#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.

Essay Submission: Book on Allies speaking out for LGBTIQ persons in Kenya

Call for Submissions: Straight Kenyans speaking out for LGBTIQ 

Introduction/Context

Even though international sources recognise Kenya’s media as the freest in the East African region, LGBTQI voices are virtually non-present. Even 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.

To this end, the Denis Nzioka News Agency and Service is potentially receiving essay submissions, by allies, on various topics touching on LGBTIQ life, and experiences, in Kenya.

Book Summary

The book will be a collection of collected, edited essays from Kenyan public personalities, authors, human rights activists, commentators, media, and other celebrities. The book will contain personal testimonies, opinion, and commentaries, visual art, non/fiction stories, photography, and poetry, among others.

Suggested Topics

Some topics that contributors can tackle include: challenges of being labeled as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ for standing up for LGBTIQ persons; experiences of interacting and working with LGBTIQ persons; personal views on LGBTIQ rights; personal testimonies of LGBTIQ persons you have encountered; human rights for LGBTIQ persons; how one becomes an ally; how to deal with one’s stigma towards LGBTIQ persons; workplace experiences you have encountered; coming out as gay or lesbian; representation of LGBTIQ persons in the media; call to action to garner support for LGBTIQ rights; politics and LGBTI; health, HIV; straight/gay intersecting movements; creativity and the Arts; role of allies and supporters; funding for LGBTIQ rights; current cultural trends, and fashion; the pink dollar; feminism, and LGBTIQI, gender, sex, and sexuality, among others. This list is not exhaustive. Articles can be previously unpublished pieces.

Submission Details

Each essay should be between 800-1500 words, or longer, and submitted in English (French, and Swahili translation will be provided at the publisher’s cost). Kindly include links, citations, images, photos, and quotes, and where possible, reference and credit appropriately. These will form part of the annex of the publication. Other works (poems, for instance) are not subject to this word count.

Author’s Citations

All accepted essays will have a photo of the author, unless otherwise indicated, a short description/blurb about the author, and contact details (preferably email and/or social media profiles). The photo can be black/white or coloured. A consent form will be provided in the submission pack. These will also be used for promotional activities of the book.

Remuneration

A modest renumeration of 100 USD will be paid to essays that are accepted for publication. If accepted, authors will receive 3 copies of the book for free for their own, and will be invited, at no cost, to the launch of the book later in the year. The book is not a commercial venture, and will be distributed for free to various outlets, and LGBTIQ organisations. Accepted authors can also make bulk requests, for free, for their own work, and publicity benefits.

Timelines

Submissions are ongoing, and are reviewed on a rolling basis. A select editorial team will review, and make comments to submitted materials for clarity, and flow. A final decision will be made within two (2) weeks of submitting an article.

About Denis Nzioka

Denis Nzioka is a sexual and gender minorities activist, with a particular focus on LGBTIQ, MSM, and sex workers. The Denis Nzioka News Agency and Service collaborate with Kenyan, East African, and international LGBTIQ, sex work, and allied activists to transform public opinion, and social attitudes towards sexual, and gender minorities’ community through grassroots reporting, community commentary, and forums for alternative opinions on sex, gender, identity politics, human rights, and creating space for critical thought for issues of gender, and sexuality.

Any queries? Contact us via

nzioka@denisnzioka.co.ke / submissions@denisnzioka.co.ke

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!

Why Denis Nzioka carries sanitary pads in his bag – Full, unedited interview

One man’s quest to break menstruation taboo

Still largely a taboo topic, menstruation is talked about in hushed tones, and often, only by women. But one man, Denis Nzioka, is not afraid of talking about it, or even carrying pads to give out randomly to women who need them, either on the streets or entertainment spots such as bars, and even in church.  

BY FAITH ONEYA

@FaithOneya

foneya@ke.nationmedia.com 

It’s just under 30 minutes to midnight, two days after Easter Sunday, when Denis Nzioka tweets a picture of his new stash of pads and tampons – ultra thin, maxi thick, unscented, super, long, normal … name it and he’s got it. The accompanying caption earns him rebuke and praise in equal measure, from both men and women. The tweet says:

“My monthly supply of tampons and pads. If in need, or know anyone in need, kindly reach out to me and I will have them delivered at no cost. I also deliver to mental hospitals, Catholic sisters’ nunneries (sic) and to women in prisons. You can also stop me on the streets.”

“Monthly supply? Kwani you have grown a v*****?” types one of the responders., who happens to be a woman!

“This is creepy  … Why would you be carrying pads just in case a woman needs them?? Stop being dragged into toxic feminism,” another adds.

“It has been terrible since that post,” says Denis, afterwards. “Terrible in the sense that I have been ridiculed and insulted, mostly by men, and some women. However, majority of the responses have been supportive.”

Having lived on the fringes of society as a queer activist, however, Denis has grown accustomed to being derided online.

“I am used to such responses, but they can’t stop me. Many people reached out to me after my post, showing me that there is a huge gap in access to pads for girls and women. In my own little way, I am addressing this, one day and one person, at a time,” he says.

He emphasises that ultimately, we should be questioning the ‘language’ around menstruation. “Why do we refer to pads as ‘sanitary’? Are we further perpetuating the belief that women who menstruate – or the act of menstruation – is dirty, or filthy, and thus unhygienic, and in need of ‘sanitation?’ No, they are not ‘sanitary pads’ they are (menstrual) pads. Menstruation is not dirty, shameful or wrong. We should embrace our bodies and their functions,” he poses.

Nation.co.ke sought to find out what drives Denis Nzioka.

So, who is Denis Nzioka?

Denis Nzioka is a sexual and gender minorities activist, consultant, researcher and journalist. His focus is on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, men who have sex with other men and sex workers in Kenya 
and Africa. He is based from Nairobi, Kenya. He has been involved in the human rights movement for LGBTIQ rights and advocated for sex workers rights as well, working with local and regional organisations. He strongly believes in equality of all sexes, freedom, and agency of individuals, expression, and choice. He grew up, and studied in Eastlands of Nairobi, and comes from a strong Christian family. His grandmother is his inspiration, and role model. “She is the most down-to-earth-saint”. If he is not on the streets shouting ‘gay rights are human rights’, or behind a desk tweeting on sexuality, he can be found raising his 4 month baby, Galilee Nzioka, and occasionally, gets inspired to cook. An avid reader, he is terribly shy and is single, and searching. He is a Catholic and you will find him at Mass everyday. He gyms regularly.

Why did you start carrying pads?

Ten years ago, I was teaching girls and boys from Korogocho who had dropped out of school. During one lesson, one girl got her first period. Some classmates laughed at her, while others wondered in horror if she had hurt herself. The girl was very disturbed. The girl immediately left for the bathroom to what I assumed was ‘check’ on herself. One of my female colleagues then came to inquire her and that is when she informed she what had happened. My colleague went to the shops, bought a pair of pads, and then gave to the girl telling her if she needed more, she can inform her. The girl ultimately came back to class later on – to a point I could notice that some of the older female students would giggle with her. That’s when I realised that menstruation is not just a women’s issue. Even men should be part of it. Since then, I carry a pack of sanitary pads for these types of emergencies.

Why is distributing pads for free so important to you?

It is said that two out of three women in Kenya cannot afford to have periods because they don’t have access to sanitary pads, yet nobody wants to talk about it. Then there is the stigma and shame attached to menstruation – women and girls are considered ‘unclean’ and some are cut off, secluded and banned from being part of society when they are menstruating. They can’t even attend funerals or weddings. The desire to break the silence and change the narrative of shame associated with menstruation motivates me. Also, coming from a radical queer, feminist and activist background, I believe candid conversations and sustained dialogue on taboo topics, especially on sex, and sexuality, will help change lives for the most vulnerable people.

How do you do it?

It is not a coordinated pad distribution campaign or a PR exercise or publicity stunt. It’s just me buying pads and tampons with my own money and carrying them around to give any woman or girl who needs them. However, from the responses I have received so far, this is not sufficient – it needs to be a massive campaign and concerted effort by cross-sector partnerships.

How often do you have to restock? How soon do the pads run out? You mention monthly stock, but wondering if they are over every month

I buy the pads as soon as they run out. I factor a size-able supply of tampons and pads (enough to fit my carry-on bag, and maybe extras in my car) during my monthly shopping. I have pads al year through and usually re-stock anytime I run out or if I get a particular demand.

Why these particular pad/tampon brands? Or are you just winging it?

I have none, actually. My stock consists of standard pads, tampons, and panty liners. I usually go for what is most affordable – Always and Kotex are usually favorite. Other brands are OB, Cottons Regular, and Velvex. Some women prefer certain brands and I aspire to ensure they get them. Others are particular about getting unscented brands, others prefer scented ones. So, particular taste comes at play most times.

You added tampons this April. Before it was only pads. How come?

Pads are really the most requested I get – because traditionally, they have been the go-to pads for most women. Tampons are innovative and are used by most women who prefer a much smaller item to carry, and also use. Some women prefer exclusively tampons given their look, and easy to use factor. Pads are mostly for those with heavy flows, and because they are easily available, and affordable.

How many pads do you carry around and how much does it cost you?

I usually carry a pack or two of pads (packaged differently – 8, 10, 16, etc) and tampons I carry also two packs (usually 8, 16). I added panty liners as they are really popular these days also. Additionally, I have had women who request certain tablets to help with mensing cramps which cost like 10 bob. Others have requests for a roll of tissue or wipes also so I carry some, just in case. My last shopping of pads, tampons and panty liners – that I could carry comfortably in my bag – cost around 2,000 bob. I have a pack of baby wipers since I am raising a 4 month old boy!

Do women actually stop you in the streets to ask for pads?

Yes, I have been stopped on the streets several times by those who know I carry pads and need them. Last year, I “came out” online, and announced that I carry pads for anyone in need. This piqued the interest of people in my circle, who told their friends, and word got out. I also give away pads in bars, restaurants and hotels. I also buy pads and tampons to distribute to teenage girls’ homes, sometimes to women in prison or those admitted in mental health hospital units. We often forget women in such settings – yet their incarceration does not deprive them of their body and its processes.

A man carrying pads to give random women is not necessarily common. Some would consider this unmanly or even unAfrican … how do you handle the “stigma” of carrying pads and tampons with you all the time?

There is no stigma in a man carrying pads. I am thrilled to have them at hand. Though at first people say negative things or look at me differently, because they don’t understand the importance of what I do. Experience, however, has taught me that I’m onto something. Case in point, last year at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). After passing through the metal detectors, on my way to check in, my bag was taken aside for further inspection. The male security officer checking my bag removed a perfume bottle, followed by a packet of Always pads. He and his female colleague looked at each other, then stared at me in disbelief.

“Do you use these?” they asked.

“No, I carry them for anyone in need,” I answered.

The female security guard smiled, pulled me aside and led me away towards the washrooms. There, she asked me for some pads.

Unajua kupata hizi airport ni shidaHuku Duty Free hawaziuzi, na wakiuza ni expensive sana,” she confided.

Such moments remind me that there is no shame in carrying pads or tampons as a man. It actually makes you a better person because you are aware of a need for them, and you are willing to give them to anyone in need. And anyone can be in need of them, at any place and time.

Do you collaborate with other people who distribute pads to girls?

When I went public about giving pads to random strangers, I was contacted by several organisations and individuals who asked me to support their initiatives or to get involved in their outreaches to women and girls. The broader strategy is to make this bigger and to spark conversations that do away with the cloud of shame that hangs over menstruation, while providing women and girls with the supplies and information they need. The government promised free pads to girls, but this has not fully been implemented … Every home, school and church should have free pads available all the time. By providing information, and commodities, we can be dealing with the stigma associated with menstruation

What’s your bigger picture?

All I want is to spark conversations on menstruation (which is a natural process), access to pads and other sexual and reproductive health commodities, body integrity, choice, agency and autonomy, and conversations on how men can be involved (by carrying a few tampons, for instance). Men have to get involved because they are the originators and perpetrators of legislative, policy and social frameworks that deny legal gender recognition, perpetuate violence, stigma, discrimination and exclude women and girls, and other non hetero-normative persons, and inevitably, men themselves.

What’s one of the most memorable moments since you started doing this?

One Sunday, mid last year, when I was in church – I got to a Catholic church near home, I went to use the lavatory. The gents and the ladies are opposite each other. Walking over to the gents, I found women huddled outside their stall, speaking in low tones. I didn’t think much of it since they seemed to be waiting for someone to leave the stall, until I overheard one say “Sasa tutatoa pads wapi hapa (Can we really get pads here – in church)?” I walked over to them, introduced myself and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing that you need pads,” then reached into my bag, took out three pads and handed them over to one of the women. They were visibly shocked, but thanked me as I left. There have been many such instances.

You’re quite vocal on LGBTIQ rights. Is there any connection between that and your pad initiative?

During the 10 years I have advocated for LGBTIQ rights, I have interacted with people who have faced worse stigma, socially, politically and in other spheres, than discrimination based on sexuality. I come from a space where there is always a minority within a minority, and I’ve learnt that we are all minorities. Granted, there are several similarities (tongue-in-cheek) between LGBTIQ rights and menstruation. For one, menstruation like sexual orientation and gender identity, are both natural – they are part of who we are as humans.

Secondly, like sexuality, there is a shame and silence that surrounds menstruation. If we talk about it, we do so in passing and in discomfort, eager to move on swiftly to another topic.

Third, there is little information or access to commodities that relate to LGBTIQ rights or menstruation – be it information, or actual preventive commodities. Similarly, women and girls, as do LGBTIQ persons, are constantly faced with hetero-normative, patriarchal, capitalist and other interlocking systems of oppression, that continue to put them down, silence them and shame them for who they are, among other injustices.

I do not consider myself as a gay activist per se – but for political reasons, I identify as gay. I am a human rights activist for all. The way I defend the right of gay men to access healthcare, is the same way I will defend the rights of girls to access contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services. I will defend the rights of differently-abled persons to have access to buildings through requisite modifications, the same way I will join a nomadic community to agitate for access to their land, and free water. I will join marches against rising food prices or extra-judicial killings. An activist does not have the privilege of an a-la-carte menu but should, as much as possible; defend the full buffet of human rights.

Parting shot?

To be honest, I do very little, but it is the little that we all do that will add up to the changes we want to see. I did not invent the wheel by carrying tampons as a man. I am sure there are many unspoken others before me, who have been doing it unashamedly. I am part of society with all its flaws and foibles, but I can be part of the change I want to see, by sparking a conversation on menstruation, gay rights, albinism, disability, sex, condoms, or any other issue. That’s the first step. Change is gradual and painful. I am glad to be on the right side of history on this one, though.