LGBTQI+ repression in East Africa: ‘They say that Westerners are turning us gay’


Koei lives in a permanent state of tension. A baby-faced young man in his early-20s, he works in an insurance agency on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. But he carries a secret, a part of his identity. Koei is actually a trans man. But, except for a couple of close friends, the people around him — friends, neighbors, coworkers, clients — have no idea. And he intends to keep it that way. “I worry that my friends will slip up,” he admits. He worries constantly that someone will share his secret. His country’s political climate invites people like Koei to hide and not attract too much attention. His social life doesn’t include bars: he only goes to some LGBTQ collective parties, occasional “safe spaces” in Nairobi. Meanwhile, in other, smaller cities across Kenya, the idea of a rainbow-decorated party is a far-off dream.

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