Homophobia is rampant in Kenya. Despite the challenging environment, an openly gay man is running for a seat in the new Senate established by the nation’s 2010 constitution.
Politician David Kuria Mbote once took an elevator in a Nairobi building alone after a group of people he had been waiting with recognized him as a gay rights activist.
“I entered the lift without thinking then realized no one wanted to join me,” he says. “Most of the people in the group were human rights activists going to the same conference I was attending. I couldn’t help but marvel at their hypocrisy.”
The 38-year-old man says he has faced this kind of discriminaton regularly for being openly gay in the largely homophobic Kenyan society. But he has learned to brush such incidents aside. He says he doesn’t mind when men avoid talking to him in public for fear that people may think they are gay.
Save for some tiny gray patches of hair, Mbote looks much younger than his age. He could easily pass for a man in his 20s with his slight build and easygoing nature. But it is his determination that dumbfounds both his friends and foes.
He comes from Kiambu, a county bordering Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. His conservative community considers him an outcast because of his sexuality and gay rights activism, which he has done for 10 years.
But Mbote now hangs up the boots of gay rights activism to seek political office. He is running to be his county’s senator in the country’s newly established Senate. He believes he will win the seat, bigotry in his community notwithstanding.
Mbote says he aims to change the game of politics – campaigning with social media and committing himself to good governance in order to effect positive social change. If elected, he says his main priority would be creating laws to fight HIV. But he has a challenging campaign ahead, as many people here reject homosexuality on the basis of religion. Voters are giving a mixed response on whether they would vote for a gay politician.
– full report at UPI.com.
- Gay politicians and the tabloid press (bbc.co.uk)
- Nairobi’s gay rights revolution (matadornetwork.com)
- Josh A. Goodman: Where Are the Gay Male Olympians? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Ireland elects first openly gay mayor (newstalk.ie)