Here’s something CeeCee wrote during the period that the Nigerian anti-gay bill was signed into law, and the furor this kicked up. Have a read, and let us know your thoughts.
It’s been some time now, and one subject has been on the lips of a large swathe of the Nigerian population. Everyone has an opinion on this subject, everyone is eager to thrust forth his opinion strongly, especially if they happen to hold identical views with the majority of the populace. President Goodluck Jonathan signed the same – sex marriage prohibition bill into law, the bill had previously made its way through Nigeria’s upper and lower legislative houses, all the while egged on by the Nigerian populace at the behest of various religious bodies. I shall not bother to go into the minute details of this law as it is safe to assume that you the reader must by now have critically examined this obnoxious piece of legislation.
I shall now proceed to illustrate that this law is borne out of nothing but blind bigotry as well as an intention to hoodwink a gullible populace held captive not physically, but intellectually and mentally by a consortium of fake religious leaders and a political leadership which is morally bankrupt. Both parties in this consortium draw tremendous mutual support from each other as well as reinforce each other’s stranglehold on Nigeria’s collective jugular. You see, this consortium has had the unbelievably good fortune of being planted in a richly blessed land which is populated by a very gullible and easily manipulated populace, a populace that is very eager to lap up whatever information is fed to it however bigoted and however hate – filled it happens to be. In a bid to divert attention away from pressing issues which threaten our very lives and the wellbeing of the nation, issues such as an insurgency in the North which has rapidly spread out of control as well as unpredictable security situations across the rest of the country, widespread poverty, a alarmingly high rate of youth unemployment, infrastructure in a disgraceful state of disrepair, corruption in high and low places etc, some very smart Alec devoted valuable legislative time and resources to come up with the ‘bright’ idea of a ‘jail (perhaps kill) the gays bill’. This bill sped through both legislative houses with admirable efficiency of the sort to be found in more advanced climes. Simultaneously, the other part of the consortium composed of the religious bodies played its own crucial part in a well choreographed scheme by screaming from their ‘holier than thou’ perch that gays are demonic devilish, evil, possessed, cruel, devious, deserving of death (perhaps at the hands of all holy straight persons), undeserving of love, unchristian, un-African, inhuman, etc. like a well rehearsed script, the brainwashed, gullible populace has taken up the chant echoing the same words of bigotry and blind unreasoning hate with which they have been repeatedly fed. In the process, certain facts are conveniently glossed over: Christianity and Islam on which the bigots base their claims that homosexuality is contrary to religion, are both actually alien to African culture having been imported as tools of domination and subjugation, nevertheless, both religions preach love in its truest sense as exemplified by Christ’s admonition to the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more”, the book of Leviticus; another pillar upon which misguided bigots rely upon in advocating hatred against other individuals solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and regardless of any other criteria also contains several other prohibited activities. These other prohibitions are routinely flouted yet the “devoutly religious” people of Nigeria raise not a single eyebrow.
In recent times, it is almost impossible to miss the massive and mind-boggling outpouring of hatred and venom directed at gays (including lesbians to a markedly lesser extent) in Nigeria. As a gay man, following all the comments and posts on blogs and other social media as well as radio and TV broadcasts, I have repeatedly asked: “What on God’s Earth could we possibly have done to deserve so much hatred and be the subject of so many malicious lies?” I cower deep in my closet where I can nevertheless hear the hate-filled comments such as:
“No one is born gay, it is a bad and evil habit learned at a young age and which, if not beaten or whipped out of a child, leads him into full blown homosexuality by the time he’s in his teens and twenties.”
“…Gays deliberately target children and lure them into homosexuality, making homosexuality and pedophilia very similar and often indistinguishable.”
“…Gays belong to some demonic shadowy cult hence their preference for same sex intercourse.”
I cringe each time I hear these lies, I burn with deep shame that I am forced to share the same nationality with purveyors of such monstrous lies as I struggle to wrap my mind around how human beings can perpetuate such malicious falsehood against otherwise bonafide members of society solely on account of sexuality; a thing beyond human control.
As a child, I was strongly aware, even before I could grasp the full meaning of sexuality or romantic feelings, that I was attracted to men. Contrary to what the liars say, I was never molested or induced in any way by any man. I simply followed my inner feelings like every other human being. As I grew into my pre-teen and early teens, my sex drive, like that of every other child of a similar age, sharpened. The only difference was that, with me as with other gay men, I was drawn to men. To put it more simply: the same way you (the straight man) grew into the realization that you are straight and therefore attracted physically to the opposite sex is exactly the same way a gay person grows into the realization that he is attracted to the same sex. Just like you did not consciously choose to be straight, I also did not elect to be gay; and please don’t even start with the tired and idiotic argument that perhaps I was the victim of some form of demonic or spiritual attack which has somehow distorted my sexuality.
Like many other gay guys, by the time I was in my early to mid teens, I was fully aware that I harboured a strong sexual attraction to men. I had also realized that in my society it was taboo, a dirty, disgusting thing that no one liked to talk about, that everyone liked to pretend did not exist. I had also discovered one or two other boys around my age who “liked what I liked.” We were deeply conditioned to believe that what we were doing was abnormal and unspeakable, we fought our innermost feelings, prayed and fasted, contemplated suicide, performed all manner of rituals (a friend of mine recently told me that when he was 16, upon realizing he was gay, he went out butt-naked in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain to pray for a cure to his “sickness which caused him to lust after men.” Needless to say, his prayers were answered with a raging bout of fever and chills while his sexuality remained firmly in place).
While I hoped that I might be cured of my’horrible affliction’, as time went on, time and time again, I succumbed to the power of my sexuality, all the while begging God to either ‘cure’ me or end my life and free me from this endless cycle of sin. Those were dark and terrible days which I fought long and hard to emerge from. You see, I had been taught by my church and my society that my sexuality was an evil and deeply terrible thing, that it was of the devil. Yet deep within me, I also struggled with the irony that this was none of my fault and that this was simply what my innermost yearnings leaned towards.
All through my teens, at the time when other young males are mainly pre-occupied with matters of the fairer sex, I found that in order to “blend in and belong”, I had to get a “babe” like everyone else. I therefore hooked up with one of the several available girls and went through the motions. I learned sex with the opposite sex, all the while knowing deep within me that I really preferred men. I was torn apart from the inside by deep feelings of guilt. A few other guys who shared my sexual preference had made the costly mistake of letting their true feelings show either by confiding in other guys or making advances at them, and were subsequently the subject of scorn and hatred; they were stripped bare of every last shred of dignity.
I was terrified of being found out by either friends or family members. I cowered deeper in my closet while clinging tightly to the false façade of heterosexuality that I had built up all through my teenage years. I still had romantic liaisons with males, but it was done with utmost discretion and deep secrecy. I chose my gay friends carefully, and observing us casually from the outside, you would never in your wildest dreams have guessed that we carried the burden of this secret buried deep within us. On the outside, we were boys in our late teens and early 20s doing just what was expected of us at that age, enjoying our youth, chasing the girls and generally having a good time.
All too soon, we found ourselves in the university. For many of us, it was our first time away from home, away from the constantly monitoring eyes of our parents. We quickly immersed ourselves in several on-campus activities and got busy with the daily routines of undergraduate student life. Many of us in a bid to further blend into this exciting new world, continued to pretend that we were straight, we found more girlfriends and kept up the charade. For me, I had at this point gotten tired of all the pretense and mind-numbing deceit. I took solace in my books and joined a very devout fellowship which kept me fully occupied and which I used as an excuse for not having a flock of girls around me despite my obvious good looks. This proved highly effective as everyone assumed I was devoted to my studies and religious obligations, and therefore had no time for girls. I was soon known as the bookish, churchish (or churcheous) boy who had no time for girls or wild campus parties.
Midway into my university education, at a time when the internet was becoming more and more pervasive, a friend introduced me to a couple of gay dating sites and quickly, my network of friends grew beyond my immediate vicinity and even outside the shores of Nigeria. I rapidly realized that there were actually many people who were like me, people who shared the same sexual orientation including many who had wives and children but secretly craved a man’s touch. As we swapped stories, I realized that most of them, like me, had no choice as to the direction of their sexual orientation. These friends as well as others I met through them soon formed the core of my network of friends. They were a varied bunch, some like me were in their early to mid 20s, still in university or freshly graduated while some others were already employed in various fields or running businesses. I cherished these friends. I still do. We shared a common trait as well as a sense of belonging and of community. They understood me as I did them.
All too soon, I graduated from the University and went on to carry out my one year National Youth Service (NYSC) and shortly afterwards I was fortunate to secure employment in one of the new generation banks. I was soon wrapped up in the busy schedule of a Lagos bank employee. I had a decent job, I was young and good-looking, I of course got a lot of female attention as well as recommendations from aunts and older relatives eager to see me married off, “settled down and happy” (so they thought). But I always avoided female company, using my busy work schedule as an excuse; by now, I had a steady male lover whom I met during my National Youth Service days, he was then 29, the only son of influential parents, well educated and working in one of his family’s businesses. He was therefore considered “ripe” for marriage and several pretty girls from equally affluent families were constantly being thrown at him while the pressure to marry, settle down and carry on the family name had reached a feverish intensity. I watched as he struggled to balance the pressure of family commitments and expectations with the discretion required to maintain a gay relationship. I watched silently from the shadows horrified and heartbroken as he finally succumbed to the repeated pressure of his family and got engaged to girl from his town, the daughter of one of his father’s wealthy business associates. I was devastated but I realized that to continue this relationship would only serve to deteriorate my broken psyche. Following my realization, I sent him a short text ending it all; this was one of the most painful decisions I have taken in my entire life, I can still hear his voice as he cried and begged me over the phone, I still remember the look of deep sorrow on his face on the day he suddenly showed up at my office to try and talk things over, but I was resolute. I had resolved never to get emotionally attached to any man ever again as I was sure I would never be able to survive such heartbreak for a second time. I quickly moved on and went through a string of meaningless and not-so-meaningless relationships, quickly putting that painful episode behind me.
Meanwhile, smartphones had arrived on the scene, bringing with them an unprecedented capacity to network and meet like-minded people from all walks of life. I was amazed to find that contrary to the widespread stereotype in Nigeria that gays are usually idle, effeminate young guys possessed by some evil spirit of sexual perversion, gays were in every sphere of life, in every socio-economic class. I met gay doctors, bankers, teachers, lawyers, drivers, security men, waiters, janitors etc. Most were regular everyday guys. The sort you would walk past on the street without missing a beat.
It reinforced my belief that we are just like everyone else apart from our sexual preference for which we have been and continue to be wrongly and harshly judged. I have watched as some of my friends made the terrible mistake of opening up to friends or family prompting the love and affection that had previously existed to be fractured forever. One of my friends was thrown out of his family home in the middle of the night after his father (a Catholic knight) found him in the embrace of another boy. I knew his father very well and often spotted him seated in the front row in church, dressed in his Sunday best, nodding in vigorous acquiescence each time the subject of the church sermon was on the evil of homosexuality and the sinister intentions of gays to corrupt and overrun the world. I felt disgusted and sickened by these lies which members of the congregation absorbed and fiercely held onto as true.
I have come to realize that this is a major reason why Nigerians seem to have a blind unreasonable hatred for gays and recoil in horror at the mere mention of the word, refusing to see that there are gay people all around them, that some of their beloved husbands, sons, brothers, cousins, colleagues are secretly gay, but deep in the closet living with a mortal fear of rejection and backlash.
I recently returned from an intensive 9–month Post Graduate Degree in Europe. During my time there, I could not help but marvel at the level of tolerance and openness towards gay people. Contrary to what I had been told all my life, acceptance of the fact that gay people have a right to be who they are does not in any way threaten the existence of homosexuals, rather these are open and progressive societies where everyone is empowered to achieve his full potential, where you are not judged by your sexuality but by the content of your character as a human being regardless of your sexual orientation, with all rights to dignity and security fully protected and upheld by the State. I of course made friends with several gay people in several European cities. Upon learning that I am Nigerian, a recurring theme amongst them had always been:
“Why is it such a major issue in your country that people are gay? And why is it that of all the multitude of issues plaguing most parts of your continent, your governments devote so much time and energy in pursuing homophobic and discriminatory agendas? Why are people so willing and eager to hate other humans simply on account of what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms with other consenting adults?”
I try in vain to explain to them. But you see, coming from the sort of open and progressive backgrounds they do, it is extremely hard for them to understand. They do not live in a society where the leadership seeks to make scapegoats of gays as a means of scoring cheap political points while diverting the attentions of the populace from more pressing issues. They do not live in societies where the clergy is allowed unfettered liberty to propagate hatred and bigotry and to manipulate a clueless congregation as they see fit while blindly disregarding the duty which their lofty position imposes on them to promote tolerance and love amongst all men. They do not abide alongside apeople so severely brutalized by economic hardship that it happily abandons all reason and human compassion and instead is easily guided into the embrace of blind unreasoning hatred.
I have thankfully and finally freed myself from the mental bonds imposed on me by a lifetime of conditioning, and I have finally realized that gay or straight, we are all God’s creatures, designed gay or straight or bisexual in His infinite wisdom. A gay person is no more a threat to a heterosexual person than left-handed persons are to right-handed ones, or tall persons to short persons, or light-skinned are to dark-skinned persons. Homophobia is as unreasonable as hatred of a person based on his racial origins, height, eye or skin colour, hair texture …. I could go on and on and on with a long winding list of as many variations of human features as there are.
In conclusion, I ask you the reader, if you think that it is right to hate another blindly and fiercely, to hate another person on account of a factor beyond his/her control such as height, body size, hair length, racial origins etc. if you think that it is right to hate or be hated on account of these, then by all means, HATE any gay person you know or ever come across. HATE them with a hatred so ferocious and intense that perhaps the force of your hate might somehow reach into their dark, evil, twisted psyche and burn away the objects of your intense hate.
If however you still possess a shred of decency, a sense of right and wrong, then call out this ominous and obnoxious anti-gay law for what it is. Denounce it in all its true evil colorations, enlighten the blind around you who cannot see but can perhaps hear your voice of reason. Denounce this brazen attempt to collectively hoodwink 160 million people by pulling some fast moves behind their backs while occupying them with false doctrines, while their collective birthright is being plundered by an avaricious and coldhearted leadership.
I leave you with the words of Martin Niemoller:
“They came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, again I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I remained silent because I was protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one to speak up.”
This obnoxious homophobic disgrace to legislation portends an ill wind that blows no one any good. Thank You.
Written by CeeCee