Coming out as gay is a very big deal when you live in a country where homosexual acts are illegal. It becomes a bigger deal when you are a high-profile African like Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina. According to BBC on Jan. 21, the author came out as gay in an article.
His confession and open expression about his sexuality is timely as it comes during a time where there is an intense climate involving gay rights in several African countries. In an article he wrote:
“Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum, And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear. ‘I am a homosexual, mum.”
The small excerpt chronicles Wainaina’s fear and eventual self-acceptance in coming out as gay to his mother and eventually coming out to those around him.
The author who has won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, “Discovering Home”, became one of the most high-profile Africans to come out as gay. In a decision that has some praising him as courageous, Wainaina will most likely face backlash in a country where gay and lesbians can face up to 10 years in jail if they are convicted of homosexual acts in Kenya.
Wainaina has already criticized Nigeria’s recent passing of an anti-gay law by saying that it “shames us all” and by publicly expressing his own homosexuality, he is sending a message that homosexuality exists and there are voices to be heard.
His expression may be the greatest weapon of all, but it does come with the potential risk of taking some abuse in his own homeland where homosexuality is strongly opposed politically, religiously and socially.