Oftentimes, I’ve had people wonder out loud to me about how alike me and Declan Odum from my series, Love and Sex in the City, are. They have asked if we are the same persons, if there are variations, if I am he and he is me.
Well, we’re not. Declan is the kind of guy I wish I was. He has better gay experiences than I do. But every now and then, our lives cross with similar experiences and shared conflictions. One of those shared experiences was in the discovery of his sexuality by his younger brother, Fabian.
My younger brother discovered my homosexuality about three years ago. Much like Fabian, he had access to my phone and stumbled on a revealing chat that told him everything he needed to know. He didn’t confront me with his discovery. He simply handed me back my phone when he was finished and soon left the house. He lived in Port Harcourt then, and remained silent on the matter until he returned to PH. Then he called me and lashed out. Unfortunately for him, I was at the beginning of that stage in my life when I was getting restless with my closet, questioning why I wasn’t more open and freer with my sexuality. So when he attacked me on the phone, I didn’t flinch. I didn’t recoil. I didn’t even engage him in a verbal altercation. I stayed silent and aloof while he ranted, shifting gears from trying to guilt me about my ‘obligation’ to the family to educating me on how ‘gay people’ are a cult attempting to steal away my soul. Lol. There was nothing my brother didn’t say to get me to see the error of my ways, and when I chuckled at his antics, he flared afresh and threatened to out me to our parents.
“Do what you want,” I said coolly. What better way to step out of the stifling confines of the closet than for somebody to open the door for you from the outside.
I called his bluff and he retired in cold silence. For a long time, my brother and I didn’t speak to each other, until just before he travelled out of Nigeria. He made his peace with me and in the months that followed as he got more settled abroad, we found our way back to each other.
However, this story of love and acceptance wasn’t the case all round. Those three years ago, I had just relocated to Lagos and was staying with two cousins, both of them female. The apartment was rented by their father who’d retired to the East, and I was there at his behest. Following my brother’s knowledge of my homosexuality, I felt a profound sense of release. Finally, someone knew the true me and the world hadn’t ended with that. So I began to live a little. Before then, I’d discouraged visits from any friends of mine. That changed. I stopped trying to keep up appearances with my cousins and began to have friends over and overnight hookups. My visitors were always males, and I was aware the two girls were getting curious at best and suspicious at worst. But I did not care.
It didn’t take long for them to start acting on their suspicions of my liaisons. There were no confrontations, oh no. They got quietly hostile instead. They began wearing wooden expressions around me. They stopped speaking to me unless when absolutely necessary. The three of us worked and had this arrangement where we contributed every now and then to make purchases for the kitchen. They stopped asking me for my share of the contributions, a cessation that implied that I was no longer welcome to their cooking.
I was neither fazed nor bothered. The only parent I spoke to about the conflicts was my mother, because we are close and these cousins are my paternal relatives. Despite my entreaties for her to keep my tales of woe to herself, she eventually shared with my father the things I’d told her. My father must have in turn passed on his concerns to his cousin, my uncle, who thereafter called his daughters to berate them over their attitude.
The evening after this happened, one of them (who I’ll call Jezebel) stomped into my room, wanting to have a word with me.
“I don’t know what you’re reporting or to whom you’re reporting,” she said, her heavily-mascaraed eyes snapping angrily on her fleshy face, “but just know that if they ever call a meeting for us to discuss what is going on in this house, me, I have some things I will report o.”
The threat was very thinly veiled – and insulting, because it implied that I cared. Did she not know just how much I didn’t care? For heavenssakes, there’d been a night when the guy in my bed had given me such good loving that I’d moaned and gasped with reckless abandon, with the awareness that they were in the next room.
I chuckled sardonically at her and said, “Say whatever the fuck you want.”
She bristled at the cussword. “You cannot be using that kind of language in this house.”
“I will use whatever language I want,” I snapped. “Now please get the fuck out of my room.”
I pointed to the door. She eyed me stonily for a moment, not moving. I took a threatening step forward. She hissed, turned and flounced out.
The heat of their hostility was turned up several notches after that, enough to make me decide it was time to move out. A couple of weeks after this decision, I got a new place, moved out, deleted their contacts and never spoke to them again.
As life went on and the years passed, another female cousin (who I’ll call Sapphira) opened up a Facebook group that was to be a social media home for all us cousins in my extended family. No parents, no uncles, no aunts, just us youths, ranging from our thirties to our twenties. It was intended to be a place where we traded family gossip and updates on each other’s lives and all that jazz. I’ve always been an aloof member of my extended family, so I was very quiet in the group, contenting myself with liking some posts and comments.
Then a few weeks ago, I was on a radio show, in an interview about dating and relationships, where I expressed my views on marriage and child bearing, speaking of my intentions not to have either of the two. The radio show has a hefty listening public and some presence on the social media. Right then on the show, some listeners called in and texted to either chastise me or determine how my damaged upbringing was the root of my decisions. I laughed off the recriminations that night. The next day, I logged on into Facebook and I wasn’t laughing so much anymore. My opinions on marriage and child bearing had gotten snatched away, twisted out of context and taken on a life of its own. My notifications were getting hounded with mentions on updates here and there, where people were discussing the issue, either passing judgments or expressing approval. Some slid into my inbox with different messages that ranged from advice to chastisement. I tried to clarify my viewpoint with an update, but no one was listening. It didn’t help that the show’s presenter updated the interview on her blog, so the hour-long dialogue was there for anyone who wanted to revisit their outrage.
And all through this furor, I waited with bated breath for my mother to approach me on the issue. She has a social media presence and has often come to me to speak her mind on some of my posts. I waited. She never showed up.
Sapphira however did. She surfaced on one of my posts and commented: “Excuse me o, I just wanted to ask, cuz. Are you gay?”
I didn’t even deign her comment with a response. For someone with private access to me, she chose the wrong place to expect an answer from me. I simply packed her off my friend’s list. She must have stewed on her speculation for quite awhile, because about two weeks later, she came back with her query, this time in the family group.
I resisted the urge to get drawn into the post and quickly forgot about it.
Then a few days ago, someone brought the post back to me. That person was my brother. In the years that passed since he gained knowledge of my sexuality, we never talked about it, not even when we made our peace with each other. I wasn’t going to bring it up, and he clearly didn’t want the topic revisited. So for the longest time, I didn’t know if he had truly accepted me for who I am, or simply hated the sin and not the sinner.
That incertitude was cleared the day he buzzed me:
Brother: I saw that post ‘Sapphira’ posted. I wanted to comment but kept quiet because I was going to be rude to everybody and to her. so I just left it. It’s quite unfortunate how uneducated and judgmental we are back home. But that too shall pass.
Me: I’ve been ignoring her for awhile. She has been looking for a reaction from me, and I’ve learned to simply ignore her.
Brother: I was going to leave the group but I just chilled.
Me: Me too. Have you ever seen me comment on anything? I’ve always entertained the idea that I can leave whenever I want. Both Sapphira and Jezebel won’t get me. I reject!
Brother: They’re just a bunch of idiots that lack knowledge. Since I left Nigeria, I’ve grown in so many different ways. We are so backward there. Just free them. Do your thing. Don’t answer to anyone. You owe nobody any explanation. They no dey follow you talk their waka. So I don’t understand why you should talk your waka with them.
And right there and then, I had never loved my brother more.
So, take that, Declan! Your brother still hates your guts. Mine is now an advocate for the freedom of self-expression.
Written by Pink Panther