This piece is dedicated to the memory of Sheila Adhiambo Lumumba, a 25-year-old Kenyan woman who was killed about two weeks ago in Karatina.
Sheila reportedly identifies as genderqueer or non-binary lesbian, and the preferred pronoun is “they,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll be using the pronouns “she” and “she.” My excuses.
Although reported by the mainstream media, Sheila’s murder did not make headlines. However, it gives Kenyans an opportunity to have an uncomfortable discussion about the rights and responsibilities of the country’s gay or queer community.
Sheila was also allegedly sexually assaulted by her killers, believed to be a gang of six men, who broke into her home in the town of Karatina, beat her, stabbed her repeatedly, broke her leg and left her dead or dying, in a pool of blood.
Outside of Kenya, his killing has been condemned by several equal rights bodies that align themselves with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ, which has become LGBTQQIP2SAA++) community.
They all want justice for Sheila. Everyone should seek justice for Sheila. Closer to home, the call for justice was not so loud, even after media reported that authorities had shown no interest in investigating her death, despite pleas from her distraught parents. .
There have, however, been quiet protests on Kenya’s cybersphere, with members of Kenya’s queer community, some equal rights entities and individuals saying she was killed because of her sexual orientation and that they need protection.
Considering they are a minority and that homosexuality is, on paper, illegal in Kenya, they are very likely to be marginalized victims without as many freedoms. But even when pursuing every freedom, it’s fair that they don’t have an overwhelming sense of entitlement to the point of weaponizing victimization and treating others as they would like to be treated.
Also, it is necessary for some of them to understand that no one can be loved or accepted by everyone. To achieve these freedoms, they need more people in their corner, and it is useless for some of them to continue to antagonize people who are not homosexual, and then to lament that they are victims.
There’s no doubt that other countries are more progressive and have made progress on gay rights, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of effort from the gay communities for them to succeed.
Of course they were sulking and whining and seeing themselves as victims of society, and rightly so because they were, but in the meantime they also lobbied their elected representatives and pushed for laws and policies that favor them or give them more freedoms, to be drafted and enacted.
Homosexuality is illegal on paper in Kenya because several entities that are run by or work with Kenya’s gay or queer community are registered, which means the government acknowledges their existence.
In addition to this, they have a registered and recognized umbrella body, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), with a functioning secretariat run by professionals.
GALCK members come from several queer entities, some of which were formed and registered in the 1990s or earlier, that operate in rural and urban areas across the country. While in other countries people were demanding justice for Sheila, in Kenya the news of her death sparked a conflict, which almost eclipsed the search for justice.
Based on intermittent reports on social media, the conflict had been simmering for some time and just needed a spark to ignite, and it ignited, and exposed the overwhelming sense of entitlement within the Kenya’s not so small queer community.
It’s a time of mourning, and the queer community needs everyone on their side, but while it can be argued that they are mostly victims because of the law and societal prejudice, it there are Kenyans who do not identify with them who have been their victims.
One of these people posted a tweet suggesting that some members of the queer community should learn to accept rejection and know that consent is important because not everyone appreciates their overtures.
An innocent request in all respects from someone who just wants their space to be respected, but some members of the queer community took it as an affront to their freedom, and yes, it was another opportunity to weaponize victimization and hurl jabs and buzzwords at everyone.
In fact, this coin will also be seen as an affront to their existence. It was the loss of Kenya’s queer community. Parts of pity and unbridled anger.
Sure, there are great things gay-aligned organizations do, but that work is overshadowed by their overwhelming sense of entitlement, and seemingly the expectation that the freedoms and rights they seek should fall upon their knees.
It is highly unlikely that freedoms will come this way. That’s why Sheila is unlikely to get justice. But she should.