The other day, I attended a meeting with my boss. It was a business meeting of bigwigs and I was essentially just a bag man there, mainly observing and not saying anything. To be honest, my focus was on when they will call for lunch; I was anticipating a dish of Amala and Ewedu (those of you that know me personally know that I don’t joke with my food lol).
Anyway the borefest of a meeting finally ended and we were eating lunch; I sat with my boss and 4 other men, all of whom were at least 20 years older than me. One of the men was my boss’s friend; he soon started complaining to my boss about his wife’s brother who was staying with them for his NYSC. Apparently he had proof that the said brother was gay (I don’t know how he came about this proof) and he was telling my boss that he was in a precarious situation because he didn’t want to keep having the boy in his house, but sending him home would offend his in-laws. The troublemaker that lives inside me began pushing me to say something but I clamped my mouth shut and continued to observe, pretending not to hear anything.
He continued talking about how he didn’t know what to do and that his wife is very fond of the boy, especially as the boy is such a wonderful cook and very helpful around the house. My boss then spoke up and told him to get rid of the boy at all cost, that he should remember that he has little children in the house, he knows how these homosexuals like to abuse small children; all this he said while pointing out that he doesn’t have anything against homosexuals.
At this point, I had to say something. And I did. I told them at the table that homosexuality and pedophilia are two distinct things and are not in any way related. I told them to forget the antigay lobby, that there is no data to prove that gay men are more likely to be child molesters. I had had this argument so many times before so I had the facts; I went ahead to tell them that The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute notes that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women. Most child molesters, therefore, are not gay people.
I had their attention now, so I got comfortable on my pulpit. My boss’s friend countered with newspaper reports in Nigeria of men abusing boys. I responded that the Nigerian media always reports these cases of homosexual abuse with an adult male and a “young boy”, but funny enough, the age of the young boy is rarely mentioned. Most of the time, these cases are not cases of abuse; the young boy in question is often up to the age of consent, but the media deliberately leaves that out. I told the man that if he wants to send his wife’s brother away for being gay despite him confessing how helpful the boy is at home, well it would be his prerogative, but that it would not be fair at all, and that he should especially not do so on the wrongful thinking that him being gay means he’s also a pedophile.
The matter rested after that. That’s the thing with emotional bias; it crumbles in the face of facts.
I belong in a whatsapp group for my University Alumni association and the group is usually quiet. But every now and then, a heated conversation sets in and the group lights up so much so that you could sleep and wake up to 3000 unread messages.
One such argument over LGBT rights occurred, and of course, I was present with a trailer-full speed, jamming all those spewing nonsense.
Eventually the conversation died down and one of the women who I was friendly with messaged me and started talking about her cousin. She told me she had a gay cousin, one who she really loves. And she doesn’t know what to do with him.
I immediately started feeling vulnerable, self conscious with questions. Why was she talking to me about her gay cousin? What am I, the gay whisperer? Was she implying that she knew I was gay and therefore a technical adviser on all things homosexual? Eventually I put my paranoia aside and began to talk to her.
I asked her how she knew the guy was gay and she said he was very effete (one day I’d like us to have a conversation here on whether all effeminate men are gay). She added that he was an expert on cooking and makeup and was the official gele tie-r of the extended family. I told her that none of this was conclusive anyway, but she told me not to bother about the conclusiveness, that she was 100 percent certain her cousin is gay.
However her problem is that she sees that he is in pain. I asked how she knows this, and she said that he has a very bubbly personality but she knows he is suffering. He was bullied through secondary school. He is constantly picked on in their street. Even family members push him around and tell him to man up, and all that jazz. She professed to wanting to help him, but she doesn’t know how.
I told her that first of all, she needs to create a safe place for him to be able to open up to her, he needs to know that she is his person. I told her not to push, not to prod, but to always let him realize (in deeds and words) that she loves him no matter what and that she will always be on his side. I told her that she has a lot of work to do if he does confide in her, because he is young and need to be taught about safe sex and protection, needs to be protected from sexual predators, etcetera. At this point, I was basically outing myself but I focused on the greater good. I told her that guiding a very young gay man is quite a task and she should brace herself for it, but that gay men are usually so lonely, especially when they are very young, and they would always welcome an ally in the family.
I was touched by her sincerity and genuineness and I told her that I could speak to him occasionally on the phone if she liked, and she said he did not have a mobile phone. I laughed and told her to buy him a smartphone fast (I mean there are several mass market brands now), before a man will take advantage of the kid because of ten thousand naira techno lol. We ended the conversation with me promising to continue to offer technical assistance whenever she asks.
Small things like this make me have hope in Nigeria, that maybe in my lifetime, the kind of homophobia that we see today will be confined to history.
I hosted movie night at my place one rainy evening; the guest list was a mix of gay and straight male and female friends, with wine and conversations flowing freely. Meanwhile I have the bestest collection of movies and series now (Deola, watch your back), one of the perks of dating a TV aficionado.
So anyway, I set up the movie on the computer, and then connected the computer to the TV via HDMI and we started watching. Unknown to me, I forgot to disable the Facebook chat that I had activated on the computer previously, and the witches in my village were fanning themselves with my picture.
Prior to this time, I had accepted a friend request on Facebook from this guy who I didn’t know, but it appeared we had a few mutual friends and we had started a conversation via Facebook chat. To be honest, I was replying him out of courtesy because he seemed very basic and nothing about him even made me want to initiate a friendship with him.
Anyway midway into the series, (we were watching Veep), I decided to turn on my home Wi-Fi and boom! ‘I really want to have sex with you’ flashed across the TV screen, which was technically the computer screen. The message came with a male Facebook name. I was instantly mortified. An uneasy hush fell over the room, one so awkward I could not meet anybody’s eyes as I quietly and quickly turned off the Wifi, because I was sure that a nude picture was coming through, which would also be splashed across the screen. Then I clicked on the message window to close it.
Seconds later, we were all pretending nothing had happened and carried on laughing at Selina Myers’ antics.
See you guys next week.