How to come out as an African (in the social media age)

Binyavanga Wainaina: " I wanted to generate a conversation among Africans."

Binyavanga Wainaina at the Brooklyn Book Festival in September 2009. Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

In an interview with NPR, Binyavanga Wainaina (“I am a homosexual, mum”) explained to host Celeste Heedlee 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 he, no stranger to the media, made the announcement the way he did (it was first published simultaneously on Chimurenga and Africa is a Country and he made a 6-part YouTube video on “What I Have to Say About Being Gay”), he explained it this way:

 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.

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