I can distinctly remember the first time I saw a TV news article on Gay rights. The year was 1988 and it was a short report on Sweden’s recognition of same-sex unions aired on ‘Voice of Kenya’ (now The Kenya broadcasting Corporation). I must have been 12 or so. What I realised then and was struck by the most were the images of the Swedish LGBT community, openly and proudly professing their orientation. More so, the sight of drag queens in full regalia was especially a revelation to me. I observed the contempt expressed by the News anchor, which brought home the reality of being gay in an African country. I swore there and then that I would address the prejudice associated with Homosexuality.
10 years later (1997), I started ISHTAR a Community Based Organization Working with Men Who Have Sex with Other Men (MSM) on HIV, STIs and Reproductive Health Rights. Obviously, I could not openly address Gay rights, so I disguised our group as a theatre troupe. Our crowning glory came when we performed CLEOPATRA, Kenya’s first full drag act! The Egyptian ambassador was even present on opening night!
I moved to the Netherlands in 2001 and quickly realized that despite the legal freedom and an amazingly tolerant attitude towards homosexuals, there was a serious issue of homophobia and intolerance within the African migrant community. There also did not seem to be any counter measures against this. It took a while, but in 2008, Stichting African Gay Youth Foundation was born. More