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#OurStories: “I never came out; I was outed” – George Barasa

It was as around mid-May of 2011 when a journalist from a newly launched newspaper The Star approached me. He suggested for a cup of tea and disguised as a gay man on Facebook. He met with me at a Meisner Café in a small town Bungoma and Oti Oteba was the name names he preferred to go by. It was only after we met that I knew it was a set up when John Nalianya whom I later established was his co-worker and their lawyer from Mwikali advocates joined the table. Two more who didn’t identify themselves but one had a gun appeared and stood next to me. A table that was meant for two was now a table for six.

My blackberry phone and a diary were taken away against my will. Based on the information on the diary and the phone I was forced to confess that I was an effeminate gay man and that I needed help to change. I was forced to ask to be taken to the hospital for HIV test and rehabilitation or be taken into police custody and be booked for an offence. I was too naïve and vulnerable and least to say a minor to understand or know my rights.

Four days later I was sent by my father to buy a newspaper which I did. I had no idea that I was on the second page with a very big picture of myself wearing a necklace, a gift I was given by my first love on our first date. The story in the paper confirmed their worst fears. During dinner, my brother asked ‘’Where did we go wrong?’’, My dad replied, “He can go ahead and be a beach boy”.

 

My efforts to try and get a court to stop The Star newspaper from publicizing the story further proved futile because LGBT community distanced themselves from my case and chose the side of the newspaper. It was my world against everyone. The safe house where I was staying sent me packing after two weeks of being sexually abused believing that was the price I had to pay for my safety.

In the school, the library refused to remove the newspaper with an article about me from the shelves. A music label that was mentoring me dropped me from their programme. I became a clear definition of grace to grass. No Radio station wanted to play my music anymore. Everyone now had an explanation on the reason I was a model. To them, it was because I wanted to be like a woman!

I lost the love of my life. My first love. He was the one who had ever loved me and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was alive. He brought me closer to God by the fact that he was a priest. I also lost my life. I lost part of me. I lost my place in the society. I lost my privacy and I became a subject of controversy on social media as a social person. For the first time everything I took for granted, everything I ignored or was arrogant about was no longer guaranteed.

 

 

My family become the laughing stock of the town. They received countless phone calls from rehabilitation centres, churches and juvenile detentions to seek both spiritual and medical intervention to change me. Seeing them suffer on my behalf broke my heart. One day I woke up only to be told that I’m a prodigal son and therefore I should leave home I had known for nearly 20 years. I was not equipped to deal with the outside world. I was naive, vulnerable and uneducated.

I never came out in the first place. I was outed. I was deprived off my childhood. I was never a boy. From a child, I became an adult. An adult with responsibilities but without rights. I was a subject of ridicule this time round not in the village but all over the country. However, to capitalize on my newly found fame and limited fortune, I launched a career as a successful singer, activist and educated myself and winning accolades in the process.That is when I came out to officially put everything to rest.

I did it as a defence mechanism. I knew that by admitting it was a step to end all the discrimination and stigma. I knew my word can no longer be used against me. At the peak of my success, not only did I use my own story to inspire others to come out but I became the voice of those who could not come out. I took every resentment directed to them. I became their shield. I provided them with a home I never had. I opened my doors for them. Gave them food, clothes and shelter. I fulfilled my dream of a safe house. They ran to me and I gave them refuge. Unfortunately, it was not about to last long.

 

 

Right now, I have taken a break from LGBT activism to figure out what really went wrong. How did I come to skip a very important stage in my life? Why was I never a teenager? I am now trying to climb the ladder. I have had to change the environment to a place where no one knows me so I can start from where everything stopped. If you ask me I would tell you that I am in a better place right now and I am happy with my new life away from the where nobody looks at me and the first thing they see is gay.

I am still open about my sexuality but I’m not out living. It should be known that no one has any right to out someone. Whether it is legal or acceptable to be gay or bisexual, transgender, intersex, it still is a personal and continuous journey and there is no formula of coming out. I am not really the best person to advice you but I am the best example of how not to come out. Once I have found the answer only then will I come out for a third time knowing I’m doing it out of my own experience.

 

 

George Barasa (Jojibaro) is a Kenyan LGBTI artist and Musician who identifies as a gender non conforming person. They have experience in LGBTI health and Human rights Advocate with an interest in Art, entertainment, media and Social Entrepreneurship. Founder of Out In Kenya, Founding member Committee of Cosmopolitan Affirming Church and Lead Artist with Art Attack Band(Same Love-Remix). Former Kichu Times Kenya Correspondent. He is also an Alumni of Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). He is now an intern at Center For Human Rights in Africa.

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