LGBTQ+ Stories: Being Queer in Nairobi, Kenya

I’ve lived in Nairobi all my life. And right from high school, I always felt like an outcast. Sometimes I hated my femininity especially after I studied in an all-girls’ boarding high school. To them, being queer was always synonymous to disease.

I can’t even count the number of times I was summoned by teachers who just didn’t mind their business. This one time, our boarding mistress called me aside, and blatantly asked, 

“Can’t you see you don’t look like the other girls here?” 

I thought things would get easier after I completed my last year in high school, but I guess the universe had other plans for me.

Being queer in Nairobi is one thing. But, living in an African country as a masculine-presenting woman is a whole other conundrum. I had to grow a thick skin otherwise I’d break each time after a long day in the streets of Nairobi.

The Swahili words, “Huyo ni mwanamke ama mwanaume?” which translate to, “Is that a man or a woman?” in English, don’t even haunt me anymore. I had to get used to it – for my own sanity. I don’t find it rude. It’s just… the levels of close-mindedness, and bigotry when it comes to discussing queer issues in Nairobi just baffles me every so often. It’s either they love you or they don’t. There’s little to no representation, actually. 

The few LGBTQ+ activists who are out to the public – like Audrey Mbugua, a transgender activist – always get shut out of court each time there’s a petition to legalize same-sex marriages in Kenya. They are against homosexuality based on morality, the Church, and Section 162 of the Kenyan Penal Code, which states that “sodomy is a felony.” It’s ridiculous. Representation works slightly well on social media platforms such as Facebook and especially Twitter, but that’s just about it. 

A twitter post by Kenyan transgender activist, Audrey Mbugua.

In fact, Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board, has been branded “moral police” on Twitter due to his obsession with demonizing homosexuality. I believe he exudes traits of latent homosexuality but, what do I know?

I’m just lucky that the heterosexuals I interact with find me so fascinating to the point where they can’t hate me. Every so often, I’ve been told that my energy is addictive. This has, in turn, made most people see beyond my sexual orientation. I don’t solely live by it, and it amazes them as to how much I’m never bothered by people whose sole purpose is to spread hate toward those who are different from them.

But, I always feel the curiosity in their eyes, wondering who’s the boy or the girl in the relationship, when I’m walking hand-in-hand with my girlfriend. Sometimes it’s not even safe to engage in any form of PDA because you never know who’s watching. There’s violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya, and particularly in Mombasa. I have never witnessed it firsthand, but a lot of news has been shared on the same. Gay men and transgender women have it worse than anyone else in the community.

Regardless, I believe in God, and I’m well aware that He purposely created all of us differently. Choosing to spew negativity because someone is different only reeks darkness in one’s soul. The good thing is that we will all be judged individually in the Hereafter so if who I choose to love bothers anyone else but me, that is no longer my burden to carry. 

LGBTQ Stories shared in nairobi kenya.
Writer Viqq Adriane.

On the bright side, I’m out to my family. Well, my mom used to tell me to be open-minded when I told her that I am not attracted to men. And the process of coming out wasn’t as easy as I make it sound through my words, but I always know what I want, and if you can’t accept me for who I am then, I leave. My mother has grown to accept me over the years, but it has been a journey, and I’m grateful we’ve reached the point where she just loves me without worrying about my sexual orientation. My siblings, too, have been the best support system, and I even talk to them about my girlfriends et al. They have all accepted me. 

I hope the attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community will evolve in Nairobi, someday. And even if they don’t, it’s not going to change who I am. Logically speaking, worrying about who someone chooses to love is really a case of projection, and it’s sad that many people in Nairobi have dedicated their lives to the same. We all have our truths and opinions, and for life to be much easier, it’ll be better to respect one another and desist from approaching differences and diversities as threats. 

If I’m not bothered by who someone loves or sleeps with, what’s with the fuss about the LGBTQ+ community?

Written by Viqq Adriane

Artwork by Audrey d’Erneville @audweeee @chez.awa

Read more: A Guide to Having the Queerest Quarantine Possible

Viqq Adriane

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