From a young, tender, innocent age, I always knew that I was different in ways that I couldn’t explain to myself, let alone to anybody else – I know it is a cliché or whatever, but trust me when I say some of us, at least those that pay attention to their bodies, know what I am talking about.
We lived in Ondo State (Nigeria) and my father’s cousin, Matthew was staying with us. He was in High School and hanging around him for comfort and security made things better for me (my oldest sister was always taking advantage and bullying me, till I was taller than her of course!). While I hung around him for those things, he also had this fondness for me and I am not talking about tickling me or taking interest in me learning ABC. His fondness was in terms of me touching his genitals and vice versa. During those times – which didn’t last, because we moved to Akure – I never once thought I was abused for the simple fact that I enjoyed him touching me and since my dad and mum weren’t around as much, this was my toy; sure I had Transformers and all those stuff, but this was human with tender feelings with little abrasive twist to it.
When we moved to Akure, the boys (I had two brothers until 1985, when it became 3) and the girls (two sisters until 1990, when it became 3) had their own room, so there was separation and room for exploration. I continued to explore my sexuality and what it meant to like and seek the affection of men, instead of women. I just didn’t feel that much for women at all, even when my older female cousin enticed me and had sex with me; I just didn’t feel anything. I did play soccer, just to be close to the boys and be one of them. While I didn’t like the fact that I was chubby and insecure, some of my parents’ male friends enjoyed playing with me. Our culture, as a matter of fact welcomed older men playing around with young boys, because it is seen as being a man; not a ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ or ‘homo’ (if they only knew!). I had male friends as well, but they would tease me about my weight, never about being “ugly”, except the girls for the most part.
Our family bodyguard, Segun, made everything even better for me, by not only touching me, but also kissing me and caressing me when I was alone outside with him. This went on I believe, from 1988 Sept to 1989 December; when I went off to Secondary school, and he went on to another job. Segun made me feel special and actually liked me amongst all my siblings, and I also believe that he was bisexual because he got hard around me and the female helps that we had. I never got jealous of him hanging out with other men or women, because I knew he was mine during the afternoon, nights, mid-term breaks, etc. Even as we speak, I can honestly say he made me realize – at least to a point – that I was a nice, sweet, handsome person and that, I should never forget it; even though my dad always found someway to degrade me and would many occasions compare me to my oldest sister and to his friends’ male children.
High school wasn’t the greatest at all. I did all I could do to mask my sadness; needing to be masculine like the boys in school, and getting rejection from girls was an all time high for me. I got used to the rejection from these girls that I didn’t care anymore about what they said or didn’t say about me; from being ugly, to annoying, to being a pain in the ass, to crazy (funny thing is most of these girls are anything but beautiful – trust me, Facebook is now great for the sole purpose of seeing these so-called “popular” girls and boys from school). It was in boarding school (some of you men are familiar with this) that I had my non-penetrating sexual experience and relationship, but that’s a story for another day!
I enjoyed 80% of High school, particularly the second school I transferred to because we had pure fun, some adulterated and homosexual acts went on, but was never discussed with anybody at all (boys boarding house code). I was comfortable enough to know that I was into men and still believed that if I tried a little bit harder, I will eventually be attracted to women in long run; just as “God wanted and needed it to be”. I put that in quotes because they were things that were installed into my cranium about how homosexuality was bad and not God’s work. My dad was even saying that I acted too soft and that people will think that I was a sissy. He also said that I was hanging around women too much, and that it needed to stop for the most part.
I came to the USA in 1995 when I was 16, it was total liberation for me because I was far away from home and I could further explore my sexuality. The gay scene was far more normal, accepting, and endorsing than Nigeria or Africa period. I went to a prominent black school, where although it existed, it was most of the time not spoken about. It was also a time when Internet sites for meeting men was new to me from Collegeclub to BlackPlanet to Go.com to WB.com. I mean it was like ‘wow’ for me, because I could talk to men that actually admitted that they loved men or liked men or both, but I couldn’t do that and had to sneak around to meet them, because I lived with my siblings – AGAIN!
I started meeting some men – my age and older – and began to realize there was more to being gay and self-accepting; frankly, I was just looking to see where this took me and if it was all a dream or a phase or both. Some of my sisters’ friends were already speculating about me and how I was soft, kind and sweet…. and also the fact that I didn’t have swagger. In return, my sisters started telling me to act like a man and have swagger like every other guy – if they only knew how many times I tried that out!.
I made a friend from my college age who was out and proud about who he was and didn’t care what anybody thought. Through him I saw that he lived a life without secrets, particularly pertaining to his sexuality – while I couldn’t, for the fear of rejection and being disowned by my family. We were going out to clubs and having sexual encounters – more him than me, because I got rejected – not by women this time, but by men…like wow!
As time went by and through reading books, I started to comprehend that most gay men like slim guys and I was the total opposite – I was 5’10 and weighed 200 pounds, so I lied that I was 6’0 and went on a crash diet at some point, bringing me down to 180 for my fabricated height. The rejection didn’t stop there and it even made finding myself harder than before. I started believing that being gay was bad and not my life at all. I rejected a few love interests, older men that is, because I was not comfortable with myself and didn’t want to be Out to the world like that.
If I did meet with nice people, they were HIV positive and bitter, or having unprotected sex or both, which I clearly didn’t like back then and now.
As time went on and I moved out on my own, I dove into praying every time to make this thing go away because it was affecting my life. Anything bad that happened to me I equated to being gay or living this “lifestyle” and would pray so much more, that I became careful to act or do bad; but E. Lynn Harris’s books (God bless his soul) started melting the ice away. I started reading his books and understanding that being gay is not our own making and that it really can’t be changed; I also started reading articles about how other gay people struggled with their sexuality, and how some gave up via suicide or came out to live a free life. I was depressed as well, because I felt trapped and restricted (I forgot to mention that I was raised in a Muslim home; I come from a very prominent family in Nigeria; and my dad and mum are Chiefs in the Muslim community).
At my current job, some people saw right through me that I was anything, but straight; at the time that I started the job, my now lovable boss couldn’t stand me at all, mostly my fault – another story for another time! Three people in particular made sure they spoke about gay people in a degrading way (one of them was indignant, mainly because she wanted and needed me to be myself and saw me as a liar, and the other was a closet case). Like my former self, he can’t and won’t say he is gay; because he is from Jamaica and his uncles have threatened to disown or harm anyone that acted gay or was gay.
This whole taunting thing went on for about a year or more before initiating therapy sessions to talk about my feelings and how I want and need to deal with them before they eat me alive. The advice I got was to live my life and that if indeed it was not a phase, why try to fight it all the time. I started out with being a bisexual for a while, but my co-worker told me that she waited for me to realize that I was not bisexual, but gay to the fullest. She also said that “though it maybe hard to be gay (yeah it is, but you just have to make sure it is not what you base your goals and life on everyday), it is important to note that everybody is not gonna be straight and vice versa”. She also mentioned that I should care about my life and not everybody else’s, even my parents and siblings because at the end of the day, it is my life!
Moving forward, I began expressing myself by talking flagrantly about how handsome a man is without trepidation of what people might say or do; I began talking about my boyfriend slowly to people who wanted to listen or chat with me. I began by telling my siblings and my mother about me (I believe my mother knew, but was always wishing that I found a girl to marry and settle down with. She doesn’t believe in being gay or adopting kids or both; amongst others things).
I made the huge step of walking in GAY Pride 2012, where I was in the magazine and everybody saw me, including my boss and my co workers. The rumors and taunting died down almost immediately; because my director is gay; HR Head is gay; the attorney general counsel is gay; and there are other gay people in my organization, so homophobia was not prominent.
I have actually now accepted the fact that I am a gay Nigerian American (just became a citizen) and there’s absolutely nothing I can and will do about it. I guess I was just afraid of the shit storm that comes with it, but what in this world doesn’t have some form of shit storm attached to it?!
Khalil © (2012)