Homosexuality: My Perspective

by Keguro Macharia

Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 08:43:15 PST
From: "Keguro Macharia" mmach@hotmail.com
Subject: Homosexuality: My Perspective

I really dislike personal narratives because they seem to be a cry for sympathy or empathy. But, in reading many of the postings on, which attack the white gay community, while glorying in the affirming black experience, I think it would be helpful to share this.

As far as I know there are no African derived terms in any of the two African languages I know, Gikuyu and Kiswahili, that contain the term that refers to the identity homosexual. The only word I can think of that comes close in Kiswahili is "shoga" (a term that holds different meanings across the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders, leading me to believe that it is an appropriated term that has undergone perjoration in Kenya where it is used to describe homosexual people). Of course, something else that I find interesting is that Kiswahili itself is a combination of Bantu and Arabic languages with a mild sprinkling of European languages thrown in for good measure.

While growing up and in school, the term "homosexual" was always used to describe behavior by foreigners: I recall my standard four class teacher warning us to beware against "foreigners" who did "bad things with boys." Or else it was used in a religious way where homosexuality was the "worst" of all sins. My religious teachings went as far as to claim that the anti-christ (back when I still believed in such a notion), was homosexual. It was the worst possible thing.

Of course, it didn't help when I read anthropological works like "Facing Mt. Kenya," by Jomo Kenyatta, and "The Maasai" (I don't remember the author's name), which boldly stated that homosexuality did not exist in the traditional African community. As far as I was concerned homosexuals were an evil white thing that were going to destroy the good people of the world.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was in High School. Boarding school is rather fascinating. There were people in my school who indulgedin homosexual behavior, but never identified themselves as homosexual.(In retrospect, they could not use such a term because the language did not permit it).

This is getting long and rambling so perhaps I should state that there were no homosexual models historically, culturally, educationally, or socially in my country (Kenya) when I was growing up.

Again another fast forward to 1995, my first year in America. I began to question my sexual identity and to look for positive affirmations of it. I found my first positive affirmations of it in literature written by white gay men. Their voices helped me to identify one aspect of my nature and to explore it. Their voices also helped me to identify that I needed to look for literature that affirmed my experience as a black person. So I began my quest for black gay literature.

Almost all the literature that I have come across by black authors has been centered in the West and around Western experiences. I long for the day when I can pick up a work by someone from Kenya that I can totally identify with. Until then I will continue to look to literature and experiences from wherever they come that will continue to affirm me.

When I came out to my mother over the summer the first thing she told me was that homosexuality was not African. She wrote me a letter in which she said that long before the white man came to Africa there was no such thing as homosexuality. As she sees it, I have been corrupted by America.

So, I guess my point is I look for affirmations where I can find them. I pick what I perceive as the good from the gay white community and I pick what I perceive as good from the SGL community. I do not identify myself solely with any one group because I know both groups have contributed and continue to contribute to me in different ways. I will not hate the white gay community to "liberate" myself as a SGL individual. By the same token, I will not hate the SGL community to proclaim myself gay. I am glad that there are so many out white people as it makes my life a little easier. I wish there were more visibly out SLGPOC as that would make my life a little easier as well. But,I take what I can and I affirm who I am, in my own way.

As a final note, I had become so cynical about the "gay" identity, the "SGL" identity, and the "black" identity that I had forgotten what it was like to dream of what E. Lynn Harris describes as "Perfect." Perfect may not exist, but I can choose to see the good in what exists and when I don't find it, I can use the lack of it as a positive motivation to inspire me to political action and political change.


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