I have decided to put these thoughts down as writing things down helps me clear my head and I have the comfort of knowing they are safe somewhere. Right off the bat, I would like to state that I understand we all have different stories, different lives to live and different circumstances/ motives especially as it has to do with decisions in life like coming out or the very hot button issue of getting married to members of the opposite sex. What unites us basically is our difference in being sexual minorities. What we do with that reality or how we let it affect our lives is entirely up to us. My intention here is to present a different perspective on some dilemmas we face. What I am about to relate, I have lived firsthand, so I am talking from experience. I have however not conducted or read any studies on the subject; therefore I am not speaking from the point of expertise.
It wasn’t so long ago when the former UK prime minister called Nigeria fantastically corrupt and our president agreed with him. I have also read a viral post written by an expat on his experience working in Nigeria. One of the things that struck me was his conclusion that Nigeria is a truly classless society. According to him, given the same situation, both the elite and the rogue will behave in the same manner when it comes to cutting corners to get ahead or using one’s position for gain. I was reminded of a situation in which I was involved in a debate with colleagues about corruption in Nigeria, the gist of which was if we would take our chunk of the national cake should we attain a position of power. To my dismay that day, everyone, a group of 15 to 20 persons, all accepted that it was inevitable that they would loot albeit to a lesser degree than the crop of politicians at the time were doing. Not only that; they insisted I would do the same when I tried to go against this popular position. As a nation, there exists due to constant exposure this level of acceptance to bending the rules even in the most well intentioned individual.
I have been reminded of these in our recent debates on MGMs. It seems that everything is being done to justify this course of action. From the societal expectations, family pressures, religious inclinations and more recently, to be better heard when it comes to advocating for gay rights. These are fine and good, given the predicament we find ourselves in. However I feel the discussion needs to be pushed further. I feel that if anyone truly believes himself to be gay, or if one is attracted to members of the same sex, then a decision to marry someone of the opposite sex should be one reached with regret and discussed with a bit of foreboding for the future. However what I have witnessed here seems to be the opposite. People vociferously defending the decision to marry and get into deceitful unions all for the sake of putting up appearances without much thought to the consequence of such actions.
I was and am still being plagued by the issue of marriage. It was a huge worry for me, though not any longer. While in the university, I never had a girlfriend. However few eyes, if any at all, were raised because I was considered one of the good (churchy/bookie) ones. I knew I had a secret but I was safe in that perception of me, because it helped me hide and provided an explanation for my indifference to the opposite sex. As time wore on however and my fellow brethren also began to pair up, I knew that I could not hide for much longer. I persevered, but the questions started. “When you go call us?” “How come I have never seen you with a girl?” We all know the questions that come from all and sundry: from parents, parents’ agents, friends, colleagues to the ‘who the hell are you people’. I even tried to give in to make my parents happy. I accepted to meet a girl, recommended by them, a girl who was more than willing to make my acquaintance. We went out on a few dates which were okay. It all fell apart when she got perplexed one day and asked why I had not made any move or shown any interest in touching her. I ran for dear life.
I didn’t give in because for one, I had given a lot of thought to getting married and I had decided that the only way I would do it is if I was completely honest to my would-be wife about my sexuality and she still decides to go ahead with it. My reasons for this were many. I felt that for whoever it is I would marry, it would be a huge part of her life too. Women start dreaming of marriage as young girls. They envisage the wedding, the husband, kids and a living family. It is an important decision they have to make and none of them dream of marrying a man who likes someone else let alone a fellow man. I knew I would never have feelings for a wife the way that they would like and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining someone else’s life except of course I had their permission.
My reasons were not altruistic altogether. I had tried to imagine what my life would be like. I had led what I felt was already a miserable life till then, not being able to be myself and express myself like I wanted. I knew getting married would drive me further away from that. I would have to constantly watch my back, play hide and seek, endure my existence in that union rather than enjoy it. I wouldn’t be able to keep friends who are like-minded or pursue my interests. I would be trapped and in a prison, and this would be till death do us part. I even entertained notions of getting married and then, if I am lucky, she would die in childbirth or a car accident. In my darker moments, I even imagined if it would be possible for me to commit murder and get away with it, and then afterwards, feign that the process of losing my spouse was so traumatic that I wouldn’t do it again. This is twisted, I know it, but it was how much I dreaded the prospect of a marriage to a woman.
Furthermore I felt that if I did get married, despite all that just to please my parents or fit in with society, then I would be living for them not me. The problem I had with that situation was that though they are my parents, they were people just like me. They lived their lives like they wanted and I had every right to do the same. They deserve respect for raising me but not at the cost of my happiness. Besides, they were raised by someone else who I am sure they didn’t always obey. I also imagined how I would feel if I got married just to please them and they eventually died and I would still be burdened with a wife I never wanted in the first place. I would hate myself and loathe her, and treat her with disdain and indifference. I foresaw a situation where I would become mean-spirited and act out just because of the conflict I would feel within me. It was a possibility I could not risk. I felt I deserved better. These have been the main reasons for my decision to remain single or at least only marry a man I love.
Part of what worries me in this debate is that the arguments put forward in defence of MGM are not ideals I believe anyone should aspire to. When confronted with the requisite cheating that goes with MGM, the response is usually “Straight people do it too”. That statement in itself sort of screams being straight is the gold standard and therefore anything a straight person does is what we should aspire to. What immediately comes to mind is the injunction popular with parents: ‘So if he decides to put his hand in fire, you will do likewise?’ Is there no better standard we can hold ourselves to rather than what straight people do. The risks of cheating are well known, and although I am not a fan of monogamy, people should keep the promises they make. And if you vow to forsake all others, please have enough integrity to do just that.
The new one is the recent absurd position that MGM can better speak for gay rights. Firstly, it is a stretch of things to believe that someone who goes into marriage to disguise who he is would then put himself in a position where that facade would be called into question. He or she in my opinion would be more interested in maintaining appearances and avoid anything that would put the slightest suspicion on the image he is projecting. How could that ever be a platform for activism? However, let us assume that this is indeed the case and an MGM does in fact become an advocate for gay rights and the scrutiny that brings exposes the fact that he is gay or he is found to be gay, the effect would be inimical to the gay cause. It would invalidate all progress made by such activism and would make it highly unlikely that any other MGM would enter the fray for fear of meeting the same fate. Where then would that leave us? The greatest activism any of us can do is to come out to people, anyone you feel you are comfortable with. Have one-on-one discussions, ‘evangelise’ with your personality and conduct. Let them see you as a gay guy who is the best person they know. That is how we can change minds, not by engaging in hypocrisy. There is the story of gay men who helped the hyper-masculine, heterosexual men during a strike in the era when Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister of UK. These gay men helped the families of the striking workers by giving them food when they were not being paid, and so an alliance was formed between the gay men and the striking workers. I don’t know this but I can bet that only a few, if any at all, of those miners ever uttered the word “faggot” from that day onwards.
I also feel that we overlook what happens after such a marital union is formed. Then what? We go about our cheating ways? Marriage is not easy. I say this, not from firsthand experience but, from observations of married family and friends. In this situation, we would not have even the opportunity of enjoying make-up sex when things go wrong. There would also be the apprehension of what happens when she finds out. Women are not daft or stupid; they know when their husband is up to tricks and once their suspicion is aroused, they will investigate. Now that homosexuality is no longer a hidden subject, male friends will be scrutinised as well as the female ones. All the technology around will help this inquiry – browser history, activities on all sorts of accounts for example, and even when one is careful, the actions you take to hide your tracks will also be suspect. That text you read during dinner and your face looks as guilty as that of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, or suddenly putting your phone face-down when before it was facing up, or always having your phone under lock and key, to mention but a few. Even if you manage to evade all these, what of when you fall asleep and your phone happens to be unlocked or unbeknownst to you, she already knows your password (I have heard a story of a guy who was found out because his wife asked his children for his password), or even less innocuously, a notification comes up on your locked phone screen and she sees it. The possibilities are endless and these are for people who are not tech savvy. Is putting up appearances worth living a life constantly plagued by anxiety of being found out? Who better to find out than the constant companion you’ve acquired for yourself? I once heard a straight guy’s remark during his wedding that he had gone and acquired a referee for himself. It will not be different for a gay man and the stakes are higher. Marriage is serious business and if we complain that we are being stifled by society, how much worse would it be if there is an agent of the society that is constantly by our side.
I bet some imagine that being married would somehow put the conflict within to rest. However, if the stories of Caitlyn Jenner and Ray Boltz are anything to go by, it just doesn’t stop. These are men way beyond their golden years who have not been at peace because they did what was expected of them and not what they wanted. For those who may be wondering, Ray Boltz is a gospel artiste who won awards for writing some really inspiring gospel songs, one of which I remember murdering on one occasion. He was married and had children, but at 52, he left his wife and subsequently came out as gay and now lives with his partner.
It is true that there are pressures all around and it is difficult to cope. However, I feel we should hold ourselves to higher ideals than that we find around. Honesty and courage to live our truths in the face of adversity. It is possible to shun the path of least resistance and decide to live on our terms. Common wisdom says ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’; I would rather say ‘If we can’t, we can stand alone or come together to help each other.’ Let us buck this trend of cheating and lying and doing anything that goes just to achieve what goals we have been conditioned to think we should achieve. I think we should aspire to nobility and live authentic lives fuelled by our knowledge of what we know to be true, just and good. We can hold ourselves to higher standards than we find around us, and even if no one else appreciates it, we should – like the proverbial lizard who fell from a tree and survived – do so ourselves. We’ve only got one life to live and when it is done, who do you think would be happier and more content: the man who lived his truth or the man who lived in misery for the benefit of others?
One of the gems of truth in the bible is the injunction to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. Going by that, how many of us would be happy if a gay man married our sister? Yet that is the same fate we want to inflict on other people’s sisters or relations. I think we should look beyond ourselves in this argument and do what is right. I must say that it has not failed to escape my notice that it is the people who vehemently defend their religion that are the ones most in support of getting married, saying the oaths involved before their God and then go ahead to break such oaths without the slightest guilt.
Come on people, we can do better than this! We can’t keep blaming society and what-not for decisions we make because it is ultimately our decision, no matter the pressures.
Some, I believe, may think they are not strong enough, which is true. It will have its costs in terms of relationships with family, friends, careers and what-have-you. But I believe happiness will lie in being true to oneself. A lot of songs have been written about living life on one’s terms. However it is a poem that comes to my mind anytime I consider how best to live my life in the face of all the challenges being gay brings. It is titled Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley, and is one many of us might already know.
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Let us be our own masters, live according to our own rules and make our own special type of music.
Written by Dimkpa