Kenyan Author Binyavanga Wainaina Comes Out

Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainaina [Image: Luigi Novi / Wikipedia]

Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainaina [Image: Luigi Novi / Wikipedia]

My dear @BinyavangaW writes a piece that springs open the prison doors of the heart,” is what Nigerian-born writer, Teju Cole, tweeted about the beautifully heartfelt piece written by Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainaina. The article, titled “I am a homosexual, Mum.” was first published on the website, Africa Is A Country, where it was widely spread across social media before being re-published in the Guardian. Its importance cannot be ignored, because on a continent where 38 countries outlaw homosexuality, one of Africa’s most respected writers has just come out as gay. 

At a time when countries like Nigeria and Uganda have made headlines for passing recent anti-gay legislation, Wainaina’s coming out appears to be a delicate mixture of both the personal and the political. “Of course my friends knew,” he tells GlobalPost news last Monday, “but I had been toying with how useful it would be to make a public statement for close to eight months”.

“There was the anti-gay bill in Uganda first,” Wainaina explains “but the Nigeria one! Nigeria is a country I go to — I was there three times last year — it is a place I love, it’s like a second home to me”.

“It’s hard to imagine any more repressive law of any kind anywhere in the world. It’s just the most terrible thing,” he said.

“The idea that there is no such thing as gay in African culture is a mixture of an inherited Victorian puritanism via the first churches, mixed with sloganeering and fear,” Wainaina continued, dismissing the popular argument by anti-gay activists that homosexuality is ‘un-African’.

Wainaina is set to become a still-louder voice for gay rights, a struggle that he sees as part of a wider defiance, an effort to break apart “the very, very hardwired restrictions that were imposed in 1885” by colonialists and which “are very alive in every facet of African life.”

“I want to be part of a generation of people in Kenya and Africa who change [Africa] to be accountable to itself,” he said.

About Scott De Buitléir

Scott De Buitléir is the Founder and Editor-at-Large of EILE Magazine, an online-only publication for the LGBT community. He has worked for several media organisations in Ireland and the UK, including RTÉ Radio and BBC Northern Ireland. Originally from Dublin, Scott now lives in Nottingham, England.

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