Foto: Luigi Novi CC-BY-3.0​

Binyavanga Wainaina: "my true self"

In an article written especially for the magazine of the project “Episodes from the South”, the Kenyan writer approaches the subject of his “coming out” not only from a socio-political perspective, but also – and mainly – from a very personal point of view. The author writes from a mystical standpoint, where time and reason are intertwined with concerns about the direction the world is taking today.

It is fascinating to me that since Africa is the first continent where modern man lived, and since, more recently, I have been thinking about how modern man first developed spirituality, then the African traditional spiritualities are probably very ancient. Then some very few people left the continent, and went on to colonise the world, and brought with them many marvels, so that things, right now are seeming to go back to those traditional spiritualities.

I have noticed that the more the world advances technologically, the more African spirituality grows. I have had a Guardian angel who is very powerful in the Spirit world, for ten years now. At first, i didn't believe in her, now i do, sort of...

She gave me some advice in 2014, which has proven very useful to me. I am happy to share it here…

It strikes me that part of the revival of the continent, is at this technological time. She talks first about my coming out, which i did publicly three years ago, then she talks of the hurricane - i think it was hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast of America three years ago, during which time, I had many wild dreams and i wrote a lot including the essay,"Since Everything Was Suddening into a Hurricane.”

"From where I'm sitting, and from how I'm reading things, the 'problem' you're going through is that you're on the cusp of becoming your true self. Not ever having come out before, I think you were living a narrative and speaking through a voice that was not the true you. And that takes a toll. Because one wastes so much energy and life force being a 'half person' as opposed to the real self. And so, there are all these pockets and rooms in one's mind that are constantly churning a narrative that is not quite real, one that bolsters and drives the 'half person' that one has become... Does that make sense? So now that you're out (and literally bust out the closet), your old narrative doesn't work on a soul level (and it didn't before anyway). Your soul is trying to formulate a new narrative to go along with the real you who has never lived openly before. Basically, your soul is learning to 'speak' openly, after 40 plus years. Experiences/narratives you should have had when you were younger - as a gay person/African - your soul now has to formulate in middle age - while attempting to override the falsity of decades. And I'm not talking about 'being gay'. I'm talking about the way your soul - if it had been free back then - would have expressed itself. Just be real. Be very real and honour the experience your soul came here for, the experience you consciously denied it by being in the closet all those years. And anyway, look at this as a wonderful blessing because now, there are so many previously unopened pockets and rooms in your mind that you can now open up, visit and create from truthfully.

As for finding it hard to ask for help, my dear, learn quickly. Learn how to ask for help, how to ask for Love, how to say what you need. To open yourself up completely and to live the true narrative! Don't waste this life. 

It's funny you mentioned the hurricane (Sandy, I assume), because that was one of the cosmic events that ushered in this era of change that I mentioned in my previous email. Life as we knew it truly has ended. Karma is here; but karma is not always a 'bad' thing. It just means we have to deal with what we have to deal with, now. That's why everything is 'falling apart'.'"

It is interesting to me, the emphasis on birth, in many African traditional Religions. For so long, we the first peoples, because death happened so much for so long, were so used to starting again from two people. It is interesting that to be gay never really fit the equation.  Very few people were not married. The focus was on starting a new generation. That was the main purpose in life, which was, of course, the most precious thing, for so long.

Binyavanga Wainaina is a Kenyan author, publisher and cultural worker. He is the founding editor of one of Africa’s leading literary institutions, Kwani?. His How To Write About Africa attracted wide attention globally and his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place has been translated into several languages. In 2007, he was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. He declined the award. Binyavanga Wainaina has been a Sterling Brown Fellow at Williams College, Massachusetts, a Lannan Fellow and a Visiting Writer at Union College, New York. Until 2012 he was the Director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College. For over eleven years Binyavanga Wainaina has sought, worked with, published, mentored and promoted some of Africa’s most exciting new literary talents. In 2014 he came out publicly as gay and was named by Time magazine as one of 100 most influential people in the world in the same year.