Keeping Up with the Jones': Let's Not

It seems like every time I turn around there is another article about the LGBT community being marginalized in sub-Saharan Africa. I shouldn't be surprised considering the lack of basic rights for the gay community in most countries in Africa and the fact that same-sex sexual activity is deemed illegal in 36 countries throughout the continent. During an informative (and I use that term loosely, it was in actuality a propaganda laced "look at how great we are" session) meeting with the Rwandan Human Rights Commission last summer I was informed that there are no gays in Rwanda and being gay is not an African problem and is only an issue found in western countries so therefore there is no need for the Commission to create to any laws to protect gay rights.

This month, a seventeen year old in Senegal will stand trial for sexual acts "against nature" and two other men were convicted just weeks prior on identical charges and sentenced to two and five years based only on denunciations from neighbors.  Just this past May, after being sentenced to 14 years in prison for 'unnatural acts and gross indecency', for celebrating their engagement, a gay couple was pardoned on "humanitarian grounds only" by Malawi's president after receiving huge international criticism.  That same month, gay activists in Zimbabwe were arrested for posting a letter in their office that criticized President Mugabe's opposition to homosexuality and subsequently abused by police.  Earlier this year another Malawian man was arrested for putting up gay-rights posters.  

In other news, an anti-gay bill is continuing to gain popularity in Uganda. Highlights include: "prison terms for Ugandans who fail to report a homosexual within 24 hours; lifelong prison sentences for a single homosexual act; and the death sentence for a range of acts, including having gay sex while HIV-positive, having gay sex with a disabled person or being classified as a "serial offender" — that is, someone who has gay sex more than once." A recent interview with David Bahati, author of the bill, revealed that he wants this to become a model throughout Africa. He is saying, "this is a project to eradicate homosexuality in Uganda. They're not saying, 'This is a reform.' They're saying, 'We can do this. We are at the crux.'

Even in the U.S. where we pride ourselves on being more culturally sensitive to subjects such as these we are still debating whether or not gay marriage should be allowed.  Anytime I see any article posted about this debate a shocking outpouring of hatred always follows in the comment section.  Why are people so vitriolic when discussing other people's personal lives?  How does one person's commitment to another person effect anybody else?  And if I hear one more religious tirade about God condemning homosexuals, I literally might scream.  My God loves all of his children; red and yellow, black and white, gay or straight, all are precious in his sight.  A friend posted a particularly entertaining (read: sarcastic) retort she found on facebook about "why gay marriage is wrong" that I find particularly appropriate in response to many of the close-minded arguments on this topic.

So my response is this: stand up and speak out against the marginalization of your fellow human beings.  Who knows when your government is going to decide that how you live your personal life is wrong and punishable by jail and/or death.  Find an organization in your community to lend  your support.  In Kenya check out Gay and Lesbian Coalition's website to learn more about their partner organizations and community activism.  International human rights organization, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, also has resources on how to take action worldwide.

Mount Longonot or bust

That's right.  I, Captain Awesome, hiked up a mountain.  However if it had not been for my awesome experienced hiker friend, Cecile, I would be sitting forlornly about a third of the way up.  I blame my ineptitude on the high elevation and my inability to breath.

At this point, I was just happy to have made it thus far.

We began the adventure with an unpleasant encounter with the ticket seller at the park entrance that consisted of her not giving us a student rate so, in my opinion, she and her superiors could pocket the additional $10 per person.  Living in Kenya has opened my eyes to a the world of corruption and how far it reaches.  After listening to many excuses, changes in argument, and newly made up rules, we unhappily conceded to further corruption and pay the full fee.

The merry band

Despite the unfortunate beginning to our day our merry band of five proceeded up the mountain.  She doesn't look like much but she packs a punch in the first leg of the journey.  It's less tiring than difficult as the initial ascent is quite steep and slippery with loose ash.  I also underestimated the effects of altitude on my hiking ability.  The base of the volcano is 2150 meters above sea level with the peak reaching 2780 meters asl.  All of my daily walks around Nairobi were no preparation for my lungs.

Once we finally made it to the rim I hung out with my ipod while the rest of the group hiked around the ledge.  My unfortunate fear of heights and tendency to be clumsy and fall made me think twice about walking around a narrow and, in some parts, steep ledge that might lead to my untimely demise in a volcanic crater.  I almost forgot to tell you all about the birds and how they too were trying to kill me!  It could have been a Hitchcock film.  These two birds the size of penguins with HUGE beaks started dive bombing me for my leftover lunch goodies.  Just sitting on the trail with nothing to keep me from falling down the side of the mountain was freaking me out enough as it was, so when the birds started coming for me I was afraid I might be tempted to get up and run which would inevitably lead to the discovery of my crumpled remains in the crater below.  Thinking only of my friends and how traumatized they would be by this scenario, I slowly scooched away from the baggie the killer birds desired and made my way a safe distance away.  It was a narrow escape; just moments passed before the birds attacked the defenseless baggie and devoured the crumbs inside. 

View from the top of Mt. Longonot of Rift Valley and the crater.

Stay tuned for tales and travails of my previous trip to Lake Magadi....