Where I come from, being gay is deemed as evil, disgraceful and the person is considered an outcast. Shockingly, even respected (few) politicians not only in Kenya but also from other African countries, have publicly condemned gay people.
In recent days, a well known, respected, admired CNN journalist Anderson Cooper wrote an e-mail to a friend when he was asked about 'society and gay people.' Part of Mr. Cooper's response included:
'the fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.'
According to Anderson Cooper, his colleagues knew about his sexually orientation and in a 'perfect world,' it doesn't matter and it is no one else's business. However, this e-mail from Anderson Cooper might change how Africa views gay people.
Who in Africa doesn't know Anderson Cooper? He is a respected, loved journalist. Communities have opened doors for this man; they have shared their stories and lives, he has told people's stories. My late grandmother knew Anderson Cooper as 'mzungu wa kuenda pahali kuna vita.' Loosely translated as 'white man who goes where there is war.' Will people stop loving him? Will communities stop sharing their stories? Or will they start thinking, 'so they can be human'
'I want to be Anderson Copper.' I am a Daystar University alumni, a well known media and community development studies university in Kenya which every year administers thousands of foreign students both from Africa and other continents. Amazingly, the face of media in Kenya is dominated by former students of this university and during my time, each and every person I asked whom they aspired to be, Anderson Cooper's name would come up. It is a name that both aspiring and current journalists associate with. Now, will they disown their 'hero?' because of his sexual orientation? Will they stop admiring him? Or will they start thinking, 'so they can be human and be influential.'
Anderson Copper has reported from dangerous and extraordinary conditions; from famine in Niger to genocide in Rwanda. He has traveled extensively within Africa continent and interviewed presidents, warlord and military commanders. His 'name' has allowed him to get audience with people most journalists wouldn't even come close to. Now, will his audience start looking at him differently? Or will they start thinking, 'so they can be human and smart.'
Anderson Cooper's e-mail will strengthen the awareness programmes and gay people will live free without any fear of being arrested or killed. When Obama visited Kenya in 2006 and went for HIV testing in the glare of cameras in Kisumu where HIV infection is very high to help combat stigma, HIV awareness took different positive turn.
Look what has happened in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe talked about HIV and friends he has lost as a result of HIV related illnesses. His cabinet ministers have gone publicly talking about HIV and circumcision encouraging their followers to face the knife with male ministers walking the talk.
On Thursday 5 July 'Dine with Pride' saw London's grand Langham Hotel host a fundraising event to support a newly created 'Solidarity Fund' and a colleague Sam Mason and Pink Singers graced the event to support organisations in the Commonwealth that work with and for the LGBT community to tackle homophobia; and in this event, Hillary Clinton received a special recognition for her role in championing gay rights, particularly in Africa. This event wouldn't have come at a better time to strengthen what Anderson Cooper said on his e-mail to a friend:
'ability to love another person is one of God's greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life.