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

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

Sticks & Stones by Chiamaka E.

STICKS AND STONES   

 

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me

Sticks and stones may break my bones but…

Who the hell am I kidding

Your words are like knives

They slice open arteries

Rip my tendons to shreds

They cause more pain than

Bullets shot from point blank range

Words thinly veiled in hate and judgment

Wrap hands around my throat

Constrict my airways

They slide between the cracks

Inaccessible by your blows

Tear holes in my heart

Unseen by human eyes

There is no band-aid big enough

Or glue strong enough

So let’s be real

Sticks and stones may break bones

But those eventually heal

Words cause permanent damage

Pride & Shame by Osazeme O

 

Its post pride weekend, and I’m in a deeply pensive mood! I spent most of my weekend with Africans feeling extremely proud of who I am. My social media spaces were lovingly littered with images and sentiments about pride from NYC to Nairobi to Cape Town and beyond. I wished most of my rainbow friends here and at home a happy & safe pride, and yet something doesn’t quite feel right.

Pride in all its glory is about glitter, and bare skin, and instant gratification and throwing caution to the wind, and saying ‘fuck you society (family, church, community, lover even) for making me feel shameful about who we are and how we love. Right? Well very little about the way pride manifests conjures up feelings of pride for me, aside from maybe the indignant use of the word PRIDE.

As I consider what the main Pride festivities consist of, I feel a greater sense of shame than I do pride. I find it hard to appreciate or understand how excessive displays of nudity and random profligate public displays of sex and sexuality can be beneficial to anyone. I recall two separate conversations I had with friends on the issue, from one conversation with a long time lesbian, her conclusion was that she couldn’t partake in the parade because to her the gaudy masquerading and gratuitous nature of it all simply translate into ‘a freak show’ or ‘a comedy of errors’. Another friend expressed that to her pride is a privileged display of white sexuality that isn’t really accessible to ‘the other’. That there is a fundamental gendered class struggle inherent in pride festivities. I find myself agreeing with both of these trains of thought.

Growing up as a bini, naija, southern african bred, afropolitan lover of women something about the mystique surrounding sex and sexuality that was instilled from my home is very alluring to me. Although I must admit that the mystique can be used as a tool of oppression as well, but that a conversation for another day. So for instance, I find a woman dressed in a sari or a booboo so much more intriguing and arousing than a pornographic spread or a woman in a bikini. Less is more is just that the women in my inner circle and myself. The intellectual and physical play invoked through the power of suggestion is simply exhilarating. But more to the point there is a subtle power in discretion that I’m not convinced festivities like Pride are aware of capitalise upon.

I guess this stream of consciousness was provoked mainly because I’m noticing a lot of rainbow folks on the continent trying to piggyback on and replicate western displays of Pride…to this I say DON’T touch that dial. Empowerment and progress should look and feel different for us. Because in the midst of these adopted audacious statements, our community is still unsafe, we are still targeted and yet we continue to love. Just this morning I heard news of yet another young lesbian who was murdered in Cape Town. So my questions become:

1)   How do we combat shame from culturally relevant places?

2)   How do we sensitise our people to our existence?

3)   How do we combat the ignorance that spurs violence?

4)   How do we build and sustain ally ships?

5)   Who will fight for us?

6)   What makes you feel most proud?

LGBTI…Queer by Shane D.

How can Zee be without an A
Can we hide from ourselves and feel okay?
The ‘righteous’ lacks understanding and it stings like a bee
I crave for a world where we will all be free
Just as I can’t be coerced into wearing a skirt
They cannot stop us from being queer
We are who we are
We’ve got emotions we can share
And above all, we care!
We can reach their hearts like religious preachers
Because together, our voice calls in a trillion whispers
Together our rights we shall claim
As we stand tall and proclaim
Yes! Together we stand
LGBTI…QUEER; we are proud!

Rainbow Colours by Shane D.

In the stillness of my heart
Stirs a passion so intense
A passion warmer than a hearth
And devoid of all pretence…
My mind is in a state of paralysis
I know not where to base my instincts
I am confused;
Subdued…
The good, bad and ugly
Such are life’s colours
Where do I belong? Where do I find solace?
I wallow in a detesting unrest
Eager to shake off this test
On pure beauty I rest
‘Rainbow’ colours that sear from the inside
And boldly reflects on the outside…