My name is Mitch and I am gay. I was born the only son and the second and last child in my family, and was raised in a Christian home where life and everything else we did revolved around God, the Bible and perfection. Having perfectionist parents didn’t help matters much as all of our daily activities as kids were modeled and maintained religiously by our parents. We had strict schedules which very rarely included TV. On the rare occasions when we watched TV, it usually was to watch Christian kid movies such as the Do-nut Man series, Psalty the singing songbook, or Mother Goose. It was on one of these rare occasions that I had a glimpse of the existence of a major part of myself.
I was four at the time and my entire family was watching one of the Do-nut Man movies, when I felt this intense attraction for a black boy in the movie. Not knowing what to do or make of the weirdness I felt, I began to cry (yeah, I can be sissy like that), thus drawing the attention of my parents. When they questioned me, I told them that seeing that kid made me feel lonely because I had no brother. That was truthfully, the only way I could explain what I felt at that moment. My dad accepted my explanation but I vividly remember my Mother giving me this odd look.
Due to my background, I was very active in church and was usually called upon to make presentations in spite of my shyness (which I honestly told no one about). When I was 5, I had the opportunity of preaching a message in church during our Children’s Day service, and I was dubbed “pastor” for that reason.
At 7 years of age, I had my first kiss with a neighbour’s son who was 2 years my senior. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I continued my daily pattern, just the stolen kisses, till 2003 when my sister left home for a boarding school in Enugu. I was barely 9 at the time and had the whole house to myself, as our last house help had just left. That was when my trysts with the neighbour’s son got intense. We would do all the cuddling, kissing et al, but we never engaged in penetrative sex. Life, at that point, was simply perfect.
Then one fateful Saturday, Mother and I were discussing in her room when she looked at me squarely. With our eyes locked together, she asked me bluntly, “What have you been doing with boys?”
I was stunned, not entirely so though, because Mother and I have this stupid mental connection that enables us to know things about each other without talking to each other. Hit so abruptly by her bluntness, I confessed everything to her. I couldn’t have lied, if I wanted to; I was so unskilled in the art then. She then proceeded to preach to, talk to and pray for me. And we agreed to keep it from my dad.
However, I quickly discovered that my desire to be with guys was insatiable and overwhelming, and I carried on with my trysts. Then, my sister returned from school after her JSS1, and Mother decided that she should switch to a day school. My father went along with her decision and it was settled. This decision notwithstanding, I didn’t stop what I was doing. Mother, intuiting to my shenanigans, preached to me 2 more times to stop what I was doing within this period. I did not heed. Finally, she got mad and beat me. Now, for a classic ajebutter kid like me, who couldn’t even be shouted at without tearing up, the strokes of the cane was a very big deal. And Mother had an evil way of doing it. Each time I rose up off the floor where I was asked to prostrate while she flogged me, she cancelled five strokes from the number she had already given me. So, I ended up with no less than 40 strokes, as I kept rising up due to the unbearable pain. After the entire session, she told me that I would be fasting for the following three days to ask God for forgiveness. I did it with all my heart, determined to get healed of this ‘disease’.
The feelings however, refused to go away.
At that point, I got desperate. I fasted at least once a week, begging God to rid me of this ‘evil’. Yet, every other time, I’d get caught up by my emotions and act on what I felt. And each time I ‘fell’, Mother would add her cane ministrations to the mix, while I punished myself further by engaging in fasts.
All this while, my dad was grossly unaware of the situation. It got to a point where I started to learn how to lie to my mum. It became second nature to me, to simply lie to her whenever she asked that damning question: “Is homosexuality over in your life?”
Still I got no relief. One night, while I was washing plates in the kitchen, I popped outside to get a rag to mop up some water that had splashed on the ground. Not finding any outside our flat, I went to our neighbour’s side to get one. And in that exact moment, Mother opened the back door and espied me outside the neighbour’s flat. (That flat belonged to our landlord and at that time, I was involved with his nephew, Emenike [not real name], a fact which somehow, Mother knew about). Then, I got the rag and walked back to our flat. Mother was waiting, and the moment I stepped onto our porch, she struck. She hit me so hard I nearly fell over the guardrail. And we lived on the second floor of a two-storey house. That was when my fear at Mother’s antagonism escalated.
Shortly after this, she retired as a level 3 manager (big woman that she is sha), and my life became a living hell! I was only 12 at this point, and she tormented me, dogging my every step, monitoring every move I made, and even got my sister (whom she told everything about the ‘abomination’ I was committing) to start monitoring me. Her control over my life became unbearably stifling. Yet, I was determined to be the perfect son to her.
Things got to a head shortly after I entered JSS3. That fateful night, my father sent me to buy roasted corn for him down the street. Upon my return, I met Emenike under the stairwell. Emenike was ten years my senior and a skilled talker; and managed to talk me into getting it down with him right there. I agreed and midway through the blowjob I was giving him, I heard the door to my house open. Light spilled out into the dark stairwell. Panicked, I quickly dropped my keys and called up, without any prompting, that I had dropped my keys on the unlit stairs and was looking for them. My sister was the one who had opened the door. She went back in while I retrieved the keys and went upstairs. Unfortunately, Mother was at the verandah and spotted Emenike sneaking out of the stairwell. By the time I came in, I was greeted with a flurry of slaps and beating. Then, she proceeded to drag me to my dad’s room and told him everything.
My father, who always plays bad cop to Mother’s occasional good cop, shocked me that day. He took one look at me, asked Mother to leave us alone and said to me, “Why are you doing this? Is it because we never paid you much attention?”
I couldn’t bring myself to respond. All I could do was stare at the ground and cry silently. Thereafter, Mother proceeded to call Emenike, our landlord and his second son to our house, and with my father in the same room, she asked me to tell them all the boys I had ‘committed the act with.’ I did and then, she asked Emenike to stay away from me. My father supported her, while my landlord and his son apologized, all the while casting looks of disgust at me.
In February 2008, my father was chosen as part of the team to go on their bank’s overseas expansion programme. He left in April. By June, after my Junior WAEC, Mother took the decision to send me to my uncle’s place in Lagos. She believed a change of environment would mean a change in my sexual orientation.
However, her wishes were not to be as my uncle’s only child, Duke is gay, and his boyfriend James ended up becoming my best friend, while Lucky, a good friend of his, became my first ever boyfriend. The three years I spent in Lagos were some of the best years of my life. My uncle and his wife, being career people, simply never saw all the signs and never believed anything was going on, as their son, Duke had mastered the art of prevarication, which he taught me.
Upon my return home in 2011, my mother confronted me with that question again. “Is homosexuality over in your life?”
And I said, “Yes, it’s over.”
We went through it often after that, but I kept up with the lies. Duke had taught me well. I was determined not to hurt her or myself with the truth.
Just recently, after my exams this semester, I decided that I would stay back a little longer in school, as a lecturer had asked me and a couple of my coursemates to stay back to organize the library. I called my sister to cancel the weekend plans we had. Next thing I knew, Mother was calling me to ask why I wasn’t returning the next morning as planned. I explained to her and she said, “That your explanation has no root or bearing.” Surprised, I asked her what she meant, and she said, “Tell me the truth. What are you doing in school?” In that moment, I got mad and snapped that I could give her the numbers of the other classmates involved in the project if she’d rather believe their words over mine. She asked for their numbers. I gave them to her.
A couple of minutes later, I got this message: ‘As you stay on campus this weekend, be careful not to fall into sin. Sin is a sinker i.e. a destroyer of people and their glorious destinies. You are greatly loved. Good night!’
Unable to hold back my rage, I sent her the reply: ‘Stop being scared for or about me. I’m grown now, so any mistakes I make will be my fault, not yours. Please! Do take care of yourself.’
To which she replied: ‘Thanks for this reassurance. Bless you!’
I know she doesn’t trust me much. And my sister still dogs my every action to know whether I’ve ‘fallen’ again. And I don’t care. I’ll keep up the charade for as long as I can and as long as I am beholden to them. I’d rather lie to them and be true to myself, than live a lie trying to please them.
Written by Mitch