Nele Anju: When It Feels Like Nothing

It usually is something; a force we try to turn away from, for several, dissimilar reasons, we tend to need this enclosure like breathing.

Under a different circumstance- one in which homophobic attacks were merely relatable events from other people’s lives; like staring into an old photograph where everybody else except me has changed drastically, because I didn’t see the change in me from the eyes of an outsider, so I might forget a thing or two, but not the underlying essence of growth- I take in stories and immediate events of verbal homophobic attacks with a mind that understands, but rarely feels it.

Basically for not being the one referred to when a boy around is asked to wear a tight jeans when close to me, or to be called ‘gay’ in a voice that denotes a repugnant thing, apart from some other basic form of affection that it is, or the demonic girl everyone must avoid.

When Nigerian LGBT persons explain their struggles, their attempts at shouldering mundane issues with the mental dissipation our highly vulgar community inspires in us and the way; no small way, that these words and gestures interfere with people’s dreams, it tend to hang out there like just another plaintive tale.

In many ways, our lives are tied to a staunchly sentimental social system where objectivity and human worth is mindlessly replaced for something more personal, something without a label of ostracism and hate.

From governmental sectors to private enterprises, LGBT persons find themselves dumped into a cycle of distress, healing, and distress yet again.

The major reason a handful of slightly tolerant heterosexual persons perceive us as too ‘sexualized’ or orientation concerned is because unlike them with well grounded structures dictating a comprehensive mode of association coupled with an accepting atmosphere, we spend so much time unknotting our sinew fabric; testing and retesting, assessing and discarding, scrutinizing and looking away, and being generally immersed in a part of our lives that shouldn’t and doesn’t authenticate our profound humanity.

So where does this come from? The past? The many evenings of fraternal beatings to expel the demon immure in my being? Those words from my brothers who seemed to know too much of the wrong things that blow the embers of their spite? Those gestures subtle or sharp, but mostly subtle, that I sometimes don’t pick up on?

Other people’s pains reaching me in a place I thought I’d closed out, in a place that doesn’t just understands, but lives out that other person’s ordeal to the very last detail?

Perhaps it is all of these things combined, these with things like yesterday, when a minister at church in a palpably indirect tone pointed me out as a wicked person for being angelic, singing at church, and calling God’s name with a foul breath.

At some point, he generalises, a pious tactic, not to seem judgemental or accusatory, but I know everybody knows, that even as he reiterates how wicked and inclusive we are to the problems of the country, everyone was looking at me.


Around here, people can assume that they know. A friend beside me jokingly whispers to me to tell her the truth about me, while the minister is still about his revelations.

I have never shared girlfriend palava with her, so I suppose the assumption is apt. I don’t suppose she knows that it hurts, I don’t suppose she has an idea abut the pressure and pain from and of hiding away, of being called wicked, destructive, evil, even if it doesn’t directly affects anybody’s life.


Everyday feels like trying out a new body. A new character. A different kind of normal. An invisibility that prods nobody, but merges along like a human being and not a walking Philae or Vagina with a bad setup.

While we might refuse to be boxed into the rigmarole process of conditioning our bodies to forget, to accept, to fight, to allow subjugation but refuse to stay there, there is a clear danger for less enlightened ones around us switching between personalities, contemplating suicide (very sadly normal in this climes), hating their bodies and looking away from the interpretation of their true person just to suit a ‘wickedly’ unbending society.


At first I am weak when I speak with a brother in pain over the phone, in which he reminds me through his story the cruelty of the human mind, and the ways vulgar thoughts never stay where they should; buried without hope of resurrection n the minds of their owners, not as a stifling of rights to expression, but one of the quickest ways to kill an impressionable boy or girl around.

But then I remember the strength that comes from hope, from fighting with the prize ahead clearly defined in my mind, from knowing that a Me a few years younger will find that kind of steely faith, because it is what we need, and because (in line personally with Kitodairies’ resistance campaign) this is how I resist.


Nele Anju (a pseudonym) is a proud Nigerian gay man. He describes himself as a Memoirist and currently blogs at Not a Butterfly.


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