The Revd Michael Kimindu, the contact person for Changing Attitude in Kenya, told me on the ‘phone yesterday that he gave shelter to a gay man who was attacked on Saturday evening, 3 October and has now arranged for him to be housed safely in a nearby location.
The man who was attacked is a long standing member of a prominent Anglican church where he takes an active role in the services. He grew up in the parsonage of the church where his father, now deceased, was the priest.
In a telephone conversation, the gay man described the events that led up to the attack.
“Not long ago, a certain neighbour of mine, a fellow Kenyan, came to my home and introduced himself. He was very friendly and so we had talks together about life in general. With time, he told me he had a job working for an organization (which he named) that has health programmes for the gay community. He said he wanted to understand “what is this thing about gays, and how does it work, and if there are any gays in Kenya.” He told me that he was just beginning to hear about gay people and needed to understand more about it. I decided to open up to him and tell him I was gay. When I did, we had a long conversation. He asked me questions in a very nice manner.
“Then things changed. He said he was trying to gather information to confirm that I was gay because there should not be any gays in society. He said he was going to take action. Then he started asking me if I had any money. He said he would tell someone in the neighbourhood that I am gay – someone who would not take the information very kindly. If I wanted him to keep quiet about my orientation then I was to give him money. I thought, at first, he was joking. He said he studied criminology and could do what he said he would do.
“On the night of the beating, this same neighbour who had blackmailed me, came to my home and grabbed me and told me to come with him. He said he was taking me to see a certain friend of mine which he also knew. He named the friend and he was, indeed, a very good friend of mine. He said if I would not go with him he would start screaming to everyone nearby that I am gay and that I had tried to molest him. I said, “OK, if you want my friend to know, let’s go.” I didn’t know if they had planned this together, but I decided it would make things easier for me if I were to go. I felt that my good friend would take the time needed to understand me and accept me still as his friend. However, I was shocked by his reaction. He didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say. He just said, “I knew he was gay. He should be killed. He should be destroyed. Don’t let him say another word. Let’s just hit him and let’s make sure he is destroyed.”
“The neighbour who had grabbed me and forced me to my good friend’s home said, “You accept that you are gay and that you should not be gay?” I tried to explain to them both that there is nothing wrong in being gay; that gay people are normal human beings; that gay people do no wrong to any one; that they need to be given the opportunity to explain what they go through, that is, the kind of stigmatization they experience in society. But they would not listen to any of this.
“There, at his home, my very good friend said, “I have a gun. We have to destroy him. I don’t care if he is my best friend. He isn’t anymore.”
“I think my very good friend was homophobic all along, but he had no evidence that I was gay until this night when I admittedly told him I was gay. I told them they needed to understand. I told them that I have accepted myself as a gay man and that if I have done anything criminal then, instead of hitting me, they needed to call the police and write up a report against me. But they said, “No, we just have to hit you.”
“It was my very good friend that started to excite to action the others who were there. They started hitting me and saying they should call the brother who plays rugby – that he would deal with me properly; that he would hit me at the end of each day until I become normal. And that I should no longer live in the neighbourhood.
“As they hit me they shouted, “You can change, you can change.” They were hitting me so I would change and would understand that I needed to be heterosexual. A crowd was being drawn in by the commotion and my good friend was telling them to hit me and beat me and not to listen to anyone who said otherwise.
“The beating resulted in swelling to the head and chest with bleeding. My mouth and lips are swollen because they stepped on me and jumped on me. They actually did call the rugby guy and a second guy in town. They lifted me up and threw me on the ground and then stepped on my head.
“Ladies near by started screaming, “They are going to kill this man.” Some people starting saying, “Let him live.” These people saved my life. Two men held back the guys who were attacking me, saying, “You have to stop this!” At that point I had a chance to get away and went to my home, locked the door, and went to my room. But they still came after me. They attempted to break the door in. Instead, they broke all the windows in the house. They told me they would return in the morning to destroy me.”
The man went to the hospital. At some point he was able to contact Michael Kimindu, At the hospital the victim was given a medical report which was presented to the police. The man expressed willingness to go public on any level at some time in the future in order to prevent further bashings of gays. “I won’t fear coming out,” he said, “because I don’t want someone else to go through what I have gone through.” For safety, he is staying with his partner in a secret location.
Michael Kimindu says: “The church will not speak up for the gay person – not even in the face of something like this. The attackers were people that know the man. They were from his home area. The attackers were not armed; they used their bare hands. He cannot open his mouth to take in food. He has to drinks with a straw.
Commenting on the need for change Kenya, Michael said, “I’m telling you, the Kenyan church in general will not do anything for the safety of gay people. They will only bash them. According to the churches in Kenya, when you are gay and getting beaten you are getting your reward – what you deserve. They look at gays and those who support gay rights as sinners and when something goes wrong with us, they conclude that God must be punishing us. The church is against the gay person, so it will not speak up for them. Kenya must change so that there is safety and security for everyone.”