My Identity – “I am a bisexual”

It was a Wednesday (ladies’ night) when I went to enjoy my night with a friend. Normally one expects to find couples dancing and enjoying themselves to the music. Music played on Wednesdays in most clubs are those soft music (probably because it a ladies’ night

This Wednesday night, my friend and I hoped form one club to the other. When the music in a particular club became monotonous, we moved to another club. After we had visited two pubs in town we decided to settle for one famous club loved by many middle class persons. We chose to sit at the far end of the club as am accustomed. Being a ladies’ night out, there were several couples. Either the men had their girlfriends or wives.

Right opposite us, there were two men who were having a good time. Am a music lover so I kept going to the dance floor each time they played my favorite songs. Each time I made sure to dance with my lady friend who had accompanied me.

Each time I went to the dance floor I realized that there was this middle aged man who kept coming to dance next to me. Being a social place I danced with me and we connected and exchanged numbers. He asked if we could meet the following day and I agreed. I suggested that we first have a chat to know each other before the meeting. He Introduced himself as Patrick* after a long time chatting he said, “I believe you are a grown up and whatever we will talk about will be kept a secret.” I assured him of the confidentiality.

“I was born and brought up in a small town in gem in Nyanza and I lived there for many years before I moved to the Nairobi. The family life was good and I had a happy childhood. My parents worked hard to give us education opportunities. My mother was not Kenyan. They always advised us to think of our future. We are four and am the first boy, family of two boys and two girls,” he said smiling…

He continued, that time trying hard to get him because of the loud music, “My sexuality was never an issue until I left high school. School made me very occupied with studies that I never had time to think seriously about my romantic life and my parents also taught us good values. I never really thought hard about to have girlfriends because I knew I would have them after school. However I was very social and made many friends.

After school I found myself attracted to both men and women. I found this very strange.” I asked him how he coped with this. “I was very confused about the mixed feelings and used the internet to source information so as to understand what was really happening to me. After a lot of reading, I realized that I was a bisexual.
I asked him if any of his family members were aware of his sexual orientation and their feelings towards it. He said that a few of his family members were aware and had different opinions about his sexuality. I asked him if he was an open bisexual and he said no. he explained that he loves his life private because of security issues which surround gay men.

During this discussion I explained to my new friend what our organization does and asked him to attend one of our health sessions. He got interested and even asked if KASH was purely for LGBTIQ. I told him that we also work with sex workers.

“How sure can I be that I will not be exposed? Being African, gays are not allowed,” he posed. I explained to him that we work with men who have sex with men and he needed not to worry. I assured him that I would link him with other MSM group where he would learn how to live as a gay and how to protect himself from HIV. I also explained to him how our health sessions are conducted. I also explained to him our empowerment program where we encourage MSMs to form groups and link them to finance institutions where they are given loans to start up businesses. I told him that most MSM are youth and are jobless which increases their vulnerability to HIV. We ended the conversation since our friends were now becoming impatient. Patrick agreed to meet me in the next health session.

“I had many questions about my sexuality and life while growing up. I feel I like I had a forum to air these views without fear of punishment or disapproval many things would have been different he said”

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TRANSGENDERS COMING OUT STRONG IN KISUMU

Making new friends is my hobby and as a young energetic man, I also love clubbing. I recall one day when a friend invited me to a house warming party. Being a Friday (and I wasn’t going to work on Saturday) and at night I gladly accepted the invite. I was also given the chance to invite another friend. When we got there, we met a group who had already gathered for the party. Paul, who had invited us to the party, introduced us to the other group. Some of the men were dressed like women and had ornaments and makeups done.

Paul told the gathering to interact and get acquainted with each other and this was the time I had eagerly waited to ask the several questions that had occupied my mind from the time I had entered the party. I quickly moved next to one guy, ‘Younky’ who was seated in a corner silently. “Hi,” I said to him/her. He replied in a soft tone and the conversation went on. “So tell me about you,” I asked? “mmmmh,” he hesitated….”I was born and brought up in Nairobi and must confess that my childhood was not bad. I was about 8 years old when I began to feel differently and my mum did not notice anything yet. I would play so much with girls and I loved my sister’s dolls. I enjoyed playing girlish games; hardly played with boys in the hood I grew up in,” he continued.

“I heard about gays but I knew that being gay was not my identity. I grew up knowing that I was different but did not really understand myself until I discovered that I had a gender identity disorder. I did a lot of research in the net and that is how I became convinced that I was suffering from GID.
“So what exactly did you feel?” I asked stupidly. He said, “Growing up, I felt very confused about my identity because I did not fit in as a boy, in fact I was never one actually,” he said smiling. “Everything I did was girlish and I struggled each day trying to cover my behaviors and act like a man. There were times I would pretend to act like a man but this caused me so much anguish that I even developed ulcers. I was constantly teased and ridiculed and told off for “behaving like a girl”,” he said sadly.

“So what’s your future plan? Do you intend to marry and have children like other men out there?” I teased Younky. “Hell no!” he busted me. “right now am in the process of transitioning and I think that once you make the right step to transition you are technically out of the closet,” he explained. “However,” he continued, “there are a few people who know that I am transgender but to the rest of the public think I am a woman and they have no clue if judging from my appearance. But again I don’t go about announcing publically or telling people of my status.”

He also explained to me that he had met several transgenders in Kisumu but who actually still do not understand. He also said that many are not ready to come out open about their situation because of the stigma and society who do not also understand these that these issues are biological. “My mum even brought me a girlfriend for me to date!” he laughed. I also laughed.

After we had talked a while, he questioned why I was asking him so much and my interest in knowing those issues. I explained to him that I work for an Organization which intervenes for MSM. I explained to him what we do and he kept nodding his head, probably in agreement with me. He confessed that he had heard of the Organization but doubted if there were people who could come out open about being MSM and attend the health sessions, let alone identifying as MSM in public.

“So how do you think you can help people like me?” he asked, laughing. I told him that I hoped the Kenya constitution would emphasis on non-discrimination against persons with gender identity problems. I asked him to attend one of our forums and he agreed. “Don’t lose hope,” I said, walking back to the party silently hoping to see policies allowing for change of name and sex. Before I left the party, I asked him if I would address him as Mr. or Ms. “Miss,” he laughed loudly. I also insisted that I wanted to meet him in one of the health forums, and he assured me that he would attend.

MY ENCOUNTER WITH A 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 hah…..!
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. Hmm! 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.