“I Was Like A Fish Out Of Water.” Kenny Brandmuse Gives Tell-All Interview

“I Was Like A Fish Out Of Water.” Kenny Brandmuse Gives Tell-All Interview

So Kenny Brandmuse, the man who broke the internet in 2015 with his coming out, recently sat to an interview with a few media outlets to give a very illuminating insight into his life as a gay man living with HIV and his perception of the LGBT movement in Nigeria.

Check on it.

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Tell us about Kehinde Bademosi.

I’m a social innovation specialist with about two decades of work experience in brand marketing communications, human-centered design and purposeful storytelling. I currently work at Johns Hopkins University on crucial federal grants at the Baltimore City Health Department where I work with the assistant commissioner to pioneer the social innovation section of the bureau. My work involves human-centered design, gathering and translating textual data from storytelling, designing service prototypes, and developing meaningful engagement strategies and actions in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of scientists and community advocates.

On certain weekends, I volunteer my time to teach Orange Academy, Africa’s first school of brand experience, via the Internet.

I love ofada rice, grilled salmon fish, ice cream, and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

 

What was your experience living in Nigeria just before relocating abroad?

In one phrase: fish out water.

I was buried in my work and teaching at Orange Academy to numb the pain of rejection and shame. To do otherwise was to dip myself in a bath of scalding hot water and leave the faucet on. I had just gone through a very bitter divorce where the courtroom was my death place; there, strangers threw figurative rocks at me as my ex-wife told the Judge she wanted nothing from the marriage but a severe punishment. She demanded that the court should send me to jail for leaving her to be with a man. I remember sitting beside my lawyer who continuously calmed me down. My lawyer assured me that one cannot be tried in a civil court for being a homosexual. It was in the wake of Nigeria’s jail-the-gay bill which the Nigerian government had just signed into law. I stood there on an invisible leash waiting to be dragged into the unknown. My limbs shook. My ears tried to shut out the noises of gay bashers and bible thumpers in that small Ikeja magistrate court. But I was right in front of them, and I had nowhere to hide. My lawyer asked the plaintiff, my wife, if she’d just discovered I was a gay man, or she had known before getting married to me. She refused to answer.

During those trying times, I got a call from Abuja. It was from my biggest client, the National Youth Service Corps. The gentleman on the phone told me that my wife had called them in Abuja, telling them to immediately end my contract as a national trainer because I could affect the lives of the corps members as a gay man. I tried to make my case, that I had trained over 20,000 young Nigerian graduates and executives and no one had complained. Through Orange Academy, I had personally discovered and empowered top-notch talents which lead various organizations today.

But nah! Nigeria can forgive you for embezzling public funds or committing adultery. But if they get to know you’re gay, all your good work will be erased immediately. If you ask why, they’ll quote the scriptures.

At my day job where I worked as a creative director for a top ad agency, time began to pass very quickly. I had to cope with the slighting talks and the shifty eyes of colleagues and clients when I attended work meetings. APCON, AAAN and other professional bodies where I had contributed to as an examiner and a conference speaker cut me off their lists like a leper. I chugged along and acted like all was fine. A few friends told me, “Your wife has told everyone the story…” I’d always ask: “Which story?”

Like fish out water, I burrowed my fins in the sand, waiting to be caught by anyone who needed me for breakfast.

 

At what age did you realize you are gay, and how did you handle your emotions?

As far back as my pre-teen years. My twin sister easily became my foil character.  While she was fawning over the opposite sex and starting to display all the girl-wants-boy syndromes, my wet dreams weren’t about the opposite sex. Out of sheer curiosity, I got initiated into a world of sex with many women and girls in the neighborhood. Even though some of these ladies and trysts became very fond of me, somehow, I knew something was off.

Fortunately, the church came along, and I got immersed very quickly into a different world. I went to a Bible school at seventeen to become a children’s church minister. The early waves of the modern Pentecostal movement in Nigeria swept me off my feet, and I wanted to save the world for Jesus. I followed many firebrands to gospel camp meetings, revivals, and crusades. At the end of these meetings, I recall how I would go home feeling different. I had infatuations and strange attractions, but I had no reference point to the subject of sexuality. It was a binary world of man meets a woman, and a woman meets a man. It’s the tradition. And even though I never had sex with anyone in our gospel team, I once became very jealous when one of my friends became very close to a female chorister. How silly! I didn’t even know the word “gay”. I had never heard the word “homosexual”. The first time I heard that word was one time when my twin sister said it in jest. “You go to church every day and wear all those funny trousers looking like those village evangelists… No interest in all these girls… Maybe you are homosexual.” Unintentionally, my sister launched me into a world where I endlessly searched for the word “homosexual”.

“Who are homosexuals?”  I wrote extensively about this paradoxical journey of spirituality and sexuality in my upcoming memoir, Exodus. It was a lot of pain, denial, and self-shaming.

 

How did you come out to your parents and were they accepting of the man you are?

I never had the opportunity to come out to my dad before he passed on. I don’t think it would have been easy. He was a military-style dad. Perhaps I’m wrong. However, my mom got it sooner than I thought. When I separated from my wife, and I went to see my mom so I could tell her everything, she raised her backhand and shushed me.

“Kehinde, as a mother, I know you. I have watched you grow, and I know what you are not saying. Just promise me one thing. Promise me that you’ll never live by yourself because life is tougher growing old alone.”

She wanted me to have a companion or at least have a child or some sort of family. My ex-boyfriend, (we once lived together) became my mom’s good friend. For instance, when my mom came visiting, she never interfered in our business. I recall when we broke up and he left, my mom would always ask me if there was anything she could do to get us back together.

 

What has changed since you came out as a gay man?

Everything, and nothing! Because I’m still coming out. It’s a lifetime of coming out. We need to come out to ourselves about so many things. For me, coming out means coming out of something and coming into something. No, gay people are not the only ones who need to come out. We all need to look into our lives and be upfront with ourselves. Am I living my authentic life or am I living it to please families and friends? How about my job? We all need a coming out party. To come out is to confront shame and limitations to live our most authentic life. It’s a journey we take as we grow into the self; finding our own spiritual voice and purpose. It’s admitting to one’s self that life is too short to live it pleasing people who don’t even know who they are. So, I’m still coming out. I’m learning new things about me. I’m dealing with bad habits that deplete my sense of self, and I’m pushing myself to embrace the positive things and people that make me happy.

 

What were your thoughts about marrying someone of the same sex following your divorce from a woman?

It’s very personal. Marriage is not for everybody. My getting married was a way to center myself and honor my mom who had encouraged me not to go through life all by myself. In my opinion, loneliness is the biggest epidemic in the world today. Especially amongst gay people. No thanks to a world of rejection and trauma. All of us humans need companions and support systems and some find it through marriage. Some find that belongingness through friendship or other things. I think it’s wherever we find it. That something that makes you complete. As someone who curates content on social media as part of my job, I have seen tons and tons of textual data that suggest people want the simplest thing of life: to be loved and to love back.

My ex-wife was a lovely woman, but like most of us, she was severely damaged by extreme religious beliefs and bigotry. (No, not all religious people are bigots, but most bigots are religious). Like I wrote extensively about this in various interviews and in my memoir, she believed she could convert me from same-sex attraction to heterosexual attraction through prayers and marriage. Talk about pussy therapy. And I was stupid enough to believe it. I take the blame for following through with the wedding, thinking I would wake up one day and all these same-sex attractions would just disappear. They didn’t. They won’t. I am who I am, and I should never have to be someone else. Looking back now, I feel very guilty that I didn’t insist enough. Considering that shortly before our wedding, I broke up with her, perhaps I could have stuck to my guns. During our brief breakup, I told her I needed to fix myself because of my conflicting sexuality. I remember how she wouldn’t give up. She believed it was the devil, and that if we could just get married, all would be well. Of course, all was not well. And of course, she became a significant pain when the change she had prayed for was not coming as fast as she wanted it. She turned from a change-maker to a troublemaker. I guess she was frustrated that God was not answering her prayers soon enough.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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10 Comments

  1. trystham
    September 12, 07:51 Reply

    Loooool. I’ll bet you are hoping someone reads this and borrows a leaf from true ‘LBGT representation’ or had this been in the works?💅💅

    • Pink Panther
      September 12, 08:17 Reply

      Yeah this was supposed to be yesterday’s post. But it is timely as well. May all of them who have eyes observe.

  2. Malik
    September 12, 23:34 Reply

    I swear. I hear the Lord warning me about marriage,

  3. Mandy
    September 13, 04:53 Reply

    I can’t even imagine how harrowing it must’ve been. So this divorce and all the nastiness happened the very same year of the SSMPA. To live with such terror simply because you decided to live your truth. Kudos to you, Kenny.

  4. Kenny
    September 13, 12:29 Reply

    Hmmm! In a scenario,where its just me and my younger sis. Where as d only son,u are expected to get married like ASAP. I swear its frustrating,d pressure is better left untold. I hope i dont go through ur kinda ordeal in future. #Amscared.

    • Delle
      September 13, 16:08 Reply

      Truth be told, I do not support in any form MGMs (except of course you’re bisexual but that would be MBM) but here, I’ve read a lot of stories by guys who are being pressured into marriage by family, society, peer etc.

      It’s easy, I’ve come to realise, to say they should shun the noise and live their most authentic lives but I’ve come to understand a lot of people take their families a lot more than maybe I do. And if your family isn’t willing to bend for you, you feel bending for them would give you peace..fine.

      But note the end word…peace.

      That’s what you should pursue. There’s really nothing like having peace of mind in yourself knowing whatever relationship you have with your partner isn’t built on deceit and lies.

      So if you feel you MUST succumb to the pressures of family, that you can’t sit them down and explain to them why you think this is a bad idea, then you should at LEAST tell your intending about you!

      There are women out there who are understanding. Women who are open-minded and willing as well. You can work something out. But I’ll never encourage you to go into matrimony blind. You should have some form of leverage and the importance of being truthful to your spouse can’t be overemphasized.

      • J
        September 15, 09:40 Reply

        You’re absolutely right Delle. You are matured and very intelligent. Please be my mentor, I would like to know you more… I need a gay friend that will be advising me.

    • Dayo
      September 15, 19:01 Reply

      Ermm, someone should do a research on being a second twin and sexuality.

      Cos this is like the 5th Kenny I’m seeing excluding myself but including Brandmuse and Wiley

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