Coming Out

Coming out is not a singular ‘ah ha’ moment where you realised that you desire queer bodies but an ongoing awareness and acceptance of that attraction.

I wanted Nancy to like me so badly. I liked her handwriting, I liked the way she smelled. She always had the best snacks at breaktime, which she graciously shared with me. I loved to touch her skin, and she had the prettiest hair in the entire stream. She had deep dimples and I loved telling her jokes just so I could see them when she laughed. She had a weird tooth that she was ashamed of and would hide it in public but never when we were together. [I found it charming] She would invite me for sleepovers and would always sleep in the same bed. Long after she had fallen asleep I would lay next to her but never touching, acutely aware of her warm body. I would wonder how it would be if I put my arm around her and held her as she slept. I never did though, because even at a young age I was perceptive enough to know what would happen if I broke ‘the rules’.

As we grew older, our tastes did not align. She went through puberty and the boys did not hide their attraction. This inspired unbearable feelings of jealousy and I would throw tantrums whenever I saw her giggling with them, tantrums neither of us understood. These did not get any better once she started ‘going steady’ with a boy from whom I could not hide my disdain for. She got fed up and we got into a horrible argument witnessed by all our friends. He backed her up and got the forming crowd riled up…after a while the chants of ‘lezzo’ filled my ears and I began to cry, which only led to more jeering. She did not say anything, whether she couldn’t or wouldn’t I don’t know. Maybe it was both. I was 12.

Oddly enough it never stuck enough to be a long-lasting nickname, but I never forgot and I never ever forgave.

Being a millennial growing up in a privileged home with internet access exposed me to pornographic material sooner rather than later. Initially the internet was a rude shock, bombarding my adolescent mind with an unfiltered array of images — a case of beginners folly as I would simply type in ‘porn’ and peruse the first few links. After a while I honed in on my preferences and proceeded to scrimp and save and steal just to buy airtime for dial up to indulge the powerful urges I had. I would end up watching videos from sites with confusing underlying messages … sites that claimed to expose men who were ‘tricked’ by hauntingly beautiful Amazonian women — the trick being that they were trans — but would still have sex with the women anyway if they promised to be silent about it … of lesbians going to shopping malls, parks and other public places, picking up straight women and fucking them all afternoon only to send them back to their boyfriends in disgrace or with a condescending ‘you’ll be back’… there was always some sneakiness or deviant behaviour involved in non-heterosexual sex. Already the act of watching pornography was taboo by normal standards but I already knew that my tastes would raise a few eyebrows.

I printed out mages of my favourite moments and kept them under my bed at home. I would lay awake looking at those pics, black and white on paper but in full colour in my brain. I fabricated backstories for the women in my head, turned them from trickster to something more complex, gave them names, lives. Ii breathed life into them and in turn gave myself life, but only behind my locked bedroom door.

I managed to avoid suspicion [to the best of my knowledge] in high school, I denied it and learned early on how to play the role that was expected. I was an avid participant in the conversations over which man was attractive and which one wasn’t. Thankfully we did not have communal showers as I’d heard of in other schools, so that was an uncomfortable bridge I never had to cross.

I was friends with a few girls who were suspected of being queer but never in that way. I knew of their midnight trysts and mid term misadventures but not as a participant but from the grapevine like everyone else. I felt pangs of longing, of wanting to be included and of wanting the same for myself. When I didn’t feel any sort of special tingling after surveying the 500 plus girls in our school I told myself it was all just a phase. I read about the evils of pornography in chicken soup for the teenage soul and decided that that was what was leading me astray. I went to the chapel to pray for forgiveness and to try to find God but I ended up masturbating instead.

I distanced myself and didn’t say anything when ‘those girls’ were taken to the principal’s office to be ‘spoken to’. No one asked me what I thought and I did not give any opinion on it. I am still embarrassed when I think of them.

Mina was the first girl I kissed. After a bad breakup I was at a party trying to lift my mood but failing miserably. She told me to stop being foolish, told me how beautiful I was and basically cheered me up. In the middle of laughing at one of her jokes she pulled me close and kissed me on the lips.

I froze, terrified of what was to happen next. And then suddenly I wasn’t. It all came to me like second nature. In that moment I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t carrying a giant rock on my neck, I was giddy and thrilled and every sense was magnified. We talked every day for a few weeks, and soon I fell in love with her. One day when I was picking out a gift for her she sent me a message saying that she was now in a relationship with another man, saying it had nothing to do with my feelings for her and that she hoped it wouldn’t change our friendship.

She remains to date the only girl I have ever kissed while sober.

Remembering the years between high school and finally coming out is painful. I am not proud of the ways I both sought out and denied myself intimacy. I know it now as internalised queerphobia but back then I had no language for it.

I was always opposed to the idea of girls nights out, due to the likelihood that someone would very likely suggest a game of truth or dare. The thought of someone half drunkenly admitting to never having kissed a girl filled me with dread because of the likely scenarios that would arise. Sometimes it was the bolder [or drunker, depending on how you look at it] of the group who would also admit the same and they would experiment together, other times it was the girls who had experimented when they were younger who stepped up to the plate. I hated both types of women. I wanted to volunteer as well, to take that step but I  didn’t trust my suppressed feelings… in my worst moments of anxiety I imagined myself unable to stop, that several years of suppressed angst would turn me into a rapist. I resented the experienced girls because they had a confidence I never knew as an adolescent girl. I hated myself for having these feelings and would dig my nails into my palms and try not to pass out in fear. After a while, I cut off ties and avoided girls nights as much as I could.

I instead turned my focus to men, seeking the intimacy and touch I had denied myself from the women I really wanted. I would go out almost every weekend [and then every night] looking to hook up with…really whoever. I was quick to initiate sex and had no qualms about ‘body count’ or ‘soul ties’ or all that bullshit. To my enemies I was a slut, and to my friends, well probably they thought the same, but I seemed sexually liberated and [said I] practised safe sex. I wasn’t, and I didn’t care. I’d always close my eyes during sex, insisted he never say a word and leave my body behind to be assaulted by irrythmic pounding. My favourite position was doggystyle mostly because I’d be able to put my head in a pillow and tune him out. I would go through my mental slideshow picking scenes either from my own few chance encounters or my vast memory bank of erotic clips. I’d had several years experience of this and I’d climax more often than not. Every single one of my relationships with men has been formulated on this lie.

My ‘final coming out’ wasn’t an event, but a wearing down. I was exhausted from effort it took to maintain this facade. Even despite seeming like an extroverted vivacious person I was miserable and frustrated. I wanted so desperately to experience life freely and stop hiding my real self behind alcohol and substance abuse.

So I told myself every day who I was. I would stand in a mirror and tell myself I was queer. At first, I cried and tried to break the mirror like a dramatic pop star. Eventually the tears stopped flowing and I did it with pride. I stopped pretending not to look when a woman passed by. I joined Tinder, then left it, then joined it again. I wrote erotica and stopped changing the characters to ‘he’. I have female friends. We go for girls nights at least once a month. I wish there were more. Sometimes we have sleepovers, and I get to be the inner spoon.

At first, I believed accepting these hard truths to myself would be the end of that. I was not prepared for the great amount of panic that often comes, when I am convinced I’m going to ‘go back to being straight’. I sometimes feel like an impostor, unable to reach out to fellow members of the LGBQTI community.  I came out when I was involved with a cishet male partner [for real this time] I love him deeply and I am sure he feels the same. Does that make me lose some sort of queer credibility? I know I’m interested in women, but which ones? Are the ones I pursue or picture in my head as ‘ideal partners’ projections of myself or who I really want?

But there is no happily ever after, I have not yet ridden off into the sunset with my queer partner, I do not even KNOW if I want to ride off into said sunset. I’m not sure if I’m going to fall in gay love and get gay married and take gay vacations. What I do know is that I am learning about myself, meeting a version of myself that even I don’t know, and that’s the person I’m most excited about falling in love with.

Speculative Fiction: The Final List

It’s about that time of the year where we here at Will This Be A Problem present our annual anthology. This year, we tried something a little different from the usual. For the 2016 anthology, we opted to incorporate an open call for submissions. The theme was Speculative Fiction and we received stories from across the continent.

And so, I present the stories our judges picked for the anthology.

“The Mortuary Man” by Mark Lekan Lalude (Nigeria)
“What Happens When It Rains” by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
“Future Long Since Passed” by Lausdeus Otito Chiegboka (Nigeria)
“The World is Mine” by Kris Kabiru (Kenya)
“The Real Deal” by James Kariuki (Kenya)

A bonus story from WTBAP:

“The Last History” by Kevin Rigathi

And the prize winning story –

“Rise of the Akafula” by Andrew Charles Dakalira (Malawi)

The 3rd issue of our anthology will be released in the coming days. For now, see this beautiful cover art by Peter Marco, based on the winning story.

final-cover-small

 

Speculative Fiction Call Out

This time, we’re doing something a little different for the Will This Be A Problem Anthology. A public call out.

The theme this year is Speculative Fiction set in African countries and we will be accepting short stories from any African citizen.

wtbap

Here are the submission guidelines.

  1. Your story can be Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magical Realism, Alternate History or an unholy mash of any them.
  2. While your story must be set in an an African country, feel free to place it in any timeline you please. You may also set it in alternate versions of these countries. i.e. A Kenya that was never colonized.
  3. Our target length is between 2000-5000 words. However this is just a baseline, if the story is strong enough it can be longer or shorter.
  4.  Send your work to submissions@willthisbeaproblem.co.ke in doc, docx, odt or rtf formats. Do not send it in the subject of the email.
  5. Send a small bio about yourself, what country you’re from and what name you would like the work to be published under.
  6. Only submit your original work.
  7. By submitting a story the author allows Will This Be A Problem to include it in the WTBAP Anthology should it be selected.
  8.  Submissions should primarily be in English though pieces of dialogue and the text may contain other languages.
  9. The submission should be previously unpublished.
  10. If your work is published somewhere else after the Anthology is released we request that you mention Will This Be A Problem as the first place of publication.
  11. Submissions close on the 1st of November, 2016.

The WTBAP anthology is provided for free. We do not make any money off it and thus we do not (as of yet) pay for submissions. However, this year, there will be prizes for our favourite story.

  1. If the winner is from Kenya, the prize will be:  Ksh 3,000 and the Imagine Africa 500 Anthology edited by Billy Kahora delivered from the Magunga Book Store
  2. If the winner is from any other country: 30$ paid via paypal and a kindle (or kindle app) book gift of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar OR Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with.

The Decolonisation Project

Decolonisation! A term I got acquainted with when I first commenced my studies at the University of Cape Town. It’s rather a peculiar term that I had never heard before and I must say, I was confused at first about its meaning or significance. How do you undo something that has already manifested itself?

My idea of colonialism stemmed from the vague education system I received in high school. The chronological events of colonialism: the Berlin West African conference, the partitioning of Africa, the arrival of missionaries and the colonial administration systems. Therefore, with such a layman’s understanding of colonialism one that emphasized the course while neglecting the cause, the consequences, implications and effects I really wondered what people meant when they spoke of decolonisation. Did it mean we ought to reverse the whole colonial process? As in go back to Berlin and redraw the borders and build ships and take back all the descendants of the white man? Take back all they stole from the hinterland? It sounded rather unrealistic for me.

There ought to have been more to this, perhaps I was missing out on something and was oblivious to a more conscious understanding of what colonisation was exactly and its implications.

Exploring the concept of Colonialism

Have you ever heard of the poem “the white man’s burden”? This is a poem which grasps on the idea that the white man was burdened with the task of trying to civilise the dark continent of ‘savages’. That is what they called us. To them, civilisation involved causing a paradigm shift in the mentality of the natives. It was a doctrine that regarded the natives lost souls in dire need of redemption, education and a new language. One wonders what was to be left for the natives to take pride in.

Therefore colonialism primarily involved addressing the mind of the native in a way that would lead to a people with an inferiority complex. A people who might unconsciously disdain their uniqueness, colour, customs, culture and heritage, discarding it for the culture of the white man.

Another important aspect of colonialism was the issue of divide and rule. It all started from the macro level by dividing territory without the consent of the ethnic tribes. This proved to be problematic for it meant imposing unity among different tribes and perhaps separating tribes without any consultation with those tribes. On the micro scale, this division entailed enticing enmity among the natives, tampering with and undermining their existing customs and elevating the ‘good boys’ at the expense of the traditional chiefs which resulted in tension between the former and latter.  

Then, the most apparent aspect of colonialism was the extraction of Africa’s raw materials, which further boosted the economies of the metropolitan states of the colonisers while impeding Africa’s growth.

Therefore what does decolonisation entail?

If we are to address the issue of decolonisation pragmatically, in a way that does not make it ambiguous and cause confusion like it did for me when I first heard of it, we ought to begin by addressing the key elements listed above. This means for the purpose the article, trying to achieve decolonisation first entails deconstructing the mind-set and mentality of Africans. Dispositioning them from a state of inferiority to one of self-pride.

Decolonisation also entails promoting the ideology of unity and Pan Africanism. This might assist in fixing our continent which is deeply entrenched in intra conflict within states of which Politics, ethnicity and religion remain the genesis of the conflict. Decolonisation also means addressing the major problem of Africa’s resources which seem to benefit external players. We dwell in a neo colonial system that has found inconspicuous means of continuing to suck out Africa’s wealth while disguising itself as the functional global economy.

Well, is the Decolonisation Project Practical, Viable and Possible?

  • Knowledge is Power.  Addressing the mentality of the African people will take a great amount of effort on both the people instilling this knowledge and the people receiving it. With the education system pervasive in Africa, one that emphasizes primarily on making people potential job candidates, we might not reach the level we want as a continent. We need to incorporate elements in our education system where we expose students to different narratives of African literature, ones that are also intellectual and not primarily academic. Ones that do not enforce a white supremacist doctrine.  

    Now, we are forced to depart formal education with the mentality that civilization and modernisation is western and affiliated to whiteness, neglecting the fact that Africans and black people have made major contributions to the world’s modernity. So what we need is an education system that exposes the detrimental effects of colonialism and its impact today, while promoting a culture of breeding think tanks and problem solvers with solutions on how to fix the problem. Only then can we envisage the decolonisation Project’s success.
  • The problem of Unity. Unfortunately, we have not excelled on the topic of unity and we might not have taken any steps in this journey of a thousand miles.  This is linked to the previous point as our education system can also endorse the agenda of uniting and appreciating each other as Africans in our distinctiveness.
    I am also convinced that unity should not be a concept that is only ideological but should carry practicality in it. If Africa does not promote a culture of interaction between states, through regionalisation, trading and more multilateral and bilateral relations we will always remain a delusional continent. This notion stems from the neo liberal school of thought and the ‘prisoner dilemma’ notion that states are likely to cooperate together when there are institutions that promote practical interactions and trade among them. I was impressed by the recent development as there might be an introduction of the African passport. However, its implementation remains in question.
  • Thwarting Neo-Colonialism. Today,  Africa remains a continent that boasts of its mineral wealth but shies away from the fact that it remains an impoverished continent up to date This is the incongruent nature of Africa’s current affairs. Many will blame the international system for continuing to undermine Africa’s potential however I must state that the endurance of the enemy’s oppression is partly determined by our tolerance and acquiescence. The main problem remains political. Africa suffers from the cancer of unscrupulous leaders, who enrich themselves at the expense of the economies of their respective countries while serving the interests of the western and eastern giants hungry for Africa’s goodies. Therefore decolonisation in this regard will depend on the willingness of the leaders to prioritise national goals and the national and African vision above their self-interests.

Decolonisation

My next article will carry the same theme as I analyse the African Union’s contribution to the decolonisation Project.

 

The New Gospel

Excuse me sisters, would you hold on a moment. If you would allow me just a minute, I wish to tell you about the gospel of “real feminism.”

In the beginning some men (not all men) got together and decided to fix feminism. They saw there was clearly a problem and came up with definitions and priorities for feminists to adopt. They even suggested legitimate mediums “serious feminists” should use (not twitter). When they were done, they looked upon their work and they were pleased. They called it, real feminism. This is how our gospel was born.

Unable to contain their excitement they brought their creation to other feminists but they were often rejected. Prophets are after all not welcomed in their own homes (or even the homes they move into uninvited and try to renovate). And so it was decided that the old feminists were heretics and heathens to the cause. They were given many names to mark them; new feminists, twitter feminists, militant feminists, lazy feminists and so on. The prefix did not really matter so long as one remembered to include a dismissive tone when they said it (for example, Beyoncé feminists.)

The old feminists accused our prophets of being anti feminist. Our prophets laughed (intellectually) and said, “No. We have no problem with feminism. Look at the feminism there, we like that. And feminism in the past, it was serious, we loved that. This feminism of yours is the problem.”

“So the feminism that’s here and now, the one in spaces that you occupy…that one’s a problem?” Asked the feminists (bitterly).

“No no no…we don’t mind feminism. It just has to be real feminism. You know, the real one.”

“It seems to us,” said the feminists (emotionally), “that the further feminism is from affecting you, the more likely it is to be ‘real feminism’.”

“That is not it at all.”

And that is how the first great debate of feminism was won.

The old feminists went away more bitter, more man-hating and pretending even more to know where Ukraine was on the map. Unfortunately, their rebellion would not end there. Say what you will about them but they were a tenacious lot. They would not be gone for long. They popped up again as the prophets spoke the truth of how old feminists did nothing for men, the boy child and their issues.

“But we do! All the time,” interjected the old feminists (rudely).

“Lies!”

“We do! And even if we didn’t…why don’t you do it? Why don’t men come together and try help each other instead of spending all their time attacking us?”

“Go back to the kitchen!”

“Right…When in doubt- misogyny.”

“Listen to them,” said the Prophets, “so emotional. It was JUST a joke. Calm down.”

“You know why you don’t know what we do? Because YOU don’t pay attention to those issues. If you care for men’s issues so much why do you never talk about them? Why is it that the only context you discuss them in is as a weapon to wield against feminists?”

“Coz” they said.

And thus the second great debate of feminism was won.

On it went. The “real feminist” proponents showed the old feminists all the things they weren’t doing. The old feminist claimed to have done them by presenting evidence among other underhanded sneaky tactics. The proponents told them the flaws of old feminism schools of thought and the old feminists asked if they had even bothered to read or research those works as if this had anything to do with it.
And somewhere along this path the old feminists for whatever reason, started to get angry. By doing so what the prophets had been saying was proved true, old feminism just made women unreasonable which was bad for everyone.

This is the foundation of our church. It is true sisters, you must embrace feminism, no one is saying otherwise. But it must be real feminism. You can’t just go and be a feminist, it is a process. There are rules and directions and you have to listen to the people who know things. I know it seems weird and counter-intuitive that men should be telling women about the female experience and such but hey…man is the head of the family, even the global family. And where do ideas come from? Yeah. Exactly. The head. Sticking to outdated feminism has already brought so much grief. It destroyed our morals, it destroyed the family unit and remember all those times it destroyed society? I’m sure you read about it in papers and blogs everywhere.

Sisters, the brotherhood of real feminism is here for you. Do not be scared of us. We want the same thing as you, equality in all things, even feminism. All we suggest is a just division of labour. You can be the feminists and we will tell you how to do it. It’s only fair.

Bless you.

The Weight Of Clarity

Guest Post by Anonymous

I’m depressed.

The internal chaos caused by my self-doubt, the naysayers, the teachers, friends and family that told me I couldn’t do one thing or another got to me. I broke. It has been feeling like they were right about me all along, that my attempts to prove them wrong are laughable.

A month ago it was too much for me to handle. I tried to kill myself.

I didn’t die but I feel even worse than I felt before. If anything, my dark thoughts have become even more morbid for the stigma attached to mental depression is truly horrible. My family has barely talked to me, my so called friends don’t know what happened but haven’t spoken to me, my girlfriend has tried to support me but even for her, it’s too much. She doesn’t know this person I’ve become. I am irrational, emotional, vulnerable, paranoid and empty. My self-confidence is at an all-time low, my ego non-existent and, even worse, when I am honest about how I feel it kills those around me.

Being a man in African society, you are meant to be strong. Nobody expects me to be honest about my vulnerabilities, I’m not meant to feel that way. I’m meant to be strong for her, for my family. I’m supposed to ignore the pain, I’m supposed to keep it in. I’m supposed to pretend that I have it all figured out. But I do not have it figured out. Alcohol no longer dulls my senses, I can no longer run away from the pain. I have to live with it, deal with it. But it feels like I have nobody I can talk to because they are all gone or they are on their way out of my life as I speak. I am just lucky that through all this I have had great support from my mother.

I wish I was a great writer, that through my words you could feel my pain. I know a lot of people out there are going through something similar. They, just like me, are unable to talk about it because of the stigma attached to it, because they know they will lose a lot of their so called friends. They know they will not find support. I’m asking you to be there for those people who need you, the signs are there, listen to them. Its hard for anyone to understand what could ever drive one to kill themselves. Its unthinkable that one could be so hopeless, but you don’t have to understand, just try to empathize. And for those in pain, talk to somebody, don’t try harm yourself because it only causes more pain. You hurt those that care about you and in the end, you hurt you.

“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.”
– Charles Caleb Colton


Follow this link for information on a Kenyan mental health and suicide prevention helpline.

Fantasy And Africans

Will this be a problem has been silent for about a month now but, and here’s the good news, it was an interesting kind of silence. You see, it wasn’t the silence you’d get if we were neglecting you, our dear readers. It was not even the silence you’d get if we were tired of you or awkwardly avoiding you with nothing to say. It was the busy, wary silence of someone who’s planning you a surprise birthday party.

Ok, maybe it’s not a birthday but there is a surprise.

I’m happy to say that we finally (and very sneakily) started working on one of this site’s pillars a few months ago. It was always the plan that WTBAP would be concerned with art and literature and now, we actually have something to show for that besides intentions. I present our first short story and poetry anthology.

jpec edition

You probably have questions. Such as…

1. What the hell is THAT thing?

That is the mascot. Her name is Jane.

Thing is, it’s a strange anthology and, in some ways, very dark. I wanted the cover to reflect a bit of that. I guess we could have eased you into it but why the hell would we do that? Right from the start, we’re pushing you into deep end.

2. Why are the eyes following me? Those eyes! Ahhhh!

Because it wants your soul. Duh!

3. How can I get this anthology?

The anthology will be available exclusively in electronic form. It will also be free.

At the bottom of this post there will be links to get it in the main ebook formats and, if you wish, you can also read it here on the site.

4. Kenyan Fantasy?

Yes.

We’re big fans of fantasy here at WTBAP. Over the years I’ve talked about the rather inexplicable lack of African fantasy books. The content is really just begging to be written and I know African fantasy readers aren’t rare by any measure. But, somehow, there just isn’t much of it and when there is people tie themselves in knots to not call it fantasy. Magical realism pops up a lot and I’ve even seen Ben Okri’s work called (I’m not even kidding) African Traditional Religion Realism. It’s kind of the overlooked child of African literature.

So, the minute we got a chance to make some fantasy we hopped right onto that train (though one could argue that we may have accidentally boarded onto the horror express. Oops). We made the theme for our first issue Fantasy and we got down to work. I think we’ve come up with something special.

5. Will you be doing this again?

Most definitely. We’ve learnt a lot from making this first one and I think it’s going to make the second one even better. So many lessons, so many ideas and this is just the start. But that is a struggle for another day.

6. Another day? So this won’t have a regular schedule.

No. I can’t promise that it will. We’ll do it when we have time but I can’t say that there will be regular intervals between the releases. Well, I can, but it wouldn’t be true.

And now….the book.

READ ONLINE AND DOWNLOAD HERE

 

The Mess in Your Home

Children are like budget psychiatrists. You can talk to them and they’ll pretend to listen to you. Better yet, if you remember to give them food then you’re not restricted to one hour sessions. They’ll hardly say anything back which is another mark in their favour.

I speak as a former victim of this practice as I’m sure most of you are. You probably have some vague memory of long car rides with one sided conversations you were not expected to understand and, all in all, you didn’t really try to anyway. They were only interesting in that they guaranteed some kind of reward at the end. Usually ice cream.

Sometimes though, you remember what was said in fragments. They can be amusing, they can be scarring or, if you’re really lucky, you can end up with some really good black mail. Rarely, you can actually learn something from them. This article is about those rare times.

“… these fools who run away from the mess in their own homes to try and fix other people’s problems.”

My mother said that. I don’t know why she said it largely because I wasn’t really listening but that particular phrase stuck with me for years. I’m not sure if I actually thought this at the time or if it’s an embellishment I’ve woven in over the years but I remember agreeing with her. They were fools. What kind of person would actually do something like that?

Time, in it’s general humorless way, has revealed a rather distasteful answer to that question. As it turns out, I’m the kind of person who would do something like that.

To me, home has a variety of meanings. I have many homes. Where I actually live with my family is just the most obvious one. Nairobi is my home too. So is Kenya. As is Africa. And it’s become clear that I’ve been running away from their problems and their complications for a long time now. Not entirely. But enough that I need to reevaluate what I’m doing.

There’s something unsettling about the fact that over the years, I’ve talked about racism more than I have about tribalism.

That my most readily available images of classism do not easily lend themselves to the Kenyan or even the African context.

That when you weigh how much I’ve talked about Gaza, Syria and Iraq against something like Kasarani, the latter pales in comparison.

I’ve been running.

Home is not just a place though. It is a community. It is your connections. What keeps you rooted even if it’s not in one place. Friends and family are part of that. And if there is an area where I have truly failed, this would have to be it.

How many exam is rape jokes do I let my friends get away with?

Could I even count the number of homophobic remarks from relatives that I let pass without comment?

How many “that’s retarded” statements do I just ignore from people I know?

Yet, I can easily write about these issues when I’m talking to strangers and I think there is something fundamentally wrong with that.

The truth is, I can do more about Kasarani than I can about Gaza.

I’m more likely to change how a relative or friend sees an issue than I am to do so for a stranger.

There are no problems that I understand quite like the problems at home. And that’s the issue. I’m invested. There can be consequences here. This isn’t my neighbor’s place. This is mine. If there is fallout, I will have to bear it. If I fail, I will feel it. There is something that can be broken if I confront the problems here too much. It is in every way easier to look away and just run. Looking only to deal with problems that do not directly affect me. Safer problems.

But…that’s foolish.

I can’t keep doing that.

I could be wrong but I think a lot of you are like me. It’s all too easy for us to get angry at the start but let that fade and ignore the issue even if it isn’t solved. Even easier to never bring it up at all. It’s how we keep the peace in our little home.

Only, it isn’t really peace is it?

There is only one logical conclusion that I can see. What to do is really rather obvious but I find that even now I still want to run from it. The image of talking to my parents about homophobia will not leave my mind. It is one of the most frightening thoughts I have ever had. I can’t imagine how such a conversation would start let alone how it would end. I don’t think I want to.

“Oppression can only survive through silence.”

– Carmen De Monteflores

A choice has to made. For each of us.

We cannot let the government wait us out on things we care about knowing all the while that we’ll fold first. We have to keep at it. Even when the numbers start to dwindle and it’s no longer easy to do it anymore. We have to keep at it.

We cannot continue to watch people around us doing things we know are wrong and stay quiet. Our silence isn’t just inaction, it makes us part of it. Accessories to a crime.

We cannot claim to be for change if we see the clearest path before us and never take it. Even if it’s not an easy one. We have to take that step.

We cannot keep running.