Homophobia · Social Commentary · Tolerance

Homophobia – It Is What It Is

You scroll through your Twitter feed, and you come across a tweet “Homophobia hurts everyone in the long run”. It is one of those annoying esoteric tweets without any discernible context, where the author expects his myriad of followers to know what he is tweeting about. And if they don’t, they are expected to massage his ego by sliding into his DM and ask. You are not in the mood to validate anyone. So, you summon your inner Jessica Fletcher and three clicks later you find the context – Yet another Nigerian woman has found out that her husband is gay.

The essence of the Tweet is that if the Nigerian society was not so passionately homophobic, fewer gay men would resort to deceiving unsuspecting women into marriage to hide their sexuality. In this context, a consequence of this wholesale antipathy towards homosexuality is that heartache, bitterness and trauma are doled out in abundance to all concerned, especially when kids are involved and subsequently this affects the wider society. 

Sometimes women know their betrothed plays for the other team, but they still proceed with the wedding, either for status or not to be deemed a complete failure. These are a couple of pressures imposed on women by Nigerian society.  Add to that a sprinkling of unshakeable faith that they can turn the gay man with prayer or some serious magic pussy, then they are good to go.  

While homophobia has not forced you into a heterosexual marriage, you think of other ways homophobia has impacted you. You don’t show up to mainly Nigerian gatherings and when you do, because you know how religious and homophobic they are – both tend not to be mutually exclusive in Nigeria – you don’t engage fully and don’t bring your authentic self to the table.

You think about friends from secondary school and university and how post-graduation, the friendships have cooled somewhat or become non-existent, because you kept away from them for fear of rejection. 

You think about the important milestones in their lives, such as marriages, births, naming ceremonies, children’s graduations, etc, that you have missed out on. And though no consolation, they too would have missed out on certain milestones in your life and not to mention your diverse life experiences, that they and their families could have learned from. 

You smile when you remember Amaka, a lady you trained with in an accounting firm in Lagos. You were quite close then at work and outside work. You visited each other’s homes, and you met her then boyfriend, now husband, a few times. You even attended their wedding. After you moved to the UK you both kept in touch. During conversations and in text messages, she would ask about your family. (That’s code for “How far now? You are getting on. Why aren’t you married?”). You would give a vague noncommittal response of “They are fine”, and quickly change the topic. This went on for years until finally, two years ago, you said to her you were into guys and were currently in a relationship.  Five second silence. Then she spoke and sounded a bit surprised then rallied to say something supportive. The mood of the conversation shifted and ended with the usual pleasantries.  You have not heard from her since then.

Because of homophobia, you keep your extended family at arm’s length. When they visit your city you make up an excuse not to see them. And if you do, it tends to be in a neutral setting, rather than inviting them to your place. You don’t have the energy to  “de-gay” your apartment nor the energy for their reaction afterwards if you don’t.  

The average Nigerian family places a lot of importance on the first born son. There is a lot of pressure for them to up their game and shoulder responsibilities like a Superhero. One main responsibility is to propagate and carry on the family legacy. This was drummed into you subliminally, as a child and all the way into adulthood. Being gay isn’t part of the agenda and would definitely bring shame to the family name. More shame arguably, than being a corrupt government official

Though you have come out to your parents they expect you to fulfil this legacy in the traditional way. (Coming Out) You have made it clear that isn’t your calling and it is what it is. They don’t talk to you directly about it anymore. However, occasionally at the end of the odd request – financial or otherwise- they mutter something about you not having a family of your own, and therefore should have some free time and cash to spare. You have had Church fliers advertising singles’ fellowships and whatnot, enclosed in Birthday and Christmas cards. And when that had no effect, they seem to have relented when they sent a book about how to be a gay Christian. In summary, it suggests being a Christian but abstaining from same sex sexual relationships. Again, not your calling.

Though it should, you don’t allow these microaggressions countermand your general obligations to the family as a first-born son. Maybe a part of you feels guilty for not meeting the procreation obligation. Or maybe they raised you to be a good person. Perhaps that is why when it comes to your parents, due to the vile nature of the word, you find it difficult to describe these microaggressions as homophobic. And you are not alone. 

A friend of yours Dominic, also a first son and out to his family, has spent most of his adult life seeing to the welfare of his mother – as he should– but most times to the detriment of his own wellbeing. When his younger brother got married she made sure Dominic was an integral part  (financial and otherwise) of the planning, the actual wedding ceremony and the subsequent naming ceremonies of his nephews and nieces. Years later when Dominic and his long term partner decided to get married, his mother forbade all of his siblings from participating in any way. And they didn’t. Dominic did not cut her and his siblings off and still contributes to his mother’s upkeep. And though time has passed, and he has forgiven them and, as he confessed to me, still has some residual resentment, he can’t bring himself to call out their homophobia.

Another friend Ralph, first son and out to his family as well, for years was the main support of his family. And on the surface the family seemed supportive of him and his husband. However, in recent years there has been a shift. There was a minor misunderstanding between him and some of his siblings, which escalated into missiles being fired the way North Korea fires test missiles at her neighbours. His mother took sides with his siblings. During attempts at mediation by some elder members of the extended family, it came out that Ralph’s mother and siblings have been “tolerating his lifestyle” all these years and even tried to use his sexuality against him during the mediation. He still can’t bring himself to label them homophobic.

No matter how you slice it, homophobia does harm everyone in the long run. In the short run, some more than others.  But because a certain section of the population is oppressed and marginalised , they can’t reach their full potential in order to make meaningful contributions to the wider society – culturally, academically and economically.  

Homophobia Naija Style – It is what is it

7 thoughts on “Homophobia – It Is What It Is

  1. It surely is what it is. On the long or short run, there is pain carried around but mostly always by the one the phobia is targeted at.

    That first paragraph, the anecdote about searching for the inspiration of a vague tweet, can be truly frustrating. I admire your detective powers, I won’t go searching.

    I am grateful though when you find the source of the gist😁

  2. Phew. Just went through something that a family member used my sexuality to score bonus point; sexuality I thought wasn’t an issue.

    Kere, write often. It is relatable.

  3. Wonderful, a very serious post from you and one that hits home so much…..it’s like you’re in my head. I sometimes reminisce about the extroverted me that homophobia took away and I wish I could get it back but man’s had to adapt to survive this fucked up world. Old friends would probably think I’m acting stuck up and all but oh well, na them sabi….all man must enjoy the dividends of Homophobia 🤷‍♂️

    I can NEVER be Dominic because I’ve thankfully managed to navigate myself away from my mother’s manipulative ways. What they did was super fucked up and gaskiya if I were in his shoes, I’d most probably never forgive and keep them at serious arm’s length.

    I don’t see myself having difficulty in calling it what it is. HOMOPHOBIA simple. I’m even low key dodging mumsy these days as she seems to be back to her old mean toxic ways and I will say it to her face if I’m not careful and cause wahala 😂😂

    1. Quite a bit to unpack there. Yes, it’s hard to navigate away from some mother’s emotional blackmail. It can be a battle of wills.

      Stay strong.

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