DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T

DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T

There are a lot of words that can be used to replace fear. Trepidation, horror, fright, terror, panic, alarm, agitation… All of these, and more, were what you felt when you heard the news.

Goodluck Jonathan don sign am! Say all the homo, kpontu boys, na 14 years imprisonment. Straight!

You did not know whether the look in the eyes of the boy who told you, the looks in the eyes of the other boys rejoicing in the hostel over the news, was suspicion. Or a warning. Or a threat. Like, “We know say you be gay. And na you we go use do example.”

You forced yourself to laugh, to smile, to rejoice with them. Anything to not draw their attention to the heat yawning in your stomach, to the fear looming inside you, like an open pit of boiling lava threatening to erupt.

Alone in your room, you battled with yourself as you listened to the sounds of the ongoing football in the quadrangle, interspersed with their whoops and calls and hailing, a cacophonous symbol of their shared mirth, their common joy, a joy brought on by your pain.

No, you reminded yourself, I am not a homosexual! I am not like those 420 boys, those ndi homo; shameless people that carry their nonsense behaviour on their heads.

But you like boys, a small, mocking voice said inside your head. You like to spread your ass open for a penis to enter inside you. You like to moan and cry and groan on –

It is just a phase, you interrupted. A phase! I will stop it from now. I am not a homo.

You shut up that voice inside you with your ceaseless mutterings, your intonements of what was to become your mantra.

I am not gay.

I am not a homo.

And with your every muttering, your jumpiness increased. You had to clean up, to utterly destroy every hint of your past, of your contact with that life.

First, it was your phone. Your text messages: the romantic messages from your first boyfriend, the correspondence between you and second boyfriend, the flirty messages you exchanged with the boy you’d been hooking up with for the past two weeks – they all had to go. Delete. Delete. Deleted!

Next, your contacts: the small list of people you knew was about to get even smaller. First to go was Osy’s number, then Ejo’s, then Ifiok’s. And the trickle became a cascading torrent of a waterfall as you swiped number after number into the trash bin. Every hint had to go. Their numbers, their lodge mates’ numbers – anything at all that could tie you to them. To it. To being a homo.

Hours later, you sat, staring at your phone, wondering why it didn’t feel any lighter, why you didn’t feel any lighter. Or better. Or safer. Wondering why your heart was still racing.

Trepidation was the quake you felt, the unmistakable shiver that ran through your body when your roommate tapped your shoulder. It jerked you up from your seat and halfway across the room before you regained control over your body. You pretended you had been lost in thought when he asked you what was wrong, covering your actions with a forced laugh. You felt yourself sliding closer, your feet dangling over the lava, the fire threatening to engulf you completely. You knew you needed to leave. To heal. To find your balance again.

So, you left for your house the next day, thinking home was what you needed. You only remembered how wrong you were when you were greeted by Mother’s praise and dance session in the sitting room, thanking God for – as she put it – “…Nigeria’s firm stance for the will of God.”

Again, you had to put on a fake smile to conceal the horror you felt as you watched Mother sing and dance. You retired to your room, hoping to get a few moments of peace. But it was not to be. Because Mother came in a few minutes later, armed with her gigantic Full Life Study Bible and spent the next few hours preaching to you in a manner you had never experienced with her before. Her preachments were usually thinly-veiled graphic threats of how much God would punish you for your disobedience, for what you were. This time, she didn’t stop at speaking the fear of God into you. You got the message clearly: Step out of line, even once, and I’ll report you to the Police myself and make sure you rot in jail.

You didn’t argue when she asked for your phone, when she spent most of the day reading your text messages and calling up random people on your contact list, asking them who they were and what their connection to you was. You knew she would find nothing: you had already cut off from that life. And so, you stayed where you were, intoning your mantra: I am not gay. I am not a homo!

That night, you had your first dream. You were in the middle of a mob of faceless people, all of them baying for your blood. Abomination! Tufiakwa! Homo! Die! Their words washed over you and you were drowning in them. Like waves, they forced your head back into despair whenever you struggled to raise it. Then, you heard her voice, Mother’s voice, heralding the arrival of some men dressed in Black. That’s him, she screeched. That’s the homosexual. Arrest him.

You woke up, drenched in sweat, the agitation in your heart coalescing into a tight ball of pain. You could not share this dream with anyone. Not even with Mother. Especially not Mother. Doing so would be an admission of guilt. And you could not share it with Osy, not when you had cut off from him. Besides, you were not gay. Not anymore.

Yet, you had that dream every night until Sunday.

In church, dressed in the resplendent robes of the choir you were singing with, you felt the old panic start to rekindle inside you when Pastor Mackie J – as the youths called him – stopped the worship session and began to prophesy. He called out cases and those afflicted by them rushed out for prayers.

Terror was what you felt when he said, “There are homosexuals in this house. If you don’t come out for deliverance from this foul spirit now, you will be disgraced and you will die in shame within six months.”

You hung back, worried. Wondering whether you ought to go out for prayers, to get the seed of evil rooted out of you once and for all. He was saying, “If I be a man of God, six months will not pass before you are openly disgraced if you refuse to come out here this morning,” when you found yourself in front of the pulpit, on your knees, weeping and begging God to save you. You did not want to die. You did not want to be disgraced. You did not want this, any part of this. Not anymore.

When you walked back to your seat in the choir stand, you noticed the glances the other choristers gave you, the way they parted for you to walk through, making sure their skin or robes didn’t come in contact with you. As if you were defiled. Contaminated. As if you had not just been delivered from the power of the enemy.

I’m not gay anymore. I’m not a homo! It took all your willpower not to leap with joy throughout the service. A joy that got crushed the moment you saw Henry, the usher you had a crush on, and you felt the warm tingle of desire flowing through your veins. You were confused. You were delivered, weren’t you? So, why were you still feeling this?

On the way home, you pondered on this, your brooding silence isolating you, so that you did not notice the fury in Mother’s eyes, the tightness of her lips that attested to her rage. It was not until you were in the house that she let fly her fist, catching you square in the jaw. That was when you realised that she was angry.

The alarm rose inside you as she railed and cursed at you. How dare you disgrace her publicly? How dare you impugn her righteous standing in the church? Telling the entire world that she had an abominable reprobate homosexual as a son. How dare you?

But I am saved, you wanted to say. I have been delivered. Why is she angry?

As she spoke, you finally understood. It was not your happiness that they sought. It was not your safety they wanted. It was not your changing that they needed.

What they wanted, what Mother wanted, what the Church wanted, what the government wanted, was for you to fall in line. To conform. And, even in conforming, to do so within the precepts they had ordained for you.

You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

So, you packed up and you returned to school that evening, knowing that your fear may never go away, yet ready to face that fear.

And, in facing it, conquer it.

Written by Mitch

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11 Comments

  1. Kings
    April 25, 10:04 Reply

    You are absolutely a good writer. Thank you for this piece

  2. Tariq
    April 25, 10:44 Reply

    This is top notch…

    Kudos Mitch

  3. Noah
    April 25, 12:13 Reply

    Apt!!!! I drowned in the lines

  4. Mandy
    April 25, 13:29 Reply

    This threw me back, men! That first few months after the law was passed was HO-RRI-BLE! The fear, the panic. I mean, I didn’t go as far as drowning myself in IH the way the character in this story did, but I damn well segregated myself from any gay acquaintances, only keeping the friends I could trust around me. Going on the internet was a mess, because you would see places like Linda Ikeji’s blog and Nairaland, and wince from all the joyful hate teeming on those streets. I remember taking comfort in one person whose voice was very active even then in favour of queer people, and that was Ayo Sogunro. He was such a fierce advocate, and his condemnations of the law even back then when there was so much uncertainty about our fates gave me such comfort and hope that we would get out of that dark time. So, if you ever read this, Ayo Sogunro, thank you. You made me keep believing back when despair was all I knew.

  5. Mitch
    April 25, 21:27 Reply

    Thanks, guys.
    This means a lot to me.
    And, Pink Panther, thank you for sitting on my neck in those starting days, making me write my stories. Look at your baby now💃🏻💃🏻😅😅

  6. Dunder
    April 25, 23:48 Reply

    This story is the story of so many in this community after the law was passed. Thank your letting the story tell itself.

    I am so glad that Nigeria now has stable electricity, security and an exponentially improving economy not to talk of being the wealth capital of the world and eradicating corruption since the meddling gays have been put in their place and banned from even shaking hands.

    It is now time for the religious refugees to abandon the gay wildernesses of the Western world and return to the gay-free utopia called Nigeria, where no one is allowed to be A GAY. This is not just to escape the rain of brimstone loading in the West but to enjoy the bounty of a gay-less Nigeria. Surely the lines at all embassies have shortened or even disappeared and Nigerian embassies are now besieged with desperate applications from those wishing to partake in this land of plenty that has come to be. Congratulations all.

  7. Jay
    April 26, 23:29 Reply

    Nice one Mitch! Never a match… Tryng to reach out to you… Need some talk time on some pressing matters!

    • Mitch
      April 28, 17:34 Reply

      Thanks, Jay.
      Do reach out to Pink Panther.
      He’d tell you how to get through to me.

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