This is a voice I was so familiar with. It’s one of the many voices that always reminded me of what an abomination I was and how I should be ashamed of even waking up from sleep, a voice that reminded me of how damaged and how useless I was.
That phrase began as a whisper and then grew into a wind, a wind of torment, a wind of despair, a wind of agony, served daily in multiple doses. A wind which I had no control over and no shelter to weather from. I started dying before I could live. Anywhere I went to, whenever people looked at me, I already knew why. I’ve never liked being the center of attention, but I always managed to get everyone’s attention by just existing in the same time and place with them.
At night, I’d cry myself to sleep after saying a prayer to God, begging him to change me, to make me more like Emeka, the well built classmate of mine whose unofficial duty was ‘protecting the weak’ from bullies. I always felt safe around Emeka; he was one of those guys that you could count on. Whenever he was around, ain’t no bully gon come your way.
The bullies weren’t limited to boys. While a majority of the girls in my class liked playing oga (that children’s play which involves clapping hands and snapping open and close the legs) with me, a good number of them made it part of their daily routine to torment me. They often said hurtful things to me while in a group of four or five, laughing and encouraging each other, tearing my soul apart piece by piece. They would often threaten to beat me up if I made too much noise or resisted, often citing my lack of physical strength as a reason I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. They’d push me around and smack the back of my head, while some others would mimic my gait and hand gestures.
This made me develop fear and hate for people in general, and I often found it strange when someone tried to be nice to me. I often felt they were pretending, because at the time, I didn’t believe I was worth being nice to. I had a dangerously low self esteem coupled with self hatred and depression. I’d have considered suicide back then, but I was only a child and didn’t know what it was.
After the early years of playing the ‘damsel in distress,’ my sense of self-preservation finally kicked in. I began to retaliate. My hack-saw tongue became my greatest weapon and threatening people became my second best. I’d often threaten to visit them at night while they were sleeping and do unspeakable things to them, diabolical things, threats that worked to deter them most of the time.
Finally, I began getting some peace in school. I was in Primary 5, but I was still horrified when I see two or three boys gathered. I often felt threatened and always sure they were going to make a snide comment about me, something which they always did.
In the coming months, I decided to re-strategize. So I thought of changing the way I walk. It wasn’t easy, and it took months of work and brain conditioning to eradicate most of the hip swaying. After that came the hand gesture modification.
I was trying so hard to fit in and become a ‘man’ that I was meant to be, instead of being such a damaged sissy, so I started playing football with the boys and joined the track and field team. For the first time in my life, it felt amazing to be in school, with people who didn’t make fun of me, people who smiled and meant it. I felt like I was finally a part of something.
At last, I was finally happy.
And then, the worst happened. Primary School came to an end.
The thought of going to Secondary School with a bunch of strangers I didn’t know, who might start judging me, was horrifying and downright depressing. I simply didn’t like the change. It was too sudden. Time flies too quickly when you’re happy.
JSS1 came, and I was already prepared for the journey of pretence I was going to embark on. However, the bullying continued, albeit more subtle. The ‘girl in me’ wasn’t going to give up without a fight; it kept poking out its head once in a while, and the sharks in my school only needed to smell a drop of blood from the victim before they’d move in for the kill.
It was hard from JS1 to 3, and by SS1, I decided to be rid of the bullying once and for all. I joined the self-proclaimed bad boys in school, started being rugged, vulgar and making supposed adult statements without fear (because that’s what men are supposed to do). I joined the league of “happening boys” and started doing horrible things. I joined the homo-shaming team in school to take the attention away from me, and we made fun of anyone who was effeminate. I’d often come up with female names to give them, which later became the unofficial name they were known as. I often thought they were silly and weak for not putting in much work as I did to get rid of the girl in them.
One day in school, news spread about two guys who were expelled because they were caught doing “homo”. Some student had been monitoring their alleged clandestine night activities, and finally caught them red-handed. I was shocked because I’d never heard of such before, never even knew it was possible for a dick to slide into an asshole without the person dying from agonizing pain.
That was when it dawned on me that I’d been rolling with the wrong team, people who would throw me under the bus if they knew I was just as different, people who wouldn’t give it a second thought before racing over to the principal’s office to alter my destiny.
From then onwards, I started detaching myself slowly…
I often identify with movies like X-Men and Divergent, where people are considered to be outcast and consequently bullied by the general population. I’ve sort of become an anti-bully activist.
This is not my story. This is our story. The experiences of several gay people put together.
I wrote this because of a comment written here by someone who doesn’t believe there’s gay-shaming and bullying in Nigeria. I didn’t write this because his comment struck a chord or meant anything to me. I wrote it because I realized there is still ignorance out there, people who do not know what gay children of various ages go through during their childhood in this toxic, homophobic country.
This is a story about the child from yesterday.
What about you? Won’t you tell us about your child from yesterday?
Written by Max