WANJURAH: Queers for Sunday Afternoon Company


GAY MEN HOLDING HANDS PHOTO/COURTESY
GAY MEN HOLDING HANDS PHOTO/COURTESY

I accepted my flat-mate’s invitation to the event mainly as a test of my own tolerance levels and to while away the day.

Like with many Kenyans, my gut regard for this group is revulsion flavoured with pity for what I regard as the epitome of self-debasement. But after time spent in the UK and having openly homosexual acquaintances, I have been struggling to contain my raw hate. That and a story I heard about a prominent Kenyan I hold in respect have forced me into introspection.

How much of the story is factual or is the musings of a fertile imagination, I cannot tell for sure. My source claims to have been an “eyewitness”, a phrase I find curious to say the least. Besides the eye, what else can someone use to “witness” an event?

Like many parents, the prominent man wished his children the best in life. He had invested heavily to send his son to an American university and generally did his best to mould him into a fine young man. The boy repaid his parent’s labours with impressive grades and a Masters degree in IT.

On the day of his grand return to Kenya, the excited dad led other relatives and friends to the airport for a befitting welcome. Among the delegation were senior clergy as friends to the man who cut his leadership teeth in the church. The son arrived in a shiny style marked by a clatter of rings – on ears, nose and lips. The pink top, tights, tattoos and the outlandish jewellery also stood out.

A well-travelled man, his dad initially brushed aside his son’s new look as the consequences of fitting in with a foreign culture. True, ahead of his journey, the son had alerted his parents that he would be bringing along a special friend. From the strong hints, the parents expected a girlfriend.

Instead, a tall guy, biceps squeezing out of a pilot shirt left unbuttoned to reveal a powerful chest, stood by their son. As if to clear any doubts, the “couple” occasionally reached out to each other in lovey-dovey adjectives and gestures. The reality of the nature of their relationship slowly dawned on the scandalised reception party!

As a parent in ever-changing times, I, too, hope for the best for my kids. But I guess there is wisdom in fortifying oneself in the event kids and life unleash unpleasant surprises. The throngs that turned up at last Sunday’s event were, after all, sons and daughters of some parents.

At the Millennium Square, a man in an orange tee shirt and a multi-coloured hat handed me a gift pack in a small khaki paper bag. Inside were a bracelet emblazoned with “Leeds Pride”, two sweets wrapped in girlie colours, a white and pink whistle and LGBT club membership forms. I made a mental note to donate the whistle to Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi as he evidently knows how to make use of one.

On the dais, the MC was busy working up the sizeable crowd. But just like with so many revellers around me, I couldn’t figure out whether he was a man or a woman. The voice was indeterminate. His/her costumes were also difficult to pigeonhole on a gender basis. The gestures could have belonged to a tomboy or a sissy!

In theory, it was summer. But the temperature outside was hovering around 14C˚ and the gushes of wind made it feel even colder.  That didn’t stop many in the crowd from turning up in the briefest of brief costumes, the kind that leaves my old man wondering if tailors run out of material!

Whoever invited me must have missed the memo on dressing for the occasion. I must have stood out like a sore thumb being only among the few “sanely” dressed attendants. Many were in weird costumes that are never meant to venture out of a voodoo den or a witchcraft shrine.

It left me asking the same questions I have entertained on the few times I have trespassed in Nairobi’s red light hours. Just where are these clothes bought? Does someone actually cough real cash to buy them? Did the guy standing next to me in a horse head for a mascot, for instance, spend his pounds on it?  And what about the guy in front with his aluminium-like vest and Mickey Mouse undies!

The other surprise was the age of the attendants. My initial assumption was that a gay parade would be for the 20s and 30s, many turning out more for the music and the fanfare than as a testimony to their sexual orientation. But alas! The grey heads and grizzled faces made for a sizeable percentage.

Take Flirty Vance as he introduced himself for instance. He turned up in knee-length twin-body fishnet lace with holes big enough to let through small fish over black male thongs. And to literally ensure that he stood up in his bright rodeo hat, he wore nearly meter-long false legs that looked like Oscar Pistorius running blades.

He is 67. I asked him what possible business could a semi-nude grandfather be doing at a gay parade on a cold Sunday afternoon. He chuckled in a way suggesting he had encountered similar questioning many times before and from ignoramuses like me.

Vance is a grandfather for real. Four-times remarried, he says he gave up on conventional marriage after the last one ended eight years ago. But what about his kids, I asked. Doesn’t a gay grandpa embarrass them?  He claimed, on the contrary, they liked him the more and indeed, he was in the company of a 16-year-old grandson. One of his sons was an organiser of the event!

Camilla told me she is 71. She was here to make peace with her only daughter who had ended a 26-year-old marriage for a life with lady workmate. A devotee Anglican, her mother had sunk into depression and denial. She had come for a reality exposure and to “see who else is in it.” Ronny, 62, said he turned up out of curiosity.

Only one in every 100 Britons identifies himself/herself as openly gay. But many more are believed to be bisexual or closeted homosexuals. The practical meaning of this is that whenever you see Joe and Jim chatting at the bar, you cannot tell whether it’s a boys’ conversation or a spousal date. And even when you are introduced, you don’t ask questions about such relations because it is considered insensitive to pry into others’ private lives.

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Story By Jeeh Wanjura
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