DEAR STRAIGHT PEOPLE (Episode 2)

DEAR STRAIGHT PEOPLE (Episode 2)

Dear Straight People

If Only You Could Open The Window To Your Heart.

Let’s go on a journey, an exposition of some sort, on the life of a hypothetical gay man living in Nigeria.

I’ll call him Chima. Feel free to name him whatever it is that helps you see his humanity. You can give him your brother’s name.

This letter will try to explain the anger and impatience of the LGBT community towards homophobia, and even non-hateful ignorance from the general public. It will also try to explain why we cannot afford patience and docility.

Let’s start with Chima. Born in a suburb near Onitsha. Chima is very effeminate. His primary school education is especially characterized by bullying. Verbal bullying, physical bullying. Chima never learns to be at peace with himself. He is so openly castigated by his peers, and even family, and from such a young age, that he never really learns to love himself.

In secondary school, Chima learns that he is gay. That is, he is sexually attracted to men. He is devastated by this discovery. He begins to toe the line of hating himself, and his family encourages him with the oblivious comments they make. In their defense, they don’t know how much harm they inflict on one of their own with those comments.

Chima’s sexual attraction is not something he can ever discuss with friends, even his closest friends. The world is that hostile. He feels isolated and alone. So alone. He must bear his burden alone.

Eventually Chima finishes secondary school and goes on to the university, where he meets a more diverse collection of people.

However, there the bullying continues because of Chima’s effeminacy. Even those who are gay do not want to associate themselves with Chima because of fear or worse, internalized homophobia. This is homophobia against oneself caused by one’s own repressed homosexuality. It is very commonly expressed as disdain for people perceived to be homosexual.

Some of Chima’s classmates suspect he’s gay. They mobilize and decide to test out their hypothesis. One of them approaches Chima, shows him some kindness, an iota of tenderness. And Chima falls for it, proving their suspicion to be right.

As a consequence, Chima is beaten and then blackmailed, constantly, for money, for favours. He is helpless. If he ever dares to call their bluff, he is beaten again, by his peers, for daring to be different. A spec of colour in a world so keen on being gray.

Chima is outed and his reputation is destroyed because people actually sincerely believe that being gay is an abomination. An immorality. Even people who knowingly keep friends that are Yahoo boys hate Chima, call him a disgrace.

The lecture halls are a danger in and of themselves. The bullying becomes unbearable. Chima cannot even report because he doesn’t know if his Department is one of most in Nigeria that doesn’t think a gay man is morally fit to graduate.

This hypothetical scenario is many people’s experiences. It is what many queer Nigerians are currently living. It is the life they know. The life that many after them are doomed to – at least in countries such as Nigeria.

Dear Straight People,

If you are a rational human being, you need to realize that your personal opinion could harm people. Like seriously harm them, make their lives miserable. Whether your opinion is “Gay people are an abomination” or it is “I don’t hate them but it’s not normal.”

You should realize that human lives suffer the consequences of these “opinions”.

Many are not as long-suffering as Chima. They fall off along the way, harm themselves, resign themselves to chronic depression, everlasting unhappiness.

Did you know that LGBT youth are way more at risk of depression and suicide than non LGBT youth?

Do you care? No really, do you?

Did you know that studies carried out at the San Francisco State University found that even within the demography of gay youth, young people who receive support and acceptance from family members are way better off in issues concerning mental health?

Did you know that compared with LGBTQ young people who were not rejected or only received a minimal level of rejection from parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender identity, highly rejected LGBT young people are •Eight (8) times as likely to attempt suicide; •Six (6) times as likely to report high levels of depression; •More than three (3) times as likely to use illegal drugs; •More than three (3) times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs?

Did you know? Do you care?

And remember that this rejection is not just for people that are out. The vitriol and homophobic rhetoric you spew here could be hurting your family member without you knowing.

Remember that time you said, “I don’t support all the mob killings of gay people but gay people are disgusting. Even animals don’t do it”?

Your brother could have been one of the people you hurt. Your sister could have seen it and cried herself to sleep. That harmless opinion of yours – do you know how much harm it can cause, how much harm it causes?

Is there a window to your heart? Is it open? Will you ever open it?

Let me explain why I believe it is irrational to expect LGBT people to be docile and non combative in the face of such verbal degradations.

This is not hard to understand. In dealing with issues concerning the LGBT, it is key for you to remember that you are having an opinion on our lives. It is not your life. It is OURS and ours alone. Or at least, that is the way it should be.

It is very enraging that an opinion that really should have no bearing on a discussion would hold so much weight in it.

In a discussion between an LGBT activist and an ignorant person last week on twitter, the ignorant person kept peppering the activist with questions that ran along popular lines such as: “Why don’t animals do it?” “Why didn’t our ancestors accept it?” “Why can’t people like that seek medical help instead of wanting freedoms?”

The important question however is actually: How does it negatively impact anyone’s life if two adults decide to love (or fuck) themselves? What has this union ever taken away from you?

There is a moral question here, even for non-homophobic people who are indifferent. Those who simply don’t care enough. Those who don’t hate the LGBT but would like LGBT people to give them a break from their constant talking about LGBT issues.

How much is a human life worth to you?

How much do you care about the emotional and mental health of children born like this, even in your own family?

Because homosexuality isn’t immoral once you stop judging morality by religious dogma.

Chima is that younger brother that looks up to you. He is your favourite cousin. He your adorable nephew, the one you keep asking why he’s not smiling. He’s your son that you constantly worry about, the one that cares about nothing, that fantasizes about death, about a quiet safe place where everything is gentle and the people he loves the most won’t hurt him for a part of him he did not choose, something that has harmed no one. He is your best friend.

Open your mind and your heart. You are not alone in this world. Your actions matter. Your words matter. They do.

In every decision we make in society, we must consider the emotional well-being of people. I find it ridiculous when people argue that emotions should have no place in rational discourse. Sure, in public discourse, arguments should not be made plainly on personal emotional sentiments, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t consider the emotional well-being of people. Because emotional well-being affects security, economics, standards of living, health – literally everything.

It is very important and I, as a liberal, make no apologies for arguing with it as a main consideration of my points.

It is very essential that we care.

Open the window to your heart. It will make people’s lives better. I swear.

Written by Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

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2 Comments

  1. Mandy
    August 09, 06:33 Reply

    The straight people to who this is addressed… They have no heart. I was on twitter yesterday, saw the homophobic mess that was going on around this guy, Azaya’s tweet, and I was just depressed. They cannot open a heart they don’t have.

    • Kayode
      August 10, 16:55 Reply

      I believe some do. And that many who appear not to, do so because they can’t emphasize with the LGBT community.

      They constantly dehumanize LGBT folk to keep themselves in that space of hate.
      They don’t really realize how objectively immoral their stance is.

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