They must leave now. Tea and biscuits is over! We need to close down the embassy. Terrorist thing.

Did someone take a pic of the rainbow flag? Got the black faces with me in them, too? Oh, great!

Dear Embassies and High Commissions, how about funding LGBTI organisations in Kenya? How about involving yourselves in the work – the problematic, emotional, inclusive, defeatist work – that assures Pride? How about celebrating Pride by talking to us how we celebrate Pride. A pride flag at your high walled High Commission does not help us. It never has.

But hey, cheers good buddy! Happy #PrideMonth to you all foreign embassies, High Commissions, and companies who only remember that there is a gay community in Kenya during Pride Month and IDAHOT (May 17).

You invite us poor, black gay Africans to your beautiful residences, we sip on wines we cannot afford, take pictures, and you get to tick a box in your monthly deliverables then continue to deny us refuge, discard our asylum applications and ignore our asks regarding equal partnership and demand flawless audit reports for the past 5 years for us to get a measly 10USD for airtime each month for a whole year.

Yes, we see you. Happy #PrideMonth

*Nje-ri is a queer, feminist, Pan African activist.  The other one is a homo.

#PrideMonth – Why, now than ever, we need Allies to ‘come out’

Even though international sources recognise East African media as one of the most vibrant in the continent, LGBTQI voices are virtually put in the back-burner – to only be used for hits, to distract from issues, to generate comments, or for caricature.  Even more non-existent are “ally” voices – persons who, though not identifying as LGBTIQ, are equally important, in conversations around sex, and sexuality.

An ally is someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTIQ social movement, and challenges the hetero-normative, patriarchal, capitalist, and other interlocking systems of oppression that continue to put down, silence, and shame LGBTIQ persons for who they are, among other injustices.

Allies believe LGBTIQ people face discrimination, and thus are socially, and economically disadvantaged. They aim to use their position to fight against these injustices, raise awareness on the lived realities of LGBTI persons, while promoting the human, and health rights of all persons.

An ally furthers conversations we have around LGBTQI rights – to show that the pursuit for human rights is not just something LGBTQI persons or activists are doing on their own, but they have a pool of friends, family, acquaintances who are supporting their efforts.

This year’s IDAHOT theme was ‘Alliances for Solidarity,’ and was chosen to highlight the to reach out to new partners to raise awareness of our commonalities, and build solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities, as the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are left unchallenged.

Allies are uniquely placed to use their spaces and platforms to discuss and promote conversations around sex and sexuality. They are uniquely positioned to inform, direct, and promote open dialogues wherever they are. By doing so, they can respond to some of the reservations that the general population may have on SOGI/E and LGBTQI. They are the main drivers the front runners of these debates. And so they can relate to whoever they speak with.

Everybody deserves to live free from discrimination and violence.  Everybody deserves to grow up being cared for by their families, to have the fighting chance that education provides, to be able to express themselves as they see fit.  None of us would dispute that–except when it comes to those who may identify as being gay or trans.

If you are gay or trans in East Africa, your families may disown you.  You may be thrown out of school.  You may be forced into inappropriate, violent–and lasting–psychiatric or medical processes–that treat you as though you are crazy.  Or take away your choice about your bodily expression.

It is our collective responsibility to stand up for and alongside those East Africans who identify as gay or trans.  There are those who already doing so, and they do not identify as gay or trans – they are your everyday down-to-earth-saints.  We salute their courage which we hope will inspire all East Africans to do the right thing as well.  It is long overdue.

We are rioting – #PrideMonth should not be calendar month – but a living reality

June is often celebrated as Pride Month – a time to celebrate the diversity of sexualities, and gender identities. Most importantly, it is a time to bring visible the lives, stories, and experiences, of persons who identify as LGBTIQ.

In most African countries, LGBTIQ persons continue to live in hiding, out of fear of being ‘outed’, or being targeted for who they are. Stories of evictions, threats, arrests, and killings, have filled our newspapers, pointing, sadly, to a lived reality for so many of us who identify as LGBTIQ.

Pride Month was set aside to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, US. Dubbed the first gay pride, the events leading to the riots are commemorated as the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US.

Which is why Pride Month matters to us, Africans.

You see, that first Pride was a riot. It was a group of queer, and trans persons, fed up by constant police raids, and arrests, who decided enough is enough. The tipping point had been reached.

But why should a 1960’s American event resonate here? Perhaps, it is important to point out that LGBTIQ Africans continue to face the same challenges that these 1960’s queers were facing – an unwelcoming society, a stereotypical media, a corrupt police force, and invisibility. And shame to be themselves.

Hence, they decided to venture into spaces such as clubs, and bars, where they could be themselves, associate, talk, learn, and share their experiences as they supported one another.

But, as if that was not enough, they came to be attacked in their safe spaces – their sanctums. This was not a police raid; this was an attack on themselves. The police represented all their oppression. And they reacted to that oppression by standing their ground. No more, they chanted!

This was the tipping point.

Most LGBTIA Africans have also reached their tipping points – we have seen wonderful visible campaigns, Pride marches, and more, and more activists coming out to challenge the system – and people – that put them down. We have seen them marching on streets, we have seen them in our newspapers, we have seen them sharing with the less fortunate, we have seen them in courts, we have seen them in Kilimani Mums.

Our Pride Month is not about a calendar month – it’s a lived reality. Everyday we face our fears, challenge oppression, and seek to be more visible, and open.

We are rioting. Not noticed that yet?

Image: Revellers are seen at Uganda’s second annual gay pride parade in Entebbe, August 3, 2013. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)

(More) gay dating apps are not the solution

 

The other day, I got called

To a meeting

With some high end entrepreneurs

Canadian

Had the solution to all gay African problems

Kenyans to begin with

Ha!

 

App

Yes, an App

To meet other gays

Like Grindr

But theirs was ‘better’

Safer

More control

 

They went meeting the people tour

Kisumu. Mombasa. Nairobi.

Bought twinks coffee, and Java – did the whole live video thingi

Fake English accents.

Some faggot called me to tell me they wanted to see me

I am the person to talk to in Kenya

About gays. About Apps. About selling cheap merchandise

 

Ha!

 

I refused.

Told my GALCK broker – if they are not selling me a business idea, they can do all they want

Kenya does not need dating Apps

Or white folks using black influencers to sell cheap merchandise

Or to change the UNAIDS leadership

I/we refuse to be used anymore

For commerce/politicking

 

We do not need more gay dating Apps.

We have dated. With or without them

Safely. Soundly. Securely.

 

Want to sell a merchandise?

Buy the gays booze, go to their bars, buy them drinks

Do Java, live-feed the croissants

Take photos – photos are important for marketing

Get on Grindr – check for dates – yes, because you not using your own bloody App

Who would have thought?

Yes, ma’faka I saw you ‘close to me’ on Grindr

What was it? 150m?

 

You have an App to sell.

Liiv on your own terms.

Yes, I love raw gay sex

Yes, I love raw sex!

Gay men enjoy condom-less sex. It is not because they do not care about themselves or their health. It is because it feels good. Quit shaming people for their right to choose, especially when you are making the same choices. Sex positivity includes understanding and accepting that condom use is not the only safer sex option.

Most gay men are missing out on a lot of chances to have sex because they do not understand why people ask for bareback sex. Those who do enjoy raw sex often ask: “How safe am I?” There are also gay men who ask: “What if I have HIV, and people keep asking me for bareback sex? Do I just keep giving it to them? Granted, I will not necessarily infect them but how do I keep them safe?”

First, there is no shame in wanting or engaging in bareback sex. Most gay profiles in dating Apps have the option of displaying one’s sexual preference: bareback, condom-sex, or ‘needs discussion.’ It is ironic, because a lot of people on these Apps want to bareback. Those who pick ‘bareback’ or ‘needs discussion’ are often seen as vectors or out to infect others. There is no truth in this.

It is time we completely removed the fear of HIV from sex. I have no issue with having sexual intercourse with HIV-positive guys. If they are on ARV medication, and with undetectable viral load, it means they are un-transmittable.

Do not judge me. I am HIV-negative and I love bare backing. It is so intense that it is almost a spiritual experience for me. I have to admit I feel kind of guilty afterwards. But then the next time I have an opportunity to go raw, I do it again.

But as a sexually active gay man, I have the option of not just condoms, regular testing, but now, with PrEP, I can make rational decisions about sex and can minimize risk.

When I first went public about using PrEP, I was met with derision and slut shaming. I won’t B.S. you. After I started taking the pill and waiting a few weeks for the meds to kick in, I was out there shagging dudes raw like crazy. Yeah, yeah – I know I am supposed to be using a rubber but I just didn’t want to.

If you go on the hookup apps like Hornet or Grindr, at least around here, most all of the guys are shagging each other without protection.

I have heard a lot of people on PrEP say they tend not to mention it to strangers. I guess some people worry that those on PrEP are having condom-less sex and so might be more likely to have other STDs, but that’s not borne out by any data.

I make sexual choices everyday – from consent, to privacy, to the kind of partners I sleep with. With PrEP, that has become a much more informed – and happier decision.

#LetsGetReal for once!