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Being Queer in this World

Being queer in any part of the world comes with being hated, discriminated against, violated, abused, tortured and even in some parts, like many countries in Africa, being killed. Many queer people have committed suicide because of being hated so much that they felt that dying was the only solution.

I will not be among those queer people who kill themselves. No, I will be among those that fight voraciously until my voice be heard, I will resist till my existence be accepted. And I will continue to persist till our rights are granted. Because until queer rights are granted, we can never say we have any human rights.

The difficulty in Writing This Article

I sit down to write this article and honestly, I don’t know where the fuck to start.

As I browse my fingers through these keys I have memorized by heart, listen to the rhythm of the typing and connect my mind and body, I wonder why this will become such a sensational article for those who read it.

On the weekend, a high school friend reached out to me and after catching up, she said, “sorry and I am not judging, but I never thought you were…”no words, just the rainbow flag. Alright.

And I wondered, oh! I have never written about this? With so much poetry dedicated to women I have loved, I never thought to advocate for LGBT rights because I didn’t think it was something I needed to fight for. I thought you exist and love whoever the fuck you want to.

Even though people will discriminate against you, I never thought that there were actual laws in my country, embedded in our constitution that deny and criminalize my existence.

That’s until 2019 during the much-contested repeal 162 that revealed to me the general feeling that Kenyans have against other humans in our country.

High school; expelling, silence and fitting. My Songbird.

My mind went back to high school and I remembered how lesbians were being hunted and expelled. I didn’t have much to say about it. There was not much to say about lest I was expelled for being a lesbian.

I remember being very much attracted to a girl with whom we exchanged letters and for whom my heart beat tremendously. She was an amazing person, intelligent and beautiful as fuck. She had such an amazing voice; when she sang for me, the birds cried.

To be honest, sometimes I didn’t even know what we were doing.

We never kissed, never got so close to expressing our love other than passing each other letters, immortalizing her in my poetry and holding (squeezing) each other’s hands whenever possible. We had normal, radical and intense conversations and I looked forward to seeing her for a minute or so.

All I know is that seeing her smile made my day. Seeing her sad, made me blue and I couldn’t wait for her love letters. She was the highlight of my prison life. And that was just about it. After high school, I never saw her, just on Instagram with her new man. 

The boyfriend

On the other hand, I had a ‘boyfriend’ back home who I liked. We were not having sex coz, Lawd! was I scared of the one-eyed snake. While I never though him intelligent, we did have nice convos and kisses and this was a relationship I could share with friends, while my songbird remained a secret.

See that’s the thing, when you realize you are queer, that immediately becomes a secret because we grow up in a society that is extremely…. I don’t have the words for this yet. Stupid?

I’ve Got A Secret

My first sexual encounter was with a woman, when I was young, really young, I didn’t even know what the fuck I was doing, I just did it, it came naturally. And no, she wasn’t older than me, nor did she coerce me, it just happened. Heck! I had never seen a lesbian movie for it to be a western influence.

Throughout my life I found myself attracted to both women and men. Those who liked me back, we made memories.  

But come to think about it, I always kept secret the relationships I had with women. Because after a CRE topic ‘sexual sins,’ you are told you are sinning against the God who made you that way.

You Are Not Girl Enough!

I remember being ostracized from the girl’s community in school because they said I was ‘too boyish (I was hanging too much with the boys) and didn’t behave like a girl. Right from class one to class 8.

I remember when I was in class 1, 1999, I found the girls toilet occupied and since the boy’s urinal was free, I went to pee there. A boy found me. He went and brought the entire class with him to see. I never understood why it was that way but baby, I am a newsmaker. That’s why I was always on the noisemakers list.

There was even a meeting one day, when I was in class 5, with me as the topic (guess that set the stage for when I appear on the front page of the newspapers. I made news baby!) and I was being cautioned on how to be like a girl. This was organized by the girl’s community in school. Guess they had a divine duty to police the girl code? J’en sais pas!

My primary school life sucked I tell you. Girls just hated me! Like really hated me! And here I am fighting for women’s rights like a religion! I was always a minus from being a normal girl as they said. “Act like a girl!” and I wondered every day what the fuck that meant! I was a girl, and I was just being. Maybe I should have acted, performed.

Then there was another meeting (eish baby I will be famous) in class 7 hosted by our CRE teacher, the righteous P.Njeru who brought us in a circle to talk about, world most interesting topic, ‘the behavior of Vanessa.’ That’s why I no longer use that name, I just associate it oppression and darkness.

In this meeting, these assholes laid out their opinions of me, the negative, the positive (which wasn’t much) and advice for how to carry on with my life. I swear it crushed me. I felt like a freak because the things they said, damn! I didn’t want to go to school because after that no one wanted to come close to me.

I was the 11th member of the class. While every one was in a pair, I was marginalized to my own corner with no one by my side. They literally pushed their desks away from me. I guess this is what made me comfortable standing alone.

Tribalism and Homophobia

Things got worse after the 2007/8 elections. You see bearing this name Wambui Ochieng’ in a class full of Kamau’s, Chege’s and the like, in Kiambu county, with similar names of teachers, didn’t come easy.

Our Social studies teacher, Mr. fucking Chege was the biggest tribalist (asshole) I have ever met in my entire life. I have met tribalists in my life believe me.

Mr Chege’s idea of teaching social studies was ‘hakuna watu wajinga kama wajaluo kwa ii dunia!’ and then he would start a kikuyu chant that everyone else would sing along. And this went on for three years. There was even a day I broke down in class when he and my classmates were singing a Kikuyu song about the same topic.

It would be weird if he never mentioned how stupid Luos were in a class. I think it still haunts him that no one ever came close to my stellar performance in social studies throughout the humiliation.

I was the Luo of the class, mind you, I come from both tribes. The ‘omena’ as they liked to call me. And no one would get close to the omena.

I should have known back then that there was a difference between them and me. And there was a big one. I was not an idiot.

Me, Here, Now, Present, Merging My Past. Songbird Memoirs.

As I sit here, writing this piece, laptop on lap, eyes into my words, my mind racing to the past, merging my reality with another one I had long shelved, understanding something that I hadn’t for a long time, I am bleeding.

This, being hated by girls demoralized me all of my primary school life. And then being hated by boys also crushed me. I felt like the entire world hated me. I was so fucking afraid of going to a girl’s high school, I knew they were gonna eat me alive.

The girls in high school were not all that bad. They didn’t chide me much on being a girl like had been done in primary. There were different types of girls in high school, you could exist on different spectrums, of course up to a certain limit, else you would be branded, lele.

But it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows. I remember a friend of mine, a friend, who stopped talking to me because someone started rumors that me and her were a couple. Later on, she found out it was another couple, who went by the same name. And we continued being friends.

So when my songbird and I began our relationship, we had to keep it secret by all means. It was not easy. There was fear of being caught and so we cherished the few moments we could just walk, ‘reading the river between’ and others.

It was September and she was writing me a letter saying that it was weird and a sin for her to love a she. She was supposed to love a he. She loved me, but she couldn’t be with me. It was October and I was praying in a room asking God to remove this sin from me.

It was November and I was writing her a poem telling her that I couldn’t stop thinking of her. It was November and she was writing a letter back telling me the flowers didn’t make sense without me in her life. Eventually, we left high school and we got sunken into the world. 

The Epitome of Freedom… Scratch That…

Campus! Campus was the epitome of freedom. You could be, exist! And I did. This time I knew that I was not straight but I never knew how to have a serious relationship with a woman. The norm was to have relationships with men and I did make many mistakes while trying out this shit.

“Would you fuck a woman?” Asked a male friend one day while we were having a convo about gay rights. Me always on the “until we have gay rights, we can’t claim to have human rights!”  “Yes!” I answered honestly.

“Do you know what you just admitted to so you can prove a point?” He asked, disgusted.

Then just before I left campus, I had the opportunity to love and be loved by a woman. It was one of the most beautiful relationships I have had in my life.

But I realized we were not free one day when I came home to her and I wanted to kiss her so bad at the gate but a neighbor was watching us. I realized we were not free the day my neighbor, who was my friend, stopped talking to me because she heard me moaning in ecstasy one day when we were making love. 

Exist, Resist, Persist!

And now here I am.

I am aware of who I am, why I was and will be hated by many who do not understand. Many who claim to be ordained by the holy spirit to hate me. Many whose thinking is limited. Many who find an object of hate when they realize they exist in this prison we call a world with the rest of us.

I am aware of the homophobic society in which I exist.

I am aware that lesbians are fetishized while gay men are thought of as gross. Bisexual men are thought to be utterly gay but still in the closet. Bisexual women are thought to be straight but wanting attention or in a phase. I don’t think anyone should dictate my sexuality, and I am not limited to loving and or existing in one spectrum.

I am aware that the constitution criminalizes my existence.

What I am to do? Because I exist, and my existence must make sense, I must resist all these external forces, I must resist my constitution, I must resist when they try to oppress me, I must speak out against the injustices against my Lgbt community, I must persist so that the generation to come will not face the injustices that me and other queer have faced in this world.

So, wherever you are, know that I am walking this journey with you. I do not understand the predicaments of trans people and gay men which are more than mine, but I will fight with you till I can’t fight no more, that’s when I die.

Exist, Resist, Persist and share with pride. Its pride month baby!

By Wambui Ochieng'

Radical Feminist

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