04 Nov Living as a Gay Person in Malawi: Coming Out in Hell
“If you live in Malawi, I would advise you to be very careful if you are planning to come out. It happened to me. I had underestimated the extent and impact my coming out would have on my life and the rest of my family and friends. I literally saw my world crumbling beneath my feet.
I got detained by the police for having my coming out interview. They arrested me and the reporter; our gadgets were confiscated. We were called bad names saying and told we were promoting homosexuality in Malawi. Soon, the news was everywhere.
Blantyre, my city, became too small and hot to accommodate me. Suddenly, I had become the hunted; the mob had formed, baying for my blood. In no time, they came to my house and ransacked everything, leaving the place in ruins. They headed for my mother’s house and threw everything upside down looking for me. Fortunately, I had taken refuge at my friend’s house, but things were getting worse. His family couldn’t keep me any longer for fear of reprisal if the mob found out. I was asked politely to leave.
I thought the safest way to move was to take a minibus, but I was wrong. Immediately after I boarded the bus, a woman carrying the newspaper that had featured my coming out story recognized me.
“Si gay uja iwe?”
(Aren’t you the gay in the paper?)
I prayed for the earth to crack and swallow me alive. Within minutes, people started disembarking from the minibus, refusing to travel with me. The nightmare started to sink in. With hate and reproach, the conductor kicked me off the bus and threw my money to the ground with a venomous spit. What do you do in such a desperate situation? I quickly ran to a vendor and bought some dark sun glasses and a baseball cap. I covered my face like the hard criminal I thought I was.
The story of my coming out was published on Saturday and Sunday. I naively went to church, which was a big mistake. Immediately as I entered the church, the preacher recognized me and the tone of the sermon changed. He must have seen the devil himself enter his church, and he couldn’t stomach it under the roof of God’s House.
“We thought we are raising descent young men in this church,” he started, “but God forbid, we are raising devils from hell. Devils who want men to marry men, women to marry women; in Jesus’ name I condemn all devils in my church”. Like a mad man, he raved on like with his venomous hate sermon. I rose and walked home, vowing never to step in any church again.
I am limited to do many things because people see me as the devil himself. I don’t have a good relationship with the majority of my family members, and am verbally harassed for being honest about my sexuality.
Although the environment is hostile, I will never leave Malawi because I am entitled to enjoy the same rights being enjoyed by the heterosexual community. Malawians need information about the LGBTI community. The information that they have currently is mostly wrong. We need more awareness, safe spaces, and dialogues to break this silence.”
Eric Sambisa will be attending OutSummit as an LGBTIQ Activist from Malawi