A senior government official in Rwanda has expressed support for a gospel singer who has come out as gay.
Albert Nabonibo is a renowned gospel singer in the Central-East African country who came out last month during an interview with a Christian YouTube channel and has since been rejected by a number of his friends.
“There is a long list of [gay people] in your midst, and they include pastors or churchgoers,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “This pretense encouraged me to speak out.”
“If you are gay, members of your community ostracize you. People think you are not normal, and they look at it as an abomination,” he added.
A number of his former friends provided evidence of this phenomenon, speaking on conditions of anonymity, with one telling the Los Angeles Times he had blocked Nabonibo’s number and was worried about how his former association with the singer would be read by his family.
“This is crazy. I don’t understand why he thinks this is normal,” said another former friend.
However, the 35-year-old, who said he came out because he could no longer “live in denial,” has gotten a word of encouragement from Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs.
“All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter. He has also encouraged Nabonibo to continue with his worship ministry.
LGBTQ Rwandans are protected against discrimination in some contexts, but full equality has not come to the country, with same-sex marriage still outlawed and adoption also barred for gay couples.
Despite the backlash he is experiencing, Nabonibo said he does not regret his decision to come out as gay.
“Criticism and sadness. What does it matter?” he asked. “What’s important is that I have taken my choice.”
“I feel for others like me who live in fear,” he told the BBC. “They should go out to be heard, because we have to be received like other people out here.”
He added that he intends to keep “singing for God.”
“Some people have insulted me, some have called me foolish and others called me stupid. But there are some who understand me, like my brother who has always encouraged me to be who I am,” he said.
“I will live with those who accept me and those who reject me. I know it will be a daily battle.”