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KENYA: Gay Safari

by George Barasa (Jojibaro)

Being gay in Kenya is shun upon, and displaying gaysm in public is frowned upon even more. It is a taboo that people prefer to do silently. Recently, Muslim clerics in cost announced a dropping number in gays in Kenyan Coast. With no accompanied facts and statistics, they attribute reductions in HIV infection to this. They claimed gays disguise themselves in the day and only came out at night to do their business – a statement which commercialized homosexuals. Gays would be attacked and arrested by youths….and now both Imams and Pastors are being trained as trainers to train students on “irresponsible behaviors,” All this backed by Sharia law. they added.This comes as a shock considering the area used to be perceived as their preferred destination than any other region. I can only term it as a terrorism propaganda used to divert people’s mind from ongoing attacks by Al-Shabaab in Kenya.

There has been other more freaking and horrific  stories about LGBTI in Africa and Kenya in particular. Due to the powerless laws which auspice by laws to discriminate and a conservative society, many local and foreign LGBTI tend to go on LGBT Tourism in a low key way.

As an openly gay, I have had to put up with some rhetorical questions and by explaining myself and describing gay sex to curious strangers and onlookers because of how I dress and walk who I hang out with or go to bed with,what I order on the menu, where I go out and why I do so. Spwaking from gay point of view, the following are the things I’ve had to do to avoid or to escape unnecessary attentions and confrontations during my day to day activities.

Straight Acting
This is like going back to the closet. For someone who is openly gay like me this is cowardice. Coming out is a very big deal for a black or African LGBTI and once you are living openly there is no going back. You can’t sacrifice all everything all those years for nothing. The point of coming out either willingly or against your will(sic) is to live, love and exist freely with the rest of the society. You don’t have to camouflage every tie you go out.

Two Beds
I once went for a vacation with my first ex boyfriend and when we needed a place to spend a night or two, the receptionist refused to book us in on the grounds that two grown a** men cannot sleep on the same bed. So to  play smart we booked a room with two beds, in the morning before we left, we undid the bed sheets to make it look like someone slept on the
Other bed.

No Public Display Of Affection
Okay, what is a romantic vacation without romance? Imagine after engagement, birthday, anniversary,  wedding honeymoon or a surprise vacation by/from your extended better half and you can’t even kneel in public and say I do, offer a flower, kiss the ring on the finger? Can you imagine?
I organize events once every fortnight and one policy we remind our guests and attendants is to avoid (PDA).
This reduces LGBTIsm into sex in bed and under the sheets only, which obviously not our style.

No Holding Hands
In upcountry, it is okay for two “shamba boys” to hold hands. Even lesbians there are a times they would kiss on the street and hug and squeeze so tight and nobody would raise eyebrows. But can you picture two men, a mzungu(s) and a black/African holding hands and walking in the city or along white sand beaches in some male thongs? It is going to raise suspicion. When as a little boy my mother once asked me whether am married to my good friend who happens to be a boy. In my case we were not even holding hands but just spending more time together.

Making Up Stories
So you are gay have decided you are not going to go on your romantic vacation on the beach, in a hotel, on a road trip,  and prefer to spend it in your friend or relative place or house and you have to introduce your boyfriend as your  as your workmate, schoolmate, or your brother fro the other mother! I Ended my last relationship because of that. There has to come a time when I have to take my place in courtship. Otherwise there is no point of introducing me to your friend in no such kind of way. That is because there are these kind of species in form of men who will always cheat on you and use the very kind of stories as scapegoats especially when you find your  rivals in a bar or club in a hotel.

But sometimes being open and proud takes over us and won’t let our sexual orientation override us or get into the way we say or do our things. Whether we show off or don’t show off, people will always talk about it. They will always talk behind our backs. The problem comes in when there is always that one person who will always have guts to stand before you, look into the face and ask you if you are gay…something they can clearly see without having to confirm by confronting you. But for someone who knows me very well, I rarely don’t take such lightly and like a cat which has been pushed to the wall and has nowhere to run to when being attacked it either climbs up the wall or show its claws so I don’t just pull back without a fight.

MY ADVICE
Is always have a tour guide on a your safari with your woman because they are the only ones who knows what is appropriate for you when in a new territory soil and new culture.

On that note,  have you ever said or done anything weird during your safari to avoid being noticed as gay(sic)? Remember it is valid in one way or another depending with the circumstances.

George Barasa (Jojibaro)
LGBTI Artist & Activist