Denied a haircut
Being gay is risky in Kenya, especially if you are openly gay. Having been a gay rights activist since 2004, I know the challenges – both personally and at work.
Death threats and police harassment
Last year, I was driving along Jogoo Road at night when I was flagged down by two men with heavy jackets. Seeing they were not police or the dreaded NTSA officers with their Alcoblow – I decided to ignore their frantic hand signals to stop. That is when one of them reached inside his jacket, drew out a gun, and shot at me. He hit the windscreen near the driver’s seat. I lost control of the car, rolling over several times, before landing in a ditch. Could this have been an attempt to take my life?
Countless times I have been arrested, and harassed by police over my involvement with gay rights activism. In 2010, we joined a health demo in Nairobi’s CBD to demand greater access to health. That evening, two plain-clothed officers approached me, demanding to know where I work, and why I was in the demo.
Police surveillance on my personal life and activism seem to have been ongoing for years; it appears to have started when I questioned some of our political leaders’ anti gay utterances.
Evictions and insults
Severally, landlords have evicted me with little notice after I made TV appearances, with the most famous being Muffled Killer (KTN).
One night, conductors on Ronald Ngala Street physically assaulted my partner and me. This was in addition to them hurling insults and other profanities whenever I walked to the same bus stage each day. But this isn’t new to me – it also happens when I am in a bar, or another social place.
In addition to death threats, and other humiliation, I have been ‘exposed’ by some tabloids in Kenya. This included publishing personal details of my life, partner and family, thus exposing them and putting them in danger.
Life as an openly gay man: challenging
Gay people face countless challenges – from being rejected by their families, to being humiliated and shamed by friends, colleagues, or close relatives, to being victims of assault and arbitrary arrests. Just on account of them being perceived as gay.
This really hit home when a famous barbershop in Nairobi’s CBD denied to give me a haircut when I went to get one in early 2012. Instead, they sent management to ask me to leave.
Imagine that! Being denied a haircut because you are gay.
Blogs reflect the personal experiences and beliefs of our contributors, that cannot necessarily be verified by Love Matters.