When the antigay bill was signed into law last year, the act stirred this country in a way it had never been in quite a long time. There were those who cheered. And there were those who grieved. The blogosphere, as was with all other forums of human contact, became alive with contentions, people and opinion split into several camps. And the mainstream blog I was operating at the time was not left out.
In the aftermath of the law’s signage, I experienced a gamut of emotions. First I was sad. Then I was afraid. Then I became angry. And I penned my anger and blogged it. I welcomed pro-gay articles from acquaintances and published those as well. And then, we took up arms and went to battle against the antigay majority in the comments section.
But my indignation did not blind me to caution. I was after all still in the closet, and had relationships and friendships that thrived on the perception of my ‘heterosexuality’. These same people read what I published. I couldn’t afford any alienation over the scandal of my outing via my writing.
So I toed the line of gay activism. I wrote and published pieces that told LGBT stories from the observer’s point of view, as opposed to the participant’s. And when contributors sent write-ups to me which were to explicit to be dismissed as pro-gay activism, I rejected them. I had to be careful. I determined to be seen as a fighter for the rights of the average Nigerian gay individual, instead of the Nigerian gay individual himself.
This circumspection frustrated me. I felt like the characteristic class noisemaker facing the threat of the teacher’s caning if he didn’t speak in hushed tones. Like the Victorian Age debutante with the streak of rebellion forced to be docile and properly ladylike, because of the puritanical demands of the society. I wanted to take my stories – our stories – beyond the company of those I knew who were in the same struggle, to every- or anyone else.
In the first week of April last year, my good friend, Dennis Macaulay, said to me: ‘Why not open a gay blog?’
I instantly recoiled from the idea. In fact, the more he tried to sell the idea to me, the more ludicrous I thought it was. Me, operate a gay blog?! In this Nigeria?! What am I, crazy?!
But Dennis was relentless. He weighed the pros and cons for me. He argued this and argued that. He practically had an answer for every question I had concerning the venture. And then, he won me over when he said to me: ‘Think about it. You’ll be creating an avenue for the Nigerian LGBT to have a voice.’
That was when I was sold.
I picked a name for the blog. I picked a pseudonym.
I began my transformation.
But I was still hesitant.
So I decided to let my decision rest on the sway of ‘public’ opinion. I began canvassing a select few of my friends. There were varying opinions and feedback. Some were intrigued, some dismissive, and some others not sure which way to go.
It was however Khaleesi who pressed the button that made my mind up for me. He went the way of humour. He started a twitter hashtag called #GiveUsOurKitoDiaries, which he began hounding my every tweet with, until I laughed so hard I buckled, booted my laptop, and clicked on the WordPress page.
And on April 16th 2014, Kito Diaries was birthed.
And even though I know that the next words I’m going to write is a cliché, I’ll say them nonetheless. In this past year, this blog has been a blessing of sorts to me. It has created for me new acquaintances and friendships from which I’m constantly learning. It has emboldened me in my personal life. It gave me the nerve to stare my brother in the face, when he found out about my sexuality, and let him know that I was not afraid of his knowledge. It gave me the fortitude to reconcile myself with a future where I don’t have to kowtow to the expectations of society. It made me laugh. It made me angry. It made me exasperated. It educated me. It enriched me with the interactions of various other people.
And it gave me hope. Yes, my home country is stiflingly homophobic. And yes, I may never get to hold hands with the man I love while waiting for popcorn before movie time in a cinema.
But hope – that persistent, little butterfly – flutters in my heart still. Change will come, subtly but surely. And if anyone asks me, ‘Why do you dare believe?’ The answer I’ll have for them would be: ‘Someone operated a gay blog in Nigeria for an entire year.’
That is change, no?
Written by Pink Panther