BEING GAY MAN IN KISUMU

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.

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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”

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.

MSMS TAKE LEAD IN MOST PUBS IN KISUMU….SAYS BAR OWNERS….

I love parting and socializing a lot not because am drug a dict but because i meet and get to know reality of my town and what my peers think. it was on this day on Wednesday night when a friend had called us in his house for house warming at first i thought it was much for me as it was a working day but again said i would not stay long to the party…hmm i decide to join my other friends who hail from the same town.

On arrival we met a group of young men and women who came from same and none was new to each other as we are common pals we drunk and ate among the crowd there were some female sex workers (fsw) and some men who sleep with men (msms) who had been invited to the party by the house owner being a guy who works for an organization which works with the same target group and could not leave them out.

As we socialized they erupted from a guy who seemed to be very much opposed to gay men and he said i was out on Friday with some friends when came some four young men in the same club to drink as we drunk they could go and dance and made the whole place look like they owned it at first i thought they were here to enjoy themselves like any other person and go little did i know they were here to get clients like female sex workers he said..

It did not take long before a descent guy sent them some drinks through a lady who was serving our table then asked one of them who looked pretty presentable to join his table and one thing led to the other these two drunk and left after some time.It was at this point that a lady female sex worker joined as and had this to say when he saw the remaining three guys nkt..these guys have made life difficult for us in this small city!!!!!!!!! they take all the good and rich men. We asked her to elaborate when she said if you want to know go to the following pubs bla..bla..bla.. she disclosed to us the names which i cant share for security reasons but why do men take them and leave you ladies?I asked her men claim they have less expenses as compared to us they also claim they are few unlike us who are many and keep changing clients she said .and where did you get all that information i asked . She said i have a personal friend who sleeps with men and that’s what he told me when i asked him of same she said.

It dint take long before these others get different men to treat them just like ladies in the same pub we also learn t that most men feel easy around fellow men and that one could think they are workmate friends or even cousins the lady said the msms have no fear especially when they get drunk.What do you think should be done to them i asked the lady said they are still our friends because at times we get men who want them and pay us to hook them up or they get men who want both and they also invite us but we feel very much worried she lamented.

MORE CASES REPORTED AS MSMS CANT GET HEALTH CARE SERVICES

It has been hell of time and some people with with ill motive have taken advantage of the recently anti gay law bill that was passed in Uganda since  kisumu is bordering the country in question it has been hectic for msms in both regions who have suffered silently with no one at their aid.

It was on Friday evening as was going round as always having my storming sessions at health care providers facilities to my surprise what i heard i couldn’t believe that still exist in this current world.On my visit to one of the msms friendly heath care facility that cant disclose its name due to security reasons i met a clinician who took me through his records not disclosing to me names of his clients who did not turn up for their medication (ART)

We have suffered a big blow and it seems we were not prepared Hans said not his real name ever since the bill was passed in Uganda we have not been getting our clients for treatment and we are worried as we can not reach them on phone. I asked why and he said most of our target group is the msms community as we are a youth friendly facility most of our nurses,Councillors and clinicians are sensitized and work with them in Avery harmonious way he said.Each month we receive new and continuing clients who are either referred by fellow peer educators or some organization but for this month none turned up.

Luckily there was one who sneaked in for his medication and we had to have a private talk with him. bonny not his real name said they are threatened by their neighbors who know them as msms,they also threatened us that we are promoting western culture and that we should be burnt to death he said as tear rolled down his cheeks. It was on this note that most guys flee away for the city to go for hiding for some time.

As this happened to our own community the same facility recodes the highest no of foreigners who came for medication away from their country Uganda to me that was more sensitive than the bill itself we can not loose lives just because one is gay life is precious.It was here that we also realized that msms have particular hospitals they prefer due to security and privacy of same.The main challenge is most of this men no one knows if they are accessing drugs or not in whichever hiding place they maybe in.

We appeal to anybody who may be threatening these people out there to let course take its place the bill was passed in Uganda and not yet in Kenya its so unkind for us to threaten our brothers to the point of making them run away from health care facilities we also urge the same community to embrace peace among them always.thanks to KASH (keeping alive societies hope) for their hard work in making sure all can access their medications at all time and also protects rights.

MSMS FROM UGANDA CAMP IN KISUMU FOR SAFETY

It has been a debate that has always hit media houses about gays and one is left wondering if this is some thing new that can be stopped like once.it was on Sunday evening when i decided tour my home town kisumu with some friends from within and went to have a drink in one of the pubs in town to my dismay i realized there were many cars with strange no plates and there were many new faces that had never met before it was on this that i took initiative to inquire what could be happening in town as i thought maybe there was a function but was wrong.

As we enjoyed ourselves i spotted one guy that i knew long ago in Nairobi and used to work and reside in Uganda and so moved to ask what brought him here and to make my conscious clear.On asking he also remembered me and there we joined the two groups and had our fun. As we enjoyed ourselves i asked them what brought a group like that to Kenya which he said Fabian not his real name that “our country is not safe at all”here we find bit safe because you people are a bit enlightened he said in Uganda you can not trust even your next door neighbor because the anti gay law that was passed has made even the citizens become greedy and very inhuman Fabian said in disgust.

During all this time we all remained mum and wondered why one would be that unkind to his fellow human but we reserved our comments.Fabian had four other men who were from Uganda too and  they also had this to say in Uganda the moment you are seen going inside a room with a fellow man the caretaker for the place will come and stand near the door and listen to your conversations and alert the bar or restaurant owner who will mobilize the police and media guys and break in to your room and that leads to merciful beatings and shame.to me that was wrong because i feel there is right to privacy why would somebody come to listen to me in aprivate  room and break in?

Jotham not his real name from the same country also said that at some point your enemies who knows about your sexual orientation will also be used to trap you posing as new clients and on arranging for the date they expose you this is so hurting and has made many of us come here at-least to take a break from all that humiliation.I personally went through such and had to pay some guys a lot of money to save my reputation what we are left to wonder about is how can someone explain and convince you about what they feel  can heart or feeling matters be explained? If you look at HIV prevalence rate in Uganda as compared to Kenya Ugandans is much higher and we suspect that larger number is contributed by unprotected sexual intercourse between the gay and bisexuals in the community i wish our president could hear as out and know that we are not trading or copying the western but being real…..look at me do i look poor to you i have my own company and employed straight men and women do they put that in considerations???? he lamented i could feel the pain but had very little to do and again the man looked stinking rich.

since it was getting late and our new friends were not very sure of their safety they asked to leave to go and have rest in one of the prestigious hotels in kisumu where they confirmed most of them love due to their good services and privacy.we left each other with nothuing but encouraged then and prayed that one day Uganda come to realize that threatening and harsh punishment will never solve any problem but should embrace dialogue and understating for the LGBTIQ communityImage