My LGBTQ life in Kenya — part 2

I came home to a room full of strangers. This was nothing unusual because my mother hosted Christian vigils that went on the whole night. I assumed it was one of those. But as I made my way to my bedroom, a woman I didn’t recognise stopped me.

“Join us, please.” She said as she extended a wrinkly overworked hand. I wasn’t sure why, but I joined them. As soon as I sat down, everyone started praying out loud in languages only they understood…. and maybe God. From the corner of my eye, I could see the ringleader praying the hardest. His eyes were scrunched up like someone in the process of giving birth.

Without warning the ringleader grabbed me by my throat and threw me to the ground. I was so scared I nearly shit myself. Then everybody started praying louder than ever. Others were crying. I stayed on the floor more confused than ever. Warm liquids were poured over my prostrated body. Occasionally I heard the word ‘deliverance’ from the ringleader. After about 20 minutes, everyone quietened down. I got up and looked at my parents hoping for an explanation; when none came, I went to my bedroom and sobbed.

A few weeks later, I was visiting my girlfriend when her parents came home and found us in a compromising situation. Within minutes my parents were summoned to the house, and they all set upon us with wooden weapons. Since we were older and didn’t give a crap about much we managed to escape. But we were not old enough to live independently so at some point had to return home.

When I got to my house, I found a different set of people waiting — three men I had not seen before, and my stepfather. Neither my mother nor my half-siblings were home, which was unusual. Strangely there was no anger in my stepfather’s face and that confused me. I expected him to beat me to death for running away, instead, he asked me to get something to eat, and then join him in the living room. I expected another prayer session or exorcism to rid me of the devil inside me.

As you can expect, my parents knew about my sexuality but as far as they were concerned, I was like that because the devil lived inside me. And because we were Christians where homosexuality and Christianity are mutually exclusive, the only acceptable explanation was that I was possessed. I later learned that upon consultation with the priest, they’d been advised of one sure way to rid the demon out of me.

I ate my meal in silence as the four men watched me. It was very unsettling because I had a strange feeling they were up to something — something bad. After the meal, I sat there waiting for the lecture. It never came, instead, my stepfather left the room and the three men set upon me. They raped me.

I was only 17 and a virgin. There was no warning. It was the most painful experience of my life. Try as I might, the spirit-leaving-body didn’t work, all I could think of was the pain. I cried out for my parents. I cried out for my stepfather to come back. I later found out he’d gone to join his wife and children at the beach. That tainted my first good memories of him.

The men raped me for the next seven days. As they raped me, they told me they’d been nominated by the servants of God to drive the homosexuality demon out of me. Our country is deeply ingrained in culture and religious beliefs and the practice encourages people to put faith above all else. As they ravaged my body and commanded out the demon, I had an epiphany. If I told them I was cured maybe they’d leave me alone.

Oddly enough we prayed before meals and before the cleanse. So, I offered to lead the prayers for the next session. You can’t imagine the amount of self-control it took to speak to these men without losing my mind. It was then I knew I was stronger than I thought. But I had to survive the ordeal because by the sixth day I knew it wasn’t going away. After I inwardly thanked God for my life, I prayed out loud that I can feel his salvation and I denounced the demon of homosexuality that resided in my loins. The men looked happy, but they still had to cleanse me one last time: I think that last one was for their pleasure and not their Christian duty. They took turns cleansing and I zoned out.

When they left, I cleaned the house from top to bottom. I then cleaned myself with every detergent I could lay my hands on. I didn’t eat anything for the next 24 hours even though the men had left some food. My family returned on the tenth day. I knew my ultimate salvation depended on how I reacted around them. As soon as they set foot on the door, I prostrated myself before them and asked for their forgiveness. For the next several weeks we held hands as we prayed and thanked God for my salvation.

When my period didn’t show I knew I was pregnant. I told my mother. A few days later they drove me to a clinic where the foetus was terminated. Today I deal with demons worse than they tried to exorcise me. I fear and can’t trust men. No matter my sexuality I deserved to be treated better, listened to and guided. Instead, I was humiliated and abused.

The upside to my ordeal was that my parents believed me when I told them I was healed, and that one day I would marry a man. They trusted me implicitly when I asked to work for my stepfather. I became the daughter from heaven. I listened. I was attentive. I cared. I worked hard. I dated men. My parents and the church were very proud and believed I was cured. What they didn’t know was that they created a bigger monster than any of them could have thought.

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Estar Gathu

Estar Gathu

Educate. Inspire. Empower. Transform lives by lifting the lid on societal, cultural and mental health issues through storytelling. Visit www.thingsihear.co.uk