I am a gay man in Nigeria. It took me a really long time to even readily admit that to myself. I grew up confused about the emotions I felt whenever I saw a boy I felt attracted to because it was emphasised that what I was feeling was wrong.
I encountered the reality of being gay in Nigeria in my teen years, when my cousin come across information on my phone revealing my sexual orientation. The adage of familial love being unconditional was dispelled before my very eyes. From my mom to my sisters, everyone threw much hate at me and I cowered away from all the pressure by agreeing to ‘stop this devious thing’, like it was something I could shed.
I still grapple with the trauma from that incident, especially with my non-conviction in reaffirming my truest sense of self to them, but I’ve decided to be kinder to myself. The confrontation with my family led me down the dark path of suicidal ideation, but a part of me wanted to live because I knew my existence wasn’t an abomination nor something shameful.
I am thankful for the easy access to the internet in my generation because it has helped me build a community with others. This has really helped me not feel as alone as I would have felt without it. It’s also been revelatory in showing how queer people conform by getting married, which is something that fills me with fear because the day I shall start feeling the heat is beckoning.
I recently came out to my cousin. In that fleeting moment there was an intense calm that came with sharing my truest self with someone I consider family. Saying those words reaffirmed the fact that I am not something shameful. I love differently from most but it doesn’t in any way invalidate my humanity.
Learning to accept myself doesn’t negate the fear I feel of social coercion to conform by getting married, or the fear of the reactions I might receive if I ever decide to come out fully. But I soothe myself with the fact that I have reached a place of accepting myself completely and not giving in to my darkest impulses. That in itself is a testimony.
I am a gay man in Nigeria. I have finally come to a place of peace with it. How I am going to navigate society is a journey I am still undertaking, but I know I will figure it out as I go.
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