|Gay and Christian in
|– Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli OUT in Africa 2008 –
From somewhere in East Africa, place and name of high school boarding student withheld:
This story was told to Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, by the victim at some
point and time during Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz's travels in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, July
4-August 5, 2008. The story was told in the presence of two other friends of the victim and
within 24 hours of its happening. Permission was given by the anonymous author to release this
story on August 5, 2008, the date of Steve and Jose's departure from East Africa. Note: terms
referring to grades in school have been Americanized to keep the East African country
unidentified. This account is almost word-for-word by the anonymous author. Slight changes
were made for readability.
I [an East African gay male senior student in boarding school] want to tell you what happened to me
last night, beginning at around 11:00 pm, in the dorms where I am attending boarding school. I am a
senior in high school and I will be graduating at the end of the school year.
But first, let me begin at the beginning. In 2006, when I was a sophomore in high school, a fellow
male student and I decided to date each other. Because we wanted to get to know each other better,
we communicated through letters. It was better to communicate this way rather than to be seen
together all the time. One of the letters was discovered by a student who especially hates me. So he
used that letter against me. The letter was told around to all the other students so that it became a
real big problem.
The matter was handed over to the class teacher who expressed her disappointment in me. She
phoned my mom. The school and my mom organized together to have me in counseling sessions. I
attended only three counseling sessions. My mom concluded that the counselor was not helping and
she complained. So the counseling ended.
At this time, my boyfriend and I separated for a year. At the beginning of 2008, he wrote me a letter
and asked if I still had feelings for him. We reconciled and got back together. We continued being a
couple (secretly) and lovers (not sexually). The first term ended with my boyfriend and I still OK and
with no problems with the school.
We continued communicating with letters so that we would not be noticed talking together. On this
one occasion, someone noted that I was writing a letter. I was writing the letter in class during prep
time. When I finished the letter I placed it in a book in my desk and I locked the desk. I left the room
for ten minutes. When I cam back, my desk was missing. I went looking for the desk. I found
someone who was carrying the desk. I saw that the desk had been broken into and that the letter was
The students who had stolen the letter were threatening to tell the whole school unless I pay them
$90.00 (amount rendered here in US dollars) within four days. So, I said I would in order to buy time.
I knew I couldn't pay that amount. During the four days, it was rumored that I had written a romantic
letter to my boyfriend.
It was on this night [exact date withheld] in my dorm that I a gang of fellow students held me by force.
The letter had been surrendered to this gang of students. I was beaten and I was forced to admit that
I had written the letter. In addition, the mob of students forced me to give the names of other gays in
the school, which I did. We were eight gay guys in all. Two guys were juniors and one was a
sophomore. The rest were seniors. These guys were fetched to this one locality in the dorm. One
guy said "yes" he was gay, the rest denied that they were gay. No supervisors are kept in the dorm.
There is a watchman, but he doesn't stay in the dorm. There are over several hundred [actual
number withheld] guys in our all male boarding school. About [more than a hundred, actual number
withheld] senior guys were the guys hearing all this. These seven other students, who were fetched
for being gay, were guys who had approached me to meet behind the toilets or behind the dorms.
Some would touch me in the night. One had tried to strangle me and force me in to the toilets. These
guys had all wanted to have sex with me, but I didn't have sex with them. It was very obvious to me
that they were gays. There is one student who is called a prostitute because he has so many
relationships in the school. He has been discovered in the act in the school. Unlike me and my
boyfriend, they all say I am faithful because all the stories about me are between me and my
The noises coming from this mob of students was like a gang. Everyone was screaming and saying
we should all be beaten and killed and put out of the school. Others were trying to protect the gays
so that they would not be hit. I was hit. They hit me from my head to my waist. They slapped me.
They hit my ears until they were numb. They used sticks and slippers and their hands against my
head. They hit me with their fists. People who were not close enough to hit me were throwing things.
They said we should be burned, that we couldn't live with them. They asked how it is that others are
attracted to girls but we are attracted to boys.
The teachers, who sleep in a separate quarter close to the dorms, heard the noise and came one
after another. About ten teachers eventually came. We were separated from the mob of students
who were attacking us. The teachers told us that the main issue was that what we were doing was not
right and that we needed to be beaten so that we would change because counseling won't help. A
male teacher who teaches [subject mater withheld] said we should be beaten thoroughly so that we
will move in the right manner (be disciplined, etc., like straight people). He said this to the seven of us
who were there. There were eight of us, but one was dissolved from the group who had convinced
the teachers that he was not gay. So, he was sent back.
The rest of us gay guys had to go to the staff room and have our names and phone numbers written
down. The mob of students who had attacked us was sent back to their beds to sleep. It would not
have been safe for us to have slept in the dorm.
In the morning we had breakfast and were given a leave-out sheet to go home and we were to explain
to our parents what happened. We were not being suspended, we were being sent home for our
safety. We changed from our night clothes into our school uniforms to leave the school. We put
everything together in our tin drunks, took our beds and belongings and our books to study at home.
We went to the deputy principal office where we were interrogated and disciplined. I was told by the
school that my case was different from the rest of the gay guys, that I was dishonest and that I was
mentioning the others because I did not want to suffer alone, which wasn't true. In order to not show
partiality, the teachers felt they had to send all the guys home.
In an HIV class in the beginning of May, the counseling department had arranged for an outside
speaker to come and talk on HIV and homosexuality. The speaker said one of the causes of HIV was
homosexuality, that homosexuality is believed to be the origin of AIDS. Concerning homosexuals, the
speaker said that homosexuals cannot contain themselves, that homosexuals are shy and scared and
do not have the courage that straight guys have, that homosexuals are not straightforward in the way
they present themselves.
Instead of going home I went to a friend's house. My plan is to spend a week there and to phone my
mom and tell her everything over the phone. I want her to be able to digest it all and to try and
understand. I want to consult with my aunties, and others. I want my mom to be comfortable with the
whole situation. So I will go home next week.
My boyfriend, who was also sent home, sent me a text message today. He is scared and is in denial
to the school about being gay, but he is not in denial to me. He doesn't want his parents to know that
he is gay because his parents will be embarrassed. His parents know he has a girlfriend.
He has been writing me letters and the letters from him are very intimate but the letters have not been
discovered. He texted me today and asked me to promise him that I won't disclose the letters to
anybody. In exchange, he will support me and stand by me and defend me. At this point, I feel as if I
have sacrificed for my boyfriend. All the rumors and trouble is because I have been so attracted to
him for a long time. I still love him.
Editor's note: Stories like these are not uncommon in East Africa. Boarding school is very common in
East Africa. Schools here in East Africa fail to understand much, if anything, about sexual orientation.
Schools fail to see that homosexual teenagers are exactly like their counter-part heterosexual
students, that is, just like heterosexuals, homosexual teenagers "fall in love," have same-sex intimate
friends, are romantically inclined, etc. There is nothing "wrong" or "problematic" with a homosexual
high school student displaying the same kind of romantic and sexual attractions that heterosexual
students express. It is normal, whatever the sexual orientation, for teenagers to explore their sexual
orientation in romantic, age-appropriate, ways. East Africa is decades behind the West in
understanding sexual orientation and in creating a society that will not discriminate against
homosexuals, especially in its schools which are foundational to a future society where equality and
respect for the individual must be instilled.
VISIT Steve and Jose!
Visit the Other Sheep web site of the Executive
Director, Steve Parelli (at right in photo), and his
partner Jose Ortiz.
|This web page was constructed in September of 2008 in the Bronx, New York.
Visits made to this web page since September 2008.