#OurStories: IBK on his Coming Out Journey

My nuclear family and some of my extended family know I’m gay thanks to my mother. I didn’t mind that she told my dad and brothers. It was inevitable. But then I found out she told her sisters I was pissed and scared. Then she went and told my uncle about it and I was just pissed.

Why is she going about telling my relatives about me? I’m not entirely sure. I know she is close to her sisters and that they share all sorts of problems with each other and pray at midnight and all that. I guess she was looking for more prayer power. I feared all she has done is given them ammo of some sorts. As for telling my uncle, I’m sure it was just some irrational thinking that he could dissuade me.

The effects of her telling people about me have been varied and interesting but above all, annoying as fuck. When I was entering the university, an aunt came to advise me about joining bad gangs. I half-listened as she went about cultists and bad boys who don’t go to lectures but when she said: “there’s even a group now, homosexuals, make sure you avoid them” that’s when I realised that’s what she had been driving at all along. I believe that was the first hint that my story had left my house and gone into other people’s homes. I managed to shift it from my memory. She wasn’t going to beat me.

Years passed, I was in the university and I had a boyfriend. Then ASUU struck with a strike and my relationship turned long distance. Glee was still an awesome show and I used to watch with my cousin. She said she liked Kurt a lot, mostly his voice. I asked if she didn’t mind that he was gay and she said no she didn’t. So a few days later I came out to her and her response was that she knows. She said she knew even before my mum found out because she had seen gay porn on my Nokia E71. I was shook! She knew all these years and our relationship didn’t even change at all. She also mentioned that around the time my mum found out, her mum had called her to ask her if she knew anything about my sexuality and she had lied that she didn’t. It meant that she had my back so I tell her a lot. I tell her when I am traveling to see people and about my relationships. She isn’t 100% okay with it and was appalled when I told her I won’t get married but that doesn’t get in the way of a healthy relationship between us.

A couple of years passed and my mum traveled outside the country and saw drag queens. She was with my aunt and she was pointing. My aunt slapped her hand down and told her not to point before it turns into a scene. I can imagine my mum being the Nigerian she is; walking up to them to ask them if they knew they were committing sin. I think it sparked a conversation between her and my aunt (her sister) about me. Now anytime I text my aunt she asks me about my girlfriends. I laugh or I lie if I’m in the mood and if I’m not, I say I’m focusing on my studies. Seems like she even asks her kids to ask me about girlfriends too. It’s silly when I’m in a good mood and very irritating when I’m not.

Would I change any of these things? I don’t think so. The people that know me know that my being out has been a rocky adventure with more downs than ups. I haven’t been beaten or kicked out but does that invalidate the hardship or psychological trauma I’ve been through? It isn’t the “hardship Olympics.”

The relationship I have with my mother is strained. This is where the majority of my psychological issues started from. I got depression. I have considered suicide more than once and not even as a passing thought but something I really wanted to do especially during the early phases. It’s a painful thing to have someone you think the whole world of suffering because of you. It’s a painful thing to see your mother starve herself (aka fast) because of you. Now add being constantly admonished, begged to change but you know you can’t. Add being made to believe the devil is chasing after you and then taken to deliverance then starved. Take all of that and put it in a 17-year-old. Nah man. I may not have been kicked out but my soul and heart and mind has been pummeled and it’s just the grace of meeting so many wonderful people, Glee, Katy Perry’s firework and certain verses of the Bible to even be on a path to healing. And why does it matter that I wasn’t kicked out?

I made a post recently on a queer group I’m in about my brother accepting me and saying how great it is to be out and accepted (I didn’t even ask anyone to come out, I just stated what I believed in) and some people felt I’m whitewashing coming out. I decided not to let it rain on my parade. I have lost too many battles in making my immediate zone homophobia free to not share the victory. And the victory was sweet. It’s like the joy of a mother giving birth. There was pain during labour but the joy of new life seems to cancel it out.

I know coming out doesn’t always lead to acceptance or even lead to anywhere good at all. And it would only be a fool or someone that crawled out of a rock that’s buried under another rock that has been fossilized in another rock to not know that coming out is not a bed of roses and probably doesn’t even have any flowers at all. But we have too many stories about the danger. People need to know that there is hope and that it’s not always bad news and that even if you were outed you can turn your lemons into lemonade.

And to be clear I’m not for reckless coming out either. Before I told my cousin and brothers and the few straight friends I have I had observed them and weighed the consequences. I checked whether I would be able to handle the consequences. Then I told them.

If I had my way I would have waited till I was out of the house and making my money till they knew about me. A friend said he wants to come out on his Facebook and I discouraged him and told him he could come out to people individually, people he feels he can trust. Maybe later he could do the Facebook coming out thing.

And one good thing about coming out on your own terms is just that, it’s on your own terms. You could have been putting safety nets in case things go south. You could subtly have been hinting so it’s not entirely a big surprise. You could fortify yourself so that any emotional blackmail thrown at you won’t be effective and if they decide to not take it well you are ready for that too.

I have a couple of straight girlfriends. I mentioned the 14-year law and their responses were so homophobic I recoiled from them. But I will still tell them after I graduate when I won’t have to see them. It’s not always about being brave, sometimes it’s about bringing a face to the faceless. My younger and homophobic elder brother are less homophobic now. I called out my straight friend on his homophobia and told him I was gay and he apologised. I was in a car with another straight friend and his buddies and they made homophobic jokes and he didn’t join in. When they stepped out he asked if I was alright and that I shouldn’t mind his friends. One day he might actually tell them to shut up when they make such jokes (a boy can dream).

Coming out isn’t easy. But it needs to be done. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. It doesn’t have to be a press conference or a Facebook announcement. Your colleagues at work may not need to know. But If you see the opportunity and you can handle the consequences then seize it. This is for those that want to do it. It’s fine if you don’t want to. Not everyone can handle being out. But to discourage others from doing it entirely is crab mentality.

Feel free to share your opinions on coming out. Let this be a discussion. It is a much-needed one in our community.

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