- Beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
- Strange or unusual
“Guy, you be fag?”
That was the question Dare, my classmate – and roommate – threw at me that Saturday morning in the dormitory. At the time, I didn’t know who or what a fag was but I could read the irritation with which he said it. I quickly replied in the negative showing similar irritation. Whatever a fag, meant, I was going to know in a bit. And for a long time, I continually asked myself what about my appearance or speech that day made Dare ask that question. The more I asked, the more questions I found. Dare’s question was one of the firsts – the first of several many questions to come.
Before the encounter with Dare – or secondary school at all – was Precious. I met Precious about 6-7 years prior. Precious was like me too – quiet, conserved and mostly looking suspicious; as if he had more to say than his mouth could take. He was a few years younger than me but we attended the same school. His elder sister was my classmate, hence, we spent more and more time together albeit mostly quiet. We walked together alongside other friends to school, bumped into each other during break periods, walked back home together and spent the whole evening in the compound playing ball with other young people – which myself and Precious were quite bad at or just engaging in random stuff that only young people bother to engage in.
Until one evening.
We had decided that evening that we were going to act drama as opposed to playing football (which was quite a relief). We were all given our roles; Precious and I will be acting as the doctor and patient respectively. One thing led to another.
I remember the look on Precious face as he touched my ass; I remember how I felt too. I recall how his heart beat faster when we lay beside each other looking into each other’s eyes without saying a word. There were several other similar moments with Precious but this stood out.
It’s been over 10 years – I think – since I last saw Precious. I don’t know where he is, how he is, how he is doing or if he still remembers that day like I do.
When I think of queerness and this journey, I always think of Precious. I always think of why now, I still ask myself if he was (is) gay and why I don’t ask if Chioma (name changed), his sister – who had given me my first kiss – was heterosexual. This is the queer life – constantly doubting, constantly asking, constantly feeling inadequate. The queer life is spending most of your life asking why; searching for validation, for love and for a space to be safe. It’s the life that we have been chosen to be a part of.
A few weeks ago, I made a decision to part ways with MJ.
MJ is a friend in his 30s. I remember the day I met MJ. He was a guest speaker at a one-week leadership program I attended some years back. The moment I saw him, I was drawn to him. I doubt it was sexual. It’s just that “something” that this felt like this will be right – this is right. That I could talk with him – engage with him, be vulnerable around him share with him and I need him in my tightly knitted inner circle. That thing – the gut feeling – has never failed me. Never. It’s how I’ve survived over 2 decades in a world unfair to people who don’t fit in – the misfits, according to Steve Jobs.
I was certain that we would do well as friends and this one part of your life’s puzzle will fit. After the event, I reached out to him. We talked, I asked a few questions, and I got his phone number followed by the customary “I will keep in touch”.
A few weeks later, I discovered we were birthday mates. The universe has a crazy sense of humour, I thought. Joy overwhelmed me. This was the one thing that connected us. This was why I felt this way about MJ. We soon drew closer; I became a regular at his house. We went out together, shared gifts on birthdays, exchanged rants a few times, he taught me how to drive (at least the basics), I helped him with his office work when I had less to do, sent gifts to him a few times (and he reciprocated too), we talked about everything – books, life, childhood, ideas, aspirations and I once slept in at his place when I couldn’t make it home after work one day because of traffic.
This was – and sometimes is – all I want in a man and this seemed perfect. We bonded well. Very many people who saw us together assumed we were brothers (and maybe they were right).
Except it was just that and nothing more.
He is a pastor and He is married with kids (which would have suggested that he was a heterosexual).
I didn’t mind. We might not have sex or talk things sexual or kiss or lie in his bed while I rub his chest gently. I might not fulfil all my sexual fantasies with MJ but it was okay. I valued what we had. The emotional and intellectual support we provided each other, the banter, etc.
I used to visit MJ almost weekly. Recently I stopped visiting because I had my shit to handle. I was in the middle of a personal crisis, was on a journey of discovery, redirecting the path of my career and falling in love with my personal company. After months of being apart, I reconnected with him and his family.
So we planned a meeting. It was everything. The usual – We talked, laughed, argued, discussed all that had gone down in our lives in the past few weeks and I teased him about his wife – who was now pregnant for her second child.
We were that close. So I hinted him about the LGBT community and how I sense that my path is slowly moving toward minority rights. We moved past that swiftly and onto other things.
Until it was time for me to go home and he was to drop me at a place closer to my house. Then the question came up
“But, what do you think about LGBT people in Nigeria?” He asked.
“The state should leave them alone!!” The state, in this case, being the Nigerian state, I affirmed loudly. It felt like I was taking my anger out on him.
He smiled – which meant that he affirmed my statement. I left for the car with him and his wife. Except that I wasn’t even ready for what was coming.
“But they are wrong. To say LGBT people are born that way is to say God created people deformed. When people say they are gay, we are to help them revert to normal.” He started
The rest is history
I loved MJ. But I’m letting him go. Sadly.
I wish I could tour the motivational route and say that I lost a friend, but in it, gained a community but that would be a lie. I lost a friend, and that was it. I am still lonely, sometimes tired. The tired life of queer people. A life of constantly affirming your existence, hiding your colours, acting straight of dealing with fundamental judges. It’s a tired life.
It’s why I, tired of reading Kito diaries in secret and stalking several gay people on twitter who had come to terms with their sexuality, found one of the twitter accounts I had long abandoned, tweaked a few things and labelled it my gay account. This again, is how to be queer in Nigeria; to constantly live in fear of the unknown, to spend a lot of your young adult life trying to be; camouflaging, It’s why many of us have twitter accounts where we are normal; straight and another with masks where we can truly be.
I wish that I could tour the route of many motivational speakers and say that I damned the consequences, chose to be my true self, lost a few friends and gained a community but that was be such a lie. And maybe that’s totally fine. Maybe it’s fine not to gain a community since the most important, the most crucial thing is coming to terms with yourself.
Maybe this is all a journey and maybe I’ll figure it out. Maybe I’ll one day fulfil fantasies of waking up next to a hot guy in white bedsheets, then argue about literature and twitter banter, walk to the kitchen; naked to get a cup of coffee while I type another damning essay on my laptop.
Although I’m introverted and slightly socially awkward, I still look forward to the days of parties of drinks, of sex, of community, of activism, of building, of laughter and fun. I look forward to progress. This is the life I’m choosing to live
But even as I sit lonely waiting for those days to come, I do not deny this queerness, this difference that millions of people all over the world experience; some whom I don’t understand. I no longer apologise about this path the universe has set me on but live on resiliently; blossoming like fish in water.
Most importantly, I embrace the fact that my life’s experience is unusual, that I’ve never fit into boxes regardless of the labels, names and rejections and that I inhabit the world in a way that’s not normative.
This is what it means to be me.
Different. Non Confirming. Unusual
Yours Queerly, Roi Petite.