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Gay Kenyan writer causes a stir with SA wedding plans

Thursday May 3 2018

Binyavanga Wainaina

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. "Nothing has surprised me more than coming to love this person," he says. PHOTO | FILE |  AFP

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Renowned Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina plans to marry his long-time partner in a wedding set for early next year in South Africa.

This is the news that has left social media abuzz, with mixed reactions from ordinary citizens.

Since declaring that he is homosexual, Binyavanga’s life has been marked by controversy.

“Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. I am a homosexual, mum,” Binyavanga wrote in a confession subtitled “A Lost Chapter”, in the book One Day I Will Write About This Place.

The confession in January 2014 marked the beginning of a life of ups and downs for the 47-year-old founder of literary magazine Kwani?

In 2002, at 31, Binyavanga received international fame after winning the prestigious Caine Prize for his short story Discovering Home.


He later started Kwani Trust. In the words of Nigerian writer Chimandanda Ngozi, “this came at a time when the Kenyan literary landscape was experiencing a fallow period”.

The renowned author first had his eyes set on a lucrative accounting career before settling on literature.

He moved to South Africa after transferring his credits from the University of Nairobi, where he was studying for a Bachelor's of Education degree, to the University of Transkei to study commerce.

However, he never completed the degree. Struggling to make ends meet as a young man in a foreign country, he began to run a restaurant business.

Later, he started writing food and travel articles for the Weekend Argus.

“I was fortunate to reside in a country that is very annoying to live in,” Binyavanga says of South Africa.

Born in Nakuru’s Milimani, Binyavanga says he was a timid and shy child.

“But I feel like now my season is beginning, in this continent called mine, and I am an African; I want no space to not welcome me,” he said while speaking at TED Talks in 2015.

His confession of being homosexual caught many by surprise.

“I am not afraid to talk. In fact, I am doing a documentary on it because this thing must be discussed.

"Kenyans should discuss it in all platforms but not before they hear the full story.

"I know you called me over this matter of coming out. I will talk but I don’t want the media to manage my story,” he said during an interview.

He added that he knew he was gay from age five.

“I was five when I closed myself into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often,” he wrote on blog.

“I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and I never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books.

"I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch. I am a homosexual.”

And as people were still grappling with this news, he revealed in a tweet on December 1, 2016 — during World Aids Day — that he was HIV positive.

“What I said (in a tweet) is true. I’m HIV positive and happy! That is all I can say,” he said.

“Look out for an essay I’m writing in January.”

He suffered a stroke in November 2015 that saw him admitted to Karen Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for three weeks.

In 2016, he again made headlines after sharing on social media how he was assaulted by a taxi driver in Berlin.

At that time, he was still recovering from the stroke that had also affected his speech.