Quorum

Quorum: How To Do LGBTI Activism In Kenya

When meeting anonymously with anti-gay religious leaders, Kenyan LGBTI activist Essy asks, “Do you really think that I should be beaten, now that you know me?”

Quorum is a live journalism forum focused on LGBT experiences around the world. Its mission is to lift up the voices of non-Western LGBT activists defining the struggle for justice. Visit Quorum.TheDailyBeast.com for more stories of persecution, triumph, adversity and strength.

Many LGBTI people hide their faces because they have no choice. They have to hide their identities or from threats of violence. But Essy, an activist from Kenya, shields her identity in this Quorum: Global LGBT Voices video not to hide but to work most effectively.

As Essy describes, her organization is part of a remarkable project—they meet with anti-gay religious leaders over the course of three months and only revealing themselves to be LGBTI at the very end. By concealing her identity, she is able to meet with religious leaders who otherwise would never sit down with LGBTI people directly.

This would be an innovative approach even in a friendly environment, but as Essy describes, LGBTI people have been regularly attacked in Kenya. Essy knows some of the victims.

“These are people that you know… you know, it’s family,” she says.

That human connection is part of her theory of change as well. As she says in the video, she often asks the anti-gay leaders with whom she meets, “Do you really think that I should be beaten, now that you know me?”

Here interviewed by renowned activist Ruth Messenger, executive director of the American Jewish World Service, Essy discusses her work with PEMA, the organization she directs in Mombasa.