What you need to know:
- Women say the church’s failure to recognise that some of the congregants are LGBTQ increases their despondency and divorce. Is it time for the church to face the truth?
Picture this, you get married in church to a man of the cloth or a staunch Christian, you are deeply in love. The world is your oyster. It can only be a happily-ever-after ending for both of you.
Some months and years down the line, the skeletons start to show. You realise your partner is a homosexual.
What do you do?
That’s the big question.
You see, as a member of a Kenyan Christian church, you follow the historic teachings of the Christian Faith where marriage is strictly between a man and a woman, and same-sex liaisons are forbidden.
Influenced by religion and culture, the majority of Kenyans also abhor anything LGBTQ. You don’t have to look far than the recent debacle that was sparked by a Supreme Court ruling declaring that members of LGBTQ community have the right to association
Politicians, the clergy and opinion shapers went up in arms objecting to the February 24 ruling.
In a statement, CITAM Presiding Bishop Reverend Calisto Odede said that homosexuality is a sin which comes under divine judgement because it contradicts God’s order for the family and human relationships.
“Anyone struggling in these areas is welcome to any of the CITAM assemblies for prayer and counselling, as we believe God is able to restore, forgive, and help one live a straight life that honors God,” the statement read in part.
For decades, the subject of homosexuality has been discussed, and many factors explored yet one important component has been ignored- the real people in the rainbow fraternity or those who are victims of circumstances, like wives who found themselves married to partners who are homosexual.
It is also misconstrued that since the church vehemently rejects LGBTQ members, they (LGBTQ) will not be part of the congregation or even church leadership.
Interviews with women from the church who at some point realised their partners were gay tell a different story. They claim the church failure to recognise that some of the congregants are homosexuals end up increasing the rate of divorce.
On a particular morning in June 2017, Joyce Mwende remembers sitting at her pastor’s office with a swollen cheek after having been physically abused by her ex-husband. Jane had told him that she couldn’t continue with their marriage after his confession of secretly being gay.
“The first thing my pastor noted when I sat down was the cheek and he asked what was wrong. As I continued to explain, he was shocked that my husband, who was the pianist in the church, was gay. ‘How can this be, what are you talking about’, he kept on asking. Later, we had a meeting with the pastor and it is at this point my husband confessed his struggles with homosexuality. Later, my ex-husband left the church and I never heard from him. To date I still wish I observed the red flags prior to settling for the relationship,” she says.
Research says that women suffer depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, eating issues and fear their children will be bullied, when they discover their husbands are gay.
Society heaps blame on the woman too. “Didn't you realise he was gay? Did you ignore red flags? How naive can a person be? And if you had suspicions, why didn't you confront him earlier?”
According to James Otieno, a Pastor of Pentecostal Church Nairobi, adequate interventions are needed to raise awareness about LGBTQ in church, especially for individuals entering marriage.
“For the last three years, I have handled cases of women who were married by men who are gay and this came as a shock after they realised later after the wedding. As a church, it’s our mandate to express love to all without judgement. However, it is good to be aware that the issue of homosexuality is in the church and couples need to be educated early enough about the red flags to consider before getting married,” says Pastor Otieno.
Three women narrate their first-hand experiences of dating and getting married to gay men.
‘He was pastor, he married me to cover up his gay life’
Agnes Akinyi*, 36 Business woman, mother-of-one
“I met my ex-husband in 2015 at a church function where he was preaching. My parents are very religious, so I had a very strict religious upbringing and faith remains a significant part of my life.
When I was a child, I desired to be married to a pastor as I admired their commitment to service. When I met my husband, I thought he was everything I hoped for in a man. He was loving and caring and I was showered with affection, gifts, and promises. Our courtship lasted eight months.
As days to our wedding day neared, my instincts hinted that something was not right as his house had male visitors round the clock. In most of our conversations, he kept on admiring men's physiques.
For instance, I recall an instance where we went for coffee and he approached the waiter who was serving us.
He kept on telling him how he was handsome and well-groomed and eventually asked for his number with the intention that he would connect him with a well-paying job. Weeks later, the man was linked to a customer care job and he would sleep over at his place over the weekends.
I was a virgin when I got married. During our honeymoon, on a few instances, he insisted that we practice anal sex and when I refused our conflicts started.
I was broken and I couldn’t believe that the man I loved so much was introducing me to something I couldn’t think of ever practicing. I was naïve, and I remember him saying ‘we have to be creative in the bedroom as a married couple. Otherwise, one may be tempted to do it elsewhere’.
For the sake of peace, I decided to try anal and after one year, I felt this was too much as it contradicted my Christian beliefs. I struggled with guilt considering we were pastoring in a church and we were role models to many.
In our two years of marriage, I went through so much humiliation. There are many instances he would bring different men into the house and they would sleep in the spare room.
Since he was a full-time pastor, there were days he would stay at home while I was at work. I would leave him with young men between 20-25 years and I could tell something was not adding up. There are many instances, he showed lack of interest in our sex life and we went for months without sex.
Occasionally, he would leave our bedroom at night and go to the other bedroom especially after siring our child. As a pastor’s wife, there was no way I would disclose the struggles I was going through.
He always became defensive when I confronted him about bringing men in the house and spending nights in their bedrooms, and he would say that I needed to work on my insecurities. After a lot of confrontations, the he later confessed that he was gay and requested that I accept him as he is.
After having deep conversations, he shared that he has been struggling with gayism and as a pastor, he had to marry to cover up his same-sex relationships. I was so shocked. I couldn’t process it and after two days, I left the marriage. I have never looked back despite him asking for reconciliation countless times.
To date, I am still in pain as many people still wonder why I ended my marriage. I haven’t had the courage to share my story with many people. It’s a painful journey and I wish the church can create awareness of homosexuality because it’s happening.”
‘It hurts me when I see him singing gospel music yet his life contradicts what he preaches’
Jane Ngoiri*, 38, Gospel Artist, a mother-of-one
“I met my ex-hubby in 2015 in a church after I honoured a friend’s invitation. The ex was the man leading praise and worship. I was so enamored by his presence, his looks, heights, and polite manners that I couldn’t concentrate.
When I went back home, I told my friend that I was attracted to the guy singing and I thought he would become my husband someday. Two months passed and the memory of him faded.
Later, the man visited our church as the invited gospel artist and since I was serving in the hospitality department that served visitors some snacks after the service, I got a chance to interact with him. It was at this point, we exchanged contacts and became friends before becoming lovers. In 2016, he proposed and we got married a year later.
I enjoyed my first two years of marriage as my husband showered me with love and I woke up every morning ready for all life’s adventures. Little did I know the worst was about to come.
Soon after I delivered my first child, my husband's character became disturbing. He started drinking, going out, having multiple partners, and not coming home. I struggled to keep him by playing my roles as a wife, but nothing worked.
The more I chased him, the more I hurt myself. One day while he was sleeping, I secretly went through his phone and at this point I saw countless of flirty messages with other men and memories of intimate moments they had.
I was so devastated and helpless and questions lingered in my mind on whether my husband was gay. Whenever I confronted him about the messages I saw, he told me that he didn’t want to discuss the issue.
Despite my attempts to save my marriage by being a virtuous wife, it was clear that our marriage was beyond repair.
Our sex life was affected and we would go for three months with no intimacy. The environment became toxic as he would bring men to my house and ask me to cook for them.
After many confrontations, one day he told me that he was no longer attracted to me and he wanted me to leave for him to enjoy his life with the men he was dating. After two years of living in denial, the truth of my failing marriage became clear, shattering my world.
The future I had envisioned with my husband and my daughter was over. I felt horrified, depleted and even disgusted by the thought that my husband was gay and last year, I had to face the reality and move out.
I have not been able to concentrate on my business and I grieve a lot. Unfortunately, I have not been able to share with the best couple and pastors in our church because I fear on how they will handle the situation.
We no longer talk with my ex-husband and it hurts me so much when I see him singing gospel music yet his life contradicts what he preaches.
I haven’t been able to tell my family what happened as he has told them I am too nagging and that’s why I left. As I speak, I am hurting and am glad that I have one friend who has been reminding me that life is precious despite my pain.
The pain is so fresh and I am not sure how to rebuild my life after the betrayal. My friend has been recommending I go for counseling sessions but I honestly don’t know who to trust. It's indeed a painful journey and I am taking a day at a time.”
‘I thought I had met the man of my dreams as he was a firm believer of the gospel’
Joyce Mwende*, 39, Businesswoman
“In 2018, I met a man who was a gospel music producer, preacher, and author. His love for God captured my heart and I thought I had finally met the one I had been praying for.
Dating in my late 30s sucked, and at some point I felt like there was no choice left and hence settled for the man that came my way. At first, I thought I had found a perfect match as this man would quote bible verses and preach. Having been brought up in a very strict religious home, I knew God had answered my prayers by bringing him my way.
During our dating life, my instincts would tell me some things were not adding up as he would often not pick up calls and would claim that his house doesn’t have a network.
For one year, he was secretive and he would visit my house but had reasons why I couldn’t visit him. He would tell me that his brothers were coming and it wasn’t possible to have quality time together. This increased my insecurities.
With time, I lost my self-esteem as the man was constantly spending time with his male friends. After a while, I visited his house and after a few months of interacting with neighbours, I was informed that the man was gay and dates women for cover up.
At first, I couldn’t believe it but there were signs that he was more psychically attracted to men. Often I would catch him staring at men while never giving even the best-looking women a glance.
Also, he lacked pleasurable foreplay and he always accused me of being sex-obsessed when I expressed my sexual needs. He regularly expressed his desire for a threesome with two men or a scenario where I watched him with another man.
He also thrived on other men’s attention and I recall he would frequently touch or hug them. He also exchanged flirty comments with them, especially on their physical appearance.
With time, I felt it was time to ask him than to make assumptions about his sexuality and it at this point I created a safe conversation pointing out my concerns.
Eventually, he opened up to me that he was gay who would want to settle in marriage someday with a woman since the society has stereotypical thoughts about the LGBTQ community.
I tried to be empathic and listened to him and didn’t force our relationship on him. When I ended the relationship in 2018, I became confused as I always envisioned my future with him.
I am glad that I attended counselling sessions that made me understand that my ex’s actions are driven by himself and I couldn’t change him but I could determine how I reacted to the situation. Since then, I struggle to trust people from the church as some of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
*Names changed to protect identity.
What to do if he turns out gay
According to Professor Catherine Gachutha, the Chairperson of Kenya Counselling and Psychological Association, knowing that your spouse is a homosexual after marrying can be stressful, overwhelming and traumatic. It can take an emotional and psychological toll and cause traumatic stress, but these are ways you can regain control of your life.
- Acknowledge the betrayal: Accept that the situation and that betrayal happened. Be bold and clarify every painful feeling you feel, rather than be in denial
- Don’t blame yourself: Take a look at what the relationship provided you with. Did it add any value or remove value from your life? Understand that what happened isn’t your fault.
- Take time to grieve: Understand that it’s okay to grieve. Embrace the fact that the relationship is now changed whether you’re seeking to repair it or let it go.
- Practice self-compassion: Affirm yourself for being honest with yourself and working through issues and life which when handled well can lead to growth, wisdom, and maturity.
- Seek professional help: Therapy helps you to deal with betrayal constructively and offers an opportunity to make helpful decisions
In the news
· The Supreme Court of Kenya dismissed an appeal by the NGO Coordination Board against a high court order to register an NGO seeking to advocate for the rights of LGBTIQ persons in Kenya.
· The NGO, known as National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) appealed for registration in 2012 but was denied
· On February 24, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that denying LGBTQ members the right to register as an NGO was discriminatory. This came after a lower court decision in 2013 that barred the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) from registering in Kenya. The decision was decided 3-2 by the Supreme Court.
- The Kenyan penal code under articles 162 and 165 criminalises "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" - widely understood to refer to anal intercourse between men. Gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.