Police beat Cynthia, a Burundian lesbian activist, and threw her in jail after she gave an interview defending the rights of LGBT people in her country. S. and his boyfriend were tortured in jail and had their names and faces printed on the front page of a newspaper in Uganda. They, and hundreds more like them from all over East Africa, fled to Kenya in the hopes of finding somewhere safe to apply for asylum. But instead, they found more hardship.
Their options in Kenya are limited: live illegally in Nairobi, where cost of living is high, they can’t work and the risk of homophobic violence is constant, or head to Kakuma Refugee Camp in the inhospitable north of the country, where food and medical care is available free of charge, but the security situation is equally fraught. For many LGBT refugees, life in Kenya is characterized by the dueling narratives of intense scrutiny and deep shadows.
All are in the process of being resettled in the West, but the process can take years. And so they wait, confined to the dual shadows of their LGBT identity and their status as refugees in a country that would rather not talk about either. They hope for something better, but that promise seems to live forever on the horizon.