“…Mum. I am gay”.
How did we get here?
You are gay. You have known for more than half your life. You struggled with it at first but you are at peace now. But you are also a Nigerian; culturally both don’t inherently go well together.
You grew up in a moderately Christian home – your mother being the fervent church going parent and your father being phlegmatic about the whole Church going thing. Sex was a taboo and any talk or depiction of it was frowned upon. “Children came from God and He provided them strictly only within the Holy sanctity of matrimony.
In your early teens you learned about sex from straight porn supplied by very resourceful mates. When you watched it, your attention seems to be focused more on the male form rather than the female one, but you thought nothing of it. You regarded it as normal. And when you took matters into your own hands, it was the male form that nourished your imagination.
Growing up you got on well with both sexes socially, but you were not obsessed with the opposite sex and never made a move on the girls like your other mates did. You were extremely polite or perhaps a tad too shy.
At 15 you went to boarding school to study for your ‘A-Levels’. The first time you had been away from home for longer than a week at a time. It was an all-boys’ school and you had your first dalliance of sorts with another guy in the boarding house. It lasted all of one term. It was OK. It seemed to be what other guys did at night, especially after boasting in the daytime about conquests they had with girls at home or from the neighbouring all girls boarding school. It is a phase. Most boys grow out of it and date girls over the holidays.
At 17 you went off to University. More freedom. You got on well, on a platonic level with the opposite sex. You actually had more female friends than male ones. Your male friends were attractive, but you never made a move, even if you felt anything sexual for them. In any case all the guys seemed only interested in the girls.
In your later University years, at different times, a few of your female friends wanted to change the status of your friendship from platonic to romantic. One in particular, tired of hinting and waiting for you to ask her out, took the unprecedented step and asked you out on a date. This was very progressive at that time. There was no physical reason why you couldn’t both get it on. She was intelligent and attractive and most guys on campus would give their monthly allowance to date her. You told her she would not get the undivided attention she so rightly deserved. Getting a good degree was your main priority. You remain friends.
Between semester breaks or during lecturers’ strikes, a few of your female friends would visit you at home. Your mum would hover. She doesn’t want you to “fall into temptation”.
You left University with a good degree. You did the mandatory National Youth service after which you got an entry level managerial position in a private firm. It paid well, but not well enough to get your own place. So you still lived with your parents. You started to actively date women. Consummation takes place in friends’ apartments or in cheap motel rooms. Thanks to the porn you don’t do too badly in bed. By all accounts the ladies were satisfied and complimentary. Still, you felt like something is missing.
It’s the mid nineties and in your twenties, the Nigerian political situation became dire. The economy is even worse. It never gets better. Businesses shut down; employers can’t meet their payroll on time. And when they do pay, it is not in full. Anyone who can emigrates to America or Europe. Some of your friends relocated to the UK and they encouraged you to do the same. So you do.
You share a house with your friends. You get a job, you pay your way. It is a bachelor pad – a mini frat house of sorts. Ladies visit and some sleep over. You have a few casual encounters. Though you get the job done, you still feel something missing. You think it is because you have not met the “one”. You bide your time. Besides, getting into a serious relationship isn’t the main goal at this point in your life.
You happen on the lonely pages in the newspapers. “Women seeking men”, “Men seeking women”, “Men seeking men”, the last one piques your interest. You respond to one of the ads. You meet up with the guy in a public place for drinks. You chat, exchange numbers and a few days later you have sex with him. It reawakens familiar feelings of the dalliance you had in boarding school, all those years ago. You begin to process the feelings. They were certainly more exhilarating than the feelings you had from straight sex . You arrange to meet up with him again and have more sex.
You tell none of your friends. It is taboo to them. A sin. It is 1997 and you heard homophobic comments made by them, during a debate on TV about lowering the age of consent for gay sex in the UK from 18 to 16. This doesn’t stop you from exploring some more. You answer a few more ads, meet up with more guys, get introduced to saunas and eventually get introduced to the black gay scene. You realise there are other Nigerians like you. Some are actually engaged to be married or even married.
Your sexual encounters with women become less frequent and less desirable; so also does your social interaction with your house mates. They are beginning to settle down. They both have girlfriends and it looks like their relationships are getting serious . When you all go out on the town, you are the single one. They want to fix you up, but you have no interest. So gradually you make excuses when you are invited out. When they go out, you head to a black gay party organised in someone’s flat. At times you go back to another guy’s place, but never sleep over and head back home.
Over the months your feelings for men grow stronger. You question yourself. You struggle with your feelings for men. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t fit with the norm. It isn’t traditional. You do believe in God and you beseech God to take away these same sex attraction. But nothing happens. The feelings grow stronger. You resign yourself and gradually come to terms with your sexuality.
Career wise you move from strength to strength. You are financially secure and move to your own rented apartment. Your family is happy with your progress; they gradually relocate to the UK. You do meet your obligations as the first born son .The only thing missing is a wife and kids; your younger siblings (who both know and are unconditionally accepting of your sexuality) are married with kids. Your parents drop hints. They try and set you up with friends’ daughters and each time you have an excuse – “I want to get my PhD, first” ; “I want to get to a certain point in your career”; “I want to get a mortgage”. They tell you each excuse is easier with a wife and they remind you, that you are not getting any younger.
You get to your 40s. Questions become less frequent, either because you don’t stay on the phone long enough or you make fleeting visits, with your parents. But occasionally your Mum would still drop hints and tries to guilt you. She asks how your friends are doing with their now teenage offspring. Or she would ask you to accompany her to a wedding or a new born child’s dedication at Church. All in the hope of you meeting a potential bride.
You become weary. You haven’t introduced a lady to her in over 20 years even as a friend and yet she hasn’t figured it out. A few years ago, when she brought up the marriage issue, you told her in no uncertain terms that marriage to a woman was not on the cards for you. It still didn’t sink in.
So on this day, a few days before her annual trip to Nigeria you pay her a visit. She starts crying when she sees you.
“Mum, what is wrong? Why are you crying?” You ask her.
“When I get home, people will be asking me about you. Why you are not married yet Where are your children? What do I tell them?” She sniffs.
“Mum, you have two other children who are married with kids, isn’t that enough?
“Yes but you are my first son” She responds,” It is expected you would be married by now, even before your younger siblings were.
“God, when will Mum end this “Woe is me, my first son is not married” tragic act; Her “Sister (Mary of The Holy order of Perpetual Sadness) act” though Oscar worthy especially the cued tears, is tiresome. When God, when will it end?” You say to yourself.
“When you come out, fool” A small inner voice responded
“Well tell them, I am gay. Yes Mum. I am gay”. You blurt out, exasperated.