We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.

Homophobia: The fear by straight men that another man could treat them like they have been treating women. 
gay-cartoon

Not to reduce a complex issue to just a punchline, but it has to some extent said to be true that the fear of the LGBT community and their increasing public profile locally, as witnessed recently by the coming out of renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga, has something to do with the fear of the typical Kenyan male of sexual harassment (as much as this is itself actually a very remote possibility).

While there are certainly a lot of people who feel strongly about the issue because of their religious upbringing or an assumption of a cultural taboo on such matters, there is also a strong constituency that will readily confess that their fear is exposure of themselves and their children to what they consider a fearful prospect of being ‘recruited’ or wooed by a person of the same gender.

I have as such been asking myself what it is that terrifies the typical straight african man the most about revelations by persons in our midst that they are not straight, that they do not share the same values that are assumed the norm? Finally I came to a point where I singled out that one of the issues is a morbid fear of what we don’t understand and the real possibility of being in circumstances where we are facing this complex matter of sexuality head on, and worse a possibility that it will not be on our own terms or with our explicit consent.

I have tried to recall numerous discussions I have held with friends and colleagues on the issue at hand and I finally came to the realization that a lot of men live in fear of the possibility of another man making a pass at them, that they imagine the horror of a possibly bigger and stronger individual harassing them verbally or even touching them inappropriately (as it is claimed happens in some clubs known to be haunts of the gay underground and in which a typical conservative Kenyan male might have strayed into).

The interesting part is that women have had to deal with this sort of scenario (fear of unwanted advances) from the time they are teenagers, during young adulthood and even when married, it just never stops. When a man tries to chat up a girl he’s never met, say at a bus stop, she always has to be on her guard because he can be either of two things: a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. We men are finally realizing how difficult being left alone can be, and we are using all sorts of arguments (religious, moral, law) to mask our fear.

It is with such a realization, that women have been having it this hard, that I believe we can both appreciate how tough our sisters have it while at the same time acknowledging that the world we live in is different from the past and far from idea and as such we just have to overcome our own petty fears and learn to live with people who have either made different choices or who were born different. After all prejudice and bigotry are learned rather than traits we are born with.

“The sad truth about bigotry is that most bigots either don’t realize that they are bigots, or they convince themselves that their bigotry is perfectly justified.” 

― Wayne Gerard Trotman

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