I write this piece as an increasingly proud gay Nigerian man who has been through various phases of the gay-self-acceptance. I went through the discovery phase of knowing there’s such a thing as the deplorable group of people known as homosexuals and that I was, indeed, one of them. From there I went through, for about two decades, the phase of denial, faith in the almighty creator to cleanse me of this disease, a state that hurts me to see other people go through. Finally, I went through the phase of exhaustion, tired of the self-hate and condemnation. I finally decided to take a step back and discovery myself. On that day, in my final year in UNIBEN, at my Newton Villa Ekosodin campus, a CDA Pastor, I looked myself in the mirror and said: “you’re gay, you have always been gay and you will always be gay.”
It took me another 12 years to question why I should even deny being gay or hide my sexual orientation from people. Keeping the information to myself or making sure people didn’t find out was like bleaching my black skin to look white. It felt like an insult to my very existence.
I started to come out gradually to my closest friends, then acquaintances. Finally, when I couldn’t bear it anymore, I came out to my whole family and chose to damn the consequences. In one of the conversations I had with my sister, I told her even if the entire family cut me off, that in itself was a price I was prepared to pay.
Here is where the surprising thing happened. My whole family, which is very religious, even though they are still coming to terms with it, are beginning to have a re-think. Our talks have become more friendly, less suspicious and angry. Those I thought would banish me from their lives permanently have acted in surprising opposite ways. Some have even become more endearing.
Over the years I stayed in Lagos, I came out to a few straight close friends and I always later heard things like, “since I knew about you, I’ve stopped hating other gay people,” “your telling me has kind of made me see gays as regular folks and not as the caricatures that we’re supposed to hate,” “yo, how is it that I know you’re gay but I’m still cool with you?”
Full disclosure, not everyone was so understanding but then again, who cares? Will my existence be based on your approval which in turn is based on your level of understanding, no matter how limited?
My fellow members of the LGBT nation, will we continue to leave the land of our fathers and seek asylum elsewhere because our home country does not tolerate us? I know its easy for me to say, I, after all, left Nigeria. But once upon a time, America too, and Britain and the others had homophobia institutionalized. It took people marching out of hiding in droves to give the struggle a human face.
None of the people that love me, both friends and family, even those who are still coming to terms with it, will stand up and suggest prison sentences or death for gays, especially when someone they care about is part of the community.
Yes we need to exercise discretion and please take this with a pinch of salt, let me repeat, I’ve left Nigeria, permanently so perhaps its just easy for me to say. But notwithstanding, we need to come out folks. We need to come out, stealthily, in droves, to friends, foe, etc. We need to come out. If there’s proof we exist and are regular Joes like the rest of them, we will cease to be misrepresented.
Let us control our own narratives.
I would announce my full name but for the sake of my family living in Nigeria, I will desist.
But for now, all I can say is that I am proof that the treatment of gay people in general, will change if they knew their father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, neighbour, teacher, pastor, colleague, mentor etc., are gay as well.
Rotimi Chris (a pseudonym) is a screen writer with a dozen screen titles to his credit, under a different pen name. Frequently, he infuses social issues affecting different groups of people into his works, including homosexuality, of which he’s proudly one. He is currently based in New York and hopes to add his voice in the fight against institutional homophobia.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed by the Writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rustin Times.
Featured Image from PortalGay.