I am bisexual. I did not learn that word until high school, did not realise the implications of my feelings until I heard the word ‘lesbian’ called out in the parade. I was young, naive and sheltered from the realities of the world. My parents had never uttered the word ‘sex’ in my life and the little I knew was through the movies I would watch when there was no one around, the little passing moments in a soap opera when the remote is quickly grabbed and the channel quickly changed while eyes are averted. Still, I noticed girls and boys. Boys first, girls came later. My attraction to girls was never acknowledged. It resided under the surface and I never thought about it as a child until I was ten years old and I kissed a girl. Like the Katy Perry song, I liked it. I never acknowledged it. It did not seem like something that needed to be acknowledged because, in my household, all sex was bad sex.

My father was a pastor for most of my life. I say ‘was’ because once I was old enough to recognise right from wrong, I felt his actions could not possibly be justified. I was a Christian then, but not anymore. Life was blanketed by the bible, the church, the prayers, and Sunday school. All of them taught that sex outside marriage was bad, so we never learnt what it even was. With this little knowledge or lack thereof, I entered high school.  It is a famous school, in the cold and leafy outskirts of Nairobi. It is highly respected, always on the news and holds a prominent place in meme culture. Still, I don’t like saying I went there, unlike many of my schoolmates.

High school was the first time I heard the word ‘lesbian’, and had it defined to me. ‘Lesbian’ was presented as dirty and sinful. It was an abomination that we were told over and over again to avoid lest we damn ourselves to hell at our passing or in the school environment, get targeted. It was the first time the idea of same-sex attraction was defined to me and my horror I was one! I feared being found out and targeted. Once found out one would be a target for gossip, and constant bullying by teachers, some of whom would take offenders out of class and make them work around the school for the whole day, missing classes for the crime of being human. They would be subject to public shaming which would be repeated over and over again, in the hopes that these desires which were deemed satanic would magically dissipate. In a way, it was conversion therapy, through humiliation and constant castigation.

My solution was to hide. I hid the truth about myself and when confronted in conversation, I would iterate the gospel that was taught at the school and die inside a little every time. I convinced myself that it was nothing, that that wasn’t really who I was. I was a Christian, I had served in church and lived the gospel way all my life. Maybe I didn’t like girls. Maybe I was just lying to myself. Maybe if I prayed hard enough and ignored it long enough I would forget all the crushes I ever had. I threw myself into the Christian Union. Many 5 am weekdays found me in the chapel, praying, devoting myself. At 6 pm, when classmates drank tea or cocoa and socialised before evening preps I was kneeling in the chapel, praying, reading the bible. Saturday nights I was at the Christian Union without fail. This was followed by Sunday afternoons after the official school service. My life revolved around penance, paying my dues, and hoping God would change me. He did not. I fell into depression in form two and started self-harming. 

I was sure I was going to hell since all the effort I had put in was not paying off. I still liked girls. I rationalized and swallowed all the things the teachers, pastors, classmates and I said about people like me. What the bible said about people like me. I did not want to be an outcast like all the others like me. This contributed to me oscillating between anger and sadness. I withdrew from friends. In my third year of high school, I stopped going to church my parents fought about it until I was allowed the independence to choose whether or not I did. Doubt had settled in me and I started to doubt the things I fed, to doubt the attitude of my pastors towards people like me.  I felt the least we deserved was respect. My heart sank at stories that my teachers told, about excluding us, about castigating those who defended us. I grew angry when a teacher said she would rather we get pregnant than like our fellow girls. I started to distance myself from them as well, not needing their approval, arguing against their reasons and doubting this reference book- the bible.

I came out to my closest friends, a year after high school. My friends learn about it the closer we get and I can say I have been lucky to have friends that support me and do not shame me for who I am. Although my family does not acknowledge the existence of people like me, I am content. Every time the thoughts resurface I have words of reassurance. No, you are not sick, you are not dirty nor an abomination. You do not deserve to be hurt by others for who you are. You do not need to hurt yourself for who you are. Most importantly, you do not need the approval of others to accept yourself.  You are ENOUGH!

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