CHILDREN OF DUST

CHILDREN OF DUST

Please forgive me, for my demons have taken free rein over my mind.

It was one of those Sunday services that make me resent my conviction to stay Christian in spite of all the harm that religion continues to cause people like me. The Pastor stood there at the pulpit, saying the things that I have come to expect from him, expressing his strong disdain for queer people and everything I represent.

“God hates homosexuals! They are an abomination before Him and that is why they continue to die of terrible diseases!” he spat out to the congregation.

Tiny tremors of shock found their way to my soul at his words, at the hatefulness that was coming from the holiness of the altar. This is a man I constantly have to find a place in my heart to respect despite his homophobia, and on this day, his words had found their target in my heart, striking my soul with a precision that awakened a pain I thought I’d overcome.

I am 30 years old, and in all this time that I have lived and experienced life as a queer man, I have loved and lost more friends and acquaintances than I can count on my two hands. It’s always been a case of “here today, gone tomorrow”, like they were marked for certain doom for being who they are. Whether it be cancer, HIV-related or the requisite mysterious illness, my immediate community has known so much loss, that we have begun to hold yearly candle-light memorials for those who were once so bright and full of dreams and aspirations, but who are now no more. Having to catch up with friends on the walk to the gravesides have become a sort of trauma, during which the question that stays utmost on my mind always is: “Who’s next?”

In January 2019, I lost one of my closest friends to leukemia. The day he called me, barely three months before his demise, will remain the saddest day of my life for a very long time. He had so much to live for. We both had dreams and aspirations, and by God, we were fighting our way to the top, arm in arm, project after project. Even as he endured his affliction, he stayed hopeful, positive that his light could never be dimmed.

But I had to watch him diminish into nothing, right in front of the eyes of his single mother who’d built her entire existence around him as her only child.

It was one of the most crushing losses I’d ever suffered.

And then came 2020, when I too fell sick and there was just no discernable diagnosis for what was wrong with me. Every time I looked into the eyes of my mother and saw the confusion in there over what I was going through, I ached.

This was it, I told myself. It was finally here. And all I could think of was the shame and disgrace that accompanies the dying of a gay man in Nigeria. How everyone would automatically assume you got what you deserved because of the life you’d chosen to live. I remembered being at a friend’s funeral and overhearing two strangers gossiping.

“Such a young man… Dying just like that… Such a waste.”

“I heard he died of the homo sickness.”

And they hissed and murmured their revulsion over the “young man who chose to waste his life with the homo sickness.”

I couldn’t even tell my closest friends that I was sick because I feared everyone would start speculating that I would be next. In my mind, I had made my final wish which was to be secretly buried with no one knowing for as long as possible.

I recovered. I would eventually get to know that I suffered from a form of COVID-19 called Long COVID.

Someone once called me a moralist, and I think they might’ve not been too far from the truth. Maybe it comes from the fact that I am deeply religious, or maybe it comes from the fact that I live in constant fear of the punishment that comes with living an immodest life. I find myself thinking that if I don’t indulge in rampant sexual desires, there might be some form of redemption for me; that if I lived more right-mindedly, if I got my friends to live more right-mindedly, then I could save us. Maybe then, we could be spared the wrath of whatever was claiming our lives.

These are troubling thoughts that sometimes I am aware I am having. But how can I help it? What with all the layers that have been piled upon us from birth to adulthood to hate who we are and repent from living our truths. How can I not despair when there doesn’t appear to be a happy ending for someone like me?

The evening I finished watching Netflix’s Christmas gay romcom, Single All The Way, I battled tears as I asked questions of the God I serve. Was He who made the Western gays different from He who Nigerian gays like me worship? I watched the scene where Peter and Nick sealed their love to the cheers of their family and it filled me with a longing that placed me so far away from this reality. That there exists parents who would do anything, going as far as orchestrating romance for their son, just for his happiness was painfully fictional to me. Why aren’t they punished and tortured like I am? Why do they not know the condemnation that those of us over here suffer?

Please forgive me, but I am in so much pain. And the truth is that I no longer know how to grieve.

I lost another friend recently. Andre was my rock, more than a friend. He was a big part of my story. He knew me almost as well as I knew myself. We shared so much of life together: a passion for movies, Drag Race, fashion and everything in between. He was the only one of my close friends who my mother treated like a son of hers. He was my best friend.

And on Friday, after trying to reach him for a few days to no avail, I called his mother. The note of devastation in her voice should have prepared me for what she said.

“He was sick… He even became anemic. And we lost him.”

Just like that, it was over. He was gone, laid to rest quietly, so unobtrusively, like he hadn’t meant anything to me, to all the many friends whose lives he touched. To the amazing community he started in school after I graduated, each one of them leaning on him for guidance and support. I was reeling. I was enraged. I was sad. I was in pain.

Then I remembered how I was sick and how I’d hoped to exit this world quietly. Had my friend wanted the same thing? Had he struggled with shame on his dying bed? Had he been lucid enough during his sickness to express his fears to his mother?

Was this to be our lot in life: to know shame in life and when dying?

No.

No, not for Andre at least. He knew joy. He knew pride. He knew life to the fullest.

And dust to dust he may be, but I will remember him as glorious in death as he was in life. Tomorrow, I may have fears and questions about who’s next. But today, I will celebrate the memory of my friend, Andre Immanuel, and all the ways he was a very Proud and Loud Gay Man that I loved.

Written by Wiffey

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4 Comments

  1. trystham
    December 10, 16:33 Reply

    As we grow older, we will become more familiar with death. I’m sorry for your loss. Its a comfort that he has someone who remembers him with such fondness.

  2. Brainie
    December 13, 11:23 Reply

    This story is well written ( this is my first comment). It sure expresses well the emotions of the writer to the fullest in a way that I would be a stone if I can’t relate—and sorry, Wiffey I am very sorry for your losses, and I pray you heal with time and be spared of any more losses.

    On this statement:

    “Was He who made the Western gays different from He who Nigerian gays like me worship? I watched the scene where Peter and Nick sealed their love to the cheers of their family and it filled me with a longing that placed me so far away from this reality.”

    I would say, don’t be too believing of what you see in movies and films. Films have never been reality. Most times, movies are made to push an idea/concept/phenomenon that is not yet a norm, and the fact that the movie you watched is pushing the idea of family acceptance implies family acceptance in the Western world is not yet the norm, consequently, many western gay guys still suffer from family rejection as much as we do. So don’t feel cheated (as in, the Westerners get to access easily things you long for, family acceptance for instance).

    Recently, I have been more patronising of online meeting with people from the other sides of the world, and it might appear our reality might not to be to far apart at least, when it concerns matters of sex and it’s difficulties.

    And I would advise, you try as much to derive a joy from within and not depend on hookups and related stuff to manage loneliness. I still await the time when the social system around the gay phenomenon in Nigeria would be good, but till then, I have to keep to myself and limit the kind of people I allow around me to ensure I reach the goal of a fulfilled life I want. Of course, I know such system might never come (systems are very difficult to change).

    And please Wiffey, I would like to advise don’t make being gay the end, it should be a means of an end. The way the gay sexuality is communicated to us make it seem like an end itself. Like once you accept yourself, you’ve opened the door to living a nice life.

    But the reality turns out to be the opposite. Kito stories here are a testimony to that. Being gay should be a means, not an end.

  3. OB
    January 13, 03:24 Reply

    You should not feel any shame for being gay. It’s a natural thing, honestly.
    As for the church, and homophobic people, I reject, and disrespect anything, and anyone that rejects and disrespects me. It serves me so well, because while you try to look at me with disdain, I look right down at you with higher disdain.

    It’s just like the bible trying to tell me that I am a lesser being, for being a woman.
    Such audacity!!!!
    I cannot, and will never accept such a stupid definition of my being from something written by a bunch of men, led by King James. Hell no!!!!
    I have no single doubt in my mind about being equal, because we are simply opposite gender of the species homo sapien, with equal number of brain cells, might I add, and mine work pretty damn fine.

    In the same vein Wiffey, you must take back the narration of who you are from the world.
    If a pastor finds shame in you being gay, find shame in the pastor being an extortionist.
    If a random Nigerian finds shame in you being gay, find shame in the fact that someone who cannot even manage their waste, thinks that they can talk down on you. The effrontery!!!
    Tell them where to take the attitude, the bin, where the rest of the trash they litter on the roads is supposed to be.

    Stand straight and tall, and respect yourself, so that others will follow the lead, and avoid what you do not tolerate.
    Don’t let people project their filth, and negativity to you.

    And I’m so sorry for the deaths you’ve been experiencing. Unfortunately, some people bear more loss than the average person, but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with sexuality.
    They were just unlucky, and unfortunately death keeps coming around those you love too often. You can pray against the spirit of death. That could make you feel better.

  4. Bloom
    May 20, 10:30 Reply

    This was well written…

    I’ve been friends with Andre on Facebook for awhile and hearing he’s no more brakes my heart in a different way.
    I’m glad he has someone that remembers him with so much fondness. Cos that’s what we all really hope to have.

    Wiffey, no doubt the community has it’s own fair share of diseases and sicknesses but to believe that it’s somehow a plague brought on us by god is self harming. There is nothing happening that can’t be prevented. You owe it to all your friends that have died from sexually transmitted diseases to face the truth with courage and honesty. Be courageous. Know that there is a lot of work to be done in the community. They’re young people out there that don’t understand biology properly and are being careless with their lives. Community members that believe sex can’t be enjoyed when it is safe. You must stand now and face these problems with a resolve. We can sensitize and educate people. Devise ways to reach more community members. Insist on being more accountable.
    Gay sex is an incredibly beautiful thing and it should be enjoyed in ways that respects the parties involved.

    The western gays that you admire didn’t get to where they are by accepting that their community was cursed. The 80s saw the darkest times of the gay community in the west but what brought them out of that darkness was courage to face themselves. To ask the right questions, to gather the right knowledge, to insist that they’re human beings that shouldn’t be ignored and finally, enough courage to hope in themselves.
    They’re not perfect but they defeated the 80s and the 90s!

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