TO EXIST AND TO JUST BE

TO EXIST AND TO JUST BE

So, one would think that it would be easy for us to give the very thing we are constantly seeking, right?

Wrong.

Let me give you some context.

When the pandemic hit and many activities were paralyzed, it seemed as though there were more hours in the day. My days were filled with lots of school work, lots of helping with the house chores, lots of binge watching of TV shows – and still, I felt like there was so much time left.

So I decided to join Grindr, more to chat and pass time. I had no intention of meeting anyone. I mean, we were in a pandemic. One day, as I was scrolling through profiles, one particularly caught my attention. I clicked on it to check out the bio to sort of learn more of the person behind it, and the first statement I read shocked me. It probably shouldn’t have, because it wasn’t the first time I was reading something like it; all the times in the past however, I just ignored and didn’t really think about it. But that day…that day I had time.

The statement read: ‘No girlish men, looking for men not girls.’

So, I sent the guy a message, starting with the usual pleasantries before I told him what I was really texting him about. I cannot remember the details of the conversation that ensued, but I remember suggesting to him that he word that statement in a more positive way instead the arrantly prejudicial way it existed with on his profile.

“You could type something like ‘I prefer masculine guys’ or something like that,” I said, pointing out that even though both statements technically pass across the same message of his preference, the one he had on his profile was hurtful while the suggestion wasn’t.

The manner with which he embraced me correcting him was almost shocking. Going into that conversation, I was aware how quickly it could turn south. He had as much right to be on the app as I did, and he equally had the same right to express what he wanted in any way he saw best. So who was I to correct him?

But he was very appreciative of what I pointed out to him, even changing the words to read one the suggestions I gave to him. He said he hadn’t realized how what he’d written could affect the effeminate guys that read it.

After that encounter, I reached an epiphany of how most of us do not even realize how damaging the things we say – or in this case, put on our dating app profiles – can be damaging to other people. The world (in this case, I’m referring to Nigeria alongside most African countries) is already a living hell for us, gay people. Now imagine an effeminate gay man logging into a dating app after a long day of being discriminated against based on his sexual orientation and expecting to just be free and just be, because you know, these are people like me, they know the struggle – and the first thing he encounters is a profile that ostracizes him with markers like “…looking for men not girls.” Something that is a roundabout way of invalidating his existence. This is a space that should feel safe for all and be free from discrimination, yet in it, he is made to feel like he is undesirable and not worthy of the attention of other men like him.

I am not saying that people should not have preferences. All I’m saying is that there is a very thin line between preference and prejudice, and we should be extremely careful how we navigate it. It’s not what you say but how you say it. Here’s an example, I think. If I came across a profile that says, “No fat boys”, and I was fat, then I would feel some type of way about it. But if that profile had read, “I prefer skinny guys”, I would just scroll past it, because this person has said what they want and I do not fit in that description, and that is okay.

So, as we continue in this fight to make a heteronormative world a safe space for all of us, let us simultaneously create safe spaces for each other to exist and just be.

Written by Kieha

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  1. Maryann
    March 10, 10:37 Reply

    There is a very thin line between preference and prejudice….this one will definitely stick with me.

    As always Kieha doesn’t disappoint 🙌🏿🙌🏿❤️❤️

  2. Net
    March 10, 13:03 Reply

    Wonderful writeup

  3. Saucebutton
    March 10, 14:34 Reply

    Thanks for this outstanding write up…it should be a keynote speech.

  4. Rudy
    March 11, 04:09 Reply

    My exact thoughts.

    Instead of painstakingly putting down into words the things we do not like or hate why don’t we use that time to write down the things we actually like?

    A bit of positivity from each one of us could go a long way.

  5. bamide
    March 11, 23:47 Reply

    Great you pointed that to him. And it is really nice of him to take corrections immediately. Making mistake isn’t the problem. What is terrible is those who made mistake and refuse to take correct; even start insulting whoever politely correct them–a habit that is quite conventional in Nigeria.

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