Why Don’t You Want Me?

One of the few things we can agree on about Kenya is that we are a deeply religious nation. Kenya is listed among the world’s top 10 religious countries, with 88% of its people ascribing to religious teachings. 47% are Protestants while 23.5% are Roman Catholics, meaning that 80% of Kenya’s religious population is Christian. Many of our beliefs as a people are anchored in religion.

We are also keen on our traditions, and we mainly identify with our ethnic groups. Many traditional practices within these ethnic groups are still practised, like payment of dowry, circumcision, marriage and funeral ceremonies. We also have people who believe in witchcraft, which partly stems from our ancient traditions. We are proud of our culture(s), and many times frown upon things thought to be contrary to it. We label them as “against our traditions” or “unAfrican”.

Homosexuality is one such thing – labelled as against God and unAfrican.

Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are known to be intolerant to homosexuality. The Judeo-Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin is rooted in several Bible verses, and this is one of the most quoted reasons in Kenya on why we collectively hate gay people. Leviticus 18:22 says: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” This verse is clearly about homosexual intercourse, not the orientation.

Homosexuality, just like heterosexuality, is an orientation. It means that one is attracted to members of the same sex, as opposed to members of the opposite sex. Sexual intercourse is when we act on this orientation. This may be compared to temptation. Being tempted is wanting to do something that is considered wrong by one’s religion. Temptation itself is not a sin, as one has not acted upon the temptation. The sin is born when one acts upon the temptation.

In the same way, one’s orientation is not a sin. It is not sinful when a man is attracted to a woman or a woman to a man. It is merely attraction. It is a predisposition. So why is it sinful when a man is attracted to a man, or a woman to a woman? It is still merely attraction. The sin comes in when the sexual act happens, and are we ever 100% sure that the gay people we castigate are sexually active? I think not. Even then, as a Christian, I know that we are also called not to judge others, or we shall also be judged – I don’t see why homosexuality should fall outside the “do-not-judge” umbrella.

The Pope, believed to be infallible, recently declared that he was none to judge gay people. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He even added that the tendency to homosexuality was not the problem (he felt that the lobbying around it was).

We must remember that fornication and adultery (where pre-marital sex and mpango wa kando fall) are also sins according to the Bible. We must also consider what the same Bible says about other sins, many of which we are definitely guilty of committing. 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 says: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

So much for being self-righteous.

Saying that homosexuality is “unAfrican” implies that it was introduced to us by external parties. European colonialists are normally blamed in this argument. Homosexuality is felt to be incongruent to several cultures’ belief in the continuity of the family and clan through the birth of children. If we allow homosexuality, therefore, there will be groups of people who will not procreate and their lineages will meet a dead end. They will have nothing to be remembered by. It is thought of as a direct assault on the traditional family unit.

However, the claim that homosexuality is unAfrican is laughable. Firstly, there are gay people who are African. To say that homosexuality is unAfrican would be to deny their entire existence, their lives and ultimately, their humanity. The insistence that it is unAfrican means that determining what qualifies as “African” is the preserve of a privileged few. The folly of this type of argument has previously been discussed here.

There are also several documented cases of homosexuality in Africa (and Kenya) pre-colonialism. Some cultures even allowed men to have “boy-wives” when women were not available. In Lesotho, relationships between married mpho women were not forbidden by their husbands. They were rather commonplace, and their existence continues to this date.

If anything, it was the European and Arab colonialists who introduced homophobia to Africa in the form of Abrahamic religions and homophobic laws. In Rhodesia, for example, the 1914 Immigration Act forbade anyone practising homosexuality and prostitution from entering the colony. This clause existed until 1980. Portuguese penal codes criminalized homosexuality in Angola. Before then, gay men known as chibadi were free to practice their sexuality.

If this logic is to be followed, then we should also protest against a majority of the religions in Kenya. After all, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are as unAfrican as it gets. Kenya is also steadily on the road to overpopulation – would it be a bad thing if fewer people had children? Our food security and poverty levels are bad enough as it is, if we keep reproducing at our current rate, we will not be able to feed ourselves. Perhaps a subset of people not procreating is not such a bad thing.

I feel that the real reason that homophobia thrives in Kenya, and in other parts of the world, is an innate fear of rejection. We cannot accept that others do not like the same things we like. That they do not think the way we think; that they are different from us. This makes us feel rejected. They have refused to be like us. Why have they refused to be like us? Is it that they think they are better than us? No way. We are the best. And we will show them.

“Rejection, though–it could make the loss of someone you weren’t even that crazy about feel gut wrenching and world ending.”

– Deb Calletti

The fact that someone else does not find attractive what you find attractive means that they reject a key part of your being. “How can this man not find a woman sexually attractive? What is wrong with him? Wait, does he find me attractive?” Instantly, a problem arises. This, I feel, is what leads straight men to lash out at gay men.

Another fear is that the gay man finds you attractive and wants to have sex with you. This is the height of self-absorption. In thinking thus, one fails to even consider that the gay man in question may not even find you sexually attractive. In the homophobe’s mind, a gay man finds men attractive, thus the said gay man must find him attractive because, I mean, how can he not? Can’t he see how attractive the straight man is?

This is a double edged sword.

It is what leads to the embracing of lesbianism by straight men. “Two women having sex? I wouldn’t mind being in that mix!” The man assumes that part of the reason the women are lesbian is because they haven’t had a piece of him. The other men they messed around with before “becoming” lesbians were nothing. He is the messiah, the best they will ever have, and once they do, there’s no going back. Once again, the self-absorption rears its head. In the man’s mind, of course the lesbians are going to let him in on the action, or at least let him watch. They must. Can’t they see how attractive he is?

Beneath these two scenarios, there is a failure to recognize that maybe gay men and lesbians simply do not want a piece of you, or that they do not want what you want. Sometimes, when this recognition is made, there are disastrous consequences. Lashing out occurs in the form of corrective rape and acts of violence against homosexuals.

In the recent past, there have been reports on increasing violence against homosexuals in Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi. Gay men have been slashed with pangas and beaten with hammers, and at least one person has died from these attacks. There have been cases of corrective rape of lesbians. This is rooted in the misguided thought that once the woman has sex with the said man, she will know what she’s been missing. In the case of the rape of men, the logic goes something like this: “You want to behave like a woman? I/we will make you a woman then.” Most male rapes are committed by men who self-identify as heterosexual. Why?

Sometimes, homophobia is a cover for other conflicted feelings bubbling under the surface. The men or women in question may have homosexual feelings themselves and not know how to deal with them, leading to them lashing out at gay people. “How dare you make me find you attractive?” They may not want to accept these homosexual feelings because they are generally frowned upon. As such, conflicted men who self-identify as heterosexual may engage in violence against gay men or male rape in order to make themselves feel better.

Female rape, male rape and gender violence have one thing in common: they are not about sex. They are about power. They are about bringing the victim to your level because (in the abuser’s mind) the victim feels like they are above you; like they are too good for you. It is up to the abuser to show them that they are not. The abuser already feels rejected, unwanted. Thus, he/she lashes out and corrects the situation.

Homophobes may not be exactly sure what being a straight man/woman means or doesn’t mean – yet there is this person in front of them who is extremely sure of their sexuality. This may make them uncomfortable, or angry. The idea of sexuality may also be taboo, and having it openly displayed in front of them, especially in a fashion that is not “normal” to them, may create fear.

In our straitjacketing of sexuality, we create such dire situations. This drama is entirely avoidable. We, as individuals, need to accept that we are not the standard for the perfect human being, or the perfect Kenyan. We need to accept, in the same way that we know not everyone will like us, that not everyone wants what we want. Not everyone finds us attractive. Not everyone wants us, and that’s okay.

20 Replies to “Why Don’t You Want Me?”

  1. This post speaks volumes! And it reminds me of a tiny fact that I learnt not too long ago about people, human beings have this innate thought that everyone is the same, and anything/one different from them makes them less of a person or wrong, so in reaction to that feeling they try so hard to assert themselves by demeaning you, and it applies everywhere. Oh the wonders of this world.

  2. Great read Brenda!! You have said it like it is.Tolerance is a forgotten virtue though and without it, homophobia will still reign supreme in this country!! When heterosexuals take a firm stand behind homosexuals in support of their predisposition, that’s when the erosion of homophobia within the general populace will start. When that will happen…..your guess is as good as mine!!

  3. The Pope who obeys God but is infallible contradicts clear scripture? Never was able to wrap my head around that one. Secondly, just because there were tolerated cases of rape back in the day, should we now open up rape centres and throw rape parades? This is the 21st Century for Christs sake! We’re supposed to be evolved but quite clearly, across the globe, in every moral and social aspect, we are steadily declining.

    But anyway it’s not the fault of the homosexuals, it’s all because of feminism.
    And that’s why PaedoBear is now a thing.

    1. Rape and homosexuality are not the same. Homosexuality is consensual, rape clearly is not. The two cannot be compared in that way. How is it feminism’s fault, and what does paedobear have to do with feminism?

  4. Say it from the mountain tops. I shared this with an openly gay friend and he was moved to tears. You will not believe the pain this intolerance causes the different few. Thank you for an informative read. Alas! That homosexuality existed in old Africa, you are telling me.

    Also I ask who is this Napoleon above? I need to refund his school fees if he paid any to anyone.

  5. CRAP! It really fascinates and absolutely troubles me when I observe the level of moral bankruptcy in our society. Gone are the days when we used to say this is wrong and it is wrong and nothing makes it right, whatever the circumstance. As much as the religion says, do not judge any one, it also states that, do not cover what’s sinful. In other words, cover the sinner but not the sin. We are all infallible in one way or another, but our infallibility should not be an excuse of having a blind eye to more and more vices in the society.

    It is more brainy accepting this gay people in the society and rehabilitating them, but it isn’t, saying it’s a good thing. Logically, scientifically and even Biblically, no one was born a homosexual, but psychologically, someone developed this crude habit. It is evident when you look at the animal kingdom, that every animal is attracted to their opposite sex. If it were a natural thing, then cows too would have been homosexuals.

    Brenda I find your article so captivating but absolutely misleading. If you are a religious person, then you should be working towards the correction of the vice but not stirring it all up, not unless you are fighting for yourself. If the religious books say it is an abomination, it will remain an abomination, it doesn’t matter who says it isn’t.

    When we continue with this tendency of hiding in infallibility in the expense of our God-given virtues, we are soon going to glorify bestiality too. Think again.

    1. Hey Mseri, thanks for stopping by. Where is the proof that people “develop” the habit? Perhaps we should also consider that vices are subjective, what one considers a vice, another may not.

          1. “prevalence” is not “right”. prevalence is happening over an over. polygamy, FGM and child marriage are prevalent, hat does not make them right. They are wrong in the same breath that homosexuality is wrong. If something is bad we all know its bad. If you choose to justify things that people do as subjective then it will be ok to kill or do anything as long as you can make a case for it. Please stop this. Human beings have proven to be the most intelligent, which confirms what Our Lord says in the Bible that humans are to fill the earth and subdue it. This means that we are the custodians of the world right now and we are to conform our will to the will of Our Lord. Temptation is not a sin its acting according to the temptation that is sinful. . Sexuality is God’s idea. Doing it another way is a dysfunction of what God ordained.

            Homosexuality is the height of self absorption and idolatry. When you exchange the Glory of God for idols one of the idols you exchange it for is yourself. So you are prone to fall in love with the same sex. There are other kinds of self idolatry but we are talking about homosexuality here. It is part of a brokenness just like other sins. We are all wired towards certain sins, so its up to us to steer away from those inclinations.

  6. Hey Brenda, it doesn’t matter what religion you subscribe to, or don’t subscribe to. Religion is a human response to deity. It does not define what you believe, it helps you remember that you are not the Lord but the custodian. Right and wrong is written in people’s minds/hearts. The reason why people defend wrong doing is because of pride coupled with low self esteem. We are natural beings and as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. One cannot make their rules as they go. Every thing is subject to cause and effect. If we consider vices subjective then we pave the way for uninhibited evil since it only applies to the subject. Case in point:

    You kill a woman because you have irreconcilable differences. That woman is probably someone’s wife, sister, daughter, mother…… problem solved

    Now how much damaged have you caused


    Now that the subject is gone, so are the irreconcilable differences. problem solved? or created?

    You are not an individual existing as an individual. You are an individual existing as part of a whole in a time-space continuum.

    1. Hey Manzal, I think at this point we just have to agree to disagree, because my conviction is firm, but I think your point is well thought out, not blind hatred. I look forward to engaging with you as we continue Brainstorm’s journey. 🙂

  7. Brenda, I read several of your articles and thought, very well written, nice. But not provocative. Now I read this one and I have to smile. Yes now you are on to something. And I was amused at your analysis of kenyans’ sense of rejection and self righteousness. Sometimes humour drives the Point home. Sometimes it is lost on some people.

  8. Brenda, views are but views. We can either agree to them or otherwise. For me I strongly agree to what uve written its straightforward and brings the point home. At some point of reading I thought every last sentence should be used as the article’s title. Keep up the good work…exposing literary panache.

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