Global Politics

Why one Kenyan writer decided it was time to come out of the closet

"I am homosexual, mum." That's the title of a short essay by Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

He came out publicly this past week when the essay, which he called a “Lost Chapter” from his 2011 memoir "One Day I Will Write About This Place," was published.

In it, he imagines telling his mother about his sexuality as she lays dying in a hospital.

But Wainaina never got that chance to tell his mother. She died while he was living abroad.

Instead, it took more than a decade after her death until Wainaina made this decision to come out.

“I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine,” he wrote in his essay.

Kenya is one of several African countries that has passed anti-gay laws. Earlier this month, Nigeria introduced a law outlawing homosexuality.

Under that law, same-sex couples who live together can be punished up to 14 years in prison. Uganda also has an anti-gay bill in progress.

Wainaina felt that it was time for him to come out in public, in hopes to spark more of a conversation about gay rights on the African continent.

“For me it’s important that piece was written when I wanted to find myself in a place of love in the public domain, when very serious things are looming in Uganda and in Nigeria,” Wainaina said.

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