When I first tweeted #KOT (yes, if you don’t get Twitter Lingo that’s read: Hashtag, Kenyans on Twitter), and cc’d. Dennis Nzioka, Eric Gitari and many others at the beginning of May 2013, I was optimistic. No. I was, in fact, super excited. This was a few days before one of the most important dates on the LGBTI calendar. I mean, May 17th is phenomenal. Well, theoretically this should be huge. Anywhere. Everywhere. Can you imagine beating Medicine at scrapping off homosexuality from their disease/dis-ease list? I mean that was 23 years ago. Surely, we should be far in our thinking by now. Or shouldn’t we?
Ok, I am getting derailed.
So, I was saying that I tweeted to check whether there would be any events scheduled for IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) in Kenya. Sometimes when I say Kenya, I just mean Nairobi. Sorry. And yes, OutInKenya did confirm that the Kenyan chapter of IDAHOT was in the oven. IDAHOBIT: Mbona U Hate?, they called it. So, this was good news for several reasons. Firstly, this was going to be my first major gathering with Queer folk in Kenya. Secondly, since I was going to miss the big ass Johannesburg one organised by my colleagues at Iranti (see IDAHOT Johannesburg video here) and the FEW (Forum for the Empowerment of Women), I had to come up with a plan. Thirdly, I really really wanted to just hang out with non-conforming Kenyans. I wanted to forge friendships, find chosen family, dance with all the feminine gay boys, lock thighs with ‘butches’, transmen and the genderqueer. I wanted to be in the moment. I longed for this feeling. In Nairobi.
This was just perfect timing. I had christened the May 13 through May 17 period my Social and Economic Justice week. This was the same week that ‘Occupy Parliament’ happened. Well, although I had to relive memories of police brutality, come to terms with my ‘animals have a soul’ mantra in the midst of all the pigs, rethink patriotism, law and order and unpack Kenya’s general feeling of apathy, I was glad to be there. I remembered that as a come-back protester in Nairobi, it goes without saying that you do not go to protest without water and a handkerchief. Yes, that includes a peaceful protest. It doesn’t matter what you do; some running and tearing will be seen. No, not the famous kind of marathon running. A running of a different kind. Running away from [insert noun].
So when May 17th came, I was up. In time. I wanted to see everything. See queers catwalk into Freedom Corner (this should remind you of Wangari Maathai), Uhuru Park. I wanted to just get there and sit. Watching. So, by nine in the morning, I had my shorts, shirt, waistcoat and tie ready. Immediately my colleagues and I were in a matatu towards the City Centre. But firstly, I had to get my head in order. I had to, for solidarity sake, join other activists who had been arrested during ‘Occupy parliament’. I had to first go to Parliament Police Station where we would be gathering as the police filed charges against us. Weird, ati being charged with “behaving in a manner likely to breach national peace”! Wow, do you remember Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi? Do you remember days that universities acted as the official opposition in Kenya? This charge took me back to those days of assassinations, mysterious disappearances, burnt bodies in forests. Just oppression and repression. Fuck the new constitution. Or try telling Kenya Police that. What a bad start to an otherwise promising day. Well, I got there. I got involved in shouting matches with a number of people. I got to call a member of parliament ‘stupid’ and other obscenities. I was right though. I hated him. I didn’t even know him.
Goes without saying, I didn’t get to join queers as early as I thought I would. I got to Freedom Corner all the same, they were there. Still. That alarmed me. Immediately. I saw a few policemen walking around the Park but nothing major was going on. The placards were ready. People had t-shirts on. They looked good. Some did. Others just made me sad. Just that disturbing sight of poverty and its associated stinks. So, yes, I was right, something was wrong. It was past noon, I mean! The police had decided, after a long process of consultation and required deliberation I suppose, to stop our marching through Nairobi streets. This, they said, would be tantamount to ‘promoting homosexuality’! Somebody please shoot me. I mean, after seeing all these heterosexual people walk in the streets, no one should be gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, genderfluid and I guess Intersex persons get conflated into this ‘ish’ too! I just got deflated. That made me mad. I was angry. I hated being Kenyan. Right at that point. I wanted to pack my bags and just leave. I wished all queers could just freaking stop paying taxes and go. Away. Out of this flippin’, freaking and f***ing country. Talking peace, all the fucking time. Peace for only the priviledged cisgender heterosexual male who repeatedly attempts to strip me in the streets, who has been raping women since peace-knows-when. The cisgender heterosexual male who still thinks saying that he will rape gay men is ‘straight’!! I was pissed. Mad. Mad. Mad.
So, in what looked like ‘doing us a favour’, the police allowed us to march within Uhuru Park and to the nearby Railways Club where our events would be running from. Next time I hear fascists scream ‘God this, God that’, I am gonna break a neck. This walk was sickening. To the core. Seriously. Well, may be not the walk itself but just that context. Firstly, walking only in the park made me feel like an outcast. It made me really sad. I had to, in that moment, cognitively push myself out of a Bipolar low. No, not now. I could not afford to relive my traumas. So, as we walked, I decided that I was going to have a silent protest. Alone. I decided to walk, silently, alone. Just me. I carried the smallest placard to express how insignificant I felt. I wanted to be swamped in this sea of screaming protesters and the obviously disgusted on-lookers. This God thing in my head kept ringing as people screamed at us: ‘God created Adam and fuck-knows who’, ‘Look at you. Such beautiful women’, ‘You are all going to hell’, ‘We are going to kill all of you’, ‘Mashoga nyinyi kutombwa kwenye mkundu na wazungu’ (I won’t even translate this)….I was shocked. An idea came into my head though. Right at that point. I was gonna write something on my small blank placard. I quickly wrote, “God hates you too” (remember “God hates fags”?). I felt such hatred for all these people. I really did.
Then just as these thoughts were stampeding in my head, there, some man from the sidewalk came after me and started spitting on me. Yes, spitting. The whole time he kept calling me ‘shoga’ ‘malaya’ and made references to how smart I looked yet my asshole was so dirty after years o
f being fucked from the back. He couldn’t stand me. My sight irritated him. I was the most frustrating and embarrassing person in this crowd of Kenyans-giving-the-country-a-bad-name. He had to (re)act to my presence. God had called him to act on his behalf. He had to show me how disgusted he and God were. After his first spit, two more God-fearing men joined in showering me with slime. Yes, I got the point. I was disgusting. To them. I was worse than everyone else threatening us with rape and murder. I was supposed to be really ashamed of myself. I wasn’t.
I have seen worse. In this country. I walk away. I walk towards. Everyday.
By Neo Musangi © 2013