So a few months ago (this would be the period immediately after I was outed to mum), I got a call from an aunt of mine. I hadn’t heard from her in two years. We used to chat frequently on Facebook, but we lost contact right after she moved to Lagos.
After the initial exchange of pleasantries, we went straight to catching up, chatting about a variety of stuff from my weight loss to her life in Lagos to the new baby brother my mother had adopted for the family in her old age and how much controversy it had caused in the family. A little more small talk, then there was a small pause before she asked, “Kainene, are you gay?”
That came out of nowhere!
I could have lied smoothly. But I figured what the hell…
“Yes ma,” I answered.
I could almost hear her nod on the other end.
“How did it start?” she asked.
I had to suppress the laughter that bubbled up inside me. This question, whenever it’s posed to me, always amuses me. I launched into a detailed analysis about my sexuality, my struggle with coming to terms with it, blah, blah, blah. I was talking for almost an hour, and she stayed silent, listening, not interrupting.
Then, the call was abruptly disconnected. I felt anxious by that. I found myself wondering whether she ended the call because she found my explanation irritating or if she had exhausted her airtime. I prayed for the later to be the case.
I was going through Facebook on a hot afternoon two weeks ago. I had been at a Yudala concert all night long supervising a friend’s performance. I came across a post from a troubled gay friend (let’s call him Ummi); a severely depressing post that ended with RIP, a deep rant about the wickedness of the world, one that seemed random. Not paying too much attention to it, I liked the post, and then carried on with what I was doing. Later in the day, I saw a second post. A photo of Ummi severely battered on a hospital bed. My heart skipped a beat when I read the narrative that followed. It was almost a suicide note.
I was about getting into panic mode, anxious by my cluelessness as to what happened, when Alor called. “Kainene! Ummi was gay-bashed on his way back from the Yudala concert!”
“Yes o! Apparently he was at the concert too and he left early. A few guys with a girl offered him a ride after he updated his whereabouts on Facebook, and he got in. The rest is history. They left him by the side of the road thoroughly beaten.”
As Alor spoke, I picked up a nuance in his tone. And I knew he sounded the way he did because his own kito experience years back in school had come alive in his mind upon recounting Ummi’s horror. He hated to talk about it. About that night when he was beaten unconscious, revived, and beaten unconscious again. About how he tried to run and they cut his ankle with a broken bottle. The scar is still there.
For those who think the account of the struggle of LGBT Nigerians are works of fiction, kito cases happen almost every day. I come across them regularly because I live in a place where the LGBT community has refused to be invisible or be silenced. And so, the enemy strikes continuously and surely. Somewhere, if given the chance, there is a homophobe that will fuck you bloody with a broken bottle, an anonymous driver that will hit you and run, the policeman that will extort from you simply for being you.
The race is nowhere near the finish line. Unity is the only weapon we possess.
Written by Kainene