Many of these refugees grew up in urban, middle-class families and loathe living in a hot, squalid refugee camp, as Kenyan law requires of all refugees.They are city people, accustomed to partying at secret gay clubs in Kampala. One Ugandan refugee spoke fondly of dancing at many of the clubs that dot “Electric Avenue” in the city’s Westlands district.
“When family turns their back on you, it’s like a whole chapter has been closed.”The LGBT refugees living in Nairobi are just 500 or so among the nearly 600,000 refugees in Kenya.
Last year, LGBT refugees in Nairobi received a disproportionately large number of slots allocated for resettlement of refugees, but it was still only 75.
The woman was friends with Kato’s sister, so she recognized him. Keep up with this story and more “It was a Friday,” Kato recalls of the night he was outed to his family against his will. Kato stopped showing up for work at the computer shop where he was employed, out of fear that they might find him there.
He persuaded his kid brother to snag his passport from the house and bring it to him. I ask Kato if he ever thinks of returning to Uganda.
In Nairobi, young Kenyans often dress in modern, American-style clothes—dark jeans, brand-name shirts with logos or designs and flat-brimmed hats.
Many gay refugees dress this way too and tend to blend in with the crowd—though others, especially transgender people, stand out markedly and encounter verbal abuse and worse as a result.There, they spent their days cooking and cleaning, talking, texting and waiting for a call from some foreign embassy offering them a one-way ticket to a new life.On several occasions, residents say, police came to the Rongai house threatening to deport all of them. One evening last year, a transgender refugee and two gay men were walking to buy food when they were attacked by women in the neighborhood, who accused the gay refugees of “stealing our men.”One afternoon last December, a Kenyan man came to the gate of the Rongai house with a warning: Neighbors were plotting to attack the gay refugees that night and run them out of town. They fled, scattering to different apartments across the city.That being said dating in Kenya is part of the normal social scene and in private Kenyan women are just as liberated as their Western counterparts.Kenya, like all of the countries in Africa has a pretty large gap between the vast majority of the local people and the urban elite centered in Nairobi.For months, nearly two dozen gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans had been living in a large house on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area called Rongai.Long after a court struck down Uganda’s infamous anti-gay law—dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill for a death penalty provision in an early draft—LGBT people in Uganda were still being disowned by their families, hunted down by neighbors, jailed by police, even killed.On the floor near the door of the apartment rests a tall stack of ripped DVDs and CDs with songs and music videos by popular Ugandan recording artists. But home changed for him when his family discovered his secret. She just shot straight to the point—she just asked me if I'm gay. I tried calling her back, but she didn’t answer.”She hasn’t spoken with him since.One day, a woman was flipping through the phone of Kato’s boyfriend when she discovered nude photos of the couple. The only member of Kato’s family who has was his younger brother, who warned Kato that the family was planning some sort of intervention for him.Hundreds fled Uganda—mostly to Kenya, where they are faring little better. Instead, they cobbled together enough money to buy a DVD player and a small TV.“It's better than going out to dance and getting arrested,” Kato says.