My friend Khaleesi always says that every Nigerian should live abroad for at least a year to open up their minds and generally reason logically, and I’d always thought he was rambling. But it rang very true for me recently. I was invited to a dinner party recently which was fallout out of an art exhibition I had previously attended. I arrived at the home of the very gracious host and was later introduced to everybody when they arrived. Most of the guests (total number was about 11) were young Nigerians of about my age and they were all well-travelled with foreign education in tow.
We eventually settled down to eat. The dinner conversation flowed together with wine, and somehow the conversation drifted to gay rights (I swear that wasn’t my doing). And I observed something that startled me; I did not hear the “Kill them, burn them” hate speeches typical at Nigerian gatherings when the issue of gay rights is mentioned. Most of the guests were like, “My faith doesn’t approve of homosexuality, but I will never judge anybody for their lifestyle… If it floats your boat, good for you… My endorsement is not needed.” The men even surprised me as they all echoed the same sentiments of “as long as a gay man doesn’t come on to me, we are fine.” Now I of course did not reveal my sexual orientation, but I argued for gay rights and they generally agreed with me that the anti gay law was out of place, but they would still not endorse the lifestyle. Religion was a strong factor as always, but when one of the girls said her bible was against homosexuality, I told her that the same bible was against pre-marital sex so she can only talk about this if she were a virgin. That shut her up.
These people that I had dinner with of course are not an accurate sample of Nigerians, as their travel and study in foreign lands had opened up some of their minds. I realized that at the end of the day, the issue of homophobia comes down to the question, “Do you believe that people are born gay?” And at that dinner table, I understood that most Nigerians believe that people are not born gay. These people have simply had their hate diluted, but deep down they believe that it is still a choice that can be discarded. So I think the answer to homophobia is making people (Nigerians) understand that people are indeed born gay, and that it is not cool to judge someone for something he/she has no control over.
Also, while the dinner was going on and we were chatting away, someone said her only issue with gay rights is that people should reserve the right not to get on board, that churches should not be mandated to wed gay couples and people like the baker who declined to make a wedding cake for the lesbian couple should be protected. This brought up another round of argument with the artist (who exhibited earlier in the day) and me being the only ones on the side of gay rights, and eventually there was an argument about what homophobia is. One of the girls said she is not homophobic, that she just doesn’t agree with the lifestyle and that doesn’t make her homophobic.
The issue of the baker who declined the cake-making assignment was also being argued with the general consensus being that she should reserve the right to decide who to serve and whom not to extend services to. At this point, I stepped in and asked them that if the caterer had declined to serve a black couple because they were black, would she still be right? (They all did not realize I just set a trap, and they trouped into it, lol) They all chorused that it would be wrong, so I asked them what the difference is between the two situations, and it was crickets. lol.
I recalled the time Oprah talked about a store attendant in Switzerland who kept nudging her to the cheaper bags and how it became a big issue, and I had all their attention. So I asked them why it would be wrong for the baker to decline to serve a black couple. Doesn’t she reserve the right not to serve them? I asked them why racism is wrong. Can’t a white person be allowed to hate a black person? Shouldn’t they be allowed to reserve that right? At this point, they saw where I was headed and they were mostly quiet while I continued.
I pointed out to them that having reservations about someone solely because of their sexual orientation is homophobia, and if you switch sexual orientation with skin color, it becomes the same thing with racism. Most of the people at the table had lived abroad and had experienced racism at some point, so my message hit home, and eventually someone said she had not really looked at it like that.
Absalom always says we should never pass up an opportunity to educate people about homosexuality; however the audience matters, some people are so close minded that it will be like pouring water on stone. My audience this night however was very logical people and I am very glad that I got my message across.
We often talk about stereotypes and how gay men are looked upon as being all about sex and nothing more. I have had straight people who tried to hook me up with other gay men for the simple fact that they are gay too without considering ever if there is any sort of chemistry or attraction between us. Now the hilarious thing is that these stereotypes are also believed by us amongst ourselves and even perpetrated. I remember a dear friend I had back in the university who was everything to me a friend could be, but in the gayborhood back then, nobody believed our story that we were just friends. Everybody believed we had to be shagging… I mean, why else would we be so close? *rme*
Very recently, a friend of mine returned from the US and I threw a party for him. That is what friends do for each other, right? Apparently not! Nearly all the gay men whom I know (some of who attended the party) kept taking me aside to ask when we started dating and I tried to politely clarify to them that we were just friends and not lovers. My simple clarifications did not seem to work, as everybody kept saying we were lovers till it became very annoying, I mean we had to be fucking for us to be very close pals, they believed. Mtchewwww!
I see this everyday; you do a birthday shout-out for someone on Instagram and he is automatically your shag-buddy! Sometimes we need to take several chill pills!
See you guys next week!