Why Report Gay Terrorism Victims
All through last weekend I have been glued to news from Nairobi. The terrorist outrage at the Westgate Mall particularly got me because I’ve had personal contact with many Kenyans. First through reporting on the digital revolution there, which is astonishing, then the LGBT(IQ) community. Some are now friends.
For the past few days I have been following reporters like Mike Pflanz and the #Westgate hashtag but also gay friends, especially Denis Nzioka, who is the go to source for queer news from Africa.
After Denis reported that two members of Nairobi’s queer community had been murdered in the attack, and that one other was trapped, I tweeted this at several news outlets. On the Monday it was picked up and reported by Gay Star News.
This drew an immediate hostile reaction on social media with people asking whether reporting the sexuality of these victims was relevant or necessary, that it was “bizarre to highlight someone’s sexuality in this situation”. Another sarcastically noted that “what we all really want to know is were any gay men killed in Nairobi massacre.”
Denis’ reports had described the two who died as members of Nairobi’s “queer community”. If this attack had happened in Brighton, England would it be wrong to report that “Brighton’s gay community is in mourning”, say, if “members” had been similarly murdered?
Now some may scoff at the idea of a ‘Brighton gay community’, or any ‘gay community’, let alone a ‘LGBTIQ community’, and hence wonder why you’d report “members” lost. That’s because we’re privileged enough to have reached a point where we can be sarcastic about it. Kenyans don’t have that luxury.
Regarding the Westgate Mall disaster and its gay victims - and it is a ‘disaster’ - gay people have particular needs in disasters which usually are ignored.
The need to take into account gay disaster victims needs is something which relief bodies and governments have become, and need to become, increasingly aware of. This is not just an issue in somewhere like Pakistan, where transgender (hijara) flood victims in 2010-11 were blocked from relief, but also South Florida.
Nzioka reported that he would not name the two queer terrorist victims because they were not out. Even in death Kenyan society requires them to be closeted. The support for the people they’ve left behind will come from the community which supported them in life.
That community exists and in a disaster like this reporting its existence is one step to demanding that it be respected and equally aided. Yes, we must report that gays exist in disasters because, first, they need to be visible.