Where the Gay Community Hangs Out
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
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
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