I said I was going to do an article on staying safe while cruising online, but I have to renege on that promise for today and do it another time. One issue is heavy on my mind and I want to get it off my chest.
The other day I was hanging out with a few pals at Sky Bar (the view of the city that it offers is just breathtaking), and we were having drinks and throwing barbs at each other. Midway into our banter, two very effete guys who I recognized from Instagram came into the bar and went to another end to sit. They called a waiter and ordered drinks and sort of took in the lair. Everyone in the bar was looking at them and you could see the way they were being judged with the stares. However this pair did not seem to care, they were chatting and laughing loudly, taking selfies with their phones and generally enjoying themselves. It was somewhat amusing to watch.
“Na these kind idiots dey give us bad name. Man no go behave like man. See as them dey fool themselves. Abeg I’m irritated, e be like say we go dey comot for here.”
The words were hissed by Obiora (not real name) who was in our company. I turned and looked at him and asked him what the problem was. He launched into a vexed monologue about how he cannot understand men behaving like women and why homosexuals force themselves to be effete, that the fact that they like men doesn’t mean they are women. He said he’s determined to stay away from ‘those kinds of guys’, that he doesn’t have anything in common with them, and then he finished by sneeringly saying, “Amuru gini? Amuru nwoke!” This loosely translates to: “Are these ones men?”
At this point, I became angry and there was no way I was going to let his comments slide. I told him that he should be ashamed of himself for uttering such a disgusting and hateful statement. Look, let us draw a line here: one may not be attracted (sexually that is) to effete men, and that’s fine. But when you say that you deliberately avoid being them (while still being gay), then you are just hateful. Bigotry and prejudice could be so easily cloaked in choice and preference that it seems harmless and even somewhat excusable, but it remains what it is. Now how do we draw the line between the validity of preference (or choice if you like) and prejudice? I would say that the difference is in the nuance upon which it is based; if you base your reservation upon a nuance that cannot be controlled or chosen, such as race, skin colour, disability, sexual orientation, demeanor and gender, then you are being prejudiced, plain and simple!
I was so angry that day as I told him off, laying on him how disgusting it was that that we create divisions amongst ourselves rather than sticking together and fighting the common enemy that we all have. I asked him where a gay man like him, who is a big target for prejudice and bigotry, find the moral high ground to target another person with prejudice. We often forget that majority of the effete men (especially in Nigeria) do not actually like that they are effete, they cannot help it, and all the sass that you typically see is them making a lemonade out of the lemons that nature has given them.
At this point another person spoke up and said that many people avoid effete men so they will not be outed by association, reminding me that Nigeria is still deeply homophobic. I acknowledged that line of argument, and then asked him what then the effete men should do. Drink poison and die? If we cannot accept them and be friends with them, what then should happen to them? I pointed out that we are often too paranoid that we become foolish people; these effete men still befriend straight men, no? Quite a few of them have straight guys that they hang with, so why are the straight men not afraid of being “outed by association”? Sometimes we need to discard unnecessary paranoia that makes us horrible people and simply be compassionate humans.
I remember my previous apartment; I had a gay man living there. I actually avoided him because I did not approve of how he lived his life and the kind of company he kept, so even though we both knew we were gay, we were not friends. Everything changed when a friend of mine (who also knew him) came visiting, and my neighbor came over to say hello to my friend. We became friends after that and I went on to discover that he wasn’t really bad. He however liked quite a few effeminate boys in the area but he would not dare be seen with them in public; he would sneak them into his flat at about 11pm when everyone had gone to bed and sneak them out around 5am (I knew this because I typically go for my morning run around that time). This was his routine for a while and as much as it irked me, I held my peace. I however noticed that there was a particular boy who kept coming and going in that stealth mission; I recognized the boy from the petrol station where I bought fuel (he works there and everyone there calls him Sisi Eko). However, there was this day my neighbor and I were going out and we stopped to refuel there and my neighbor did not so much as say hello to this boy, the same boy who graced his bed many nights.
I remember being very angry after this incident and one day I cornered the boy at the petrol station and asked him why he was sleeping with someone who would not even speak to him in the daytime. He broke down and said that the guy is about the only person who bothers to meet him regularly. He told me stories of hook-ups who bailed once they saw him and his twirling hips, or who just managed him for the night and never spoke to him again. It was quite sad to hear and in my typical busy body style (shut up, y’all), I talked some sense into him and let him know that he should not be having sex with someone who is ashamed of him. I also told him that he was free to visit me anytime, if he wanted a friend. We remained friends until his family moved back to Ikot Ekpene.
My point this morning is that we have a bigger hydra-headed monster to confront and these petty divisions within us will not take us anywhere. We have to discard unnecessary fear and be our brother’s keeper. I am not saying that you should date an effete guy if you are not attracted to him. I am saying that nothing stops you from being their friend. Do not judge them; for many of them, life is hard already we should not make it worse. I have often said that the upside of being gay is that it makes me more tolerant of difference; whenever I hear myself judging someone on anything, a voice reminds me in my head that I am also toeing the line of homophobes who are judging me and that essentially I am no different from them.
Obiora was defiant and still defended his stance as his opinion which he had a right to, and this infuriated me even further. I managed to calm myself enough to coldly say to him: “You are this muscular masculine man and all. You have blended into society and achieved their validation which you clearly crave. And so you look at the effeminate men like lepers whom should be done away with. However it takes only one slip up, one mistake, and these same people whose validation means so much to you will glean that you are after all a “bloody faggot”. And then you will see essentially what the Nigerian mob can do to us and you will be sorry.”
I subsequently paid for my drink and left with my head thumping. I understand that reactions such as this is why quite a few people don’t like me; I have been accused of being an opinion bully who makes sure his voice is the only voice in the room and every dissenting sound is silenced (yes, someone emailed that to me). However the reality is that it’s fine to think that of me. It’s fine to even dislike me, but by god, I will still keep being me, for if there is one thing I have learned in this my 30-year sojourn on earth, it is that you have to be the most authentic version of yourself at all times.
*Drops mic and exits stage*