So, a few years ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine and he asked me a question which I believe some of us have had to answer at some point in our lives.
“Who converted you?”
Of course now, with everything I now know about my sexuality, I’ve come to realize that that question is just the silliest thing. But back then, what with my ignorance, I swiftly answered, “My cousin.”
In 2011, my cousin (let’s call him Nathan) came over to my house to spend the weekend. We were age mates, both eleven years of age, and we bonded quickly. Later that day, after having our bath, we stepped out into the bedroom and he suddenly pounced on me. He simply pushed me onto the bed, climbed on top of me and began grinding his small hard-on against my ass. There was no penetration; just the fumbling of two young naked bodies and private parts rubbing up against each other. At first, I was too shocked to react, and then I didn’t want him to stop. I did struggle a bit with him, but that was because I was scared of someone walking into the room and catching us. Luckily, no one did.
After Nathan left, I discovered that I was no longer the same. I wanted more of what he gave me. I yearned for more. The next time we met, I made the first move this time, but Nathan was not interested. He was more concerned about a girl who lived next door. I felt crushed and alone. He had introduced me to a whole new world of desires and had simply left me there, stranded.
I was new to everything – the feeling, the urges, the hunger. All these were driving me insane. I had no one to talk to, no friend to confide in. I felt alone. I felt dejected.
As the years went by and I became more aware of what I was feeling and what the world around me thought of it, it became apparent to me that my family’s stand on homosexuality was “burn them all.” Every time a story broke about homosexual men disgraced publicly or lynched by a mob, I often had to sit through the conversation amongst my family members as they condemned these men and insisted that they were getting what they deserved. These men who I was increasingly becoming aware that I was very much like.
And after listening to them, I would quietly go to my room and release all my pent-up tears. They were indirectly stabbing me with their words and their hate. I was so alone. I wanted to rid myself of these urges. I read the bible, fasted and prayed. I attended vigils and deliverances. And when none of these were working, I got desperate.
I’d read somewhere that if you want to cut off a bad habit, you have to associate pain with it and then the body will naturally end it. And that started the period when I started cutting myself. Every time I masturbated to the imagination of some good looking guy I’d seen and liked, I would cut myself. And one day, I cut myself too deep, deep enough to draw a lot of blood. I had to lie to my family that I cut myself by accident while I was peeling an orange, and they believed me because they knew I was clumsy like that.
However, these urges were going nowhere still. I would always find myself checking out guys and wondering how it would feel to kiss them. And then I’d get so mad at myself for thinking these thoughts.
But one way I comforted myself during this struggle was by telling myself that it wasn’t my fault. It was Nathan who did this to me. And it felt awful that I owed this part of my life to Nathan of all people. (I’d grown to start disliking that cousin of mine for other reasons than the fact that he turned me gay.)
With time though, I began to accept that there was no running away from this. That even though I wasn’t born this way, even though this was what Nathan did to me, I was stuck with it. There was no changing who I had become. Oddly enough, this realization began to help me feel good about myself.
About two years ago, I was stalking on Facebook a guy I had a crush on. His name was Collins. Then I came across a gay page on his list of liked pages. I quickly went into his DM and asked him about it, and he came out to me, saying he was gay.
The wave of relief that surged through me upon reading this was intense. Not because I liked him, but because I realised I was no longer alone. Here was someone who was like me.
His admittance led to us talking more and more. I had questions and he had answers. I was very shocked when he told me about gay parties he’d attended right here in Port Harcourt. I could not believe that while I was trying to get rid of the gay gene that my cousin had soiled me with, there was a thriving world of homosexuals in my city.
Collins turned out to be a godsend to me. He talked to me about what it meant to be homosexual, giving me a better orientation of who I am and what that meant – to be gay in Nigeria. He introduced me to the community slangs, educating me on how gay men talk. He cautioned me about kito, letting me know just how unsafe it was for us in Nigeria. He was my confidante and my guide. He became the big brother I’d always wished I had.
I’d always believed it was my cousin who “converted” me. And then, I watched a movie called Alex Strangelove. There was a scene where the main character, Alex, was in a pool and he was remembering how he used to be bullied back in school because he got an erection while watching the other boys bathe.
I didn’t go into any pool, but after watching that movie, I lay in my bed and worked through my mind, remembering. I remembered the tall, fair, good looking older boy next door, Clement, whose smile I could die for. I remembered the games my childhood best friend once suggested we play, where we would touch each other’s penises, and how I was so excited by it but wouldn’t play because I was afraid my mom would catch us. I remembered always being focused on the guys in movie sex scenes just before my sisters would fast-forward it.
All these happened before Nathan came along and ground his 11-year-old hard-on against my buttocks.
This could only mean one thing: I was in fact born this way. It felt good and relieving to know that I wasn’t gay because he did it to me. There was no one to blame, because there was nothing to be blamed for. I simply was gay. I just hadn’t been aware of it until Nathan gave me my first sexual experience.
I have since then decided to love myself for who I am. I will no longer to attempting to change myself, not even with people thinking this isn’t normal. After all, being normal is boring.
But every now and then, I find myself wondering: is there anything like converting someone into being gay? Is it possible for one to always be heterosexual, and then a chance intimacy with another man will have the power to change all that? Or are we all just born this way, waiting for the right moment to realize it?
PS: About Nathan… These days, he is very much the black sheep of the family. We met recently and he was into drugs and running from some cultists. I have no idea what sexual orientation he leans into because he’s very much a stranger to me.
Written by Loki