I am happiest and in my element when I am with my friends reveling and having conversations about gender identity, feminism and human sexuality. My dear friend Lothario will say these are the moments I hold court, so I can squash opposition with the strength of a trailer driver (even though that’s subject to debate). So anyway, I was in one of such gatherings one breezy evening and we were arguing about equality and equity, when a friend of mine said that as far as he is concerned, men cannot be feminists because feminism is a lived-in experience. Therefore a man cannot lay claim to such. I’d heard this narrative before, and countered with the view about the distinction between the female experience and feminism. They aren’t exactly the same thing even though they intersperse at different points. Saying men can’t be feminists is like telling someone they cannot advocate for the rights of children because they are adults, or that they cannot fight to protect our forests because they are not plants. I pointed out that in some cases, the message of feminism is stronger coming from a man, as it does in the cases of the equality of gay people, when the message is coming from a straight ally.
We contended a bit and didn’t find middle ground.
I later had a realization a few weeks later which made me understand a bit of what my friend meant, even though it didn’t make me agree with him totally. A few years ago, I’d come out to a close straight friend of mine, and we were very cool with each other. Now, my friend is a man-whore, and does not let a beautiful girl pass him by without making a pass at her or a lewd remark about her. He’d say things like: “Omo, see this babe brezz…” or “Choi, ukwu nwa sara mbara…” And we’d laugh over his remarks.
However, I began to notice that if a boy passed by and I happened to say something lewd or checked him out, he would scoff and say something mildly sarcastic, sometimes even tossing out some names my way, like ‘whore’, ‘pervert’ or ‘ashawo’. When these happen, I would typically let it slide, reminding myself not to always be overly sensitive.
One day however, he did it again and I read him his rights. I told him that being my friend means accepting all of me and if I can put up with his lewd conduct, he’ll also have to put up with mine. I pointed out that what he is doing is discriminatory in a subtle way and I would not stand for it, assuming my friendship is still of interest to him. He apologized and said it won’t happen again, that it was mostly unconscious.
And that was when I understood a bit of what my other friend was talking about. Here I was with a straight man who was purportedly open-minded and all and who believed gay people are equal to the rest of humanity, and without even knowing it, his bias, no matter how infinitesimal, would slip out. Oftentimes, you’ve got to be wearing the shoes to be able to tell how it pinches.
So I have this geek friend who just returned from the UK where he was studying and we all met up one evening to have cold beers. While we were drinking and chatting, he mentioned that he had a software application, some sort of malware that you can install in someone’s phone and it would make it possible for you to monitor everything that the person does on his phone from your own device. Apparently this app comes in handy when you’re looking to catch a cheating partner. He asked if we wanted the software.
I declined. I told them that I trust my boyfriend and I have never believed in policing people around; and even though some people say trust is not given but earned, for me, I trust by default until you prove yourself unworthy of that trust. Therefore an application to monitor my boyfriend’s every move is certainly not how I roll. The other people at the table scoffed, saying I was just being politically correct (apparently I am the Nigerian Hillary Clinton, lol). Most of them requested for the app.
A few weeks later, one of the guys who’d been at the table (he was dating a very cute medical student) came over to my house late one evening. It would seem that the app had exposed his boyfriend as a cheat, lying scumbag, and he was really broken and pained. Before then, I hadn’t realized the dude had meant so much to him; it came as a surprise to me to see him looking so heartbroken. I did what I could to console him, but he was very bitter.
At a point, he said to me, “Dennis, it’s just me and you here. Leave political correctness and tell me if you really think Nigerian gays are capable of being in a relationship.”
I told him yes. I am sure that Nigerian gay men are capable of relationships. However there are a few things to take into context before that answer will make sense to you.
I told him that first of all, to me, the concept of monogamy and fidelity are societal constructs; humans are not wired to be that way (which is why they say that only two men are needed to get all the women in the world pregnant). These things are products of social conditioning over centuries. Now heterosexuals have the privilege of being able to build traditional family set-ups, therefore it could be argued that they have a future they fight for. But consider two Nigerian men in a relationship for example; what future do they have? What can they fight for? So many of them begin to think that, well, sex may be the only thing I can get out of this, so why have it with just one person?
He agreed somewhat and said that even when he was abroad for graduate school, it wasn’t any different, as most gay men just want to move on to the next shag. I told him that to be honest, the difference between Nigeria and a lot of these Western countries is that it is legal to be gay there and you have the protection of the state; that doesn’t mean there is no homophobia there and it definitely doesn’t mean that there is 100% societal acceptance in those countries. Very many gay people are still hiding out in comfy closets over there. There was also a study I read which found out that the rates monogamy amongst gay men is on the increase in countries with marriage equality.
I also pointed out to him that saying that heterosexual people are more committed in Nigeria as per relationships is a huge fallacy. All my straight guy friends have girlfriends that they love, but they also cheat on them on a regular basis, and I am talking about every single one of them. Don’t let me go into my married male colleagues that the minute we leave town on a work trip, all the wedding bands come off and they start acting like wild lions. Even many of the women aren’t any better; they are just sneakier and smarter and hardly get caught.
So the problem here is not gay men. It’s about humans in general and how they are wired.
I told him that for me, being faithful to someone is very easy if I care deeply about them. Also, I am almost thirty, and I have been there, done that, and seen it all. There is no kind of sex I have not had in this life, therefore I will not potentially throw away something precious and great just to give in to lust. However, there are people for whom monogamy is nearly impossible and such people should just consider having open relationships (please I don’t want to start an argument about whether they are valid or not) in which each party knows what’s on the table and doesn’t deceive his partner.
I’d like to know what you guys think. Do sound off in the comments section!