As is customary around the world, June is the month where members of the LGBTQ+ get to celebrate their identity and embrace what makes them different from the rest. However, in 72 countries in the world in 2018, it is illegal for one to express their love because it goes against the norm and people cannot seem to wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone is the same and that people just want to be happy.
In accordance with my smashing the paradigm, I decided this post, I decided to share the stories of some people I met, how they came out or not came out, how they are living their authentic lives and how they strive to be the best version of themselves. With any hope, considering a good portion of my readers are in countries that are part of the 72, your minds will be slightly changed and you’ll come to see that, they are people too.
D – I am out to everyone. I got expelled from my first secondary school because word got out that I was a lesbian, a word I did not even understand or know the meaning of at that time, people would go out of their way to look for my trouble just to get a reaction off me. I changed schools and that didn’t really seem to make a difference, I was bullied and was troublesome, I was always the first person pointed to whenever there was trouble in school. I feel like high school can be likened to a country with the bullies the government. After high school, I decided to come out to everyone save my parents, my mum because I feel like she would be mad at me for not trusting her enough with such an important part of my life, I mean she probably already knows though but we just have not had the conversation. I mean you can’t out someone who was not in the closet. The internet brought about a lot of bullying but luckily I was good at ‘clap backs’, I feel like you can never really be completely out as you have to share that truth about yourself with each new person you meet. With homophobia, I am lucky enough because I am femme and have a ‘green card’ i.e. I pass a stereotypical straight woman, but the issue with that is I also get hit on by men who I have no interest in and they tend to think they can somehow ‘change’ me, even lesbians sometimes doubt that I really am a lesbian which sucks. I got a tattoo which pretty much signifies my sexuality in a very visible part of my body. I am an activist, it started with hosting LGBTQ+ parties in my country, Kenya which always sold out to now trying to fight for rights the only way possible but challenging laws that are detrimental to us.
C – I’m not out to everyone, just people I really care about and for me, that is enough. I came out to them because I was tired of having to lie, the first time I hooked up with someone of the same sex, I was so discreet you’d think I was seeing a married person. Since I have been out, my confidence has skyrocketed, it helps because I can stand against the homophobes in my country, Nigeria and defend members of the LGBTQ+ without being scared and knowing I am very okay. I don’t hide myself, I’m pretty much a unicorn on the streets of Lagos, it is risky but I am lucky to be privileged enough to avoid people who are ignorant and in the instances, I meet people who aren’t, I am usually surrounded by allies ready to defend me. I think surrounding yourself with people who know and love you regardless of your sexuality is one of the best types of self-care ever.
K – It is not easy being queer in Nigeria, defying the norms of what a woman or man should be. Coming out to myself was a struggle, I had always known I was gay but due to the blatant homophobia in the country, it is considered a sin. I went to churches for deliverance in a bid to get cured of my ‘sickness’ as they would say. I prayed, fasted and tortured myself if my thoughts ever strayed from what was expected of me, it was truly a dark period in my life. Eventually, I got into university and I met others like me and realised I was perfectly fine and that was how my journey of self-acceptance started. Now, the majority of my friends are queer, I do have a few straight friends who know I am gay, my parents do not know yet and I haven’t decided if I will ever tell them. Queer expression in Nigeria comes with heavy circumstances, best case you get outed and blackmailed by the police, worst case, you get lynched and burnt to death. We try to find safe spaces for ourselves, we organize underground parties, clandestine hookups, etc. Daily you are faced with the possibility of being killed which is why most queer people battle with depression. Healing, however, comes from finding communities that you can rely on, people of your kind, dare I say, it is the balm to the sore that is this stupid country. We are here. We are queer. And we are proud. Wetin man go do?
E – I ignore a whole lot of things people say, that’s the only way to be fully happy here. I’m not out to everyone except people I think are openminded and I don’t think everyone deserves to know my truth. With expression, I am pretty much me, I like what I like and I go for it and if it doesn’t work out, I let it go. I would like to come out but I don’t think my parents will ever get over it and I would hate to hurt them.
N – I was raised by very strict parents, they instilled the very Nigerian principles that as a girl child I was to get an education, learn to cook and clean and raise a family of my own as soon as I was done with my education. Inside I felt different, I was never attracted to boys like all my friends, I wasn’t interested in the typical feminine things. I wanted to play football, ride a bike, watch the news, wear my hair short and run around in shorts or trousers. Things typically associated with the boy child. My attraction for girls spiked as I approached my teens. I felt scared about it, I thought am I cursed? Why am I so different? My first intimate experience liberated me (it was just a kiss and I was about 12). It taught me that I wasn’t alone, that I had kindred spirits around the world. The way I express myself varies daily, some days I feel comfortable with shorts and no makeup and on other days I feel like wearing a smashing gown with heels and make up. I express myself how I feel. I don’t box myself as a tomboy or a stud. I just like being me. I live in one of the most homophobic societies in the world. Many people do not understand and are unwilling to understand the concept of being gay. They often hide under the cloak of religion. It’s pointless trying to convince them. So, I mind my business and live my life as best as I can. I honestly have never faced homophobia personally but I have been in places where people make vile and disgusting remarks about homosexuals. My reaction was initially anger but now I feel pity for them. Their unwillingness to open their minds is to their detriment not mine. My two cents to all LGBTQ people, find financial independence. That’s the only escape from many of the terrible situations many are in. Get an education, get a skill and work hard at it till it pays off. Learn financial disciple and let’s break the cycle that we are no good.
A – Nigerians can be very stupid and hypocritical, I tend to dress masculine despite being female and I usually get positive feedback or at least they don’t care, but if a guy does the same, he would be shamed and could possibly experience violence as a result. People usually don’t want to understand when I come out to them, they think it is because I have never been with a guy or that I need prayers or I just need to meet someone who will ‘change’ me, all these are crazy because the people who say these are people I am close to. I am not out to my family though; my siblings are probably suspicious. I will however never come out to my parents, they are very conservative and religious, evangelical pastors, they would literally send me for deliverance or to a nunnery because I am clearly possessed by an evil spirit and want to ruin their name so you can imagine what I am going through trying to hide this especially while living in a country that literally wants to kill me. I am very open about myself though, and if we are being stereotypical, I fit the queer box. I assume people who are homophobic are simply ignorant and overly religious people who cherrypick the bible and decide what they want to be furious about. I usually don’t experience blatant homophobia because I am cute and luckily people don’t see me and assume anything bad, however, while working down the streets, I still have people come up to me and try to guess my gender which really isn’t the safest thing that can happen to a queer person, I usually just laugh because I know they simply cannot mind their business. It is fucking hard being queer in Nigeria
E – I have always known I was gay while growing up, it felt wrong and I simply thought I was going to burn in hell for even thinking of girls in a certain way. After university, I met a girl and we started ‘talking’ and then it hit me, I had never felt the way I did with her towards anyone of the opposite sex. I came out to my cousin first, she wasn’t surprised and then to a few of my friends and one of my brothers, most of the people I am out to have been very supportive. I don’t think I will ever come out to my parents though, they will never understand. With experiencing homophobia, I really don’t know how to answer that, I just stay true to myself and shut them out. People see me and think ‘gay’ because I am a stereotype but I am in a country where being gay earns you 14 years in jail so I am not ready to be out to the world just yet but I am proud of who I am that’s for sure. I am happily and proudly living my truth, I am grateful to have met the most amazing woman who I can proudly say I am in love with. I really wish I could come out to my parents but I am not ready to see the look of disappointment in their eyes just yet.
Y – I think being gay is a minute part of my life so I do not feel like everyone should have access to it, especially in a country filled with homophobic people. Most of my friends know about my sexuality because I feel like I can trust them even with a minute part of me. It is easy to know that I am not completely straight, however, I live my life the way I want to and dress however I please. Dealing with homophobia as a gay man is not the easiest thing because it can easily escalate to a life or death situation but I try to rebuke the people making the vile statements or I walk away, it all depends on the situation.
W – I am out to the closest people in my life, family excluded, I am very scared because I feel like who I am will be snatched away from me but at the same time, I feel like I might have always embraced myself completely. You see, my family is a big name in Sudan and the country and the culture mostly follow sharia laws, women are seen as beings of honour and whatever a girl does to bring about ‘shame’ to her family can be remedied by mercy killing. Chances are if my father ever found out, he would kill me himself, my mother, on the other hand, would blame herself and my family are my everything so it would almost be impossible to ever come out to them. I have always had to hide who I am from my parents and that hurts because they will never meet the real me. I am currently not in my home country so I am vocal against homophobia, however, in my home country, you can only say something slightly in hopes I am not suspected. Coming out to myself has been so liberating, I discover different feelings I wasn’t sure existed and I can only hope that one day, people would perhaps not be as hateful and let people live.
V – I am not out and speaking from my current state of my mind, I will likely never come out and it is for the simple reason that it would hurt my family and when I think of it, I don’t care enough to want to come out. I mean what exactly do I stand to gain by coming out? Mostly in a country that is as hypocritical and homophobic as Nigeria? I love my life and want to live it in relative peace and quiet. It’s already hard enough being a masculine-presenting woman, confirming what happens to be none of their business (Nigerians I mean) is just stress that I am uninterested in. Meanwhile, my closest friends know. Somebody with a big mouth read my messages and told them. You see why I don’t like Nigerians? I never quite experience homophobia as I am a homebody but when I do, I am quick to tell them to fuck right off.
Z – I am what you would call a gold star lesbian. I am out to everyone not by choice though, about 3 years ago I was outed by my then girlfriend to my family, at the time, I ran out of the house because I feared my family’s reaction, my family is intense Christians, like prayers every morning type Christians. Going back home, at first, my dad hugged me because he was worried as I had been away for so long and told me I was his child and said he loved me still but assured me that he would pray for my conversion. I moved to England and that’s when the other shoe dropped, I had curfews, no money and eventually, I became homeless and depressed and my family stopped speaking to me. I didn’t come out, I was pushed out, face down ass up, I felt like my entire world was coming apart, I lost my friends, family, and education, everything. I would not always I have experienced homophobia myself, however, I am very androgynous, I get confused stares from people wondering what exactly I am, I am stubborn so I usually stare back. I have however had someone try to start a fight simply because I was a lesbian, during this time I stood my ground. I am essentially a stereotype, I am obvious, dare I say, a unicorn. I have come to the realisation that my life is mine and it’s all about me if I die today, what I leave behind is my legacy so the only thing that matters to me is to use my time in hopes that I am remembered the way I want to and who I am.
With all the stories that have been shared, the commonality is the fact that no one wants to hurt their parents, everyone simply wants to be happy. I heard somewhere, ‘only a mad person would be willing to go through what you do if they didn’t completely have to’, I’m paraphrasing but essentially, if members of the LGBTQ+ didn’t believe they had to be themselves completely, no one would willingly go through the hassle and sometimes near-death experiences they do. A whole lot of things cannot be explained and that fine, we don’t have to understand them, we just must accept that some people are not like us and that is fine. I can only hope for a time where no one had to even come out and that everyone lived in harmony because what really is a life where you cannot be yourself?
To read more stories shared in the most beautiful way, check out She called me woman .