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“People have talents, but they don’t know how to expose them,” he says.The 25-year-old has made it his mission to keep morale up among the rest.But in secret hideaways and temporary homes, LGBT refugees are being forced – once again – to hide their true selves instead of walking out into the world with pride.On a dusty road far from Nairobi’s city centre, a dozen young people – teens and twenty-somethings – live cooped up in a thinly furnished house. When a house meeting is called, bodies swiftly fill the only two sofas.Most of the day they can do nothing but lie about the house. Nelson and his housemates are some of Africa’s LGBT refugees – people forced to flee their home countries because of their sexuality.
He also writes plays that the other refugees act out – stories of young gay Ugandans who struggle to make sense of what religion and society say about them, and whether or not they should come out.In reference to gay sex, he says, “even animals don’t behave like that.” “Abby thought the church would be her solace,” reads the prologue to the play. “Didn’t you hear what the pastor said, what he preached about ‘us’ ” she asks a gay friend after the service.“Sometimes I think (I) am a curse.” “We’re looking for funds so we can shoot it as a short movie,” says Nelson, putting away his cell phone.Having spent their entire lives hiding their sexuality – from their family, their teachers, their government – they arrive in Kenya only to discover they must hide themselves here, too.Except, that is, for the moments when they must do precisely the opposite: chronicle their most intimate, often tragic stories during interviews that determine whether they’re eligible for resettlement to Europe or North America.
“They even went to Mombasa for a tournament – with Kenyans,” says Nelson, taking out his phone to show me photos of the team on the beach near Kenya’s port city.