When I hear stories about boarding schools that severely penalize homosexual acts between students, where there are even students who act as snitches, ratting out to the school authorities those who they know or suspect are same-sexually active, I shake my head in “I’m not understanding”.
Because – damn! – my school was nothing like that. It was as though being sexually active with your fellow boys (I can’t speak for the girls; it was a mixed-sex school, by the way) was part of being in the boarding school. Whether you shagged boys or girls or both boys and girls, nobody seemed to care. Nobody reported and there were no morning-assembly punishments of these “acts”. Heck, there was a gay culture right there in the boys’ hostel, where boys dated boys, and sharing abed with another consistently for several nights meant you two were exclusive.
It wasn’t as though boys who were sleeping together walked about holding hands, but there was an understanding that when a senior boy exempted a junior from a strenuous school activity or if he shielded the junior from the wrath of a prefect, that the protection probably came to be because both senior and junior were having sexual relations, and not just because of the senior’s school-fatherly obligations toward the junior. It wasn’t unheard of that boys on the same class level talked among themselves about which boys were getting it on, in much the same way that students speculated about which boy and girl were doing it in a deserted classroom. I once learned from my boyfriend in SS1 that his classmate wanted to know if I was available for him to move in on me. The gay culture was an open secret – at least, among the boys.
I was in JSS3 and 13 years old when I had my first ever sexual encounter with another student. It was my first kiss, and the boy who gave it to me was my classmate, the class bully, who had kept me in his crosshairs since we were in JSS1. His switch from antagonist to lover lends credence to the rhetoric that homophobic men who speak out the loudest against the LGBT are either closeted gay men or latent homosexuals still battling with their same-sex desires. I was feminine as a junior student, and in my effeminacy, this classmate saw a victim. All that changed in a dark, after-night-prep classroom, when he pulled me close to him, and instead of striking out with his fist, he planted his lips on mine.
That kiss became the start of my sexual journey, an exploration that had me slipping in and out of the beds of senior boys. It was as though my sexual awareness turned to light on me, and by SS1, I was among those boys who SS3s wanted to extend school-fatherly duties to, just so they could have an excuse to hold me close to their bodies at night – because, of course, the scope of my education on sex in secondary school was limited to making out, blow jobs and wanking. (I was in SS2 when I first heard of anal sex, and in Year 1 in the university when I was first penetrated.)
My same-sexual awareness in secondary school came very naturally to me. When I kissed a boy, I kissed him because I liked him, and such intimacy always filled me with a fire that erupted from the core of me. When I fell in love with a boy, my entire world shrank to a pinpoint focus on him, where I only existed to make him happy. I dated a boy from SS1 to SS3, and when he was sent on a suspension for flouting a school rule, I grieved his absence with the same abject desolation that a widowed half of a couple would mourn his deceased other half. Back then in school, I didn’t know any labels. I didn’t know I was homosexual. I just knew that I loved who I loved.
However, for all the covert approval the society that was my secondary school gave homosexuality, the first inkling I had that boys having sexual relations with boys was something heinous was when I was in SS3, and a classmate was implicated in a “scandal”. He was a prefect and right from SS2, he had acquired a notoriety of a senior boy who loved to surround himself with lots of school sons. He was rich, so it wasn’t as though he sought school sons for the financial or servile gratification they could give. He instead provided for these juniors, and when we got into SS3 and he became a prefect, these juniors became the envy of their mates. The thought that he could be gaining sexual gratification from his school sons occurred to me every now and then, but I neither pursued it nor paid any attention to him, primarily because it was none of my business. Besides, even though I wasn’t a shorts-wearing junior student when I began fooling around with SS3s, I didn’t think there was anything alarming about an SS3 boy getting with, say, a JSS3 or JSS2 boy.
Someone however disagreed with me, as the rumour, that gained nasty traction as it made the rounds, began circulating of the exact nature of this senior’s dalliances with all these junior students. There was a veiled accusation of the involvement of sex, and rampant speculation of junior students who were allegedly distressed because they’d felt compelled to sleep with him.
Because we lived in a small society without any labels, there were no such words like “pedophile” thrown about; there was simply the blunt-edged conviction that whatever was going on between the senior boy and his school sons was sexual and wrong. Even then, I wondered if the scandal stemmed from the outrage that a senior boy was doing a junior boy (that’d be hypocritical because it was already a culture among boys), or because there were so many junior boys involved.
Eventually, it passed, all the talk died down. No teachers were involved. No junior students surfaced with accusing fingers. The scandal rose, stained the senior student, and passed on, leaving behind an SS3 boy who had to rid himself of his perpetual company of juniors in order to douse the validity of the rumours. I didn’t envy him what he went through, but even as a bystander, I was for the first time confronted with the nastiness that came with the territory of being homosexual. Even then, without knowing it, I was being made to come face to face with the very real menace of what it meant to go through a kito experience.
We would eventually graduate from secondary school and years would pass, during which time we would all mature into our various lives: some of us stayed gay, some others buried the school sexperiences under the heterosexual gravel of experimentation. Some of us remembered with a fondness, and some others determinedly forgot. There were yet others who, when exposed to the an unforgiving world that judged with labels and prejudice, proceeded to do the complicated dance where they gave in to their homosexual desires at night and denounced their indulgence by day.
The scandalized senior boy from my secondary school belonged to this category. He and I didn’t stay in touch after school, but in the way snatches of information about everybody’s lives made the rounds as the years rolled by, I learned that he carried on sleeping with boys in the university, became victim of some disgrace, denounced his homosexuality, and got married. I also learned of a Facebook group of an Old Boys Association of my secondary school, where the topic of sexual perversion came up, and his name was dragged through the muck. I wasn’t in the group, but the female friend of mine who came running to me for verification of the drama, threw about words like – you know it – “pedophile”. A label that made me flinch as I wondered how grievous it should really be that a 16-year-old boy had sex with a 13- or 12-year-old boy; as I also wondered if this outrage would exist had it been a 13- or 12-year-old girl that the 16-year-old boy had had sex with.
Every now and then, I think about this senior boy, about the choices he had made under the duress of one embattled by personal demons. I think about our lives now as homosexual adults and the stark contrast it poses when juxtaposed with our carefree lives as homosexual teenagers. And I just wonder if we will ever live in a society that knows no judgment or labels when it comes to sexuality, the way it was when I was growing up gay in the boarding school.
Written by Pink Panther