My life took a new turn when I turned 18, due to an experience that changed my life forever (This story will be told another day). I resolved to be happy with my sexuality and stay or do away with people who threaten my happiness in one way or the other. With this resolved, as I woke up every morning, I felt more and more comfortable with my sexuality, and bolder about it in my day-to-day interactions.
Prior to this time, it was just my two oldest brothers who knew about my sexuality (another story for another day). One of them is a theist and the other atheist. Both of them did not warm up to their discovery of my homosexuality, but I was not discriminated against in any way. It got to a point where I felt I should come out to my closest friends, all of them altar servers. I did come out to them. They were shocked at first, but we talked about it, and at the end of the day, they told me it didn’t matter. After all, I was gay before they got to know me and nothing had changed even with my revelation.
This victory emboldened me, so that I came out next to my kid brother. To my surprise, he told me he’d known long ago, when he found Grindr in his memory card. The same card he’d earlier given me to use. After we talked for some time, his ultimate words to me were: “So far as you are happy, then I’ve got no issue.”
With this victory, I decided I was done with the men in my life. It was time to start the work on my sisters.
Deciding how to come out to my sisters was a bit tricky. Some of them are liberal and the others conservative. I however needed one who would strongly be in my corner, because my sisters are influential in the family and much more united than the men. And one of them kept coming to mind. Let’s call her Ariel.
For days, I thought about how to come out to Ariel. I wasn’t comfortable with just walking up to her and blurting it out, like I did with my younger brother. So, I decided to let her find out for herself.
I borrowed her phone and logged into my Messenger with the excuse that I was out of data. I sought out a friend who’d been wanting to get down with me for some time, but who I’d been saying no to. I texted him in ways I wouldn’t normally do – but wetin man fit do nah. It was a brief sext sha, with the promise that we would hook up soon. Then I immediately returned the phone to my sister, so that when the guy’s reply comes in, she would be the one to see it.
I waited a few days, watching her, trying to read her whenever we were together. But she didn’t act like she’d just discovered anything life-altering. At a point, I gave up. Two weeks later, a bunch of us siblings were in the living room, watching a movie. It was a film about a lesbian couple whose conservative families were struggling to accept. Towards the end of the movie, another one of my sisters – Aliona – had something to say. It was this whole “I think that’s the woman and that’s the man in the lesbian relationship” kind of opinion. As soon as she had gotten that off her chest, I asked her how she could say such a thing. And she was like, “Isn’t it obvious? One of them is in control and she has a manly character.”
Sigh. Importing heteronormative characteristics into gay relationships.
I began to lecture her on how people’s expression of self and outward disposition is not enough for one to slap them with unfair labels. I told her that a masculine-presenting woman is about as much a man as an effeminate man is a woman. I went further to make a case for how not all gender nonconforming people are gay.
I didn’t realise I’d gotten carried away with my lecture – or maybe I did, and didn’t care. Anyway, when we resumed watching the movie, Ariel finally spoke up.
She asked a simple question: “Dillish, are you gay?”
I froze. My eyes stayed focused on the TV screen, but I suddenly wasn’t seeing anything. In my mind, I was going like: How can you ask me this in front of everybody!!! As I recollected myself, my gaze caught that of my younger brother’s, and he gave me a “What are you going to say” look.
Ariel asked the question again, and I was still feeling too sucker-punched to be honest. I dredged up a laugh as fake as they come, and said, as though I was speaking to the room, what an absurd question that was. Aliona came to my rescue by asking Ariel the things I’d earlier said about labelling people was what prompted “this nonsense question”. I was grateful for that interjection, because to God who made me, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I angled for Ariel finding out about me.
Ariel wasn’t perturbed by Aliona’s defense of me. she asked another question: “Do you have a girlfriend?”
Hay God. Couldn’t this girl do this in private, with an audience of zero?
I said no.
Another of my sisters asked why.
I replied, “Because relationships are an expense and I’m broke.”
After my response, attention returned to the film. But Ariel wasn’t done. She left her seat and came to sit beside me. She took my hand and with a small smile, she asked me to tell her the truth. “Are you gay?”
I looked at her, and with my heart pounding, being fully aware that the whole room was listening even though they were acting like they were watching the film, I said yes.
She nodded, stood up and went inside the house. I didn’t know what to think of that, and was feeling a bit anxious.
It was 9 PM and I was getting ready to sleep, when Ariel came to my room and asked if I could spare some time to talk to her. I said yes, and we went outside and sat down in the compound. She started by saying that I already knew what the talk was going to be about. She talked about how she’d always told people to let gays and lesbians live their lives, seeing as their choices affected no one, and for her opinions, people had always called her crazy. She said that while she’d been busy telling people out there to respect other people’s choices, little did she know that for twenty-two years and some months apparently, she had a gay brother living right under her nose. She told me to tell her everything and about why I chose to be gay.
I started by correcting her, that sexuality isn’t a choice. I told her when I realized my attraction for guys, my trials and struggles toward accepting myself. The deliverances I went for and the numerous confessions I did, and the numerous visits to the Chapel of Adoration. I told her that in spite of all this, nothing changed. I told her about my internal crises and the varying discriminations I’d faced. How I experienced peace when I accepted myself.
She was quiet, listening with rapt attention. When I was done, she asked if I’d had sex and what it was like. I seized that moment to steer the conversation away from the dark and heavy. I made jokes as I talked about gay sex and how it was different from the kind of sex she had. She was laughing and was like, “Are you serious?” When I told her about my first sexperience, she cut me off, apologising while saying how weird it was starting to sound to her. I told her I understood. We went to bed by past 2 AM.
The following day, she called me to her room after breakfast, sat me down and said that she’d been thinking about all we talked about. She said that first and foremost, on behalf of our family, she would like to apologise for all the ways they had unwittingly made life miserable or uncomfortable for me with their insensitive jokes and snide remarks about the LGBT community. She said their ignorance was no excuse, but I should forgive them. She said that as a family, they had failed me by leaving me alone to go through all I did on my own, with no help or support. That they should have noticed me when I was battling my demons. She promised to be there thenceforth, that I should involve her whenever I had challenges I the future regarding my sexuality. That I didn’t have to be alone anymore.
She asked if this was the reason I stopped going to church, if the church’s homophobia was the reason I stopped believing. I said yes. She said that if that would ensure my good health and peace of mind, then she had no problem with it. That she would rather have me a non-Christian who was content with himself than a religious person who was miserable.
I thanked her and was on my way out of the room, when I suddenly thought of something. I stopped and told her that I had two questions for her. And that her answer to the first would determine if I would ask her the second. She said ok.
I asked, “Sentiments apart, why did you accept me? Is it because I am your kid brother? If this were someone else, would you have been so open and accepting of him?”
She replied, saying that our kinship was one of the reasons she accepted me. that the major reason was how challenged she felt by the way it seemed that I’d accepted myself. Living my truth despite being faced with pitfalls. Standing my ground even though it caused me pain and stress, even when she knew the kind of person I am, who runs away from stress.
I thanked her and told her she’d answered my second question. She insisted I ask it. So, I did. I asked if she believed me being gay was natural, that I was born this way.
She took a moment before answering. She said, “If there is one thing I have learnt about nature, it’s that Mother Nature fights back when humans try to obstruct the natural balance of the world. This is the case here. The church and society think they are solving the problem by creating these antigay laws, when in reality, they are worsening things for themselves. I mean, for instance, when we insist on laws that keep gay people in the closet, they end up marrying straight people, and everyone suffers for it. This to me is how Nature fights back. Even animals show homosexual tendencies. And I say to myself: Isn’t that also proof that you are natural?”
I was frankly very surprised by this response, and she sensed it. She told me not to be surprised, because the day she saw that hookup message I’d wanted her to see on my Messenger, she was shocked, especially after she went on to read the history of the chat. She couldn’t believe what she read. And so, she went on to do some reading online and got to learn a thing or two before she decided to confront me with her questions that day in the living room.
I was very impressed by this. But as I left her room, for whatever reason, I wasn’t very convinced by my sister’s overwhelmingly positive attitude. I felt it was too good to be true. I wanted to be sure she was sincere. So, I began testing her. I downloaded Grindr to her phone when mine crashed. And I didn’t lock the app. Then I would use her WhatsApp number for my hookups. And she didn’t seem to care; she would simply tell me not to let her phone spoil. Sometimes, I would be sleeping or not around her when a message would drop in on her phone, and she would tell the guy I am not available at the moment. And when we see, she would give me her phone, jokingly telling me to attend to my lovers who’ve been disturbing her.
When I told her I was going to share this story on Kito Diaries, she had this to say: “I have seen people, presumably straight people, call homosexuality an ‘act’, which is not true and in every way demeaning. You and your community should do your best not to accept that label, since straight people do not call their lives as heterosexual people an act. I once told you that your acceptance of yourself is what challenged me to accept you. That is the way it should be with you all. Until you begin to accept yourselves as a reality, the society will continue to disregard you and relegate you to the shadows. True happiness can only come from self-acceptance.”
Written by Dillish