On January 18th, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina turned 43 and shared a heart-wrenching “lost chapter” from his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, on Chimurenga Chronic, titled “I am a homosexual, Mum”.
“I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five,” he writes. He describes shaking a man’s hand at the age of seven and feeling something that leaves him “suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.”
When Wainaina was 29 his mother passed away in Kenya while he was in South Africa. He writes a fictional scene of being at his mother’s bedside as she passes away and telling her that he is gay: “Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum.” In 2011 his father also passed away: “His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.”
We applaud Wainaina for sharing this piece, especially in light of the recent developments on the continent that saw Nigeria banning gay marriage and same-sex partnerships and Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, saying that homosexuals are “sick”.
Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?
Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.
Wainaina tweeted that his friends threw him a surprise birthday/coming out party, while his article has been much talked about on Twitter:
Thank u martin kimani and june arunga my closest peeps 4 hosting a surprise party of love 4 my birthday and cming out
— Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW) January 20, 2014
— Teju Cole (@tejucole) January 19, 2014
— Lauren Beukes (@laurenbeukes) January 19, 2014
— Kui (@KayYouEye) January 20, 2014
— Jessica Phelan (@JessicaLPhelan) January 20, 2014
— Semhar (@Semhar) January 19, 2014
- One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina
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Image courtesy The Times