Like every other homosexual person, I had a truckload of esteem related issues. As a child, I always sought validation from my dad, who I never got along with. Looking back, I think on some level, he knew I was different and felt he could beat it out of me. So I struggled to earn the love that I wasn’t getting by trying to change and conform as best as I could. My life became about seeking validation and acceptance. I stopped living and started existing for family, friends, and community, and in a way, the society.
I lost myself in the process.
My dreams and aspirations took a back seat. I became obsessed with doing things that the world considered as “normal and acceptable”, from what to study and eventually studying a completely alien course, to just doing everything it took to be considered as one of the boys. I lost me.
With my obsession to please came a deep sense of loss, depression, paranoia and the feeling of constant bitterness. I became dark and moody. I morphed into a loner and kept to myself because I got frustrated with trying to please, but never doing enough regardless of how much I tried and sacrificed. I became good at playing the role of Number 2. You know, the good boy who is good friends with the notorious guy in school or in the neighborhood, the guy who rolls with the It crowd in class, but still manages to blend well with the geeks. All this was to help me not stand out. Standing out would attract attention, and attention would show that I was different.
Fast forward a couple of years, I managed to achieve a little degree of independence, decide that I deserved to live a little; years of denial did me no good. I did the whole ‘pray and fast away your gayness’ thing, but there was shaking off my sexual orientation. I was losing my mind from trying so hard to keep up appearances. I wanted the gay me to breathe.
Prior to this period, I thought gay people would be the most understanding, loving, and tolerant people ever. So imagine my shock at how downright cold and cruel a lot of ‘us’ could be. I realized that I equally have to prove myself among people who were supposed to be brothers. Seek validation and acceptance with people who were supposed to share my journey, my struggle and a common truth that binds us. No matter how thick your skin is, nothing really prepares you for how members of the LGBT community, folks that you are trying to identify with, would treat you (like dirt). Your weight, looks, social and financial standing, mannerism, and even level of sexual experience are part of the parameters used to consider you for smash, pass or date. Yes! The same issue is applicable to heterosexual relationships, but knowing and sharing an almost similar truth, you would think ‘we’ would be more tolerant.
In the beginning, men would swerve as soon as they learned that I was a ‘newbie’. (Since when did that become a crime?) So what if I was a late bloomer? Just because I arrived when you were having your “been there, done that” era means I don’t deserve a shot at happiness or breathe the same air as you do?
And then, there is the whole looks and body issues. For a guy who weighs 84kg and stretched up 5ft11, I was once called fat by the some romantic interest. He was white and entitled, and we hung out a few times, and never got around to sex. Then we went our separate ways, but not until the word he qualified my body type with had made me so eager to please that I starved and worked out just to look good for him. The next guy after him said I was too thin. According to him, he liked them burly. Expectedly, we didn’t last long.
I now ask, am I expected to weigh differently or change body sizes for every hookup or anytime I stumble on a new dude, because we all know that gay affairs, particularly in Nigeria, have a big ‘unto the next” bumper sticker on it. I have been around men who make wisecracks about fellow gay men. Men who think you are beneath them because they have a higher social status than you do, or own you because they have some change to splurge on you.
And for all these lists of unending requirements you have to fulfill for a chance at love, happiness and freedom, the sad thing about it all is that it is summed up as “just sex” and nothing more at the end of the day. How do you struggle with yourself your entire life, then one person comes along and sums up your entire journey, fight and struggle as just nothing but sex? We treat “us” like vagrants, cheap meat, by acting like our sexuality is nothing more but the mere need to act on our animal instincts, then move on. Whatever happened to being there, being comrades and ancillary, having a sense of brotherhood, being friends if we can’t be paramours?
In my haze of confusion, I once asked a guy, “Why do guys constantly tear each other down?” And he answered by saying, “It’s because we are always competing.”
Competing for what, I’d like to know. Why would my ‘kind’ make me feel inadequate, question myself and constantly make me seek validation to show that I deserve to be loved? For how long are we going vitiate ourselves, cover up our self-hate and hurt with reckless sex, random hookups and our “I don’t give a fuck attitude”? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself a lot lately. We may see ourselves as the CEOs of our lives, but how we treat ourselves and others has a ripple effect on the community. For every poison we put out and every person we break, he/she either becomes suicidal or too bitter and twisted to the point where they start having random sex (since that’s what their entire existence has been reduced to) and expose themselves to risk of HIV or STIs while viciously poisoning other members of the community with their toxic brand of misery, hence continuing the endless circle of “trying to find a home among your kind but getting burned and thrown out”.
First, there was the society, and then there was the community. The struggle with validation begins to seem unending.
The next generation of LGBTQ men and women are emerging every minute – our sons, daughters, nephews and nieces could be among them. What are we doing today to make their existence & journey less painful for tomorrow?
Written by Peak