It was on Wednesday night when I went out during the famous ladies night in one of the hotspots in kisumu and met this famous gay man who is also a peer educator in one of the LGBTIQ organizations in kisumu county, we had a brief talk with him as he said he in the past had looked for an opportunity to share his plight with someone who intervenes for the MSM community being one in our organization I had to give him all the attention.
Otieno (not his real name) said he is gay man who lives in kisumu town with his elder brother who works in a health care facility in the same town and very homophobic. In my county, he said (Kisumu) the law has not made it easier for us the LGBTIQ community to protect ourselves however we have some few organizations that intervene for gays and female sex workers’ such as Keeping Alive Societies Hope (KASH) but still the there are challenges as the media for instance does not at all time play appositive role in raising awareness. This has made many remain in the closet and sexual activity taking place in the dark he lamented as HIV/AIDs keep spreading at an alarming rate.
As a peer educator in an organization we won’t mention for the obvious reasons, Oteino says he help people to accept who they are. Being Kenyan and in the luo community he sticks to his culture which he says Kenya is amulti cultural and diverse country. The way people react to person’s sexual orientations also depends on their cultural backgrounds for instance being African and homosexual is viewed as not embracing africanism he said. In luo community being gay is problematic to accept especially if you are the first son in your family as the family will have their expectations with you of getting married to a woman which can be challenge.
Otieno who admits that a lot of sensitization should be done in the rural set ups confess that it may not however be easy as younger generations learn from their elders and the judgmental attitudes carried over and as for the older generations the subject of gaysm is a taboo this he says particularly in some communities such as the luo’s.Otieno went on and said that stigma is also attached to LGBTIQ community and people with HIV/AIDs are still perceived as the cursed lot from the LGBTIQ community.
What are some of the challenges that affect you here in kisumu being gay man? Oteino said most public health facilities are not sensitized to work with LGBTIQ community which is challenge when they visit to seek health care. Very few people can access condoms freely and information especially the ones in towns and coming out to either friends, colleagues and to even relatives is also a big challenge he said.
I must say kudos to organizations like Keeping Alive Societies Hope (KASH) which also offer opportunities to MSMs and FSWs to serve in their organization as peer educators, health activist, paralegals as this is privilege to the peers as they can share information on LGBTIQ issues freely and reach out to different peers with awareness and education activities through various methods like health talk forums and even through their word press page kashtalesofmsmsinkisumu he concluded.