Hello everybody, it’s good to be back.
So I have this friend who I really love; he is the real deal – kind, sensitive, very caring, very smart. We go way back. We depend on each other for a lot of stuff and all; the only snag was that he is straight and mildly homophobic. You know, the kind of homophobe who says, “I don’t have anything against gay people, I just don’t agree with their lifestyle.” I typically don’t befriend homophobic people of course, but this guy was my guy and I had to find a way to knock him off his horse.
One day, we were having drinks and I don’t know whether it was the few bottles of Heineken I had and all, but before I could stop myself, I came out to him and I told him my story, much to his shock. I did not hold back anything. He asked questions and I answered. I let him understand that homosexuality is not a choice; the same way people don’t get to pick their eye color. Then I shared the struggles of being gay in Nigeria and he stayed quiet, listening to me. I let him understand how easy it is to be attacked in Nigeria for being gay, how easy it to be dragged out of your apartment by an irate mob and beaten to death (are you aware that a vast majority of straight people do not know these things happen?). I let him know that there is no advantage to being gay in Nigeria, not even one single advantage I could think of. I told him to forget what he reads in City people; I never had any male lecturer in university who offered me sex for grades, nor slept with a man to get any job, neither was there a politician I was sleeping with to get government contracts. I told him that being gay in Nigeria is a burden, a very difficult and harsh life to live; so seeing as life is hard enough for the average Nigerian, why would I intentionally make mine more difficult?
As he listened quietly, I knew that I had him. I added small jara to my story of course, to make it even more pathetic and make him more contrite for being homophobic. Then I told him something, that for me, beyond the fact that I could be beaten, arrested or even killed, the hardest part is walking around with this big secret which threatens to crush you and having no one to share it with. He began to apologize with glistening eyes and kept saying he was sorry for not being my friend enough, for not being sensitive enough to what I was dealing with.
Now after the horrific incident in Orlando, I saw him on Facebook attacking the idiots who were justifying the attack and I secretly smiled with pride. You see, my dear brothers and sisters, one sure way to attack homophobia is visibility. I am not saying that you should come out to everyone you know on Facebook and Instagram, but visibility helps. When you come out to some people, you are no longer a statistic to them; you are someone they know and love and it will be easier for them to process. These people hear ‘homosexual’ and all they think about is anal sex and HIV and people who abuse and rape children (because that’s how the media paints us), but there is a chance that the people who really know you will see past all that and continue to see you as the person they have always known you to be, and the fact that you are gay hasn’t changed anything about you.
In the wake of the Orlando shooting, this friend of mine updated a post, saying that whether Nigeria likes it or not, gay people are here with us; they teach our children in schools, they accept our deposits at the bank, they sell you medicine at the drug store, they drive you in the taxi (I am paraphrasing now) and that they are not all monsters; they are everyday people who deserve respect for being human beings.
I couldn’t be prouder when I read the pos, because I have turned around the mind of one homophobe and it was truly worth it.
Ever since I was young, I always said exactly what was on my mind. If I believed something I would speak up about it and it always did put me in trouble back then. I have always been a bit of a busybody. As a child, I would correct my teachers in class if they made mistakes and it didn’t always earn me fans, to be honest.
On the social media, I do not shy away from speaking up about LGBT causes as well as homophobia and the evils that it sprouts. From Facebook to twitter to Instagram, I always use my voice (or should I say, keypad) to voice my opinions that I feel strongly about, and just like in my childhood, it doesn’t earn me a lot of fans. Prior to this time, I would always use a fake account, one which I had created to be able to say what I wanted to say and still maintain my anonymity. It was working for me; I got to say whatever I wanted to say on any issue without the burden of wondering about what people really thought of me. This worked for quite a while.
I wasn’t sure what changed or when it changed, but I found myself begin to care less and less about what people thought about me on the social media. I began to use my accounts to say whatever I wanted to say, whenever I wanted to say it and not giving a care in the world what the people who saw it thought of me. I think getting older had something to do with it, because typically the older you get, the less fucks you give (pardon my French). However it doesn’t get me a lot of friends. I have fought with quite a few friends on Facebook, which always led me to delete/block them (after all Mr. Zuckerberg created those options for me to maintain my sanity), and I have always jumped into conversations to call out people on their bigotry, sexism or homophobia. In fact, my friends call me a trailer driver on twitter, because once I see you write shit, I come on in with my Mack truck and crush you. lol.
Like I said earlier, this doesn’t make me a very popular person; however I began to notice a trend. When for instance I speak up about homophobia, a majority of the straight people (whom already know where I stand on the subject anyway) quietly unlook. It is actually mostly gay people who begin to talk to me to take down my posts seeing as it will draw attention to me. I remember one time I shared an article on homophobia, a friend of mine buzzed me on whatsapp and told me that he thinks it will be wise for me to take down the article. I asked him why, and he said that the people who follow me will now begin to think that I am gay. I laughed and told him that I am gay after all, and issues affecting gay people affect me.
We argued about this a bit and he said I was taking this “gay thing too personal, as if I am the only gay person in Nigeria that I will carry am for head”; that many people are gay too and they quietly “do their thing” without drawing attention to themselves. I didn’t know whether to laugh or whether to feel sorry for him. I get that this is a classic case of internalized homophobia and I typically will cut them some slack, seeing as I have been in that dark hole before. However after a certain age, I expect you to have grown some sense and be able to have a conversation about homosexuality without feeling that vulnerable. I would cut a 21-year-old some slack, but not someone in his mid 30s.
I told this fellow that he thinks he is protected by the illusion of being straight-acting (one of my least favorite phrases) and very discrete, so he can blend with the rest of society and earn their validation. However all it takes is one slip up, one moment of indiscretion, one mistake, and those same people you have spent all your time pandering to will drag you out on the streets and treat you like a common criminal. Anybody who believes that he/she is protected and therefore will not add his/her voice to issues that matter is clearly being delusional, because when the water will start boiling, you will most certainly regret not speaking up when it mattered.
The incident in Orlando, Florida left me in shock and terrified. Terrified for the world that we live in and how we have lost our way, but also shocked by the comments of my countrymen, many of whom have being gloating that the gays have been killed and that they got what they deserved. So many stories surround that incident and I am not even going to go there; I just want us to remember that in this case, 49 is not just a number. They are teachers, makeup artists, designers, fire fighters, policemen, writers etc and that what happened is a very terrible thing. Therefore we need to sit up and begin to tackle homophobia in Nigeria, especially the one fuelled by religion, seeing as we live in a country in which law enforcement will not even lift a finger to help us. We need to put aside our differences and chart a clear strategy about how this battle will be fought and won.
People, we can make a difference. It’s just a question of how far are we willing to go.