Invisible: Stories from Kenya’s Queer Community (Kevin Mwachiro)

Invisible is a selection of autobiographical stories collected by Kevin Mwachiro.
Finished on: 1.5.2020

Content Note: (reference to) homomisia, transmisia, queermisia, sexal violence, rape

I’m not sure how much Mwachiro was an editor and how much he actually wrote himself, but the stories, letters and poems collected here are all (auto)biographical accounts of queer people living in Kenya. They are queer in different ways and come from all walks of life, opening a kaleidoscope of queer experiences in Kenya – where until recently it has been publically debated whether such a thing as queerness actually exists at all. Reading it as a queer, white European, it is striking how many things are the same for all of us, even if the book is very much aimed at a Kenyan public.

The book cover showing a black and white photography of black feet in high heels.

I’m assuming that Mwachiro took on more the role of an editor, even if he is credited like the author of these stories. He seems to allude to that in the introduction to the book. Since the stories aren’t written by professional writers and aren’t written as literature as much as testaments to the existence and the lives of the people telling them, I won’t comment much on the writing. Some of the stories are a little more polished, some are actually literary (in the sense of written with a lot of consciousness put into the writing, or at least that’s what it seems like), but for most, it isn’t about the style at all – it’s about the content. It’s about telling the story in the first place and not so much how they’re told.

And the things the people experience in these stories are not so different from what queer people here in Austria experience: the loneliness (until you find others “like you”, the queer community), the struggle for your own sense of identity, for self-acceptance and the acceptance of others, the difficulties coming out, the fact that you can never really anticipate who will be supportive and who won’t. Particularly touching for me as a bisexual was the story of a bisexual man (Bi, Bye or Buy by Jackson) who talks about the bimisia from both the straights and the gays – definitely something I know myself, too.

Of course, there are also things that are talked about differently in Europe than in Kenya. And the book, while giving little footnotes for specifically Kenyan things, is aimed at (queer) Kenyans above all. At least that’s what it felt like to me. Still, it is very accessible even when you’re not from Kenya – and what a privilege to get a glimpse of the community there like this.

Summarizing: Really interesting, especially if you’re queer yourself.

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