Essential Reading.

Gukira

On Saturday, December 1, I was part of a roundtable discussing African Same-sex stuff at the African Studies Association conference (#ASA2012—yes, American Studies, we will fight over this hashtag) held in Philadelphia. I’m going to weave in and out of what I wrote and also reflect, a little, on the session, beginning not from what the panelists said, but from what the audience seemed to want. During question time, an older gentleman who identified himself as Kenyan cautioned us that people around his area (the Rift Valley, Nandi) did not talk about sex or sexuality. He warned us to be very careful about what we were doing. This desire for respectful silence contrasted with another strong desire in the room to find the African homosexual. Repeatedly, the roundtable panel heard variations of, “was there homosexuality in pre-colonial African? Does the word homosexual appear in African languages? Where is the African…

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Being gay in Nigeria

Being gay in Nigeria.

Earlier this week, the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage bill had its second reading in the House of Representatives. The bill, if passed, will prohibit marriage or civil union entered into between persons of same-sex.

The proposed legislation also imposes up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine on anyone who “witnesses”, “aids” or “abets” same-sex relationships. The bill carries similar sentences for the establishment of gay clubs, and for any activity seen as supporting gay rights.  The legislation does feel very much a sham, because not only is it currently illegal to engage in ‘homosexual activity’ in Nigeria, it is also a huge cultural taboo.

As I reflect on the impact of this piece of legislation, I cannot help but remember my trip to Nigeria a few months ago. I had travelled to Nigeria to attend my mother’s funeral and of the many emotionally charged moments that I experienced during that trip, there is one encounter that still affects me deeply.

My mother’s pastor had asked to see me a few days after the funeral. I was reluctant to go, as our conversation shortly after my arrival in Nigeria had left me off-balance and hurt. In that conversation, he had mentioned to me that my mother had told him ‘all about me’ and that I had made her ‘unhappy and miserable’ and that it was that misery that had killed her.

After much persuasion, I made the second visit, accompanied by family members. I’m not sure what I expected from the visit, but I know that at the back of my mind I had the fantasy that it was going to be a nourishing and nurturing occasion – on some level…. how naïve of me!

In the conversation that unfolded that afternoon, I was told that even though I was in a relationship with a man, I still had a responsibility to get married to a woman and have a child. I was told that it was expected of me, and my mother would not rest in peace until that was done. I was told that getting married to a woman did not mean that I end my relationship with my partner. The plan was that my ‘to be wife’ would stay in Nigeria and I visit her once or twice a year. A family member who was present during the discussion offered to look after the child for me. I was reminded how ‘my behaviour  was a cultural taboo’ and that men in my situation in Nigeria do get married. The only time I challenged what was said that afternoon was when I mentioned that it would not be right for me to be deceptive to a woman and get married to her. At which point, I was told that there were a number of women around who would simply love to get married and have a child.

I was told that I did not have to give my decision in that moment, but that they would expect it soon…..

The conversation that afternoon lasted over 1-hour. During that time, none of us used the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, but it was clear to all what was being discussed.  As I reflect on the conversation, I remember that all I did that afternoon was listen. I said very little because I knew that in a few days I would be leaving the country and would never have to see anyone in that room again, if I chose not to. As I reflect on that afternoon, I cannot help but think of the many gay men or lesbians in Nigeria who have to face similar situations on an almost daily basis and have no opportunity to leave the country.

As I reflect on that afternoon, I remember feeling sad that none of the people at that meeting stood up for me, challenged the pastor or told me that I was okay exactly as I am. And as I reflect on that, I cannot help but think of the many gay men or lesbians in Nigeria who do not have support from their family or loved ones for being different.

What I know is that regardless of whether this piece of legislation passes or not, the issue is a complex one. The law cannot dictate whether parents should accept and love their children exactly as they are. The law cannot legislate whether friends should accept each other exactly as they are.

What I do know is that legislation did not play a part in how the conversation with my mum’s pastor unfolded that afternoon. Yes, a part of me feels that culture played a huge part in what was said. But what I also know is that choice played a huge part. I believe we all have a choice as to whether we behave in a loving and nurturing way towards each other…. regardless of whether the other person is not exactly like us.

I do hope that the families and friends of the gay men and lesbians in Nigeria do wake up and finally start seeing that not only is sexuality a human right, but that everyone deserves to be loved, exactly as they are….

OutTales 2012

A Little Something by Shane D.

The sun glows
Shedding its heat upon us low
The wind blows
Pacifying the heat; chilling my soul
I got a’ plenty  to think
My story, things I must quit
A lot of balls and wit
Must I have  to uplift…
Amazing it is
How small things
Makes a man indeed.
I know not why I write
But I tell you, it lessens my plight
Comforts me in fright
And I drown in the ink, soaring upon the paper; indeed I take flight.
Am I a poet?
I’m thinking not yet
Its above the prowess
Composing without sweat
Painting life’s photos in many a few words.
I am just another tom
Wanting from society some
Respect for being how I’m born
And it is what it is; yes that is all.

Mr Society by Shane D.

Why do people do the things they do
Why do people disguise and act up too
I drown in a ‘why’ pool
Answers I seek, me  to pull.
Folks con their way through
I see these things and silence doesn’t make me a fool
I know, o yes! I know you.
You go by the name Society
I am humbled by your diversity
But why make some your adversary?
They are who they are without pretence
Govern them but not onto their door steps
Love is a law in itself
If for who I am I hate myself
How then can I love one else?
I might be your adversary but one that’s fearless
My heart loves who it loves and I care less
Hating me I’ll say is human less
But you are society and thou art soulless.
It’s ironical that our numbers give unto you life
Yet the fingers that’s fed you, you bite
If we all pretend and hide
Then Mr society I ask you, what shalt become of thee too?

Yesterday Night by Tobi Oluseyi

The wind blew in softly through my window yesterday night –

                And I thought of you,

                Of us lying down in bed –

                                Together,

                At peace and at rest,

                In comfort as you sling your leg over my body,

                Claiming it for your own.

 

The wind blew in softly through my window yesterday night,

                And I saw you

                As I always do –

                In bits and in pieces,

                In my mind’s eye.

                                Sometimes we are touching,

                                Sometimes we are talking,

                                Sometimes we are laughing

                                Sometimes we are angry,

                But always together,

                                Always at home.

 

The wind blew in softly through my window yesterday night,

                And I was at peace,

                For though I’ve not seen you:

                The whole in one piece,

                And I fear that perhaps

                I’ll not know you when I do –

                                Mistake you for another.

                But if it will be,

                                Then it will.

 

                And I can feel the wind

                                Blow in through my window,

                And lull me to sleep,

                                And blow me to you

                And keep us together.

 

                              

 

The Silent Secret By dismus aine Kevin

The Silent Secret
By Dismus Aine Kevin

I know the secret
Even during my childhood days
Am different, I wonder why?
Year’s months passed, days become longer
Nights were nightmares

This secret, alone I share
Mother can’t understand
She loves me, but the secret will separate us
Trying to keep the secret,
Waiting for freedom to cover me

All alone in my dreams
Praying for God sent mate
Its forbidden even to the lord
Wondering who to turn to

Fearful to be disowned
Expelled from school
To be laughing stalk
I swear to die with my silent secret

Am only happy in my dreams
Why me? Why this secret?
Hard to share, hard to be told
Am meant to believe it’s wrong
Am reminded every other day
Now more certain,
The secret can’t be told

Growing older
Family pressures rise
Friends start to question
I know am different from then
What to do? Tell the secret
Oh No, it’s the untold secret

Dismus Aine Kevin
Director
Rainbow Health Foundation Mbarara
rainbowhealthfoundation@gmail.com

A registered CBO, in Western Uganda, that strives to offer grass root health services to sexual minorities [LGBTI]

Breaking barriers through grass root intervention

Thoughts Of A Seeking Soul by Tobi Oluseyi

Sometimes when I think of theism and its many differing faces, I think of a coin – with its head and its tail. And then the ever-wondering child locked up in my bosom asks if perhaps theism is similarly only one side of the coin and atheism being the other.

In all our human seeking, is it possible that Time will bring us to see that blind man who looks around him and sees the beauty of creation, the wonder of nature and in an awe-struck moment of worship violently avers that there is a God and that he will devote himself to the seeking of him; and that his blind brother who hangs his head in misery from gazing too long on both the misery of his other brothers and the purposelessness of existence, and who in a similar fit of violent passion declares and end to self-pity, vows not to look to any fairy creature for deliverance, but rather work out not only his own salvation, but also that of his brothers in misery; Will Time bring us to see that both men speak the truth? Is God truly beyond our comprehension – for the now? And will it take us further aeons of development before we can be truly ready to grasp him as he truly is? And when we are ready, will we discover that he was a necessary figment of our imagination to help us maintain a semblance of order? A personalized ideal of all that we hold as good, pure and beautiful to guide and keep our errant souls in check like the nurse tending the child until it comes of such an age as to sufficiently grasp reality as it really is?

Will we then discover the emptiness of rules and walk with courage in the freedom earned by knowledge? Will we then recognize that good and evil, right and wrong are all arbitrary marks – like the points of a compass chosen by men to make some sense of the universe? Perhaps this is the heaven that the philosophers have written about – where we have all been purified, our essences cleansed, so that we are truly free and can look God in the face and realize that all along, he had been within us – he had been us.

Or perhaps we will realize that there is a literal concrete God, who can be seen, touched, heard, smelt and perhaps tasted – in another dimension, truly omnipotent and omniscient; tirelessly organizing reality so that it confirms to his plans, and endlessly creating rules to be enforced by his chosen in whose raised hands dangle the whip, threatening and lashing goats into submission.

Perhaps, we could also come to realize that life is not worth the effort of attempting to find some order in the utter chaos of it all and in total exhaustion, we leave it to itself with all its beauty and glory to the destruction for which it was intended anyway; recognizing that there is no escaping the ignominious ending for which we along with it are destined.

And perhaps, we would wake up to another reality and realize that all that we had thought, known and believed were all figments of our imagination: that other reality, some would call death.

 

12.00am, 30-01-2012

Plantains by Zara aka Eke aka Zed

If I were to woo you with plantains I’d require that you don’t mistake them for bananas, for the latter are just too sweet and I need a little ‘not that’, like the cruelty in your teeth. And if I wooed you with plantains, I’d flavor them with stories, crying in their newness and wrinkling in their old. I’d start smooth, like the plantain tree that grew in the backyard at home, next to the green pineapples, whose crown kissed the ground every time it stormed.

Then I might tell you about Panama, those rice and beans and living on the beach days, eating slick gold circles of crushed and fried plantains, with my skin dusted with sand and my hair salted with spray. Last time I tasted halos, my mami fed them to me in a house in Canarsie last year. But then her son broke my heart, so now tostones just taste like tears.

Or I could just woo you with plantain chips, they sell them spicy in New York- thin round slices peppered in red. Did you know? In Lagos, they slice them lengthwise instead, like mummified sunlight on a hawker’s tray, like yellow tongues suffocating in a plastic bag, like why I cannot come to Lagos to stay. They sell their roasted plantains dry with groundnuts. Abeg, let me just take you to my home down south. We sell them sticky and scarlet with seasoned palm oil, it’s like blood and heaven salting in your mouth.

I hear that learning to love me is like trying to climb a plantain tree, but when you get to the peak, oh. What a view you can see.

Anyway, in this process of wooing you, I get to tell you things with fruit, that I see undressing you as peeling a ripe plantain, soft coverings dropping away so eagerly to reveal sugared flesh. I’ll taste you till my teeth fall out, darling, put me to the test. I’d cut off your ends and suck inner sweetness onto my tongue, dip you in red oil and savor you long.

Contrariwise, weighing loss heavier than gain- leaving you would be like opening a green plantain, if I were unwilling skin and you the hardened meat within. What blade could wedge me away from you, incising long lines of devastation for purchase, peeling me off while leaving my inner membranes clinging with a stubborn set. You cannot send me away yet. We need time, time for your bones to melt with ripe and fill with sweet, so ready that when my fingers graze you, you pool at my feet.

I only meant to woo you with plantains, bringing dowries of pregnant bunches cleft by a cutlass from its mother stretch of tree, sap staining my palms and kolanuts in a wake behind me. I cut down its long leaves and bound them with twine, that I might make a bed for you and stake you mine, framed against dewy green. I offer you this bundle of oblations, what else have I to give? I seduce sacrifices down your throat, feed you plantain fufu from my fingertips, if you will let me live.

When there are nothing but sapped skins heaped upon our floor, I’ll retrieve my cutlass from behind the door, step out and cut down more. Like you were dying and these were the cure, like I’m mute and they will for me implore, like you I do adore.

I’ll worship you with my harvests time and again, just tell me you’ll come back for more. 

From “Me” With Love by Shane D.

From “Me” With Love
My sweet ribena
Because of you I’ll sell okrika
Under rain or sun, I go de hala
Just to get you stuff and mascara…
Baby smile for me even though I no be camera
You aint twitter but I go be your follower
For you I re brand am Ada and Eve
I’ll get suicidal if you try to leave
Na me go beg every time we get beef
I go do armed robber even petty thief
So I fit buy you shine-shine and fine ear-ring
But sucre, I tire like Michelin
Because right now I wish you are in
My heart; I’m sick of enduring
I swear, na your hand I go place my ring.