I know that Jesus said that man shall not live on bread alone. I hold this truth to be true. There are great conversations and great experiences to be lived for as well. These are my daily loaves of bread. See, there is a way we have been socialized and cultured that we do not see beyond this messianic curtain of socialization. And we think that our ways are better than other people’s ways. We think that life is black and white in all its shades. We fail to recognize the turquoise before our eyes, or the magnificent magenta, the lilac, the chartreuse, the fern, the emerald, the pistachio or the hickory or the tawny. Yet these colors rudely glare in the folds of our eyes and spice our very existence.
It is about 4.00pm. Nzoia conference room– Crown Plaza. Curtains are drawn apart letting rays of light flood the room but kind on her skin. A little banter in the background drowns the slithering jazz music from the ceiling.
‘Take three now’ Jaymo utters, nonchalantly sinking back to his chair. He holds the I-phone steadily as he instructs the interviewer, Debby to ask the questions. Debby fiddles with her cluster of questions screenshotted on her phone.
Poised. She adjusted herself on the chair. Her legs graced the slit in her denim skirt revealing dexterously drawn tattoos curved into the pulps of her thighs and another at the ankle. Her skin was promising and wrestled Joana Lumley’s. They spoke of having eaten just enough avocado and schooled in the group of schools rather than polling stations and when they whispered to beckon you, they would say with an accent: “Where are you going?” not ‘Now you are going where.’ She crossed her legs, like all great women do when taking interviews. It is style. You wear it like you wear Christian Dior eau du parfum.
The fire in her belly unequivocally spoke of her thirst for equality, rights of SOGI (You are not rightfully in any profession if you cannot speak in the profession’s acronyms lest you are a perpetual outlander) and the feminist movement. For her, sexuality began in high school when she would send other girls love messages in a casual manner. Albeit, for her it was not just casual. There wasn’t casual for her. It was how she felt. And this did not change. This stuck—like your butt complexion. Some have very dark butts that if we were to describe sin, theirs would perfectly fit the description. Would you feel uncomfortable with the complexion of your butt? I doubt no. Such is sexual expression too. It is the birth mark on your thigh or the navel scar on your belly. It is there. Unbothered. Stark. Abjectly glaring.
Her eyes darted off to an unknown horizon away from the camera. She was fighting her passions evidently soggy in the tucks of her cheeks. She was perturbed. The expression of anger and gentleness mashed up together. She was not okay with the normal of society. Society had decided that her navel is too dark as compared to others; that her navel was not symmetrically positioned as compared to others; that her navel was too protruding that it’s a disrepute to the whole of humanity. Society considered her and many others as renegades. She decided to embrace who she was—with an asymmetrical, protruding navel; with candor, honesty and grit.
“How did you come out?” Debby asks. A smile slithers the white of her teeth through her graceful cheekbones followed by a gentle snicker. She adjusts her glasses on the bridge of her nose with her index finger.
“My mom found out through a text message in my phone,” she titters again.
“It was not pleasant. Just like a typical African parent, she was disturbed and she would ask herself what she did wrong to raise a child that she would be attracted to other girls”
She pauses. The gestures of her fingers speak of conviction. I observe the crafted tribal septum ring that slightly quaved with the heaving of her chest as she breathed. The ring evidenced her tribe. Her rebellion to conform. The renegade she was. The defiance of black and white and invitation of pomp in colors. The ring was the commitment to the struggle of the SOGI community. She takes a deep breath and says:
“People fail to understand the struggles of SOGI community. We are human beings born with rights and freedoms. We equally and rightfully belong in this space. We should belong here. We have a right to human dignity. Why are we having punitive laws in the penal code that have adverse effects to our right to health as well? We are being vilified and violence is meted on us because of our sexual orientation. Our struggles are far from over. Sections 162, 163 and 165 of the penal code should be repealed in order for us to have a milestone in our struggles.”
She tells me that she is a prayerful person. She is catholic. I ask her about religious fanaticism that is unwelcoming to SOGI community. She questions a God who hates differentiation and instigates hate rather than love. Her passion alone brings me to the conclusion that the greatest sin in this world is to live without passion. For this is just mere existence. Life is not kind to those who merely exist, life calls for people to live it. To fight for a cause. Samantha Ismail is a human rights defender and feminist committed to fight for gay rights.
*The names mentioned here are not the real names of the individuals I interacted with