Last edited: February 05, 2005

Where the Gay Community Hangs Out

Society, February 5, 2005
The Standard Group
I & M Building, Kenyatta Avenue,
P.O Box 30080, 00100 GPO, Nairobi-Kenya.
Tel: +254 20 3222111, Fax: +254 20 214467.

By Tony Mochama

For the gay community in 2004 Nairobi, their world isn’t at all much different from that of homosexuals in 1904 London—a visible yet invisible world constructed by societal constraints.

In Nairobi, the homosexual community is a close-knit one that often operates in private homes and behind closed doors, unwilling to come out of the closet—at least until recently when ‘representatives’ of the gay community in Kenya have began appearing on radio shows and showing a more visible face of an invisible world.

Guy Sannie, the Secretary General of a 500-strong homosexuals and lesbians organisation called Bozianna, that has a lilt of the Congolese to it, says: “I was in Dubai for a gay conference in December that saw us discuss financing with our Arab comrades. In January, we were at Whitesands Hotel for another conference to discuss the challenge of HIV to the gay community in Kenya, especially the men.”

Sannie is off for another February conference in Kampala with his chairman, a man called Man, and they are determined that homosexuality gets a voice, and no longer stays as what Oscar Wilde called “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Although the homosexual lifestyle is often an underground theatre performed behind the shut doors of even diplomats’ homes, especially since the players are often more upper crust, there are public pubs and clubs that its practitioners prefer.

Simmers, on Kenyatta Avenue, often simmers with a few gays. Steps is another pub that a few gays step into. Gypsies, in Westlands, has had a few homosexuals wandering into its terrain. East of Nairobi, Buru Buru clubs have recently had a small influx of these alternative life-stylists. Not that these pubs are ever exclusively gay by any stretch of the imagination, no! They all are by far and large normal clubs, with little pockets of homosexuals preferring to, once in a while, enjoy their drink there.

Openly socialising has never been easy for the gay people. Take cosmopolitan London a hundred years ago, as an example. This secretive yet exhibitionistic lifestyle, threatened by Victorian morality and piety, adopted a nomadic social pattern, with meeting places changing from epoch to epoch to avoid easy detection of their frowned-upon activities.

One of the gay pastimes that has remained popular in the West is the private gay ‘do’ or party. Here, all manner of activities can proceed in the privacy of the gay host’s house, closed curtains keeping prying eyes firmly out.

Although drag parties and cross-dressers are still fashionable, transvestites and sex-changers are definitely ‘out’.

In English homosexual circles, one does not advertise one’s gayness with make-up, showy jewellery, clothes in conspicuous colours and so on. In fact, ostentatious clothing and jewellery is for the straight, tough, young man with hip-hop tendencies. Many gay men now favour city suits and power ties. The irony is that many straight men are increasingly becoming ‘metrosexuals’—that is, putting on all sorts of lotions and moisturisers, doing manicures and pedicures, styling their hair, and, in a phrase, taking fastidious care of their appearance in a manner traditionally associated with women.

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