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.