How to come out as an African

When Binyavanga Wainaina, came out as gay recently, he wanted that news to appear in African-owned media and not be misrepresented in Euro-American media.

Binyavanga Wainaina (Internazionale, via Flickr CC)

In a recent interview with the American public radio service, NPR, the writer Binyavanga Wainaina (“I am a homosexual, mum”) explained why he did not include the fact that he was gay in his 2011 memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place: he didn’t think “my language is ready or lyrical enough to start talking about – you know, that sort of thing.”

As for why Binyavanga, no stranger to the media, made the announcement the way he did (it was first published simultaneously on Chimurenga and Africa is a Country as well as he made a six part YouTube video series on “What I Have to Say About Being Gay”), Binyavanga had this to say:

I’m a writer, and I’m an imaginative person. And I think I kind of had a feeling, having been in the media before, that the media kind of deals in sort of, you know, nice things, but bullet points, you know. In the heart of gay homophobia darkness in Africa, Binyavanga writes of peace. Binyavanga explained how homophobia in Africa works. And then you’re like, oh, gosh. Now how do I do that in 17 seconds?

So it was very important to me that first, that these things – I didn’t want this story published in The New Yorker or in some magazine abroad or anything. I wanted to put it out for people to share. I wanted to generate a conversation among Africans. I wanted to put up a documentary the day before – just talk around the issues in a certain way. So it’s a kind of, like, a little bit less our issue than – you know, I sometimes get the sense that it’s this thing of, my God, you Africans are very homophobic. I’m going to go and report it to the West. That sort of thing. I didn’t want that much of that. And I think that, you know, it did provoke – it did provoke a healthy conversation and a lot – a huge, huge amount of love and support. Like, I’ll be answering DM’s and e-mails and all kinds of things for months.

Listen here.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.

Writing while black

The film adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ leaves little room to explore Black middle-class complicity in commodifying the traumas of Black working-class lives.