KARANJA’S GAY TRAVEL TIPS: A guide to travel, steamy times and personal safety

International travel can be exhilarating and there is no time when I feel sexier than when I am in a foreign country. A big part of this is because there is something about your novelty that draws inhabitants of a place to its visitors, so you get a little more attention than you do when in your regular environment. I also find the anonymity of being in a city where nobody knows you quite emboldening. I tend to make more direct advances and generally find myself unusually aroused all the damn time. However, one must always be careful. Even in places known for their liberal approaches to sex and sexuality, each place has a more nuanced subculture, which one can only be attuned to after a few days. Here are a few travel tips that I have found make travelling as a gay man easier.

App your way

There are more free dating and hook up sites and mobile applications today than there are decent men. Get on one and upload a nice picture. Do not be so uptight. Nobody knows you there and if they do and they find you, then they are obviously, of the same kind so shag them and tell them you took pictures, which you will leak if they ever squeal. At a small extra cost, you can upgrade your app memberships to access more functions like filtered searches that make your search much more productive. I found Grindr, Tinder, Planet Romeo, Scruff and Hornet work best.

Make friends with a local

Before you even start planning your travel itinerary, it is important to strike up conversations on social media and other public forums with inhabitants of your destination country. There are tons of gay groups on Facebook for example in literally every country there is. Chat to a few people and make a friend who within the first few days of your arrival can teach you to navigate their city and its isms. You might even get lucky and get an offer for accommodation, which means, more money for shopping! However, show some independence and do not ask for too much. Black Africans are almost always suspicious of people so hitting up a stranger and immediately asking for an airport pick-up or somewhere to crash will most likely earn you getting blocked.

Use gay friendly accommodation providers

There’s a plethora of options for accommodations that are gay friendly across the globe. There’s nothing better than knowing you do not have to sneak in your date for the night or book a twin room with your partner so as not to raise eyebrows. I’m a big fan of masturbation & blow job which works just like Airbnb except all the hosts are gay or at least gay friendly. Always look out for reviews though. Just to verify their authenticity and rule out homophobe swine. If seeking proper hotel services, look for TAG Approved properties. You can go on their website http://www.tagapproved.com/ and search for listings in the country you are travelling to.

Make the rainbow your friend

A simple bracelet, brooch, or pendant with the colours of the LGBTQI flag is a subtle way to score you some very easy hook ups. Many heterosexual people are not fully aware of the colours’ meaning and the homophobes who do would be reluctant to show open hostility based on colours on a bracelet.

Go cruising              

For the more traditional man (like myself), old school cruising is always quite  fun. It can be sleazy and sometimes a little nerve racking but a little toilet stall hook up ain’t never hurt nobody.  Parks, train station bathrooms, art galleries, spas and bathhouses are often breeding grounds for guys waiting to be picked up. Go grab a coffee or do your thing right where you meet before bringing a stranger back to your place though. Your prey will most likely be a bum with little going on for them so your possessions are at risk!

Take your own toys

Tanzania recently imposed a ban on sexual lubricants in one of the stupidest legislations I have had the misfortune of witnessing in my time. Some countries have a ban on sex shops, while in others; the cost of buying anything is enough to inspire celibacy. There is also the risk of not finding a brand you are accustomed to, so unless you are travelling to countries where sex toys are banned -Saudi Arabia and the Maldives are such examples – it is often best to travel with your own arsenal of tools. Even then, I would still pack what I need because the worst that can happen is confiscation at the airport. Remember to always take your condoms and PrEP with you. When travelling, you rarely have the time to learn the person you end up hooking up with, never mind what their status is, so this is a great precaution against unwanted STIs and HIV.

Find a local LGBTQI organization                      

Each country I have ever been to has had either a local or international LGBTQI association or rights organization. These places often have health information, legal teams, police contacts and safe houses where one can run to in the event of a threat. Get contacts for these outfits and always keep them on your person. It is unlikely that anything will happen, especially to a foreigner, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. #LetsGetReal.

 

For any inquiries about PrEP in Kenya, do not hesitate to send an email to: prepletsgetreal@gmail.com OR call us on 0734329218

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A coastal awakening By Karanja Nzisa

Reeling from a relationship breakup that I had given everything to, including a massive career shift, I packed a bag and flew to the Kenyan coast. My plan was to  while away my days in seclusion on the beach or in bed with my books and general discontentment with life. A few days into my solo vacation I was craving human interaction so I found my way to a popular Malindi bar, where spurred by a cocktail of numerous tequilas and uncontrollable lust, I made passes at every man in sight who did not have company.

After a few failed attempts, I resigned myself to fate and found myself a shadowy corner to continue drinking from. It was just around the time when I usually start to see double that a distinguished looking gentleman approached me and struck up a conversation. Between my erection and my drink, general consensus was that I was not passing up any opportunities and before I knew it, we were riding in a tuk tuk to his. What the poor lad didn’t know, is that he could have been ugly as sin and dark on the inside and I would still would have gone home with him. Lucky for me, he was not. When I finally woke up at noon the next day, he was looking down at me with the kindest face I ever saw.

Though significantly older, I have rarely been on any first dates as wonderful as that first sober day with him. He made me laugh until it hurt and moved me to tears when he shared the traumas in his life (and at his age, there have been many). He turned out to be both a career professional and a regular Martha Stuart whose beach home could have been a luxury boutique hotel. Mister was gentle, yet assertive when expressing his strong opinions and we were both able to speak about every subject under the sun. More than that the man knew his way around the male form and when he submitted to me, there wasn’t any way known to man that I did not have him. Needless to say, I checked out of my hotel and we spent a few more days lost in each other’s passion until one evening he dropped a bomb that knocked the wind out of me.

We were talking about life’s most mundane things when he casually mentioned regular trips he takes to his physician whenever he is back at his other home in Europe and when I asked him why so frequently, he responded, “to test my viral load” and carried on with conversation as if he had not just detonated a fucking blasting cap in my direction. When the ringing in my ears stopped and I regained normal breathing, I focused my eyes to look at him and found that he had stopped speaking and looked mortified (either realising what he had just done or because of my response to it, I do not know). So I asked him to repeat what he had said and he did. He then explained to me that while he was HIV positive, his viral load was undetectable, at which point, I nearly knocked his head clean off his shoulders. If it was so undetectable, how the hell did he know he had it in the first place? The mister had apparently assumed he had mentioned it to me, but was not sure if he had. I could have chosen to remain angry but chose to forgive him and spent the subsequent hours trying not to think about drowning him in his pool and reading about undetectable viral loads and how transmittable the virus was.

The following day I was on a plane back to Nairobi where I got my blood work done and found out I was okay, thankfully. Knowing the test would be inconclusive as it was too soon, I had another test 90 days later and again tested negative. All through this, he was really supportive and full of regret. He flew to Nairobi with me and remained silent when in the minutes before reading my results I said some pretty ugly things to him in a fit of incomprehensible rage. We have since become very dear friends but since the introduction of PrEP to Kenya, I often think about how much less traumatic that experience would have been had I been on it. I also think about if it had been some other person whose viral load was high and who did not have the decency to fess up. The alternatives are scary beyond measure. Using PrEP, I can minimise future risks and take charge of my life without leaving it to chance. #LetsGetReal

For details on where and how to get PrEP in Kenya call 0771003796 or 0734329218.

It is only cheating if you get caught

#LetsGetReal

Cheating is part of the genetic make-up of all gay men. According to carm.org, on average, a gay man sleeps with 200 men in his life. Of these, most are go on a cheating escapade while they were in a relationship.

I remember the first time I ever cheated. I met a guy who won me over. We dated for a few months, then one day; this other online fling invited me over to his place. Of course, we shagged.

I ended up with an STI after that encounter – and thought this was God’s way of punishing me for cheating. I was happy in the relationship I was in then. My boyfriend was caring, we had good body chemistry, and he was a bit older than me so he was not into partying all night, or drinking. He was level headed. I, on the other hand, young, naïve, and attractive, was not willing to settle down – at least not in practice – as I cheated on this guy a couple of times.

So, how do you know your boyfriend is cheating? What are the signs?

One, a non-existent sex life is a red flag. So, this boyfriend of mine was not particularly hot. We made out, lots. But we never passed that. We never actually had genital sex. So, here I was all pent up with libido that I took the only recourse I could get – sex with other people.

Two, he keeps his private life, very private. Does he hide his phone PIN? Does he seem secretive, and careful to reveal details of where he is, where he works, or what he is doing? You have to be worried. If he is not telling you where he is, or who he is with, you need to start questioning him.

Third, is he insecure? Like, insecure to the point of violence? Does he keep tabs on you? Does he regularly accuse you of cheating?  It is found that if your boyfriend is accusing you of cheating, it could be a genuine reaction to them realizing that, since they got away with cheating, you probably could too.

Fourth, he does not update his relationship profile (even if you started dating him). Have you noticed he keeps asking you to change YOUR life and details yet he himself is not doing anything? Has he asked you to post that selfie of you together on YOUR Facebook, yet he does not do the same on HIS own? Does he ‘like’ other people’s posts and photos, but totally ignores yours? Dude is playing you!

Maybe you met on Grindr, or Hornet, or Craiglist, or even Tinder. You updated your profile to proudly show you met a guy you love… and he didn’t update his profile. That could be a sign he’s still looking for someone else.

Lastly, like me, does your partner get an STI yet you two have been using condoms or not having actual genital sex? Or you learn that you have an STD and you have not strayed? Does he get anal warts out of the blue? He is cheating! It is likely, if you are in a committed, healthy relationship, that if one partner gets an STI, they got it from someone else, not their partner.

So, next time you see these signs – especially the last one – do not ignore them.

You can be heartbroken by all this, but with PrEP, you too can take revenge. After all, it is only cheating if you get caught. And if you get caught – deny, deny, deny!

So, go out, cheat!

Yes, I love raw sex!

Gay men enjoy condom-less sex. It is not because they do not care about themselves or their health. It is because it feels good. Quit shaming people for their right to choose, especially when you are making the same choices. Sex positivity includes understanding and accepting that condom use is not the only safe sex option.

Most gay men are missing out on a lot of chances to have sex because they do not understand why people ask for bareback sex. Those who do enjoy raw sex often ask: “How safe am I?” There are also gay men who ask: “What if I have HIV, and people keep asking me for bareback sex? Do I just keep giving it to them? Granted, I will not necessarily infect them but how do I keep them safe?”

First, there is no shame in wanting or engaging in bareback sex. Most gay profiles in dating Apps have the option of displaying one’s sexual preference: bareback, condom-sex, or ‘needs discussion.’ It is ironic, because a lot of people on these Apps want to bareback. Those who pick ‘bareback’ or ‘needs discussion’ are often seen as vectors or out to infect others. This is not necessarily true!

It is time we completely removed the fear of HIV from sex. I have no issue with having sexual intercourse with HIV-positive guys. If they are on ARV medication, and with undetectable viral load, it means they are un-transmittable.

Do not judge me. I am HIV-negative and I love bare backing. It is so intense that it is almost a spiritual experience for me. I have to admit I feel kind of guilty afterwards. But then the next time I have an opportunity to go raw, I do it again.

But as a sexually active gay man, I have the option of not just condoms, regular testing, but now, with PrEP, I can make rational decisions about sex and can minimize risk.

When I first went public about using PrEP, I was met with derision and slut shaming. I won’t B.S. you. After I started taking the pill and waiting a few weeks for the meds to kick in, I was out there shagging dudes raw like crazy. Yeah, yeah – I know I am supposed to be using a rubber but I just didn’t want to.

If you go on the hookup apps like Hornet or Grindr, at least around here, most all of the guys are shagging each other without protection.

I have heard a lot of people on PrEP say they tend not to mention it to strangers. I guess some people worry that those on PrEP are having condom-less sex and so might be more likely to have other STIs, but that’s not borne out by any data.

I make sexual choices everyday – from consent, to privacy, to the kind of partners I sleep with. With PrEP, that has become a much more informed – and happier decision.

#LetsGetReal for once!

WHO ARE MSM?

Many people believe that men who have sex with men (MSM) are a marginal group in our population however male to male sex occurs throughout Africa, in all cultures, societies and even geographic locations. Keeping Alive Societies Hope(KASH) organization has in the past been in the fore front advocating for better health care services and human rights for the same and it was due to this that I developed interest in finding out more who MSM were and what are some of their challenges.

Many research in kisumu and Kenya as a country have been conducted by different organization’s both none governmental to government institutions and it shows that many MSM 50% may identify as heterosexuals and have female partners, this means in addition MSM being particularly vulnerable to HIV infection themselves, they are influenced by and are influencing the broader heterosexual HIV epidemic.

Despite our progressive constitution, MSM face stigma and discrimination across communities in Kenya and kisumu to be precise and are thus often discouraged from seeking help for their health and well being. Through some of my interactive discussion with the said during my field visits I realized that MSM face specific sexual health risks in comparison to heterosexual’s populations.Understanding these difference’s will help health care workers provide prevention and treatment services to MSM.

Who are MSM????????

MSM are men who have sex with men and not all see themselves as homosexuals or gay, many maybe married, have children and even engage in sex with other women.In fact in most cases they have masculine gender identity and cannot be identified as being MSM by their dress chords, mannerism or social roles.

The divers collection of men included in the term MSM are men who are heterosexuals, bisexuals or homosexuals and who can be either relatively masculine or affeminite in their dress and mannerism. What one should know is that the term MSM does not refer to sexual identity but identifies a group of men who practice a particular behavior irrespective of whether they identify as heterosexual or bisexuals.

HOW AN MSM GROUP IN KISUMU ARE DEALING WITH MULTIPLE PARTNERSHIP ACCOMON PRACTICE AMONG THE MSM COMMUNITY

Multiple concurrent sexual partnerships among the MSM has been an issue not only to the MSM in Africa but the entire world. It is a common practice among the same to have multiple partners with low consistent condom use among MSM that is driving of high HIV rate prevalence among them, however through some of the organizations interventions like keeping Alive societies Hope (KASH) MSM in Kisumu can proudly say that at least they are a step ahead and gearing to the beyond zero campaigns.

In Kisumu there is a group whose name will remain confidential for the obvious that registered itself as a self-help group and vowed to serve their MSM community and has seen the fruits bore in the past one year, group of men who have sex with men who from diverse background came up with strategy on how to deal with the common issues that affect their community at large and Kisumu to be precise for a start. During an interactive session with the men in one of their meeting these were my findings.

So how why did you guy’s come up with this kind of group? I asked Daddy not his real name the chair person for the group. He said the group was started after almost each member had encountered blackmail and drama by the community; we sat and thought of how to come up with a group that can serve protect and serve our interest he said. That seems like movement right? I asked which he confirmed yes that their agenda but want to start as group. Daddy said most MSM tend to have multiple sexual partners which puts the at high risk of contracting HIV/STI.He added as group they have strategies of handling few common issue that affect their community and especially to the new MSM in Kisumu town and its environs. Here are some of their strategies

• Each new MSM in Kisumu should at least be identified by any organization that he feels comfortable confiding in, this would ease faster referrals to health facility in case one falls sick, it would make you identify with the community not necessarily branding or exposing you as these is done by professionals in the same organization’s and one can at least trace you from your past bearing in mind that most of these organizations work as team.
• When getting to the city of Kisumu before you are incorporated in any of the said groups or organizations one has to be referred by a person whose record is clearly known to the MSM community in Kisumu and incase of blackmail or theft cases one would be traced and victims saved.
• All are encouraged to join support groups in cases of those who are HIV positive and learn how can live longer with the virus and protect their loved ones from reinfections those would also help them know their fellow MSM who are living positive without guesswork’s and if decide to go intimacy they have safe sex.
• Establishing unlimited number of sexual partners which these MSM are encouraged to develop asmall,closed network of known sexual partners as opposed to having frequent anonymous sex with strangers.
• Educate on sero-sorting a strategy whereby HIV negative men may choose to only have sex with HIV negative partners and HIV positive men with the HIV positive and this strategy removes worry about infecting a negative man as their partners are already HIV positive.

My session ended with the team highlighting on the importance of their group encouraging the negotiation for safety relationships which they said most MSM in committed relationship’s either with men or women often engaging in clandestine sex with others and that such should be encouraged to consider their primary partners sexual health. Daddy however summon all our talk that unless partners can allow each other the freedom to discuss possible HIV exposure with others, correct and consistence condom use within the confines of the relationship must be protected.

MALE SEX WORKER IN KISUMU

In most cases we do believe that women are the only sex workers and each time we talk about sex work all attention is given towards females, well this is not true as we have men who also sell sex for money. Who is a sex worker to begin with? A sex worker is anyone who provides sex for any favor either monitory or materials now that we know you’ll realize that so many have at one point been sex workers without their consents haha…..!
It was on Friday night when we had a moonlight outreach HTC in one of the busiest sex dens in kisumu that I managed to meet Robert (not his real name for the obvious) at first I thought Robert came for our services little did I know that he was on duty and was out to meet other men who buy him for sex. I posed like a potential client and soon he joined me, a jovial ever smiling man who is between 25 to 35 of age then engaged me in a discussion.

My name is Robert and am here to meet people like you and make you happy in return of cash he told me. Mmhh! So do you sing or tell stories to people or how do you make them happy I asked him jokingly to jog his mind to open up. He said no am here looking for male clients who can sleep with me in exchange of money he said. Since we were in an open place where many could hear us talk I asked Robert to join me for soft drink in the nearby pub after I was done with my duty and he shared his story with me.

I was born and grew up in nyanza in polygamous family am the eldest son in a family of ten. While still in school our father could not support all of us and particularly my mother and my siblings but had dreams of working hard and being someone important and financially stable to take away the misery we found ourselves in he lamented! I came to kisumu to job hunt and ended up in a sex den pub where I worked as a waiter. I also exchanged sex for money and that’s how I ended up putting my family and myself through school and paying for their up keep he said. Did any of your family members know what you were doing or your sexual orientation apart from knowing that you were working in a pub I asked Robert? Hell no how could I tell them that but one day I met client who was a friend to my father who then exposed me to them he said.

What happened then? My father got angry and threw me out of the homestead and chose to direct his anger to my mother. He blamed her for giving birth to gay and prostitute man and then denied me as his son this hurts me so much Robert said tears rolling his cheeks……so did you stop or what next I asked? No! I continued with my sex work and supported my family. In 2010 I decided to build for my mother a house and still pursued my education which really ashamed my father having treated me so hostile like that. It was one Friday morning when I heard my phone ring on receiving it was my father who wanted me to come and reconcile with him which I gladly did as there is nothing so precious to me like seeing my parents happy. So what would you tell people who believe that sex work is for women a lone? Hahahhhhah……anybody can be a sex worker and nobody should point finger at any sex worker before they realize what pushed them into same.

Robert said as male sex worker he faces a lot of challenges which he believes affects many male sex workers he said. Our profession faces constant harassment and insults.We are arrested and often and harshly judged by many. This brings us out from the closet prematurely and am a victim of such exposure. What could be your wish I asked him? I can only hope and wish that we can develop ways to improve our lives, get access to health care and find ways to invest and plan the future of our lives and that our families just like everyone else he said. Since time was running and Robert was out to get clients I had to let him go on with his work as I proceeded to my own.