Two very different marriages by gay Kenyans living away from the country have been in the media spotlight this week, writes Melissa Wainaina for Behind the Mask.
A gay Kenyan couple who gained notoriety when the Kenyan media got wind of their nuptials in London two years ago are now getting divorced. Meanwhile, a Kenyan lesbian whose marriage to an American woman early this year also pushed them into the limelight is planning a support group for gay Kenyans abroad.
Daniel Chege and Charles Ngengi were married in London in October 2009 and the publicity around their wedding set off public debates about same sex unions in Kenya.
At the same time there were also a lot of media publicity and as a result families of the two men were unwillingly thrust into the media spotlight which caused problems for them in conservative rural Kenya where the whole idea of same sex unions seemed otherworldly. The family of one of the men even found itself the target of threats.
Now almost exactly two years later the gay couple are still making headlines in their home country as the leading Kenyan daily newspaper the Daily Nation published the story of the couple’s impending divorce.
According to the news story, Daniel Chege reportedly said the marriage was doomed from the beginning because of the negative publicity the couple got after the civil wedding.
The newspaper reported him saying, “We seem to have taken things for granted. We put so much effort in arranging and planning for the wedding and forgot to plan on how to deal with the aftermath, should public opinion turn against us.”
The newspaper story reported him saying that he only realised that his life would never be the same again after stepping out of the ceremony at the registrar’s parlour to be met by flashing cameras from people he had never seen before. “I wasn’t aware that some people, even journalists had turned up,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the United States another gay Kenyan faced similar reactions to those met by Chege and Ngengi after her wedding made the headlines in Kenya in April this year.
Terry Ng’endo originally from Kenya, endured a storm of criticism from Kenyans when reports of her marriage to partner Courtney Nicole was publicised by a guest at the couple’s reception in Johnson County who took notes and photos and sent the story to a Kenyan newspaper which published it.
The news of the same sex union brought trouble to Ng’endo’s family in Kenya. There were threats to burn down her sister’s bar and strangers harassed her mother. The resulting stress forced terry’s mother to seek treatment in hospital.
Speaking to a US paper the Kansas City Star in an article published on October 1 about the overwhelmingly negative reaction to her marriage, Ng’endo said, “I knew there was going to be a backlash. It was bad because I always think about my mama. I hate what happened to her.”
According to the report in the Kansas City Star, now that the dust has settled somewhat, Ng’endo and her partner Courtney Nicole are reaching out to other gay Africans by sharing their story.
They are also researching how to set up a group to support gay Africans both at home and abroad.