“I am Homosexual” – Kenyan Author Binyavanga Wainaina Reveals

Binyavanga Wainaina on BellaNaija - January 2014

One of Africa’s most admired authors Binyavanga Wainaina from Kenya has revealed that he is gay.

His coming out has made Binyavanga one of the highest profile Africans to reveal details about their sexuality.

Homosexual acts are illegal in several African countries; most recently in Nigeria.

Binyavanga Wainaina came out this week by releasing a “lost chapter” from his 2011 memoir “One Day I Will Write About This Place”. To read the full article, click here.

Read excerpts below;

I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.

Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.

“ She’s gone, Ken.”

I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.

I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.



Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.

It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.

I am five years old.

He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people’s patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people’s movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twentysomething years, I even hug men awkwardly.

There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.

I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.

In an interview with Newshour, he spoke on what it means to be gay.

57 Comments on “I am Homosexual” – Kenyan Author Binyavanga Wainaina Reveals
  • TT January 22, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Na wa oh, all men are gay these days

    • scientist January 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      No you are mistaken, some people are gays evryday and everytime

  • Paul January 22, 2014 at 9:09 am

    I see…

  • amaaa January 22, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I guess being Gay in Africa has become a pathway to fame and recognition good luck to him

  • Grace January 22, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Hmmmm he is such a good writer i must say…..but bn gay#smh…..#disgusting.

    • Swtzee January 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Yea, Good writer, But have people forgotten what happened to the people of Sodom?

  • Vanessa January 22, 2014 at 9:20 am

    I am a Heterosexual, nice meeting you. Maybe the cost of maintaining a girl is now very expensive, because gays are out-numbering lesbians with serious alacrity. For my future husband, in order for you not to turn gay before or after we meet, I have decided to be on a low cut hair and to be modest and not-to-expensive in my dressing. The only jewellery I will wear will be our wedding ring and any wristwatch you can afford comfortably.

  • Bella January 22, 2014 at 9:26 am

    What is this world coming to. People don’t you see the end if nigh for us humans. How do we procreate and fill the land of Moses when men are now gay? What is all this? the devil is surely alive and decaying the moral of this land. He is attacking families. God have mercy on us all.

    • Franfan January 22, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Shut up. Are ALL men gay? Are ALL women lesbians? How ignorant!

  • Ohboy January 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Beautiful story, a beautiful beautiful one. Unfortunately it would take 3 generation of enlightenment for the people in primitive pseudoreligious countries like Nigeria to understand that being gay is not a choice, like being straight is also not a choice. It is what you are born with, not an infection but a trait that nothing can be done about because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
    This same primitive people who have failed to understand that more than 10% of them actually fall into these category of people including their husbands, daughters, wives and sons, but would rather live in denial and point fingers. They are not better than the majority who advocated for slavery or the killing of twins simply because it was the “religio-traditional” thing to do.
    I am straight but if my child is gay i would shield him/her from the madness of primitive people who judge, stifle and kill others to get to a phantom land of virgins and milk and honey. I would shield my child and take him/her to a place where primitive people are a minority.

    Let the foolishness of people through the word of their god begin begin with the curses to repeat history as history would always be repeated through new foolishness for the ages.

    • CC January 22, 2014 at 9:48 am

      you seem to use the word “primitive” ever so frequently, you know you can get you message across without name calling

      • Ohboy January 22, 2014 at 11:34 am

        Probably. I use the word for impact though, and i also think it is true and not just bashful.

    • amaaa January 22, 2014 at 9:48 am

      I beg to defer you ARE NOT BORN GAY please. It is a choice, its Ok to choose to be gay its your cup of tea just be ready to live with the consequencies. But please let us heterosexuals be .You don’t see us making such a big deal out of our sexuality. Nigerian is a Sovereing Nation capable of making its own decisions with out foreign interference we did not force you to accept polygamy because it is against your culture let us be and quit acting like we committed genocide. jeeze all these gay talk is disgusting especially with all the cruelty happening in Syria etc please can we move over already to more intellectual discuss that absolutely have nothing to do with sex be it heterosexual or homosexual

      • Ohboy January 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

        You do not think it is cruel to meddle with someones happiness? You think it is not an intellectual discussion the right to happiness of fellow human beings? You think people choose to be gay? I am sure you also think the world is 2000 years old right? Or maybe a few thousand more.
        Imagine your hatred and disgust right now and picture a white person looking at you with that hatred and disgust because you are black. That is EXACTLY what you are doing right now. And believe me, their argument for racism is just as intelligent as your argument against the happiness of a people you do not know.

      • scientist January 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm

        what a dumb and ignorant -?

      • Cancel Reply January 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

        “ARE NOT BORN GAY please”, pray do tell, how do you know this? How can you authoritatively say this? Are you gay? and did you choose your sexual orientation?

    • nomad January 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Finally a voice of reason. Thank you.

      Binyavanga’s story is pure beauty.

    • ijeoma January 22, 2014 at 10:35 am

      Thank you for this.

    • Omo1 January 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

      @Ohboy..Oh pleeeeeeeeaaassssssse..there’s no such thing as it not being a choice..no body is born with such.On the contrary it is TOTALLY a thing of choice to choose to become gay. Its like saying you can not stop practicing sin cos its not a thing of choice.every path any one chooses is a thing of personal choice..why did God not allow Sodom and Gomorrah continue on with such practice? why did He destroy the whole nation cos of the such heightened degree of immorality..cos they didn’t have a choice? what about trying to fight it? Don’t try to shove your personal ‘ish’ down other people’s throat abeg!

      • scientist January 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        wow! cant believe the ignorance of African people. really savages. Do you people even open a book before coming and spewing such ignorant comments?

      • madamnk January 23, 2014 at 10:10 am

        God did not destroy sodom and gomorrah just because of homosexuality. You need to read your bible more. God destroyed them because they were haughty and did detestable things. Abraham asked God if he would destroy the city if there were 10 righteous people and God said he wouldn’t. So you want to say the only sins these people committed was homosexuality?

    • Camilia January 26, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      It is pathetic when the first thing that crosses a persons mind when they meet others is about there sexual orientation. Anyway just to correct you there, it would take more than 3 generations to clear primitive ignorance from Nigerians. You see that very idiot gene seems not to be able to skip a generation , it keeps on being repeated as if by incest. It would take an apocalyptically event to bring Nigeria out of its vicious cycle of ignorance.

  • edie January 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

    u r homosexual? so unnatural, please have it fixed lol.
    Gay rights activists will first want to sob their way into our hearts and then demand to be allowed; then pedophiles will queue up too and who knows what next!!

    • alvin January 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

      that was such a childish and useless comment…how is homosexuality related to being a pedophile?????if u are going to make a comment,at least think it through…..dont make it just because u hear others say it…….

    • madamnk January 23, 2014 at 10:12 am

      so consensual sex between 2 adults can now be likened to sexual assault between an adult and a child? Please reason like you actually have a brain

  • karen January 22, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Soo happy for you, your life, your choice. Nothing wrong beein a gay, but we say no to gay marriage not in this generation or many genetions to come.

  • NaijaBorn_YankeeLivingBoBo January 22, 2014 at 10:21 am

    So I met Binyavanga fellow in Nigeria in Ake Arts Festival in Nigeria. He was cool and very opinionated. However, he seems very confused. Simply. This same evil world system that seeks to exchange light for darkness and calls good evil can’t deceive everyone. These same folks will call men in Africa that practice polygny ( a man who has more than 1 wife) “primitive” – give me a break. To all my beautiful queens out there, make you pray well well oh for discernment. It’s getting real out here. We all need love and understanding. We dont need to conform to the lies/pressures the world attempts to foist on us. May God give us all the wisdom to navigate wisely in this world and to speak thee truth in love to ALL people, amen.

  • Vanessa January 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

    @Ohboy, you are gay.

  • ijeoma January 22, 2014 at 10:25 am

    The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision. —Lynn Lavner

    • Ese January 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Wrong!!! The Bible contains 6 admonitions to homosexuals and 362 admonitions to humans whether homosexual or heterosexual.

  • Iyke January 22, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Mate,don’t let FEAR own you. Fear…invited…
    Fear has created a desperate state…an emotional break…a disturbing fate.compelled the pregnant pause of hearts…afraid to mingle…they remain single…apart..Love confused…feeds on borrowed doubt…..Time seeds indifference…unwilling to work it out…Life prepared to leave you broken…lonely…if not alone…Hiding behind the fear that owns you…I beg you brother, DON’T LET life walked on without you.

  • ijeoma January 22, 2014 at 10:32 am

    “It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain.”
    -Francis Maude

    The most violent element in society is ignorance.”
    -Emma Goldman

  • ijeoma January 22, 2014 at 10:32 am

    “It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain.”
    -Francis Maude

    The most violent element in society is ignorance.”
    -Emma Goldman

    The most violent element in society is ignorance.”
    -Emma Goldman

  • http://www.thelmathinks.blogspot.com/ January 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

    “The feeling is not sexual. It is certain”. Hmmm. Lord I honestly don’t care about this man’s sexuality, just teach me to write this good. Maybe better (I dare to wish. Lol.)


  • NaijaBorn_YankeeLivingBoBo January 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

    @ Ikyye: what the heck are you talking ’bout bruh? Lol

  • osy January 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I don’t understand how someone can say he knew he was gay ever since he was five when his mind should ve been filled with childish fantasies or maybe thoughts of watching Ben 10 atleast. Pls parents let’s start early to teach our children the ways of God so that they will not dePart from them when they grow and Naija pple let’s not become more western than the westerners o
    !.Say no to evil, Yep! I’m primitive.

    • Franfan January 22, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Shut up. It’s your soiled mind that equates being gay to strictly sexual activities. It’s more than sex.

    • madamnk January 23, 2014 at 10:19 am

      First of all, the things parents are teaching their children will depart whether you like it or not. Or explain to me how a child who has been taught that fornication is bad will grow up and have sex with multiple women and leave them heartbroken.
      second, homosexuality has been with africans long before the 20th century. Learn about your history, motsoalle by the Lesotho women, Azande warriors in Congo taking on young lovers. Do not be silly please..

  • Thatgidigirl January 22, 2014 at 11:14 am

    half of the men are married, the other half are gay. There goes my dreams of getting married 🙁 going to become a nun jare. *sigh

  • zelda January 22, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    what is wrong is wrong,it is wrong, God is never wrong, i dont kno how God will allow or make some people to be born gay and stop us from practising it,if people can be born gay then God will not have called it a sin.

    • Omo1 January 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Good point!

    • madamnk January 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

      So why does God call fornication a sin? People are not born heterosexual?

  • scientist January 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Cant believe the ignorance being spewed in this thread? Is ignorance the culture of an African? I am appalled!!

  • ‘Midé January 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    These are interesting times. Things are changing.I guess those behind it would have to get with the program.

  • ‘Midé January 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Me I like women o! The less men in the market, the more marketable those available become. Now man go fit pick and choose. Abeg, any woman interested please send in your application. Lol.

    • Eve82 January 23, 2014 at 3:31 am

      Lol! I went on a date with a guy who asked me why I was
      still single, I told him good men are hard to fine. It is either
      they are married, or gay…and he burst out laughing 🙂

    • Eve82 January 23, 2014 at 3:33 am


  • dami January 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    @scientist what’s with the name calling? A beg wake pass and pack well, if you can’t handle what people are saying here, move on to other blogs mtcheew. Why are people talking like it’s only africans that think about homosexuality like this, did you hear of the UKIP member that spoke about it? So many people even whites think it’s wrong but they keep their opinions to themselves or only share it with close people. All these “africaness” doesn’t mean we should not be opinionated.

  • olori Tari January 22, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Awwww ! What a beautiful piece. Bless him 🙂

  • madamnk January 23, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I’m tired of all the ignorance being spewed here. Hypocrites, who pick and choose what they want to believe in the bible. The bible condemned homosexuals? well honey, the bible condemns premarital sex including many other things you do not adhere to. Do you go to jail for it? No, but you are fine supporting others to go to prison for theirs’. Just because you sin differently, doesn’t make you better than the next person.

  • Omo1 January 23, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    @Madamnk..They are all tagged sin my dear so stop getting overly bitter..fornication, homosexuality, gay..etc and so far God has not condoned one over the other. Every body practices these things and it is kind of nobody’s business..but since some people have decide to carry this particular same sex marriage issue on their head..that is where the real problem lies..its just like coming into our faces to tell us to keep practicing fornication because it is right(even if we know a lot of us practice it anyway)..of course no one has been jailed so far for committing fornication but try going to one of those sharia states and do it, and see if you will not be chopped in pieces.
    Same way we frown at pedophiles and the likes of it is the same way we frown at same sex marriage..bottom line, no matter how much all you gay people try to make it look okay, IT IS NOT NATURAL! Shikena!

    • madamnk January 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      No I’m not bitter and no I’m not gay either. If people were sent to jail for committing fornication, will you support it? If you won’t, then you’re a hypocrite which is the problem with most of you anyway. Don’t talk to me about sharia law because Nigeria is a secular state. It is not natural to you, so you should imprison people who were born with it because you and your fellow people with your bigoted views can feel satisfied? Clap for yourself.

  • JEWELZ January 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Can we just agree that there is a certain level of tolerance that we should indeed practise?

  • Anessa Kowalsteh January 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    i dey catch cold!

  • Kina January 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I believe that what will send people to hell is their ignorance fuelled by hate. Hate being the worst sin becos it blinds u to the beauty and peace of the truth.

  • but… February 23, 2014 at 5:49 am

    well, first of all, i don’t get the whole equating racism to homophobia; you can hide your being gay, but you can’t hide being black. I think gay people have been with us in Africa and there were no frictions per se. Things have gotten that way because the west(that has not legalised gay unions by the way… whatever happened to practice what you preach?) has decided that we should accept what they won’t. I don’t care what you say, but there is such thing as the norm which is what most people do, hence the name. Being gay is not unnatural, but it is an anomaly. So why should i accept people waving their sexuality all over my face? The gay people who even make things harder are the “queens”: you know the kind who claim to be men who love men but are trying to be even more feminine than women? That debate doesn’t concern Africa yet. First of all let’s think of our people(straight or gay) who suffer so much daily, about all the corruption, exploitation, pain we go thru. When we would have handle that, then we will have the latitude to talk about gay people. I get it they are people who deserve to be happy too, but what is a few people in comparison of the destiny of a race? Let Africa heal the wounds that have been inflicted to us for the 500 years, then we shall talk about what happens in our bedrooms. Just sayin’…

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