HE SEES THE LIGHT

HE SEES THE LIGHT

It had been a couple of weeks after the brutal attack on me and my friends in school; a couple of weeks after we decided that to not fight back, to not stand up for ourselves, was to let the same thing happen to countless others. It would mean we had decided to accept the status quo of being third class citizens in our own country. It would mean we had decided to cower away in fear and let homophobia win. And we’d fought back. Not illegally, as most people would have expected. We fought back legally. And we won. And together with our victory, we bore our scars. The scars left by homophobia, ignorance and indiscipline.

I returned home the week after Easter, having told Mother about everything that happened. Her only giveback was that what happened was commensurate punishment for my “sinful and perverse lifestyle choice.” However, I’d made a point of ignoring her and her bitter rantings against my sexuality. I was determined to live as peaceably as I could, not just with her, but with everyone I possibly could.

On the Sunday after Easter, the effects of my decision to tell our story here on Kito Diaries came knocking on my door.

I’d just settled down to eat my lunch when my phone rang. I checked the Caller ID and it was an unknown number. I make a point of ignoring unknown numbers, so I ignored the call. The individual called 3 more times and I kept ignoring the call, until Mother asked why I was ignoring the call and told me to answer. So, I did.

And it turned out to be Black (aka Dee, the writer of HOW CAN ANYONE CALL LOVE A CRIME?). He started off on a conciliatory note, pleading for me to forgive him and the other guys for what they’d done. He asked for the numbers of Sage, Abeeboi and Rhean so he could also call and apologise to them. I didn’t really care much for his apologies and I told him as much. And then he said something that shocked me.

“I saw your story on Kito Diaries. You’re actually a very good writer,” he said, while I listened in silence, trying to properly process what he was telling me.

Apparently, the campaign which started off on Kito Diaries to not just shame but humble and strike fear into the hearts of foolish homophobes was more successful than I’d originally imagined. The identifying pictures of the boys involved had apparently gone viral on Facebook (I was offline at this point, so I didn’t really know what was going on anywhere) and were splattered all over the Google search page, if anyone either took the time or made the mistake of searching for these boys on Google with their names. The Kito Diaries link was also connected to most of these posts and he had, apparently, gone on to read up all the stories I’d written about the event.

His call was not just a means of buttering me up to make me take down their pictures from KD; he also wanted to impress on me the need for me to do so. I simply told him I’d talk to the person who operates the blog. But I didn’t. I wasn’t ready to be that forgiving yet. I, however, did tell Absalom who was spearheading the social media decimation of their persons. And he, unequivocally, told me to tell Dee to shove it. I didn’t owe him anything. We didn’t owe him and the others anything save the retribution we were raining down on their heads. Pink Panther said the same thing when I finally told him about the whole drama and about how both Abeeboi and Rhean had turned on me for publicizing our ordeal on KD. To them, talking about it further would only serve to provoke our attackers further and would be a severe breach of our agreement to put the entire affair behind us.

I really couldn’t be bothered enough to give a flying fuck. I agreed unreservedly with everything Pink Panther and Absalom said on the matter and was very comfortable with where I was and the way things were. So, things stayed at that point.

But something had changed between us – Dee and I. He began to call me, every once in a while, to check up on me, and I usually answered him as coolly and as noncommittally as I could. I couldn’t even be bothered to save his number.

Then, in late July, I came back online. And I began to catch up on everything that had happened during my absence from social media and the online space. I saw the pictures still stuck on a few people’s Facebook accounts as most of the others had tired of the campaign and moved on. I saw that the perpetrators of the attack had gone on to change their Facebook IDs. I didn’t mind – heck, I was tired of the whole drama myself – and I launched myself fully back into the cyber community.

At some point in August, I got a message on WhatsApp, from a strange number asking me how I was and saying it had been really long. I read the message, having no idea who it was, and in my usual style, ignored the message. Then the messenger sent another message, saying “It’s Dee.”

And so, we began to chat. At first, my responses were wary, devoid of emotion and arctic cold. But with time, I began to warm up to him – not because of any emotional connection, but because I sensed that the monster who had attacked me earlier that year wasn’t the person I was talking with now. He’d changed, in some subliminal way that wasn’t obvious to the senses.

And so, one day, during one of our chats about how messed-up life after school and our school’s bureaucracies were, I asked him what changed about him. He asked what I meant by that and I told him that the person I was chatting with wasn’t the same person who’d been calling me between April and July, neither was he the idiot who’d needlessly attacked me and my friends. He replied that he’d been doing quite a bit of reading recently, especially about social, sexual and gender psychology. And when I asked him why, he said he realized that being ignorant about something isn’t good, especially when that ignorance gets fuelled by hate and dogma because it morphs into a destructive force.

And then he proceeded to ask me questions about the LGBT community in Nigeria, about how we survived, how our relationships thrived, and why we weren’t fighting for rights. He said something that shocked me. He said, “With what I know now, I’m not just ready to be at the frontlines of a Pride march. I’m willing and ready to organise one.” I laughed at his zeal – you know, in that way an elder laughs at a hot-blooded youth who wants to go off to war. And that was when we began to talk in earnest. I opened up about the struggles of being gay in Nigeria, the hate we have to face not just from the world, but often times from ourselves for our own difference. I told him of the many ways being gay changes your perspective of life and he agreed with me.

When he asked me why gay politicians and celebrities in Nigeria hadn’t come out to speak against homophobia, I retorted that it was his changed mindset that made him think of doing such a thing. That, and his heterosexual privilege. Up till this time, he’d never really understood that being heterosexual was being socially privileged and somewhat superior to the homosexual. He insisted that if he was gay, he’d be one of the people spearheading the campaign against homophobia. And, as if his liberalism wasn’t astounding enough, he railed against the educational and religious systems that teach hate and mistreatment as the perfect comeuppance for difference.

Talks like this proceeded between us for quite some time and before long, he opened a blog where all he did was write about liberal stuff – women’s liberation, racism, sexism, gender politics and the like. And that was where he first published his article – How Can Anyone Call Love A Crime? in October 2017. He sent the article to me but I didn’t see it because I had gone offline, again. It wasn’t until my return to WhatsApp recently that I saw it.

And I couldn’t help but smile. I smiled at how he’d come from the close-minded, stuck-up homophobe to the liberal, flag-bearing, pride-loving, gay friendly individual I now knew. Most of the time we spent together this year, we’ve spent discussing ways of bringing about a more serious discussion off the LGBT question in Nigeria in public spaces. It was he who gave me the idea of a lawsuit of unconstitutional discrimination over the SSMPA.

And so, people, that is how Black aka Dee came to see the light. From the darkest points of ignorance, he’s become one of the many allies we have in the community. And I cannot be prouder of how far he’s come.

Written by Mitch

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5 Comments

  1. Mandy
    October 20, 08:02 Reply

    He said, “With what I know now, I’m not just ready to be at the frontlines of a Pride march. I’m willing and ready to organise one.” I laughed at his zeal – you know, in that way an elder laughs at a hot-blooded youth who wants to go off to war.

    😂😂😂😂 I laughed too.
    But it’s nice. Let him keep this fire burning on our behalf. Lord knows we need it.
    But I hope that in all his fierceness, he won’t have a problem if an ignorant homophobe insinuates that he’s gay for being so invested in LGBT issues 😏😏

  2. Eddie
    October 20, 15:59 Reply

    Ugh! I’m sorry but I’m not that forgiving… If it happened to me,I would have had my revenge twofold… One by one, I’ll get them all…Hell,some might not survive it either
    You’re lucky that y’all survived

  3. Eddie
    October 20, 16:18 Reply

    Call me whatever but I just hate it when people just trample on helpless people like that and just come back and assume that everything is water under the bridge…some of us don’t recover our dignity as humans after all the ill done to us…we have to live with the memories everyday… I’m sorry

  4. Lyon
    October 20, 20:26 Reply

    😍
    That’s all i can say.

  5. Stretchy
    October 24, 09:38 Reply

    Mitch I must say I applaud your capacity for compassion and forgiveness. Re-reading your ordeal just stirs up anger in me at your assailants. In my opinion Dee doesn’t deserve the space u av given him so he better not fuck this up. Being in your shoes the best I cud do is forgive and have nothing the fuck to do with him again. Don’t call, text… Like Negro u don’t exist in my world. But again guess you are the better man.

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