“Love Conquers Hate.” The Part 2 Of Kenny Brandmuse’s Tell-All Interview

“Love Conquers Hate.” The Part 2 Of Kenny Brandmuse’s Tell-All Interview

This interview continues from HERE.

*

Tell us about life as an HIV-Positive gay Nigerian.

Even though HIV is not a badge of honor for anyone, it’s been listed as a manageable disease since 1996. Thanks to the power of antiretroviral medicine. Unfortunately, HIV is not what might kill someone living with the condition in Nigeria. What would do that are the psychosocial stressors. Things like poverty and access to judgment-free care and support are among the many things that make life unbearable for people living with HIV in places like Nigeria. I was lucky to have been surrounded by a fantastic care team at the Police College Hospital, Falomo. I doubt they knew about my sexuality those days, but I was petrified that if they found out, they might stop being nice to me. There were moments I wanted to tell my physician about my sexual history but couldn’t mention it because of their cultural biases. I mean, how can one receive comprehensive care when your provider does not know your sexual history? These things stressed the hell out of me. My ex-wife also threatened to tell them about my story (perhaps she did), and so, I walked on eggshells each time I visited my clinic. My lab results started to dip. I was afraid my immune system would just shut down as I juggled through these social stressors. Again, fish out water.

 

Do you believe LGBT should be legalized in Nigeria and why?

Why not? Look at India. It’s only a matter of time. Love conquers hate. The question is what do we do now to safeguard the lives of many millions who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Truth cannot be buried for long. Sexual minorities have always been a massive part of our culture. Never mind they were not called LGBTQ+. We all know of old aunties or uncles who were the odd ones out or whose love lives were questionable. We know of the danda odus of the North and the women who married women in the East. We had heard about schoolmates in boarding schools who had school lovers and were punished. We know choir members who shimmy and sizzle while lifting us into clouds of worship.

The elephant in the room is DENIAL. We pretend these things are not here. We blame it on the devil or the oyibo people. I once slept with a Nigerian Senator, and I’m not surprised he will be the first to put his hands up to vote in favor of the jail-the-gays bill. While in Nigeria, I had sex with church ministers who would come out in the open to preach against homosexuality as though it was the reason why Nigeria never has constant electricity. The hypocrisy is deafening.

And hell no, we didn’t learn about same-sex relationships from the abroad. Some of my first same-sex encounters were mostly people who didn’t speak English at all or ever set their feet into a Western school environment. I see all these rages on social media about how abominable the LGBTQ+ is, and I wonder if any of these commenters are standing on a fleeting social media soapbox.

But I’m hopeful and excited that the new generation is becoming more tolerant and open-minded. My best friend in Nigeria is straight. He and his wife support me. My closest family member is my older cousin who took on the role of my mom after she passed. This cousin of mine, let’s call her Sister B, became my light in the dark. She held my hand through the muddy water of shame and persecution while in Nigeria. She is simply incredible. I have more nieces and cousins who look out for me too. There’s hope in our new generation. I’m a huge fan of many young people on social media. These kids, mostly straight and some gay, are leading the change and revolutions amongst their peers.

 

What are the good sides of the LGBTQ community that the world fails to see?

I’d reframe the question: what are the good sides of human beings that the world fails to see?

We are all human. Gay, straight or in between. We fall and rise. We poo and pose. We build and tear down. We are teachers, lawyers, doctors, writers and youth corps. We are children, teenagers, and older adults. We are human beings with talents and dreams and vulnerabilities. If you think there are good sides to being a human, then count our hands up in the air. I guess the vapidest thing I have heard about people’s biases toward gay people is about our sex lives. LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t be reduced to sexual intercourse. It’s not about who we sleep with or the style of the intercourse. It’s about who we love. Stop reducing us to sex – I mean, we have terrific sex, no lie there, but so do many heterosexuals. However, it’s a little bizarre when I have to introduce you to a social gathering and say, “Meet my friend, Kunle, a man who sleeps with big-breasted women” or “meet Tara, a lady who gives men blowjobs.” If you won’t describe your heterosexual friends like this, why describe gay people only in sexual manners? We are not sex. We are people. Complete persons. While representation and visibility matter for the LGBTQ+ people, a more balanced representation is necessary. No, I don’t want to sleep with you just because you have a dick. We are attracted to same sex, and not genitalia.

 

How did you meet your husband?

I’d use the word “partner”. Let’s leave the word husband for the heterosexuals who need to protect their rights to marriage. You know we gay people should never find love, right?

I met my partner in Baltimore after my grad school. We were both working for the same university: Johns Hopkins. He was working as a visiting professor of medicine, and I was working as a post-graduate research assistant. We met at one of Hopkins’ breakfast cafes on Wolfe Street. It was first a brief chat, then a shared coffee, and later a dinner date. When I saw him, I thought he had a very genuine smile and eyes. Then his gait; he walked into the coffee room with a poise that was so charming I couldn’t look away. Then his shoes, oh his shoes. There was something elegant about his fashion sense that stood him out. That clean European look!

 

When did you realize he is the one for you?

When I told him about my HIV status, and he responded with a profound statement: Don’t carry yourself as though you are an HIV virus. You are not HIV.

He told me what I thought I already knew. That if I was taking my medication and seeing my doctor, HIV is a manageable disease. That he was never afraid of something every scientific research had already shown is no longer transmittable once the person with HIV is receiving adequate medical care. He made me realize how I was paying too much attention to my status instead of focusing on holistic living.

Those words disturbed me for days: are you the virus? You are not HIV. You are Kehinde. After my coming out in 2014, I got immersed in a world of activism and advocacy that I started to wear the cause like gloves. I almost abandoned my work at Orange to become a full-time activist. After meeting my partner, I quickly realized I would serve the poz and LGBTQ+ community better by excelling in my career. We all need to be advocates and activists, but we must never forget to develop ourselves holistically. Colin Kaepernick didn’t become Nike’s favorite spokesperson because he was just an activist. He had an excellent career. (Don’t get me wrong, there will always be people who will make these causes their fulltime job, and we must honor them. It is a career for some, but not all of us can make a living out of activism and advocacy. Otherwise, the focus would shift from the cause to the survival of the fittest).

I also thought I met someone very empathetic yet rational for once. My partner didn’t sweep my diagnosis under the carpet and say God would heal you. (That’s what my ex-wife said) He genuinely asked about my medical care and journey. He asked me pointed questions that ensured his own safety and mine. I thought this was it. Not a man who just said, “Oh! You live with HIV, that’s ok.” No, he spent time with me to go over my care in details without any judgment or blame. Till today, my partner checks in with me to ensure I’m seeing the right doctor. Once I get my labs, he requests to see them and sometimes advises me on what to discuss with my primary medical provider. That’s being rational.

Lastly, I knew he was the one when he came to spend Christmas with me.  Those who know me know how I find it hard sharing my space with people. As a closeted introvert, I prefer being alone. When he came visiting, I thought: Oh! How am I going to survive the next few days with someone else in my space and in my face? But all that changed the day he went back to Europe. I held the bed sheet close to my face and smelled his essence. It was beyond sexual intimacy. It was a rare bond words could not describe. Even though it was going to be a long-distance relationship, I felt him so close to me in space and time. He left behind a part of his soul in my room. Something so genuine I’d be stupid to let him go. I called my lesbian friend and said, “I think I have found my partner.”  Courtship was long and sometimes doubtful due to the long distance between us, but I kept thinking I’d be mad to let go of someone who would travel over 6000 miles to see me every two/three month. And so, the rest became history.

 

What do you have to say about Bobrisky’s buzz on the Nigerian internet?

In our days as young gay Nigerians, it was Denrele Edun. All that Bobrisky is doing now, Denrele did and even more. Just that there were no social media. To me, Bobrisky and Denrele are powerful provocateurs and gender-bending individuals who continue to use the power of the media to project a side of us we often hide away from. They don’t have to be gay. If they say they are not gay, then they are not. Gender presentation or identity is not equal to sexual orientation. And even if they are gay, as long as they never say they are, then they are who they say they are. There are famous drag queens here in America who are not gay. Go with it.

The question, however, is: What do Nigerians find fascinating about these people? Perhaps it reminds us of what some Nigerians wish they could be. For every three negative comments about these folks, one or two people are battling their internal demons to come to terms with who they really are. So people project their insecurities onto them. That way, these bashers feel compensated. Look behind those negative comments, you’d probably see miserable people. You’d see women whose husbands have left them for whatnots. You’d see men who don’t have confidence in who they are. Like I had mentioned elsewhere, how could anyone not love the rainbow? What’s not to love about the kaleidoscope of amazing colors queer people bring to the world? The songs… the lyrics that serenade our love lives were written by some of the queerest people on earth. The fashion items we kill for: the perfume, the bags, and the hairstyles, Oh gosh! What’s not to love about the rainbow, tell me?

I love Maya Angelou’s words:

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

What’s your advice for people still in the closet and looking for a way to come out?

You owe no one a coming out party. But you owe yourself a coming out event. Take a moment and ask yourself profound questions only you can answer. Life is too short to live it on other people’s terms.

However, if you think you can boldly come out and talk about your sexuality, then, by all means, do it. Africa needs to write its own queer history. It is a community service for those coming behind us. We need more visibility.  Enough of these foreign narratives about who we are and how we love. Write your story. Share your story. Tell us about your highs and lows. Come into the arena and give us the best of you.

 

THE END.

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13 Comments

  1. Babyfwesh
    September 13, 06:39 Reply

    You owe no one a coming out party.

    I like that.

  2. trystham
    September 13, 07:52 Reply

    Shifting focus from the cause to survival of the fittest…o ga o Like it ain’t that already sef

  3. Keredim
    September 13, 07:58 Reply

    “…..Enough of these foreign narratives about who we are and how we love. Write your story……”

    🚶🏾‍♂️🚶🏾‍♂️🚶🏾‍♂️

  4. Cocent
    September 13, 08:17 Reply

    He slept with a Senator! Wow!

  5. Mwaniki
    September 13, 08:44 Reply

    That question about the good side of gays would have bothered me too. There is this tendency to want people who are not like most of us to earn equal or respectful treatment. We want to know if they are wealthy enough, talented enough, healthy enough, educated enough or productive enough. I think it is inherently unfair, because any general category of humans (categories like race, sexuality, age, gender, disability, nationality and religion) is likely to have the full spectrum of these qualities we inquire into. Marginalization in itself creates biases that disadvantage them in these respects. If the reason you will acknowledge my right to love whom I choose is that I am the CEO of Apple Inc., then your prejudice is undiminished. And while it does feel affirming to have members of my minority achieving notable status in wider society, I ought not to rely on that feeling because there is really little their shine has to do with me. What is important is that we all do our best to understand and be helpful to other human beings only because we are all better off for it, not because it proves my worth.

  6. Colossus
    September 13, 12:36 Reply

    If it is bisi alimi now🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️

    • Pink Panther
      September 13, 15:19 Reply

      😂😂😂😂
      The interview will carry the stench of self importance

  7. Awesomely Awesome
    September 13, 13:25 Reply

    “You owe no one a coming out party”
    …wow, that ministered to me!!!

  8. Lyon
    September 13, 17:13 Reply

    I don’t know if I should cry or smile, be happy or sad, or just be indifferent. But I cannot not say a thing about this. Our own part of the world is so negatively ladened with religious fanaticism that we forget the basis on which religion must work – LOVE. Time and again, Pope Francis has been criticized as being pro-LGBTQ+ just for preaching the gospel of love and inclusion for people who are considered social misfits.

    In my opinion, someone’s way of life, even when it doesn’t conform to your own standards, cannot make the person less human.

    WHAT’S MY POINT?
    African cultures are very religious. The earlier we look beyond our own twisted interpretations of cultural and religious tenets, the better for us and the sooner we get developed/civilised.

    I see in Kehinde someone who’s found love…
    And that’s what he needs right now – that’s what we all need – heterosexual, homosexual, black, white, everyone. WE ARE ALL HUMANS and that’s all that matters.

  9. Tahlee
    September 14, 06:45 Reply

    Going back to Kenny’s coming out story in 2015 and this two part interview has done so much in showing me how strong this man is and also how he’s developed and turned the bitter lemons life flung his way into the sweetest Lemonade anywhere in the world. When I’m counting LGBT individuals (especially Africans) I probably count him twice. There’s so much to learn from this interview, he’s so FUCKING INTELLIGENT, very much aware of what is going
    on and totally okay in his skin, while being SEXY AF! (idc… I couldn’t post a comment without adding this). I’m super glad that in the way of this “personal activism” there are still honest gay men who make little or no efforts at all to show it!

  10. Rehoboth
    September 14, 19:21 Reply

    No question(s) about his first marriage?

  11. Black Coffee
    September 15, 00:34 Reply

    . . .its time Africans write their story! Sure we too have our own narrative.

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