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Pride Month: Wearing My Tough Skin as a Nigerian Queer

Writer- Nonso
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9 min read

It’s weird to say this but it gets easier growing up as a Nigerian Queer. It was quite terrible when I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was a lot. We all have our unique stories as gay men growing up in Nigeria but what is cut across the board is alienation from everyone else. You feel different and if you are an effeminate man, you’d be constantly reminded that you are actually different.

My name is Nonso and I grew up in Lagos, with a family of two sisters and a really terrible brother. Terrible because home would have at least felt like home if he didn’t live in it. I think it has more to do with men and their perception of you and how you should think and behave like them cause my dad was also almost like him. When I was six years old or so, I used to play dress-up with my little sister and we would put on a show for dad and mum, the whole family enjoyed watching except for my elder brother. As I grew older, I could see that it also started to disgust my father too. He probably thought I’d grow out of it but I didn’t. He wasn’t violent though, he never was, that was my brother’s job.

siblings rivalry
Source- Deviant Art

I really don’t blame my brother for being violent,  maybe he always wanted a brother and when I was born he was so excited to watch me grow and do ‘manly’ things with him. Well, I tried to like those things but it just wasn’t for me. One time I went to watch football with him and not once did I notice the ball but instead was blown away by the 22 gorgeous men on the field. 

SURVIVING THE OUTER WORLD

The bullying I faced as a child was more psychological than physical. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t exposed to society a lot. I never went out, I went to school and stayed quiet and apologized when I was noticed. The only physical abuse I remember was from my brother. 

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It was easier to survive in the outside world when I learned to be invincible. Talk less so nobody laughs at my voice. Fold my arms so I am not caught gesticulating. Walk around less so nobody laughs at my ass and how I walk like a turkey. With time I was invincible and yeah…it got easier. Didn’t have any friend but I was fine with that.

teenage gay stories in Nigeria
Source- Vadodaran

 

I knew something was wrong with me when I didn’t fancy girls the way my peers did. I remember the first day I got a hard-on when a boy touched me. I belonged to the choir department in the church and this new boy joined us. He sat beside me and started asking loads of questions and every time our eyes met or he touched me, I’d get hard. I moved away and went to sit somewhere else. I was only 14 and my prayer that day was that God amputates my dick or it stops functioning because most times I’d get hard and it won’t go flaccid for a very long time.

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Now school time…I couldn’t bathe in the public bathroom when I stayed in the hostel in university. It was always mad, embarrassing, and uncomfortable. My roommates made fun of me for hiding because they thought I didn’t like people seeing me naked.

What about the time I tried dating a girl? Total disaster!! I resolved to watch heterosexual porn cause I wondered why the boys really liked it. I thought that was why they liked girls or what made their relationship with them smooth. It never worked for me.

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To be honest this phase of my life was the loneliest. The fact that I didn’t know what I was or why I felt how I felt. I also couldn’t talk to my parents about it because I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. 

discovering your sexuality in Africa

WEARING MY TOUGH SKIN

As I grew older, the jokes became stale because it was the same old boring jokes I kept hearing. I tried to fix myself and it didn’t work, so I started to accept myself. Meeting more queer people made me bolder and more vocal about my sexuality.

Read: “I’m a 25-Years-Old Guy, and I Love Boys But…”

The first openly Nigerian queer I met was a breath of new air, finding out I wasn’t alone was the most exhilarating moment of my life. He was an older man, I was underage, naive but very inquisitive. I was in 200level in the university and he sort of took advantage of me by sweet-talking me on how much he liked me and proposing a relationship, just to get my guard down. We started having sex, the first time, I felt very guilty, dirty, and in pain but I wanted more. My body finally got what it wanted but it wasn’t enough. Even though I met the wrong person, I met someone who made my feelings make sense. With time I met more people and found dating sites, I started to learn what exactly I liked and what I didn’t.

coming out as gay in Nigeria

I learned more from people than from any books. I learned about hate from homophobes. I learned about religion. I saw the perspective of religion from religious people. I learned that parents love their children unconditionally: except when they are queer. I learned history and found people that were erased from it. Experience built me.

Read: My Crooked Smile Experience as a Lesbian in Nigeria

I wouldn’t say I’m out yet. I don’t know what exactly to call mine but I never deny it when the conversation around my sexuality comes up. If I’m not comfortable telling you about my sexuality, I don’t speak about it. For instance, I don’t see myself ever coming out to my parents, until the day they have the courage to have the conversation with me. They make side-talks and remarks about why I do certain things, behave a certain way or have certain kinds of friends but I don’t think these are comfortable grounds to start a conversation about my sexuality. 

cisgender Identity nigerian queer

For my friends, let’s just say I make conscious efforts to keep only non-heterosexual people as friends. The likelihood of me remaining friends with you if you don’t know my sexuality and you are a cisgender (man especially) is very slim. I’m not saying queer people are the best friends to have, I’m saying they are the safer and more rational friends to have. It’s easier to relate when I speak about myself and we learn from each other. Per marriage, I really do not have marriage plans. I don’t think it’s for me. Co- habilitation, definitely. I would want to spend my life staying with the people I love.

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Nobody has an opinion about my sexuality. If I accept you into my space, it’s left for you to come to terms with my sexuality or leave. This is why I have never really been close to my parents because I feel they don’t know enough about me (as parents). I can’t live in the same space with them and still have to hide, especially at the level of growth I am now at. Till they are ready, things will remain this way.

queer parenting in africa
Source- Best Life

THE CRIPPLING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION ACT (SSMPA)

On a surface level, you may never be able to phantom the cruelty of the SSMPA, especially when you are a non-queer person. But when you consider minorities that are queer, you can at least imagine a fraction of how inhumane life feels like for them (except you own no soul). For instance, a poor fat disabled Muslim queer woman, struggling to survive already as a minority, and the death of all, having a law criminalizing you.

For the average queer person, if your social status protects you from the government, its citizens will use the law as an opportunity to harm you. A part of you is constantly being erased because “the law says…”. Constantly living in fear every day, at every gathering or meeting you are with queer people because you can be arrested, harassed, tortured, or killed with the backing of the law. And then the general overview; the law criminalizes queer marriage and anyone associated with them. Under Islamic or sharia law, it holds a death sentence.

LGBTQ Nigerian queer
Source- NBC news

How cruel…in Bauchi State, a law enforcer pretended to be a gay man to gain access into a meeting held for gay men on HIV/AIDS and its risks and how to have safe sex. He got the names of the people at the event, then arrested one person, used the person to arrest someone else and another and this went on. He would call them for a meeting, arrest them, take them to the police station, beat them up repeatedly and brutally until they finally got 168 names of supposedly gay people. The fact that they could use the phones of someone to contact others; an act that is illegal just shows how much that law validates the brutalization and harassment of queer people. It also shows how it shields younger queer people from learning more about their sexuality and navigating sex and other hurdles in relationships or life in general.

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Do you know what is worrying? The fact that before the law was passed, nobody was coming out proudly to say they are gay and getting accolades. No queer person ever protested marriage. Gay people were already getting beaten, disowned, and killed, so what exactly was the use of the law? It’s sad when you realize it was for political reasons. People’s lives were further endangered for political reasons.

SSMPA Nigerian queer
Source- Huff Post

It’s a wonder that queer people are still fighting and being vocal about being treated like animals with all these really scary circumstances. How bad can it get? As a Nigerian, you cannot exhibit any human right and as a Nigerian queer, you aren’t even recognized enough as human to start with. Nigerian queers are like catmint flowers, so beautiful with enough resistance to survive amongst weed and other harsh conditions. The growth is amazing. I feel so proud to be born in this generation and envy the coming generation. Vocal, and persistent. These are the features you start to grow after overcoming fear. I love it!

 

 YOU’RE ENOUGH!

I would love to round this up by telling young queer people that they are doing enough. Just existing is enough. Accepting yourself is enough. Resisting online with an anonymous account is enough. Navigate your sexuality however you like and with any kind of safety, you can think of, as long as it doesn’t ruin someone else’s life. Make mistakes and get up with your shoulder up because society has not given you enough room to get it right. Remember, the only people that can understand how you feel, are people like you. Queer people. LGBTQI+ people.

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Nigerian queer
Source- Futurelearn

Now I’ll love to ask some questions; to the queers who’ve come out, what other advice would you give to a young Nigerian queer trying to find his/her path in a country whose laws are structured against the LGBTQ community? To the straight folks, in all sincerity, the majority of you make it difficult for us to breathe, what are you willing to do differently as regards the LGBTQ laws in Nigeria? Do you think its fair and should be upheld? I’ll like to know your stand. Lastly, If you’re a queer, or unsure about your sexuality, identify in the comment section, share a bit about you. I’d love to read all of it. It’s pride month! a time of self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility. Stab the shame and embrace the glory in your sexuality. Leave me your comments below, this should be an enlightening conversation. 😄👇👇

 

 

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muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago

For some reason I can’t place it, I consider this my favourite story on here yet! I didn’t need to do much for Nonso to be vulnerable in telling, I didn’t need to revamp much either. It had the right ingredients to run. Possibly these are the reasons why I love this story. Let’s talk Mutterers! Every sexuality is welcomed on this topic, I’ll love to read all your opinions about LGBTQ in Nigeria, down to the tiniest unit in society, Family!

Do not without your thoughts, also remember to keep it sincere 😄. Leggo!!  Keep the comments coming!! 😁👇

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Ezeugo 1
Ezeugo 1
8 days ago

Hmm. To be honest I can’t pretend to like queer people. Everything about what they stand for disgust me. Cause I can’t fathom how one would develop sexual affection for the same sex. I still believe that’s unatural. But then again I’m against the inhumane treatment they get. The imprisonment and the torture. If you’re queer just stay away from me. I don’t want to be friends with you. But I’ll alow you live and do your thing. If you’re my boss or business associate by chance, I’ll just endure till the the business is over. We still have bad… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Ezeugo 1

Sincere much! I understand how you feel especially the experience from your university lol. At least you’re not advocating complete eradication which appears fair. To an extent, I believe the LGBTQ community in Nigeria is organised just small in number to win any war.

Journey
Journey
8 days ago

I feel too emotional especially at this “parents love their children unconditionally: except when they are queer”, this is my story too. I’m a hiding lesbian. I started hiding because of the bullying I got from my family. At the age of 19, I was circumcised, my parents took the advise of traditionalist, to remove the lesbian urge.  I was caught kissing my little female cousin, I’m wrong to have done so but I needed to understand what I was feeling and she was my only choice. I’ve always behaved like a tomboy from birth but since circumcision, I’m consciously… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Journey

Hmmmm not sure how to feel about this, but tbh circumcision is too extreme. I can only imagine the pain you went through. But taking advantage of your little cousin too was bad, who knows, she might suffer a trauma. It makes me reckon with the fact that people hate older queers because they take advantage and can be really unbearable with their advances. Not your judge, but I hope you don’t do that again to those around you.

Like you said, hopefully you’ll be free someday. Glad this speaks!

Journey
Journey
8 days ago

Yes I regret it and picked the lesson

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Journey

👌🏿👌🏿

Dangem
Dangem
8 days ago

I had to go read about the origin of homosexuality in humans because of this story and i found out that its a long thing. I am indifferent about the queer community. For me, i treat every human as same but i think the main problem the queer community has is not even about the straight community. For jobs, political positions, connections and all, most people deny their sexuality just so they can get these things mentioned above. And when they get what they want, they don’t use those opportunities to fight for their kind. Yes, religion has made your… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Dangem

About a queer getting to the top and not fighting for rights, in my opinion, it has more to do with shame and avoiding being persecuted by the law. Its a deadly sin over here.

Tbh, queer groups are trying in terms of connection. I see the push on Twitter and some other groups on IG, it’s just that the greater number are hiding while only a few fighting.

Yeah yeah! The advances can be unbearable, it goes to show the level of good orientation that might be lacking.

Thank you Dangem👌🏿

Dangem
Dangem
8 days ago

So if there is the fear of being persecuted and jailed, then i think its safe to stay low till you find your saviour. And not make people feel bad for not accepting who you are. Words are not enough to express these things but by actions. The queer peeps should act like normal people too. There are men that act like women but they are straight. Don’t start a war that you dont have the facilities for. Also, if the queer peeps know that they don’t want women as companions, dont get married to them just to hide face.… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Dangem
muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Dangem

Hahahaha, you speak of saviour like a certain Jesus Christ is coming 😂😂

I feel you! I think it’s unfair to get married to a woman or man to save face. So devastating actually cause it puts both parties in an emotional turmoil. How do you begin to tell people you got divorced or your marriage ain’t working cause your partner played the make-believe of being straight? Whew!

Dangem
Dangem
8 days ago

Abi na…

Bubu
Bubu
8 days ago

I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be Queer in Nigeria… A country where citizens have basically no human rights, the constant living in fear, the hatred and judgment all because of your sexuality. I wasn’t comfortable when Nonso kept repeating “the only people that can understand how you feel, are people like you. Queer people” because I feel they don’t give straight people (those who are interested to know more about them & their struggles) an opportunity to understand and get to know them, but with the hatred and plotting they go through, I really don’t blame them.… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Bubu

Yeah about not letting straight people in, that’s because they’re not psychic enough to know who is homophobic or accepting lol.

Getting educated is the first step because you’ll be surprised, someone close to you might be in hiding. Keeping an open mind will help you stomach whatever. Thank you.

Hifemi
Hifemi
8 days ago

Being Nigerian already is hard then put in being queer its totally unsafe. I remember I used to wear trousers a lot and preferred barbing my hair and didn’t have female friends but my mum forced me to wear skirts only for close to 10years. Now I am older and she has to accept I am a girl who loves dressing like a girl and boy. The topic of my sexuality would be discussed when I am independent. I think its the straight people who need to be more accepting of diversity and stop rejecting it as abnormal because obviously… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Hifemi

Ouch! Yeah I do not support the name calling and disdain meted, even animals don’t go through some of the harsh punishments. Don’t be depressed or contemplate suicide please, hopefully you find your independence 😁

Ucha
Ucha
8 days ago

You’ll be shocked to discover that some of these so-call homophobes are closeted Gay Men. They hate and pick on those who are out because they can easily express themselves and their sexuality in any way or form they please to, which is something these so-called homophones dream to. I’m a cis woman and I can’t imagine someone trying to imprison or kill me because I love men, the same way it doesn’t make sense should be applied to others who have decided to love whoever and however. There’s this series I’m watching on Netflix “Pose” (although it’s mostly about… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Ucha

Awwww your comment is so bliss. Your first paragraph reminds me of the character Adam in the series Sex Education who constantly bullies Eric for being gay only to discover later that Adam is gay too. This depicts the society we find ourselves, pretence with too much dirty linen in the closet.

Swears mehn, taking queers down six feet will be done without questions because of how irritating many find it. Justice wouldnt be obtained either. Safer to breathe on the low. Meanwhile I should watch Pose too. Thanks!

Hifemi
Hifemi
8 days ago

Your story really touched me. I remember I used to insult a fem guy in my school then. I wish I could see him now and apologise. I hid my sexuality behind my hate. Sorry about your experience

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Hifemi

Glad you know better now, I also learned this too😄. Now when I see effeminate folks, I don’t make them feel an iota of discomfort.

Tunde
Tunde
8 days ago

I still feel this act is unnatural but I really have no problem with the queer community. I belive we should all live and let live.
If your straight, you should be allowed to.be straight in peace. If you are queer, they should be afforded the same treatment. Not so hard to do TBH.

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Tunde

I understand where you’re coming from saying it’s unnatural, your mindset cannot absolve it which is okay. There are some things I don’t believe in no matter how much they’re preached, this shouldn’t be an exception.

Dave
Dave
13 hours ago

I’m not a fan of the LGBTQ+ community truth be told. It’s unnatural to me and I don’t believe it either no matter how hard it’s preached. Where does it end? I read somewhere the UN recognizes about 77 different genders! A man born a male says he’s a female ‘trapped’ in a man’s body or vice versa. I feel the allowance or legitimization of LGBTQ means there is no end in sight to the validation of these groups of people. The definitions will keep expanding and changing I am also against all inhumane treatment of humans and don’t believe… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
12 hours ago
Reply to  Dave

Lol, more genders as opposed to the two you knew growing up.

Choco
Choco
8 days ago

Your story is interesting I enjoyed it likewise me I don’t think I want to get married cos I don’t know if i can stay with a guy or a girl
I’m a tomboy and I get that look a lot doesn’t even bother me cos I’m a fresh tomboy everyone trips guys and girls 😂 I’m not out tho if you think I’m a lesbian that’s on you and if you think I’m not still on you too
Let love lead !!

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Choco

Hehehehehe @ fresh Tom boy 😁. Its cool you know what you want, so you don’t trap someone’s child in confusion. Ride on 😄

Sparkle
Sparkle
8 days ago

For me the issue is you watch all this black American movies/Hollywood movies and see how cool and amazing the queer people are and how they have the best and lovely relationship with straight people, and you could really see yourself as that kind of friend too, then boom back to reality here in Nigeria Its the total opposite. They disgust you and try to force their sexuality on you, they take your act of been nice to them as a sign that you are like them or you are interested in them, forghusake can’t a girl just be nice… Read more »

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Sparkle

😂😂😂 you can’t reconcile lol. Most likely western countries depict what really goes on in their movies or a sublte gesture to shove homosexuality down our throat lol. Just guessing!

Everything in Nigeria is different 😂😂

Sparkle
Sparkle
8 days ago

😂😂😂 I swear the difference is so wide. I guess so too because the reality here in Nigeria is a far cry from what they depict in their movies or maybe its just Nigeria, maybe its because I have not met the ones from these western countries. I mean they can’t be all that bad. They must be an iota of truth in what they have shown us.

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Sparkle

Lol they can’t be all bad. Like I said, naija na gragra level lol. Meanwhile in these Western countries, there are still bad eggs, same way we have good eggs here too.

Sparkle
Sparkle
8 days ago

Yeah. Will keep an open mind and my fingers crossed till I meet the good eggs here in Nigeria

muttering minds
Admin
8 days ago
Reply to  Sparkle

👌🏿

Jay
Jay
2 days ago

Interesting comments.

muttering minds
Admin
2 days ago
Reply to  Jay

😎😎

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