Nigerians never change. It is no surprise that after all these men in power come to developed countries like the US, they are not moved to change the situation in their home country.
“God, we pray that our children do not pick up all the vices that are spread in the US…”
‘Vices’ is, every time, almost always synonymous to Homosexuality.
“God, don’t let our children go to college and get initiated into the perversion spread in this country…”
“God, keep our children from running into these children of Belial…”
In fact, one dedication had the minister declaring, “We take away this child from the evil grasp of gays, in Jesus’ name! He will not pick up the abomination promoted in this country in Jesus’ name!”
The truth is, this country has made gay people so visible to Nigerians and indeed Africans here, that the denial they kept living in, in their home countries no longer exists for them here. There are stories of these Africans, members of the church, having gay supervisors, managers, colleagues etcetera, and the church seems to be the only place they are free to vent about their prejudice because that shit doesn’t fly outside.
The pastor shared a story one day of how a sister came and said she was fired (or disciplined) at her job for saying something hateful against a gay colleague. The pastor’s speech sounded something like, “You know this country protects these people… In fact, these people are exalted, they control everything now and do as they like. They are everywhere in government and in power and are putting people like themselves in power so they can spread and dominate.” (This bit kinda made me low-key proud).
And of course, the church responded to his diatribe with spiteful “Hmmm”, their hisses of irritation filling the hall. Fingers snapped and tongues clicked upon facial expressions of disgust. The pastor continued, “So my brethren, you have to be careful. Don’t go say anything to them or tell them they will go to hell. Don’t spite them. Don’t discriminate against them or say anything hateful to them. Just do your work and pray for them. May God deliver us.”
And the church chorused thunderously, “Amen!”
Anytime homosexuality is about to be condemned and bludgeoned, there is an all-too-familiar preamble that comes first. Maybe a brief contortion of the face by the minister before he goes into the monologue, “Like the perversion of homosexuality and gay marriage spread around here…” If it is marriage that is the topic of the sermon, there is the all-too-familiar addendum: “It is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. During my first days in church, I was drowned in guilt. Then this guilt turned to indifference, which later metamorphosed to anger. I couldn’t take it anymore. I nursed the thought of actually getting up in church and giving the entire congregation a piece of my mind. But then, my mum would probably have a heart attack and a prayer session would be fired up to exorcise the demon from me. So, back inside my closet I remained.
Even after all the big degrees and academic feats that Nigerians earnestly try to achieve here, the hatred and homophobia still exists largely because of religion, and evidences to some extent the fact that they still have their “African morals and values”, whatever that is. It is okay to forge papers, get into arranged marriages and propose all sorts of illegalities that’d enable them to stay in this supposedly immoral country, but as soon as the gay issue is brought up, everybody suddenly dusts out their halos.
I remember my mum sharing a story of driving around California with my cousin, speaking of how they drove past San Francisco. My mum said it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen, with its massive green lands and rolling hills. “It was such a serene sight, and heaven-like, and it made me wonder how Heaven would look, if earth looks like this.”
Her bubble was burst when my aunt shared that San Francisco has the largest gay population, to which my mum said, “Tufia!” She could not believe that a “beautiful place like this” could be filled with “these people”.
Later, she talked about my cousin, who is a well-educated, working class medical practitioner, who prevents her son from touching his sister’s dolls so he wouldn’t be gay. I was shocked to learn this. I was disappointed too. With the wealth of her education, I could not believe this about my cousin.
My mum went on to share a story of how a Nigerian man invited his parents to his wedding, and on the day of the wedding, he walked in with a man as his “bride”. As expected, his mother fainted and the ceremony became a disaster.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, it was an endless spin of the broken record of how America, a country supposedly built on strong Christian morals – a country where their founding fathers prayed and prayed till God made it what it is today – had suddenly taken this evil turn into the gates of Hell and abomination! (Yeah folks, if I made a dollar from the number of times I heard the word “abomination” in relation to the Supreme Court’s ruling, I’d be partying with Bill Gates by now). There were prayers made, intercessions organised to revive America. It was such a furor that it soon became quite uncomfortable watching the news with my parents, because every time the issue came up, it was “Tufiakwa!” “Aluu!”, and other expressions of horrified disdain. I remember one occasion when a prayer was being made in church and the minister leading urged everyone to say after him: “I pray that God will strengthen my wife…” Then he cut off immediately to add, “I hope no woman here is saying ‘my wife’, because we don’t have such people here.” I thought that was funny, the fact that he had to specify, meaning there is visibility, and in as much as he hates it, it is a very real and present issue.
There was one young sister – you know, the ones that your mother would always thank God for, for using them in their youth and giving them the strength to not give up on their Nigerian version of strong faith in the US – well, one day, this sister said to my hearing, “If I hear my son is that gay nonsense, I will kill him. I will send him out of the house!” I guess ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has some exclusion for homosexual sons.
Visibility is everywhere. Commercials now use same-sex couples to depict family. My mum now knows gay TV people like Anderson Cooper, and always quips in incredulity, “So, a fine man like this will not marry a woman?” The visibility is good but makes me feel that if I decide to come out, it will be regarded as the influence of my exposure to the American media and values, and not something I grew up being, all the way from Nigeria.
Ok Diary, my mum just called out to me to get ready for church, and yes, I will still have my Grindr app open, you know, as my little act of defiance. And maybe one day, that brother with a big booty will pop up and I will block him because I still want my closet doors closed.
Written by Duke