By: Mike Kimani
I was born Lewis Maina in Nairobi, Kenya, though my official name is Michael Kimani. I’m a TV course tester (NBC, CBS & FOX), obstacle course racer, ninja warrior, swimmer, and a water polo & underwater torpedo player. I’m currently training for the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong.
I’ve been blessed to have incredible role models and influencers in my life. My grandmother was the first Kenyan woman to serve in the Ministry of Education, and my grandfather was the Permanent Representative and Head of Mission to the United Nations at Nairobi. My grandparents’ legacy has taught me the rewards of passion, resilience & advocacy.
I kept my sexuality a secret until my freshman year of college at the University of Michigan. I finally felt safe to explore myself and who I was, but I always felt there was a line I couldn’t cross. Being an immigrant, particularly a black man in this country, I learned through experience and my mother’s warnings that I would be automatically judged if I came out, and at the time, I just wasn’t ready.
When my mother died by suicide in 2017, I was planning a trip back home to bury her, I asked myself, Can I go home? Will I even come back in one piece? I had lived in America for so long that I had forgotten what life is like for the LGBTQ community back home. Looking around in the various communities I belonged to, I didn’t see my culture or sexuality represented.
This knowledge made me want to come out—first, to be true to myself so I could be myself, and second, to be a light for someone else, who might look like me, on their journey of self-discovery.
I come from a family of activists, and my 19 year-old sister, Mary, particularly lives up to that legacy. She inspires me by powerfully standing true to who her belief and being an advocate for those whose voices are not heard. She reminds me of my late mother and grandmother. I would be honored to walk in their footsteps through my own activism.
I want people to know that there is no one way to look or be LGBTQ. As an African-American gay athlete, I am proud to partner with Athlete Ally to encourage all athletes to stand in their truth and be proud of who they are, and to bring awareness to the stringent laws in many African countries that need to be abolished.
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