Thursday, 17 May 2018

On #IDAHOBIT18 for all YOU Well Meaning Folks

Reflecting quietly on IDAHOBIT on the many homophobic experiences my partner and I live through day to day...

Like when a “well meaning” man who is concerned about our ability to raise a child cold called me on my cellphone to inform me he knew about “my lifestyle with my lover” and could that be the reason our child is going through teenage angst.

Including the fact that I hear almost weekly how as a women-only household we were flawed and lacking and denying a male figure for our child to be balanced so no wonder...
I also recall when we bought a kindle book for a younger loved one and the parent said they hoped we were not “teaching their kids homosexuality.”

Sigh... yes living constantly under the veiled threats of well meaning folks who have no problem with “our lifestyle” as long as they and their loved ones do not catch it. You do not mind our love, gifts, patronage, friendship, money as long as we do not infect you with queerness.

But people our life is not a “lifestyle” what the hell is this heteronormative lens you look at made you reduce other people’s lives and choices to such denigrating lengths this who you are now? That person who only sees things as one way and that its the only right way to exist? ..... yes that one way that de-legitimizes our lives, our relationships, our contributions and the wide variety of what and who family is... and yes the one that makes you think its ok to ask us who is the man in the relationship.

I have had people talk down and be dismissive to my partner and to me not just because we were queer but also because we were women.. (and as a side bar; I take it very personally when you put down or disrespect my partner in any shape or form).

We have been threatened, insulted, discussed by family and friends in whatsapp groups often in very degrading ways.

I have had classmates/ work acquaintances and colleagues raise their upper lip, snicker and laugh mockingly and deride other sexualities and gender expressions because it was funny, immoral, weird...against their beliefs, their culture and had to sit through frankly the most horribly biased and ignorant conversations without loosing my cool.

I have been threatened by men who think I need the experience of a “real man” to stop being queer.
This list is endlessly long and felt daily. I encounter people who could not even be bothered to read up or know the issues we face day to day and expect me to be their source or reference.
I encounter you each day you only call me last minute to ask for one of “us” to be in your meetings/panels and tick your inclusion card.

My “people “ are an afterthought and you remember the one queer woman you can call to “ask things” because I should know you dont have a problem with “us." Well here is the thing, we exist. And your veiled or overt prejudice puts a lot of us and our loved ones lives at risk, because you get to think you have a say on when we are deserving of a right to live our lives.

But what my partner and I are clear about is the fact that we owe nobody apologies or explanations for going about with our lives and we will take that principle to our graves too.... and our conscious decision is to choose every single day who and why we engage with friends or family and be present and engaged in their lives. But this ability to choose who we have in our circle in and of itself is a privilege we recognize we have...

LGBTI folk often have YOU and your BIASES to deal with on a daily basis. Your hate and intolerance is a serious threat to their ability to live their lives. You are their family, their neighbors, colleagues, leaders, employers, teachers, classmates, their friends etc... you get to bring that bigotry into the encounters they have with you...and you get to pick and choose when to be violent, sexist, transphobic or homophobic in those encounters. Each time its a choice, and you make it when you think you have a say in how people should express themselves and love or live their lives. You do that... you can also choose not to be part of contributing to hate and violence... you can also be part of bringing something different in these encounters so you do not occupy more space than you should. You can do that without even jumping too many hoops. #IDAHOBIT18

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Here, is love....Here is me....

Here I am...
with unsung songs, unspoken truths
untouched caresses, un-captured images,
all running through my mind.
This is me...
waiting, breathing, feeling
craving, tingling, hurting and
all the body sensations that come with it.
This is us...
in that space we built
with our names, forged in ink
our cornerstone is love 
The mortar are our memories
and the relics of this love
are etched solidly in my soul 
to take me into my next life.
And so this very moment and space,
I carve out and dedicate to only you
My love
I shout out for the whole world to know.
Here I am, this is me, this is you, this is us.
This is love. No longer, unspoken.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Sweet Journey of Dreams...

Sleep is taking over
My mind slowly ebbs towards that haze space....
This is the moment I have been waiting for all day
When my life and dreams fuse into one fantasy magical world.
That paradise where I can be and do as I please... 

So where will my dreams take me tonight?
To fly and soar in the weightless sky?
To the shores of my favourite spot by the lakeshore
To that spot on the hilltop I love to sit and look down
To a place that is a vastness of peace and silence 

An escape from the drudgery of realness
Bring these dreams of mine to life
Do not rouse me from my escape
I pray I never loose my gift to dream, it is my escape. 

So journey begins..

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Cold Fleece Blankets, Frost Bites, Sunburns and Other Life Lessons

My word, it is very cold in Nairobi lately….

As I slink into the warmth of my blankets I am at a place in life when I wonder, when did I actually start feeling this cold? Almost 25 years ago I managed to do more than getting by in boarding school in one of Kenya’s wet, cloudy and coldest towns Limuru with an altitude of over 2,500 metres…I mean it was pretty routine for daily cold bucket baths, zero visibility fog days, lots of schoolmates used to warmer climates ambling about with frost bitten toes and fingers…and those what-nots that did not bother me much…

Currently, I have a warm comforter in every room except the bathroom. We walk around wrapped with shukas, in warm woolly socks in the house….I have even taken to wrapping myself in a fleece blanket before sinking in the cold sheets in bed…. This is rather serious considering I have always had a strong resilience to cold. I was that person who could jump, dive or walk into in an icy swimming pool no matter what; or run into pouring rain and soak myself in it in bliss and joy…. I could take long cold showers after a few initial seconds of that shock dance you do when the first darts of icy water hit your body…Imagine that, I was that person…

But right now, this cold is biting, painful, totally amplified.  I have no idea how I lived before this moment when I am protected under layers of soft warmth….Sigh…things really do change!

But even as I reflect on this and the things that come with age I am astounded about how we situate our experiences over time….

I am sure the cold now is as it was ten, twenty or thirty years back….perhaps a bit of global warming funkiness yes…but cold is cold…the sensations that I feel now are so intense though that I am astounded at how it was not even a thing back then. What was it that occupied my senses ten, twenty years back to dull the sensation of the biting cold air I wonder?? But even that is going to far back…what was on my mind last week, last month, last year….on a warmer day that immersed my emotions and physical sensations to other concerns? What was my cold then? What was gnawing at me? What hurt me? What built me? What excited me? What was my blanket? What was my soft warmth? What was my safety net?

I just remembered one unusually hot week in the month of November in boarding school. We had just finished our end year exams and teachers were so busy marking exams we took advantage and went to the playing field to lay down and bask and worship that sun so brazenly we fell asleep on the grass for hours! Most of us developed a habit of sneaking out at the end of every class when the sun was out to recharge our bodies and spirits with some solar energy….we scampered back into class when the teacher of the next class made their way to us. So you can imagine the free reign post exam week…there was a heavy air of muted excitement as the school term ended and the long December holidays looming…muted because we all had our anxieties about our performance in the exams, if we dropped grades, if we would be promoted to the next class and the other usual concerns of girls in Kenyan high schools…Well we took to basking in the sun hoping that we could draw energies and dull the boredom of that particular season in boarding life.

This particular day my classmates and I were in blissful calm and we promptly threw our sweaters on the grass post-tea break and lay down and day dreamed and slept with the stinging rays of the sun beating our backs and calves and heads… we only woke up in a start when the lunch time bell gonged…whoaaa! Two and a half hours in that sun was enough to do some serious damage. Lets just say some of my classmates suffered serious sunburn, we were light headed and dehydrated. Initially it was pretty funny explaining to the sanatorium nurse that we had sun burn in Limuru…I mean how often that the sun even shine to burn anyone? But whooooaa if any of you know how sun burn goes, its pretty intense with sores that last for days…One classmate was actually so affected she had to let her folks back home know that she had severe burns. The dad incredulously over a wonky long distance call asked how possible it was for his daughter to have sunburn in a town in the wettest season… well, it happens.

Other than the painful lesson of learning for the first time as dark skinned girls living in a moderate climate region that sunburn is a real thing and a geography lesson about the increased risk of sunburn in high altitude and thin air…we also learnt a huge painful lesson about balance.

Too much cold can paralyse us and too much sun can burn us to a crisp.

Too much is losing sight of what is what, drowning in ourselves...when it all gets overwhelming for our minds, bodies and souls.

Balance is the real magic here we need to invoke.

How not to get stuck in this piercing numbing raw frigidity…

How to thaw and fire up our essence and be vibrant full zest without burning ourselves like a moth to a flame

This balance is like moving in a prance, this way and that…ducking, jerking, leaping, skipping to preserve ourselves from the extremities that life throws wantonly at us…

I am now acutely aware that the plush blanket I dove into, that a few minutes ago offered to thaw my shivery self, is now smothering and stifling me. It may seem unsettling, undecided and even unclear. But you know what, this is exactly what life is…unresolved and indefinite…let us learn to brace ourselves and take on the journey and ride…and if you can, try and appreciate it a bit with all its complexities….just breathe, dance to balance, hang on and…..LIVE…

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Perhaps, my love I can Dance After-all...

My love, I am beginning to think that the idea 
I had of not knowing how to dance is all in my mind…
How else can I explain the flawless rhythm of our lovemaking?
When my pulse and your heart beat is in sync...
And how my heart skips at simply the sight of you…
When you embrace me close and how I enjoy rubbing against you…
Writhing and entwining in and around each other
Never missing a beat,
This dance of ours is nothing short of a miracle.

But I also need to ask who invented kisses;
Because I suspect you had something to do with this
How else can I explain the near perfection that are your kisses
The kind of kiss that stills the time
All I can do is…breathe
My love when your lips connect with mine it is incredible…
I mentally remind myself to keep my eyes open the next time
As soon as you reach towards me
The anticipation of delicious sensations
Send my eyes shut tight, feelings like this can only be processed 
In the dark richness of my mind….
Each time my mind's eye sees ruptures of stars and sparks
When you kiss me my love…

Then there is that smile of yours…sigh….
My love how it lights up my world…
And then there your touch …
Which drives bursts of delectable stirrings all around my body
Then there is you… your love…your closeness…you enveloping me
Keeping me warm, flustered yet safe from this cruel cold world
I love to live, but more importantly I love to live here where you are…
Perhaps, my love I can dance after-all....

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Language is Deeply Political

On #IWD I edited an info-graph that for me often reflects the subjugation of women's contribution in society because we angle it through a male lens for social ratification.... And so because someone ( a man) asked (twice) 'what was the harm' of the unedited version I toyed with the idea of saying google is your friend mate and moving on but then decided to repost the graphic and a small blurb...please indulge me....

“....Language is deeply political. A lot of what you are “not getting” is also from a place where there are no perceptible “ill intentions” in the unedited version of this info-graph.....but that is the genius-ness of sexism and ageism in language and in its ability to be pervasive, trivialising and undermining in its delivery. “Language is a great carrier of stereotyping and great place to assert socially sanction power of what is a ‘normalised standard’ of genius-ness and this is what makes this post extremely condescending.

Ageism or more accurately adultism is a socially sanctioned put down which aims to minimise younger people and their work on what we feel is a an achievement “at your age.” Judging a woman’s professional achievement by referencing and using the mark of validation or standards set based on a white man’s “endorsement” or an #IvyLeague white male name drop is a serious put down of women in science academia etc. And your description of Hawkins and Einstein illustrates this very clearly as it strongly suggests the immense ‘authority’ we bestow on senior white male academics. With achievements from the likes of Sabrina its about time to re-evaluate how we determine whose work is of merit. I welcome folks to read up and learn more about the “Matilda Effect” and reflect on how referencing these men takes away from her achievements...'

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Right to Live and Die by my Mistakes and Choices.

Its International Women’s Day today, lets talk and touch base...

There is something to be said when one decides to move away from all social order norms and find their own path in life. Somehow, even within ‘progressive’ social spaces we tend to want a certain kind of uniformity and oneness… Often we impose a varied spectrum of rewards or sanctions to compel each other to conform to what is deemed ‘acceptable’ or ‘appropriate’…I have to say I have a deep respect for those who not only do not conform, but who also live by the same principles of not imposing their choices overbearingly on others – its effing hard to do this but nothing can be more sexier…living by the same standards to expect from others can transform this world - its pretty revolutionary... Think about it!

 I want to be the one on this International Women’s Day to say that women need the space, room and opportunities to find deep inner understanding and self discovery. I say this explicitly because women’s lives are often conflated with the daily affairs of their households and communities slowly erasing their individuality, needs, priorities and desires. I myself took this path over 21 years ago when I questioned everything and felt that in order to be most truthful to myself I needed to step out of societal shadows and also away from who were most closest to me. It was an excruciating journey to extricate myself, my options and my choices out of hands of my beloved who underwrote my every day living burdens. Thanks to my deep need to practice self autonomy I found this a necessary move to step away from the cushions that come with conforming to societal norms of what was expected of me as a girl or woman.  I was and still am unapologetic about stepping away from oppressive societal norms that have worked on silencing, shaming and subjugating me or my body, my choices, my sexuality and triviliasing my contributions based on my appearance age and gender etc. I will live and die by my right to make my mistakes and my choices. What can I say, **shrugs**….Bite me.

This meant that from the time I was 18 years old, I maintained my hair expenses because I did not need opinions around ‘what suited me’ or ‘what was appropriate.’  It also meant I was not unnecessarily baggaged with the need to keep hair in certain ways…if it cost too much, it went off. A very simple but affordable ethos. And yea, I did not worry too much about head shapes and foreheads because everyone’s good opinion of my hair did not get to pay for my hair bills. My point is, there is a big difference between my right to choose how to keep my hair and my bad fashion sense...these are mutually exclusive issues...also I really like blue braids...

It was a high price to pay to be stubborn and questioning of many things. It meant I left home when I felt that my choices were restricted to the validation of those older, more powerful and with more cash access than me. When their view did not sit right with me it paved the way for me to step away from home towards independence and distance myself from the comfort/discomfort of their support and underwriting of my life’s costs. But in practical terms this also meant I had a reality check and realised that any privileges I had needed to be self-sought. That very humbling lesson limited the choices I had and forced me to prioritise what was more important. In the end that exit from the comforts of home meant, constantly thinking about the baby on my back and trying to keep something (not always a roof!) over our heads and food in our bellies….I ended up living at a friend’s house which was effectively an illegal room allocation in a public school worker quarters. My rent contribution was $5 per month paid to a corrupt school administrator and water had to be fetched from a long way away. With an infant who was barely month old this was no mean feat on my back and my barely healed stitches. So I recall with sadness the very difficult time I had in this stint of times; where I peed into plastic tubs at night kept under the bed and poured it out in the morning…I will not lie, I missed indoor plumbing and often cried myself to sleep thinking of the small comforts of home but where I also felt overbearing oppression from my parents views about how my life should be.  At some point though, it was also exhilarating to simply make decisions for myself about my own life. This phase of my life contributed greatly to who I am today. I do not always take that easy path, and nobody owes any me favours.

Some of the invaluable lessons of choosing difficult paths had its benefits. I did not start a habit unless I was able to pay for it myself. It also meant I am not a good candidate of peer pressure… I am unlikely to want to ‘keep up appearances’ or live a life I cannot afford or sustain and be a slave of credit. My rule of thumb was, if I could not afford it then it was not in the stars.

I remember once finding a great bargain to buy  twin bamboo beds with orthopaedic mattresses in an expatriate sale. I took a SACCO loan and paid for them on check off for about a year. What a proud moment it was for me when I got to install these used beds for my son and my housekeeper at the time. It would take me another year sleeping on a foam mattress myself on the floor to be in a position to get myself a frame and mattress, but I felt positive it would happen…it was just a matter of time. Much more than anything I remember the days when all my housekeeper and I could afford each morning was a tepid cup of black tea to go down with left over greens to make a kale ‘sandwich.’ Milk was and still is quite a difficult thing to afford day to day in Nairobi. I managed however to get a very cool Maasai neighbour who came round with a jerrican of fresh milk every morning from his cows. With my stretched income, we could only afford to buy a cupful each day which went to making a cup of creamy steamy cocoa and the rest to soak the two weetabix chunks the young man ate every weekday before school. Milky tea would have to wait till I got to the office cafeteria... I also remember hours spent in second-hand markets like Toy and Gikomba in the days mitumba clothes’ costs made sense. My friend and I would literally comb through wads of clothes strewn in huge piles to get bargains. We avoided hung up clothes (camera) which were pricey. We had to wear gumboots and tuck in our pants to avoid the mud sometimes during the rainy season or wash up our legs and shoes after the market visit.

I remember having to split costs with my best friend at the time to buy filling spicy delicious Ethiopian food. We knew several good spots in Nairobi’s bustling Eastleigh…. Neither one of us could afford much and especially buying the complete meal but having it meant we could stay satisfied all day.

I remember Nairobi rain that started at 4.30pm just before we broke off work how it had and still has an impact on our ability to afford hiked matatu fare. It meant we were accustomed to walking long distances towards our homes in the evening or where the fare would at least make sense. In all these circumstances what helped me get by was the fact that I got to sleep in the spread I made…be it in a tiny room in Eastleigh…or on the floor in sprawling slums of Kware in Ongata Rongai. I got to be the queen of my abode. It was deathly glorious.

On this day to take stock on women’s issues I wish to laud any woman who has had to be born, live and will likely die in a deeply misogynistic and unrelenting world.  I wish for women to have days when you can step away from societal pressure to conform to narrow traditional gender norms that are oppressive to your rights and your choices. May you be your own person to make your own good and bad decisions because they are yours and only yours to make. May you not feel the need to burden your good self with the poor decisions of those close to you because you are not the saviour of the world. May you untangle the yoke of patriarchal values that do not just subjugate you, but also oppress those who challenge these norms that say some people are better or more acceptable than others. May you not be a conduit for these oppressive notions but instead be an agent for transformative social justice where all the intersections of our oppressions no matter where we are located are addressed from a place of fairness and equality… May your eyes open, may your horizons extend, may you be part of a movement that is deeply committed to seeing a day when the playing field is even. May you be free from facing the violence that so easily comes your way in form of kicks, punches, words, policing etc. May you free yourself from the oppressive shackles of thinking it is your sole burden and responsibility to take care of others at the expense of taking care of yourself…May you learn to appreciate and see the diversity in other women different from you as an enrichment to our society rather than a threat to your existence.

We need a new generation of young people who place more value in self-determination and part of that involves letting go of the toxic protectionist approaches we adopt today in our lived realities. Part of this is ensuring we centre our lives and those close to us towards the principles of their rights to step back, let go.... Let us all learn to spread the beds we lie on.