A BRAVE NEW WORLD

A BRAVE NEW WORLD

I was quite effeminate growing up. And I was mostly comfortable being around girls; I didn’t like male company because I knew how mean boys could be. Added to the fact that I actually liked boys, it was untenable for me to be around boys a lot. I’m attracted to a vast range of things, and — as I learned in the recent past, which I’m trying to change — being an undercover asshole is one of them. (And we all know the kind of gigantic assholes most teenage boys are. So…)

I was usually picked on in school. It was my weight. It was the way I talked (I had an accent growing up. It’s something I forced myself to lose, something that still manifests anytime I lose control over my speech). It was the way I walked. It was my mannerisms. It was the fact that I was an insufferable know-it-all. It was the fact that I was always with girls. It was always something.

So, my nickname in school was Gayous. It was a very stupid in-the-way-of-teenagers extrapolation from the then popular series, Merlin, and the wise godfather figure of the titular character, who was called Gaius – that and the rather new word most of my classmates had learned to describe homosexuality/homosexuals with, i.e. gay. Thus, Gayous. (I told you it was stupid, didn’t I?)

Two boys were responsible for giving me that nickname – Jerome and David. And the name stuck and stayed with me in the final two years of my secondary school education.

A few years ago, a WhatsApp group was created for my class. I didn’t know about it, as I had cut most of my classmates off after our graduation. I only reconnected with one of them when she came to study Music in UNN in 2016. She and I became friends again, and we got on each other’s social media spaces. Late last year, I reconnected with another classmate, Chima, who then added me to the WhatsApp group.

For the longest time however, I was a ghost in that group. I rarely said anything or contributed to the conversations there. So, my presence there was largely unnoticed.

Then, some weeks ago, my closest friend back then, Esther, hit me up to ask a few questions. She started spinning this long winded tale about how a close friend of hers confided in her that she has a crush on another female friend of theirs, and that she was confused as to what advice to give her. I knew she was talking about herself, but I wanted to understand why she felt the need to ask me. She went on to say that she’d noticed that I have the rainbow emoji on my bio on Facebook, and that I post a lot of queer stories, so she felt she could ask me for advice. We had a long conversation about the need for honesty, about how to gauge the opinions of people on the topic of queerness before broaching a more intimate conversation or making a pass at them… all of that. When we were done, I told her I understood what she was saying, even though she didn’t spell it out. She laughed and thanked me for understanding. We had a deeper conversation and she said she’d been suppressing her same-sex loving side, but she just couldn’t do it anymore.

(The friend she had the crush on turned out to be heterosexual, but was very supportive of her when she confessed her feelings to her. They’re still friends, just not lovers.)

Then, a few nights ago, an argument about bullying came up in the group and a lot of people had a lot to say about how they felt bullied in school. I was called out several times by several people, for viciously eviscerating them, either in class or during arguments. It was funny at first, because most of what I did, I did in self-defense or as a form of self-protection. But, as the conversation went on, I got to see how even I had been a terrible person towards others, especially when I made them feel like dummies, because they couldn’t come anywhere near my scores in any subject. I apologised to the people I’d hurt, and left the conversation.

A few minutes later, a strange number chatted me up. It turned out to be David – you know, one out of the homophobic duo that gave me the Gayous nickname. I was perfunctory at first, because I really couldn’t be bothered to talk to him about anything. (I hadn’t spoken in the group about how I felt bullied by them, or how their words affected me. That’s a kind of power I’m very unwilling to give to anyone who has hurt me in the past: the power that comes with knowing that they did indeed hurt me.)

After exchanging pleasantries, his next words surprised me. He started by apologizing for coming up with the nickname, confessing that it was his idea and that he shared it with Jerome, who then broadcasted it.

I couldn’t care less, and I told him it was fine, that I was over it.

Then he shocked me.

“I actually had a crush on you,” he wrote.

Wait! Hollup!! Rewind!!! WHAT!

He called me on WhatsApp and began talking about how he had feelings for boys too, but that he hated it. So when he developed feelings for me, he decided to be mean to me to cure himself of those feelings. He went on and won about all the things he’d felt, all the self-loathing he’d carried for years because he was bisexual. He told me how he started making peace with himself when he began following me on Facebook, and how that led him to Kito Diaries.

It was a long and, frankly, very fulfilling talk. Mostly, I was happy that he felt safe enough to tell me all this, and that he had accepted himself. We ended the conversation on a good note, and he talked about wanting to see me again.

With the issue about bullying still hanging in the group, it wasn’t very long before another classmate, Roscoe, came on the group to lambast everybody who was homophobic when we were in school. He is in Montana now, living out and proud – but first of all, he had a lot of things to get off his chest. He talked about how he hated himself every time I was called Gayous, every time he joined our classmates to call me Gayous just to prove he belonged and was one of the boys. He unloaded a whole lot of the anger that comes with years of self-loathing, and I loved watching it happen.

Surprisingly, a lot of my classmates have been apologetic ever since, either apologising to me and Roscoe in the group, or sliding into my DM to apologise in person.

I do not know whether to feel relieved at this, or whether to roll my eyes and laugh. However, I do know one thing: things aren’t always as they seem. So much about my secondary school past has been unraveled to create new perceptions. I am glad that I’ve gained a few new friends from old ones, and that we are bonded by a shared history, a shared trauma, as well as by community.

Written by Precious Oraz

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  1. bamidele
    September 14, 09:41 Reply

    This is a powerful revelation. Thank you for sharing it. Indeed, knowledge, beyond power, is liberation. It even makes life easier. Imagine if we had sex education that hints us about varied, complex and fluid human sexuality. Many (of course, not all) problems concerning homophia and self hate lifestyles relating to sexuality would be solved. Sometimes ago when I was invited to give a lecture on sexualities and sexual orientations. The question many asked is “if we didn’t have homophia in our traditional cultures, why are we so homophobic now?”
    The answer is simple: colonialism & foregn religions that now dominate our societies. Both norms have continued and are internaized as if we’ve always been like this time immemorial. However, once we develop our critical thinking and improve our knowledge system and human values, many problems become easer to dismantle.

  2. FRED
    September 14, 13:49 Reply

    Dizmantu what?
    Homophobia in Nigeria?
    Please don’t bring Babylon from foreign America into the holiness capital of the world (even though Jerusalem, which is in Israel, is the land of Christian pilgrimage).

  3. Rudy
    September 17, 16:08 Reply

    This was worth reading.
    Indeed, society can do much better if only they are willing.
    Not to mention, how well you handled every thing.
    My hat’s off to you Precious.

  4. Gbolly
    September 27, 22:20 Reply

    This was worth reading,
    Right now I’m noddingy head and digesting alot
    The message was conveyed and well understood
    But why do people confess their feeling after school?

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