‘Rafiki’ is making enemies of people everywhere

I’ve met Ezekiel Mutua a couple of times, and you know what? He’s far less annoying in person. He’s not the intolerant ogre that he seems to be. He just has a funny way with words. Even if he’s saying something you might agree with, nine out of ten times, his delivery will change your mind. Which is all very unfortunate because he’s often at the centre of very important conversations. The type of conversations that we all desperately need to have. Like the one about Rafiki.

From the get-go, Rafiki should have given Kenyans an opportunity – yet another one – to decide how to situate homosexuality in the culture. Instead, it turned into a court case. Which is another thing, when did we become such a litigious society? Who died and made the judiciary the sole and eternal arbiter? Some of the things we ask the courts to mediate and pronounce themselves on are outside their moral jurisdiction. After all, they can only provide legal solutions. I often wonder why we have given lawyers and judges so much room to arbitrate our norms and traditions. Wouldn’t a social contract be much effective? I digress.

About Rafiki. It has been said that what you resist, persists. So, for as long as you refuse to deal with your issues they will continue to rise to the surface. The universe has a way of throwing the same hard stuff at you until you figure it out. And yes, the lessons keep coming until you learn them. This, my friends, is why the ‘gay question’ continues to arise. Because rather than tackling it head-on, with the willingness to remain objective and open-hearted, the heteronormative Kenyan collective refuses to engage. It’s easier to say that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and then to bury our heads in the sand.

Because rather than tackle it head on, with the willingness to remain objective and open-hearted, the heteronormative Kenyan collective refuses to engage.

And if it’s not un-African, then it’s un-Christian, which is strange because ‘African-ness’ in its purest form, has very little in common with Christianity. So being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, pansexual, non-binary, questioning, or whatever else can only be one or the other. For the most part.

The truth is that many ancient cultures, including those in Africa, acknowledged both the masculine and the feminine as divine energies that were not necessarily restricted to either the male or the female form. They recognized that there would always be a percentage of people – typically a very small percentage – that would embrace the fluidity of those energies. After all, every child is born of a man, and a ‘womb-an’, and therefore every child is somewhere on the spectrum between male and female.

Some cultures still believe that at both ends of this spectrum, there are gatekeepers, people who exist on the fringes of the traditional male/female dichotomy. In those cultures, these people typically embrace a form of sexuality that is other than the norm. And because of that ‘otherness’, they have a unique perspective, and an innate ability to apply unique solutions to everyday problems.

So, what we now call the LGBTQ community, has been around for as long as everybody else has. But for various reasons across the ages, the levels of tolerance for their existence have either risen or fallen. For instance, in post-war periods, when repopulation becomes a priority, focus typically shifts from sexual actualisation to baby-making, which is a natural function of heterosexual unions. That said, perhaps the most abiding reason for the discrimination against homosexuality – and gay men in particular – is the fear that being around them can ‘turn you gay’. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that if you turn gay from contact with a gay person, then you were gay, to begin with.

There is also the fear, particularly in the Kenyan context, that we are reaching a point of gay saturation, that there are too many gay people running around, and that that is somehow a threat to our nationhood. Look, even in America, where being homosexual has been accepted more and more over the years, the percentage of folks who identify as LGBTQ is less than 10 per cent. There is no chance of a gay takeover, not in the near future.

What we all need to do is live, and let live. How people express their humanity shouldn’t be such a great concern, especially if that expression does not infringe on your rights. The amount of time that is spent judging other people for their lifestyles could be better spent thinking about things that affect all of us as Kenyans. Like taxes.


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