THE TRUTH THAT SET US FREE

THE TRUTH THAT SET US FREE

It began with the most ‘where on earth did that come from’ conversation I’d ever had with her.

“Pinky,” she called me. (Seeing as that’s not my real name, we can assume that’s not what she really called).

“Yes?” I answered from my end of the phone call.

“I’m looking to advertize my business online. Do you know of any blogs, and what their owners may be charging to run business ads on their blogs?”

“Linda Ikeji nko?” I suggested with a grin.

“I can’t afford Linda abeg,” she retorted.

“Ok o. I know a couple of blogs though. I’ll ask the owners for their going rates for ads.”

“Okay, thanks.” She waited a beat, and then said, “What about gay blogs?”

“What about them?” I replied, feeling my heartbeat accelerate a bit.

Kito Diaries was a few months old at this time, and any threat to its anonymity, whether real or perceived, always sent my anxiety factor on full alert.

“Well,” she said, “I heard that gay blogs are usually very active and widely read. So if I run my ads on any of them, I can get more attention.”

“Why would you think I would know any gay blogs?”

“Because you’re an internet person and very active on the blogosphere. Surely, you must have stumbled across a gay blog or two.”

My heart kept beating faster. This statement of hers sounded like the makings of a trap, and if you know this young woman like I do, you’d be concerned too. Her name (for the purpose of this write-up) is Lisa. I met her several years ago when I visited for the first time the home of my first boyfriend. She is his older sister. Beautiful, sassy, witty, with a good sense of humour and oodles of self confidence that came from the awareness she had of her effect on the opposite sex. It must have been a familial trait, because my boyfriend possessed the same qualities – good looking, humorous and a tad arrogant. Our relationship didn’t last very long, but my friendship with them remains till this day. Sure, it suffered a bit when I broke up with my boyfriend, but Lisa of course didn’t know our true before and after story, so she didn’t give me the distance you’d expect from the relative of your ex. She kept in touch with me, made me come around to their house and just generally stayed a good friend. This eventually affected the post-breakup awkwardness between me and my ex, and we had to get over ourselves and re-forge a friendship.

The years passed. The distance lengthened. But the network of our friendship was intact. And in all the time I’d known Lisa, I knew she was nobody’s fool. And this was why this sudden inquiry of hers into gay blogs gave me a cause for concern.

So instead of outrightly denying any knowledge of any gay blogs, I said carefully, “Well, I know of just one. But you have to understand, I can’t tell you the name just yet –”

“Why?” she squealed. “Oh please tell me, tell me, tell me! Is it Nigerian?”

“Yes –”

“Oh now you have to tell me! Please, please, please, let me just take a peek there.”

“Do you actually want to advertize your business or was all this a ploy to find out about gay blogs?”

“Hey!” she began indignantly.

I laughed into the phone. “Just ease up a little please. The blog is still largely anonymous. I have to ask the owner if he’s interested in running ads on the blog or in letting in any unfamiliar non-gay audience.”

“And if he’s not, you’ll just never tell me about the blog?”

“Nope.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Jeez, you’re mean.”

“I know, right?” I laughed. She laughed. And that topic of the conversation was snipped off right there.

Some time passed. A lot of time during which I grew into my self confidence as a Nigerian gay man, during which I began to care less and less for the sway of the opinions of the general public, during which I began to reject the fear more and more.

I was growing up, and the world of Kito Diaries was my nourishment.

And then, a good friend of mine got married.

To commemorate his matrimony, I dedicated a lavish Facebook update to the newlyweds. At some point in the update, I wrote the words: ‘Although I do not believe in the institution of marriage…’

That singular phrase unleashed a storm on me. What followed after was my first inkling of how cardinal this societal bylaw called marriage is. Commenters trooped in, some of them spilling over into my Blackberry messenger for a private audience, all of them wanting to know just what I meant by ‘Although I do not believe in the institution of marriage…’

What did I mean? What was I trying to say? (gasp) Was I saying I wouldn’t get married? I was joking, right? What would my parents say? What about children? Oh their God, I didn’t want to have children too?

The barrage of outrage was unexpected. And right in the thick of it was Lisa. When everyone else stopped haranguing me, she remained, even switched from our chatversation to a phone call. We spent the better part of an hour debating this ‘absurdity’ of mine. She wanted to understand just why I had no intention of getting married, and she wasn’t buying any of the reasons I was giving her.

Finally, she said, “Wait o, is it that you absolutely do not want to get married? You do not want to spend the rest of your life with anybody? Even gay people want to get married.”

And there it was again – the reference to the gay community.

I hadn’t seen her remark coming, and so I found myself pausing to consider just how forthright I should be with her. As I contemplated my response, she laid her next bomb on me.

“I hope you don’t think that I don’t know you sleep with guys.”

Gbagam!

I opened my mouth to say something, anything, when she interrupted, “Oh shoot! Pinky, MTN just warned me that my airtime has finished. I’ll have to call you back alter. Best believe that this conversation is not over.”

Oh I knew. I knew that very much.

Over the next few days, we didn’t talk on the phone. But we chatted. And in the course of our chatversations, I came out to her. And I did so, Yusaf Mack style. First, I admitted that I sleep with guys, but not exclusively… you know, a la bisexual. (I mentioned this part of our conversation to Absalom at the time and he enjoyed a good laugh at my expense). Then after further talk, I owned my truth and simply told her I was gay.

Following my admission, she typed the question I’d hoped she wouldn’t ask: ‘What about John?’

John is her brother, my ex-boyfriend.

‘What about him?’ I typed back.

Someone once told me that coming out is not just about you; that coming out is also about the people you’re opening your closet to, and those whose closets, by association, you’re threatening. Lisa now knew about me, and expectedly, she wanted to know about her brother, the ‘friend’ through whom she got to know me.

The tone of my response to her question however must have checked her in her tracks, because she didn’t pursue it. In fact, she didn’t respond at all. The chat ended there. I instantly reached for my phone to call John, to prepare him, to let him know of this development. He didn’t answer my call. He didn’t return it either. And I forgot to pursue the matter with him.

More time passed – a week, I think.

Then Lisa called me. We chitchatted for a bit, before she dived right into it.

“I spoke to John.”

“Oh,” was all I said. I was instantly guarded.

“Yea, I called him. At first, I dropped heavy hints here and there. I wanted him to open up to me on his own volition. So I nudged him and I poked him…”

John wouldn’t budge to that, I thought to myself.

“But he didn’t budge,” she said a microsecond later, echoing my thought. “I ended the call. I gave him a day, hoping he’d think and come to realize that I knew – or at least suspected – his secret, and then call me to open up. But he didn’t. So I said the hell with it. And I called him again. And I told him pump and plain that I know. He said ‘Know what?’ I said I know about his true sexuality. A moment of silence passed before he began to open up to me.”

Lisa paused to sigh, before continuing, “The thing is, Pinky, I’d always known. I didn’t need your or John’s confirmation. I’ve always known about you two. Way back to when we lived in our parents’ house and you came around and spent several nights.”

“How?” As I asked this, I wondered if perhaps she’d heard moans of pleasure through the walls as John and I pleasured each other at night.

“You two had a body language that was too intimate for two guys who were just friends. I don’t know…I just knew. And to be frank, I’m more than a little disappointed that all these years passed before you two got around to telling me. I’m his sister. And I’m your friend. And you two had to let me push and prod before you decided to let me in on who you truly are. Do you know how that makes me feel? To know that all these years, I’d been fraternizing with your fake personalities and not the real you?”

“Lisa,” I began, “you have to understand something. Coming out, especially in this country, is not as easy a decision to make as picking what attire to wear for the day out. No matter how cool you have been as a sister and friend, there is always a fear that letting you in will change everything. Most family members almost always know or suspect the true sexualities of their gay sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. But in spite of this, they tend to want to be in denial over it. And you, Lisa, you – for all these years to pass before you decided to push for the truth, it shows you were in denial too.”

She tried to interrupt me, to get in a word edgewise, but I barreled on. “You were, Lisa. Don’t try to refute that. I remember the times in the past when you would always pester me for the identity of my girlfriend and ask to know what girl I’m sleeping with and tease me about whether I’d even lost my virginity. All these were questions, I see now, of someone who suspected the truth but wanted to be reassured that it was a lie. And if I’d produced a girlfriend, you would have been content with buying into the lie. But because all I did was laugh and brush aside your questions, because I didn’t feed the lie you so desperately wanted to cling to, you got dissatisfied and eventually decided to go for the truth.

“And secondly, you ask why we never told you. I’ll reply with a question of my own: ‘Why should we have told you?’ There are many times on Facebook that I’ve come across updates and comment threads where the LGBT is getting bashed. And every time, your comments on these threads have always put you on the other side of the battle line, opposing the LGBT. You were never vitriolic, granted. But you condescended and you disapproved. Tell me then, Lisa, how were we supposed to let you in when your opinion of our sexuality was often so clearly stated in the social media?”

She was silent.

I continued, “I love you, Lisa, very much. But I’m trying to show you that you don’t get to feel disappointed that we never told you before now. You just don’t. You’ve always known – that’s good. Now we’ve told you and you’re okay with it – that’s even better. Let’s leave it at that. Do not try to make me or John fell guilty for a secret we kept from you. Life was fashioned so that it was better for us to keep the secret until now. I hope you understand…”

“I do,” she said. “And you’re right. I’m okay with it, with this. I’m still learning to deal with it, but if I can help it, I’ll never be part of why you would feel bad about who you are.”

And that was how the truth set us both free.

Written by Pink Panther

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50 Comments

  1. pete
    November 09, 05:40 Reply

    No wonder you understood Yusuf’s initial stand. *envelopes you in a bear hug* it shall be well.

  2. Mandy
    November 09, 05:46 Reply

    It’s true though…being a part of this virtual community has in many ways made me less afraid of my world and less cowering about my sexuality than I was before I joined KD. It is a very rewarding feeling, when you wake and come here to see such diverse opinions and such brave gay men and the fearful ones too, all of whom contribute to making me a better gay man.
    So PP, you’re gradually letting more and more people look into the pink-lined interior of your closet, eh? Nice!

  3. Colossus
    November 09, 05:52 Reply

    Oh, so that’s how it all went down? Not bad, not bad at all.

  4. Ruby
    November 09, 06:48 Reply

    Wow!!!
    Just Wow!!!

  5. bruno
    November 09, 07:19 Reply

    lol. smart girl. i would guess that first conversation was never really about her advertising her business online.

    coming out to a real friend is never really as scary as it looks from inside a closet… and your ex, wonder why it took him so long. my sister is a run-of-the-mill bible thumping homophobe. i still managed to come out to her years ago.

  6. Zage
    November 09, 07:35 Reply

    Wow just wow I wish I could also get some few loved ones into my tiny little closet too.

  7. Dennis Macaulay
    November 09, 07:43 Reply

    Wait oo! I did not know the ending of the story, Na so e take happen? Hmmmmm and I used to judge Lisa ooo

    #NoteToSelf Be more accepting of people.

    Meanwhile I’m interested in the John angu! Was he angry at you?

    • Pink Panther
      November 09, 07:45 Reply

      Nah. He was in fact very fascinated by my boldness when me and him sat to talk much later. lol. Hopefully, he’s reading this. 🙂

  8. Dubem
    November 09, 07:55 Reply

    This is a classic case of how one’s antigay opinion can change when the issue of homosexuality comes to roost in his/her house. When you realize that the people you’ve been castigating are not just ‘those homo people’ but are actually in your house, as your loved ones, then you’d have to rethink how you feel. I’m very sure it’s the knowledge of John and PP’s sexuality that calmed Lisa down. We should all strive to be more visible, and start small, with our families and loved ones. You will never know, no matter how homophobic they may seem to you, once you let them in, there could be a rapid turn in opinion.

  9. law
    November 09, 08:34 Reply

    I remember when I came out to my sister three years back…. She was like ….in her words “Damn av known since U were born…. U were too buuriful for a boy” then the next question she asked me was if my bf that I introduced to them as my best friend is one and I said Hell No!! ….. And she was all… Bro dnt sweat it…. Ur body language shows you two got something going… And I couldnt answer…. Then the next question came…. Who is fucking who…. Choi…. I wanted to evaporate that moment…. I simply told her that I dnt do sex…. Was I to tell her… I love taking the D and also love giving the D as well…. Thats way past now sha…

    Point is we became tighter…. And she covered up my escapades abi sexcapades for me …. And she has been flaunting the gay marraige card for me in my face…

    U just might never know… Pple can b understanding sha…. Dat doesnt mean the TRUTH WILL SET U FREE EVERYTIME sha

  10. bobby
    November 09, 08:44 Reply

    awwww. this is nice! …Lisa reminds me of my sister in a way…though i fink shes to churchy to be kool with this shit. so she staying in d dark.

  11. Delle
    November 09, 08:51 Reply

    *shouting hysterically*
    PP you mean to tell me that you’ve come out to someone?! What balls you’ve got down there!
    #silentprayertoself God, do not let such happen, not this way

    My God PP, I’m so happy for you. I never thought there would be a time I’d see an open-minded Nigerian like Lisa. *sniffs*…this is so inspiring.
    *hugs PP, sobbing on shoulder*

    • Pink Panther
      November 09, 09:49 Reply

      There, there now, child. *patting Delle on shoulder* Let’s open your closet for someone, and I’m sure you’ll feel better

      • Delle
        November 09, 12:47 Reply

        To who Pink? That’s the big question! My overbearing, overly homophobic father? My extremely religious, campy mum? My little siblings (none is even up to 14…what do they know is ‘coming out of the closet?’). Oh wait, my straight I’d-rather-have-u-girly-than-out friends? Who?
        It’s not easy, especially when you really want, scratch that, NEED someone to unburden yourself to.
        *sobbing uncontrollably*
        *uses pink’s shirt to blow out snot*

        • Pink Panther
          November 09, 13:05 Reply

          Ewwww! *disowning that shirt* You can keep it. Clearly you need the entire material for all the sobbing you’ll sob inside your closet. 😀

  12. Keredim
    November 09, 10:35 Reply

    The problem I have with coming out, is that no one believes me. It takes a lot of convincing.

    And God knows I have tried. ????

    • Pink Panther
      November 09, 11:28 Reply

      Wanna sit down with any available Funmi Iyanda and talk about it on national television? That should do the trick nicely. 😀

      • Keredim
        November 09, 13:17 Reply

        Hmmm, I did. It was aired. But as my bad luck would have it, it was April Fools’ day. No one believed the broadcast:'(:'(:'(:'(:'(

  13. Peak
    November 09, 10:47 Reply

    A riveting read I must say.

    Explains why you were going defender of the universe on Yufus’ s matter.

    • Pink Panther
      November 09, 13:07 Reply

      Peak, I wasn’t defending Yusaf because of this instance of my coming out. I defended him because I don’t believe in maligning someone who took a few missteps on his journey to his truth.

  14. Rev; Hot
    November 09, 11:50 Reply

    My… my….. oh my…..

    one of the first stories on this blog that I’ve read COMPLETELY….

    Very sensible….

    nice one pinky… your head is there…

  15. Absalom
    November 09, 11:57 Reply

    Lol. I’m glad you reminded Lisa of her sinful past. Almost feared you wouldn’t. 😛

    Glad she’s being a good girl now. *pats her back with rainbow horsetail*

  16. Francis
    November 09, 12:00 Reply

    I can’t even form bisexual to save my life. I’d be laughing hysterically at myself as the words leave my mouth. Lol

    At this point in my life, the only people I’d be comfortable coming out na immediate family as I’d like to get it outta the way already. Anyone of them that makes the mistake of asking is getting the full gist.

  17. Chizzie
    November 09, 12:00 Reply

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you come out! Delicately and cautiously, dropping just the right amount of hints with enough room to run back into your closet incase it backfires .

    I came out to my cousin the other day. He asked how my girlfriend or boyfriend was, and I told him my bf was fine and then went on to regale him on said bf ( who is imaginary btw) . He was surprised and curious. But then went on to advice me abt STDs and using a condom, and sticking to one partner.

    Then to cap it up, he asked for my account number. * shoki ahhhhn*

    Sometimes it literally pays to come out

    Plus I’m out to the entire planet on Twitter, although no one actually believes me there

  18. Khaleesi
    November 09, 12:01 Reply

    The truth shall truly set us free. You dont realise what a huge and unnecessary toll staying in the closet takes on you, until you come out to someone, even if they react negatively, at least, you’ll have that out of the way and move onto other things…

    • Pink Panther
      November 09, 12:18 Reply

      Exactly Khaleesi. When you’re in the closet, the onus of your sexuality is on you. When you come out, you shake it off. The one who reacts negatively to your truth inadvertently takes on that onus.

  19. Straight Nigerian Guy
    November 09, 12:17 Reply

    The acceptance of others is not as important as your acceptance of yourself. Opinions differ on love in its entirety not just the LGBT flavour. The transition from taboo to acceptance is one all societies have had to make. As with a lot of other things, Africa is way behind. Don’t take it personal, be comfortable in your own skin, breathe your own air. Life is short, misery makes it shorter. Beautiful story written with a hell of a lot more than ink.

  20. michael Vincent
    November 09, 14:39 Reply

    Biko PP I want to write my own coming out story cos I do have a male version of lisa.

  21. desmond
    November 09, 16:31 Reply

    I really like this blog, the sanity, civility and the interesting stories…..keep up the good work…pinky

  22. dominic
    November 09, 20:31 Reply

    Wow…I really like the way you write Pinky. Best wishes. By the way there are some girls I always run away from their friendship. They are just too smart and I know they will know and ask oneday.

    • Pink Panther
      November 10, 00:02 Reply

      Should you be running from them, really?
      Thanks by the way 🙂

  23. Nightwing
    November 09, 22:43 Reply

    And that’s how nobody noticed the blog has accepted an outside party. #TheAdvert. Why am I always the weird one? Sigh

  24. Kaytee
    November 10, 23:31 Reply

    sisters and mothers know best

  25. Duke
    November 11, 05:43 Reply

    This is one amazing story. Really amazing.

  26. Regal Sweetheart
    November 11, 12:09 Reply

    Ehen, Panther. Biko nnu, bia. Whia is the said advert that Lisa want to put up?

  27. Daddy Yo!
    January 05, 12:46 Reply

    This is godly.
    All i see is rainbow all over.

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