“After the law was passed…”

Recently, we read THIS STORY about one of us who almost got into trouble with a policeman pretending to be gay. What struck me: the story not only bore sadness and fear, but ended in resignation and hope for good against evil.

I know it’s a defence mechanism: glossing over pain while moving on to brighter ground to talk about nicer things – like porn, Phyno’s lickable tattoos, Bunkside Frenzy, Jay Z and Bey–lange…

But does this help? Paracetamol may take care of the headache brought on by malaria, but without actual malaria treatment, you’ve only attacked a symptom not the illness itself.

I don’t know about the personal lives of everyone reading this, so I’m just working with a content analysis (posts and comments) of stuff we’ve had here so far. Thou shall not be offended, promise?

After the law was passed – according to the post – the writer was depressed, and while waiting for time to pass, he deleted shirtless pics of guys on his phone, binned his porn, deactivated his dating-site accounts… And then in the comments section, somebody tied himself to a chair, another one’s smooth skin transformed into gooseflesh, and yet somebody else advised that everyone rein in their libidos.

These are good pieces of advice, legitimate reactions – for self and for others… Again, is this the solution?

The Nigerian system

The Nigerian system is intrinsically violent to homosexuals. The foundations have been dug with ignorance and commissioned by law. We’re not wanted around here. (Although this is debatable; we are “wanted” for immediate arrest and prosecution. What’s not clear, however, is how much bounty has been placed on our heads. I hope we are not cheap!) Also, as rights activist Yemisi Ilesanmi says HERE, a gay person who makes it to court alive, would count himself lucky. Remember the case of the Bauchi gays and the raging mob?

A very good friend of mine told me on Whatsapp that “we” – I don’t know who his collaborators are – “will find gays wherever they are and when we do, we will kill them!” I bade him good luck with his mission. He said he was disappointed I was in support of homosexuals. I told him that’s not going to change.

Tears too loud, silence too grave

Since the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag broke on social media, I’ve refrained from comment. I’m on hibernation. Also, I have lost half my faith in online activism; everybody talks, nobody walks. Call for a protest, you’ll see only 15 persons; call for Immigration jobs and you will see thousands. I know, I know…many reasons can be adduced for this. Besides, it’s easier (and safer) for bolder actions (e.g. protests) to be embarked on when demanding the release of abducted persons than it is for same when demanding gay rights. Which means: as far as speaking up about our dues goes, we are stuck behind our PCs and phones. Sad but not entirely hopeless.

I was in a Facebook group once and someone raised the subject of the “rampancy of homosexuality” in Nigeria. (But we don suffer sha! SMH) I have many friends in that group of 120-odd persons, some of whom are gay.  But I didn’t see many of their comments. They kept skipping that post like they were suddenly struck with blindness when their eyes wandered there. They were jollily commenting on other posts in the group, but you see that LGBT post? Not a word.

After the jail-the-gays law was passed, I monitored my newsfeed for my gay friends’ posts and comments. Same result. A few people furtively liked posts and comments (including mine), others offered a word or two of solidarity. Still, the silent ones clamped their jaws tight. For the whole month-plus that Nigerians carried on about gay this, gay that, these quiet bruvs seemed to peeping through the blinds, waiting the fire out…This too shall passThe coast will soon be clearNigerians will soon find something else to distract them… and we can get with our lives.

And then time passed.

And Boko Haram struck.

And public officials mismanaged funds

And as the outrage of Nigerians was split

Life went on.

–          from “After the law was passed…” by Pink Panther

For how long can you hold out?

When you tie yourself to a chair, you’ll untie yourself someday. (Although you and your lover can spice up your sex life with one of you tied to that chair with socks, and gagged… Thank me later!)

When you can your hormones, you’ll un-can them again someday.

When you break off contact with every gay guy in your life today, you’ll re-establish those contacts someday.

And when you do, the law will be lurking out there, armed with hate and narrow-mindedness waiting for you, waiting for me.

This Demo

One of the landmark events of my life is that as a young boy, I was flogged for being gay – publicly… It’s a few years to my 30th birthday and I still get chills when I remember, because the incident opened a whole new chapter in my life. I knew hate, discrimination and friendlessness in broad daylight. I knew how one could be alive and yet be dead, because no one wanted to have the simplest interactions with you like share a seat or borrow your eraser.

In the weeks preceding this grand public display of disaffection towards me, there was a trial. The school prefect who took it upon himself to investigate who was a fag and who wasn’t said to me: “Abbie, do you know when I started watching you closely?”

I shook my head.

“You remember…” He described an incident many months before when he was supervising my class for Labour and I yabbed one guy.

I said I remembered the incident.

“That was when I started hating you,” he said, his eyes narrowed.

Blood pounded through my tummy.

“So tell me, are you a homosexual?”

“No,” I said. I could not speak more than one word at a time. I was learning to fear more, speak less.

Eventually he found out I lied.

I don’t know how it happened.

I’d only heavy-petted one guy before this time (and told myself never to do it again and gone to confession and prayed that God hide this act…) so it must have been difficult for him to have my name turn up in his investigations. All he had were the whispers of snitches, suspicions, etc. No hard evidence.

He was furious. “I almost believed you were telling the truth!” he said before the conks came raining on my head.

It was past 2 a.m. The moon was up, three-quarters of it. We were in the middle of the hostel complex. The flogging was scheduled for the next day.

My other classmates, who confessed or told on others out of fear, got off lightly. But I – I who dared to make a joke in this world when I was a mere homosexual and then dared to deny that I was, I who had only a 30-second smooch under my belt and loads of penance in its wake…didn’t…

When midterm break came two weeks later, I wheeled my suitcase into my father’s car, sat still. And when he asked, “How was school?” I ignored the dull pain pressing into my butt (from the whiplashes) and assured him with a faint smile that school was fine.

I’ve only told this story in sketches because this was the hardest section to write. But, most importantly, what this demonstrates is that any reaction from us bolder than cowering, shrinking, is NOT appreciated by bigots. From some comments I saw after the law passed, many Nigerians seemed enraged that we dared to make noise about that hate law; they didn’t bargain for that. That we still have mouth to talk on top of our abominable existence – the nerve! I have two friends on Facebook who blamed the big mouths of gays and our supporters for the law’s existence. Their submission: society would have let us be if we had not gone and demanded equal rights. Well, I was gay-bashed before Bisi Alimi’s coming out in 2004, and that law had been a bill since Obasanjo’s government, so what are they on about? Fuck them.

What we must think to do

Once, I told my best friend this story. He sympathised, and warned me to be careful.

About what? I wondered. It’s like telling a woman whose husband beats her to stop annoying him. How about the next time he comes charging at her like a drunken bull, she stands her ground with a gun pointed at his head?

Do not get me wrong; I’m not picking on anyone here or prescribing for anyone, or endorsing violence (We cannot treat animalistic behaviour by being animals ourselves.) I’m just addressing our tendency to stop at BEING AFRAID AND “CAREFUL”. I’m worried that we are giving our oppressors what they want. Many of them are not interested in seeing us in jail as much as they are interested in seeing us suffer in silence, remain invisible – “Y’all gays just shut up already. If you don’t like the way our society is structured, relocate!” That’s why they rob and blackmail us. Who can we report to? The police? Again, this HERE is the story of men attacked by a mob and thrown out of their own homes in Abuja for alleged homosexuality. It happened right in the territory of the seat of government. Did your President come out to say anything? Did we hear “Diarris God oh” over the matter?

We cannot stop at telling one another to be careful, and hope that no evil befalls us. Because it could.

We must be ready to push back, no matter how subtly.

When your colleague at work makes a joke about you being gay (These things are common these days, even when you’re the so-called “straight-acting” type), do you say, “God forbid!” or “What if I were?”

Do you dare to make it clear that you have nothing against homosexuality, in fact, that you support it? Or do you pretend amazement at it in order to drive suspicion away from you?

Do you make effort to befriend a bigot or two, to engage and re-orientate? (Not sexually, please!) In the heat of the debate sparked off by the hate law, some of my friends deleted and blocked anti-gay proponents off their list. I didn’t. I’d rather they deleted themselves or continue to endure my pro-gay views. I have seen homophobes won over to tolerance. I have seen the fires of hate grow cold. That is the vision of hope we should carry: change. Change fought for. Not distraction by the next scene in Boko Haram’s explosive series, the next intrigue between PDP and APC, the next Champions League match…so we can sigh in relief and arrange the next discrete hook-up. ■

Written by Absalom

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