Living in certain parts of Nigeria is hard. It matters little how much you have, you will face some hardship. Be it from epileptic electricity, the jagajaja nature of roads, or the political uncertainty from having to witness what comes across as the maddening incompetence of those running the government. Being gay, and having to live with the nature, adds a unique layer to experiencing the problems. The unique feel is a problem. For me, it’s having to spend my days with a mental cautionary note suggesting the importance of keeping bits of myself at bay. “Don’t be too girly”, it notes, “People are looking!”. I feel all eyes are on me for being a dis-blending entity. Sometimes, when I am in a good mood, I feel the eyes should be on me. I expect them to be on me and I find myself scanning for those who might be looking. Of course this has problems, it leads to assuming that anyone looking at me does so because of my femininity; which often guides them a path of assumptive conclusion to my homosexuality. It is as though I have to watch my back at all times, not because the street of Lagos are unsafe but because I constantly suspect someone can act in a hostile manner simply from the awareness or suspicion that I am gay.
When I was a child, say nine, I used to be terrified of the dark. Anytime my mum would send for something and I had to walk in the dark, I cried about not wanting to go. This happened often because NEPA did what they do best: withhold light. Needless to say all the crying did nothing, because my mother sent me into the dark to do what she needed done. To cope I developed methods for dealing with the unease. I sang. In truth, I simply said Jesus Jesus Jesus over and over again while running through the errand with my eyes almost closed, because I believed saying his name pushed away all the nasty demons waiting in the dark to cause me harm. It got to a point where I found myself saying nothing, simply walking through the dark to do what needed to be done. It’s hard to pin point when but I lost my fear. I began walking through the dark, as I do today, with no concern for demons. Based off subtle lessons from my mother, I learned to walk through my fear.
As an adult, albeit a developing one, it’s hard to pay emotional attention to demons in the sense of them being servants of Satan plotting to bring harm my way. I’m not disputing their existence, I’m simply saying I defer from giving them much thought. But I do think of them as symbols: harbingers of misfortunate circumstances. One of the demons that reminds me of the darkness, makes me feel like the child about to walk through a dark room, is fear of the hindrance public knowledge of my sexuality can cause. As it is with fears, it’s difficult to grasp evidence bearing proof to what it illustrates; it simply exists as a presence one feels, giving voice to dreadful possibilities.
I have been walking through the dark. At least, that is what it has felt like to live with my femininity and sexuality as a full human being navigating the world. Being a terrible actor (of masculinity) has its merit. But the more potent motive comes from a desire to be the opposite of miserable, free from the burden of carrying the weight of sin. At some point it stopped making sense to censor my behavior because people had a habit of conclusively assuming. In some ways, their assumptive streak is a blessing. I can cry boohoo at their knack for stereotyping but this human ability of stereotyping serves me in ways it fails to serve my masculine gay friends, at least those who care about owning up to all of themselves. It sometimes saves me the trouble of having to live through enunciating those three letter words. A lot gay people can relate with how excruciating it is to say “I am gay”. I find that letting people do a large chunk of the work with their own minds saves me a lot, it guides them a path to my homosexuality. People find it easy to shove me into the home of homosexuals. They easily go “that guy is sooh gay” with me.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death“, a verse accredited to King David of Israel goes, “I shall fear no evil“. Of course, no one explains that writing verses and writing prose are distinct arts. And, while “I shall fear no evil” has a beautiful almost lyrical almost celebratory ring to it, it paints an inaccurate picture of how fear operates. If David lived in modern times, he may have written “I will act despite being afraid”, or he may have narrated how having walked through the valley so many times made harboring fear close to impossible, close to ridiculous. Who knows? What can be agreed upon is even Kings, great men, experience fear, what matters is what is done with it.
A good starting place is to heed to the subtle cues rendered by my mother. I can push away the demons that lurk in the dark. It starts from bringing to focus beliefs that usher in the light. A nine year old me saw this light in the name of Jesus, demonstrating that what I believe is what gets me through or hinders me from tackling uneasy situations. Being gay, and having to live with the nature, can awaken demons that feed off darkness. But often the only option is to walk through.
You Are Awesome!
On a related post On Being Gay, read the very first Glowrite entry: The Gay Life of an Anonymous Writer