Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

The devastating reality of being young and queer in a country that bans homosexuality

by Judy Bokao

Being queer in a country where your existence is illegal is one of the most disheartening things any human being can go through. As a queer lady, I am always very aware of this situation. I knew my rights would be limited by the homophobic laws of my country. I also knew that it wouldn’t be an easy fight and that some people would no longer see me as a human. I, however, was not prepared for the loneliness I would have to endure.

Most queer people who live in countries where there are no protective laws for sexual minorities know how harsh the laws can be against homophobic people. In most cases, they have only two choices. The first is that they can do their best to live secretly, hiding their sexuality and always trying to blend in. It is draining to hide yourself to conform to society. There is always the fear of slipping, saying, or doing one wrong thing. Living with a huge secret puts you on edge at all times.

Sometimes, it gets too much to bear and impacts your mental health. In most cases, some people sadly commit suicide because they feel trapped between who they truly are and what society expects them to be. It is a lonely life, where you are not living, but playing a character written by society for society.

The other choice is coming out and choosing to live authentically. It sounds amazing but not if you live in these countries where you can be jailed or persecuted. You are no longer a person, but a threat to society. You are treated cruelly and your life is reduced to only your sexuality. That is all people will associate you with. The law will use all of its might to “eradicate” homosexuality and in many occasions, queer people have lost their lives.

Do you know what these two choices have in common? It is fear and loneliness.

Staying hidden is not an easy feat. You cannot be honest with even those closest to you. It also takes a toll on your mental health. You are always in fear of being forcefully outed and you are always lonely because you can’t fully be yourself.

Even when you come out, it will still get lonely. It doesn’t matter if you are surrounded by friends or family. First, you will always need to be cautious of the people you let into your life. You will always be on guard when you are out in the public. We are all aware of how many queer people have died at the hands of a mob attack. You are always on the lookout because your life and freedom is at stake.

You can’t date freely. If you do, you risk being charged with acts of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” There have been cases where queer people have been locked up and denied their rights to defend themselves in court. They also end up being treated inhumanely with forced anal examinations or are publicly humiliated during their arrests. If you are lucky enough to find someone to love and who loves you back, you can’t get married either. This means that your life partner doesn’t get to enjoy the rights and protections that come with a marriage.

The stigma, homophobia, and harassment on a daily basis will not be easy. The worst part is when your family and friends distance themselves from you. Your whole support system is suddenly taken away from you and it can be extremely painful. There have been cases where families have killed their queer family members because they see them as an embarrassment and it is considered “honor killing.”

As a young queer person living in an extreme homophobic country, I am learning to make my peace with the loneliness. I am learning to get a new support system that understands me and sees me for more than just my sexuality. I am learning to bring the walls down and letting a few trusted people in. I am coming to terms with that fear. It can be so limiting. Since we only live once, I need to live and embrace life.

There will be many moments where we will feel lonely- but I want you to know, that you are not alone.

About the Author:

Judy Bokao was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.

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Matthew's Place

Matthew's Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email patrick@matthewshepard.org