Addressing misinformation on LGBTIQ+ persons in Kenya

May 17th is the day in which the World Health Organization officially declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. This was some years after the 1973 removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric condition from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. Observed on May 17th globally is The International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). Launched in 2004 #IDAHOBIT celebrates LGBTQIA+ people around the world, championing inclusion and aiming to build a better world for the LGBTQIA+ community. This day celebrates LGBTQIA+ people and raises awareness for the work still needed to combat discrimination.

The theme of this year’s IDAHOBIT is, ‘Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights’, is a reminder that everyone must have the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives. Indeed, all of us must play a role in standing up and speaking out against hate, discrimination, and violence -wherever and whenever it occurs

Homophobia is the irrational fear and hatred towards persons with same-sex relations. This is seen in the society when families disown us after they discover our sexuality, when people advocate for stoning and killing of the LGBTI persons despite having no conflict with them, the association of us to cults is ways through which homophobia is evident. Homophobic attacks continue to exist in Kenya and the most recent is the killing and sexual assault of one Sheila Lumumba. A lot of the resentments towards LGBTIQ community in Kenya exist because of misinformation. Some questions commonly asked are addressed below:

Is Kenya a Christian state?

Kenya is not a Christian state. Article 8 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that the state and religion shall be different. Essentially this makes Kenya a secular state. Therefore limitation of rights based on religion is not within the letter and the spirit of Constitution.

Is homosexuality a Western concept?

Anthropologists have found evidence that homosexuality was widely practiced and tolerated in the African society; examples are the Azande warriors in Northern Congo, the Buganda royal family, the Yoruba god of thunder, in Kenya; the Nandi, Kuria, Akamba, Kipsigis also practiced traditional arrangements between same sex relations. The absence of words for homosexuality (or rather the absence of words that can be easily translated to English to mean this!), in some African languages, if this is true, is in not itself proof that gay people were never considered as existing outside of the norm in such traditional African societies.

Is Homosexuality normal?

Homosexuality is perfectly normal. It is a complete package of feelings and relationships that make up a natural and satisfying identity. Homosexuality has existed throughout humanity’s existence. Anthropologists report that lesbians and gay men have been and are a part of every culture. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are part of every socioeconomic class, educational level, and race/ethnicity.

Is homosexuality a mental illness?

Homosexuality is not mental illnesses. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the official listing of psychiatric disorders. The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness. The decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization was done in 1990

Can gay people become straight?

Sexual orientation is a term frequently used to describe a person’s romantic, emotional or sexual attraction to another person. This includes homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual tendencies. Reparative therapy and conversion therapy which is the treatment to change sexual orientation has been discredited by scientists and psychologists across the globe. Today’s mental health profession advocate for societal change rather than changing individuals’ sexual orientation

Could homosexuality destroy the family institution?

Advanced technological development in reproductive health, adoption, surrogacy and IVF are only some of the many options available to same sex couples.

Procreation is not the main purpose of relations as they are natural barriers like sterility and menopause that affect even the heterosexual relations.

Does Homosexuality lead to increase in pedophilia and other crimes?

Sexual orientation is different from pedophilia. Pedophiles are characterized by sexual urges or behaviors directed at non-consenting persons or those unable to consent like children, or that involve another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death. This difference clearly disbands the theory against any orientation.