October 2000

The Dark Continent

Well now, how does one start one of these damn columns? It seems that 97% of all the first-time columns I’ve ever read seem to start this way! So, I will begin with a blessing; thaai thayayai Ngai.

As you may have guessed (because you are very perceptive) I am not your typical Oasis contributor; I’m not American, not Canadian, not Mexican, not European or Asian…I am that rarest of breeds, an African who has taken that frightful step and come out as gay.

I won’t use my real name (yet) because that would be a sure way of outing myself back home and I am not ready to deal with that situation quite yet for reasons that I will get into later on. I’m an ancient 19 years old (feels that way) and I’m from Kenya, formerly under British rule during the colonial era, English was one of my first co-languages, ‘ co’ because many kids here (if not all) learn more than one language at the same time while growing up. Hmm… some ground rules here would be appropriate, yes we have TV, roads, cars, telephones and all that crap, there is no language called African, and I don’t have lions running around in my backyard! Seriously, some people ask the weirdest, most ignorant questions…that is fodder for another column altogether.

This phrase is so hackneyed that I shudder to use it, but it is true… "I always knew/felt different from the other kids." Aargh, now that that is out of the way I can tell you why I felt that way, quite simply I thought it was because I was smarter than they were. As you can tell modesty is not my strong point, but I come from a very bibliophilic family and I began reading at age four or five and by the fourth grade was reading sixth or seventh grade material. Hell, by the fifth grade I could have sat you down and rattled off the major battles of the Second World War and told you who was in command and why they won or lost, yes, say it…GEEK! That brings up a major difference in societal attitudes, back home being smart is respected and envied, not ridiculed and mocked, no wonder America is ‘dumbing down’, just look at the popularity of Regis and that damn game show, pseudo-intellectualism posing as popular entertainment. As you may have noticed my column might be a bit too cerebral for some folks but for all those still with me, Hongera! (Congratulations). On then we go, pressing through the misty veils of time to my conspicuously two-faced childhood where I was engrossed in the worlds of space and time and history and had only adults who could relate to my interests. It was a lonely childhood I suppose, but I was never really alone as long as I had a book with me, I grew up pretty independently as my siblings were off at boarding school as I was much younger than they were, so is suppose that contributed to my sense of isolation.

Enough about isolation! I did make a very good friend in the seventh grade, Charles where are you? I lost touch with him, like I do with most of the friends I make, I just flit through their lives, touch them all with my vibrant personality and move on, I feel like a muse in the classical sense… moving from person to person awakening the fires within and then moving on, always moving on… what makes it all worse is that I was popular in grade school and in high school as well, I was vice-president for two years at high school for crying out loud! But never that deep connection that allows you to pour out your guts to another human being and not care what they’d think of you afterward…now for that I’d give my left arm.

I’m sure you are all dying to hear what boarding school was like (naughty young things) but I’d like to dedicate the rest of my column to the sad state of affairs for young gay Africans. In a nutshell, there is no conception in my home country that there is such a thing as a ‘gay lifestyle’ or that someone can possibly be one and not some sadistic, cruel and twisted psychopath. In fact, in my 19 years, I have only seen one reference to it in the press, and that was some lurid fictionalized account of how some lonely police officer kept a young man as his ‘love slave’ in his quarters for a week and buggered him soundly whenever he got the urge. Either that or the image of dirty old men seducing and buggering young boys is what comes to the African mind when they envision homosexuality. Rumours have it that more and more young people are ‘becoming gay’ but as far as I know, that may just entail sexual experimentation and not a realization of self per se. It is expected that all young men and women will have ‘normal’ heterosexual marriages and many do…and yet I wonder whether under the facade there are young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and having no outlet for expression throw themselves into meaningless marriages or empty celibacy?

Perhaps a caveat is necessary here… I don’t pretend to be an expert here but I certainly did not have any resources available to me apart from the Internet in 1996 but how many people have access to these resources or the courage to look for them? More on this later, but as always rants, raves, comments, marriage proposals, death threats etc should be emailed to me, all the quicker for me to read them.

If this column made no sense, too bad, I’ll do better next time never apologize for your feelings or your creative output no matter how disjointed, you’d be surprised how honest it really is…



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