Now is not the time to hide our heads in shame

Ade FBDuring a visit to Nigeria in 2004, my mother told me about a massive row she had recently had with her neighbour. The row had started because the neighbour had put up some cables in front of my mother’s apartment without her permission. My mother in anger had pulled down the cables and hence this massive row  – during which they shouted and called each other names. It went on for ages. My mother said, out of nowhere the neighbour shouted “Don’t take your frustrations out on me, just because your son is a homosexual”. My mother said “that just destroyed me and I went inside and started crying”.

As I listened to my mother tell the story, I remember thinking, the neighbour had simply pointed out a fact, for I am ‘homosexual’ and that’s okay. But it was not okay in the eyes of my mother, it was something to be ashamed of and hidden.

My Sexuality - CollageEarlier this week, news broke that the Nigerian president had signed the infamous “Anti-Gay” Bill. This new piece of legislation amongst many things, “criminalizes gay marriage and civil unions, imposing punishment of up to 14 years in prison for same-sex couples who openly display their relationship”. In a country where mothers hide their heads in shame at the news that their son is gay, it is hard to imagine a situation where a ‘same-sex couple will openly display their relationship’; for to do so means shaming, ridicule and alienation.

As I reflect on the impact of this piece of legislation on many of my same-gender loving brothers and sisters in Nigeria, I find myself thinking back to what I now dub ‘My second coming out’ conversation with my mother. In 2010, during a visit to Nigeria I decided that I needed to have another ‘mum, I am gay’ talk. You see following her revelation to me about the row with the neighbour in 2004, neither of us had again raised the issue of me being gay. From time-to-time, she would ask ‘when are you going to get married’ or ‘when are you going to have children’ and I would sigh and say something along the lines ‘you know that’s not going to happen’ and I’d get in response ‘It will happen in Jesus name’.

And so I sat down with my mother late one evening and during that conversation said ‘I know you are not happy that I am gay, but I want you to know that I am happy and in a good place’. She asked whether I’d ever get married, I told her that I’d like to one day get married to a man, she said if that ever happened I must never return to Nigeria, because if I did it would mean I had no shame. She said if I got married to man, I should consider myself an orphan.

My mother passed away in July 2012, sadly we never got to a place where we saw eye to eye on the issue of my sexuality. I know for sure that she loved me, but living in a culture that constantly tells its inhabitants that ‘homosexuality is a sin, un-African and an abomination’ it is difficult to swim again the current. This new piece of Nigerian legislation simply fuels those entrenched beliefs and teaches fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, friends, colleagues and neighbours to reject, shame and report any same gender loving person that crosses their path.

After my mother’s funeral, her pastor told me that I still had a responsibility to get married, otherwise my mother was not going to rest in peace. He told me that “yes, homosexuals existed in Nigeria, but part of the culture was to still get married”. This new piece of legislation simply fuels this practice and sadly normalizes the suppression and repression of an individual’s authentic self.

So, what needs to happen for things to change? I do not think there is any quick solution – for we are dealing with entrenched beliefs here. What I do know is that it will take the voices of many to bring about radical change – even if the law is repealed, there is still the issue of attitudes that needs to be addressed.

Reflecting on my own journey, one of the things that I feel certainly needs to happen now is that more fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, friends of those who are same-gender loving need to stand up and let neighbours, colleagues and the Government know that they will not accept a piece of legislation that teaches them to hate the people that they love; for that is what this legislation does at its core –  it promotes hate, fear and disconnection. Surely we all, regardless of our sexuality, yearn to live in a world that is more loving and connected. This is not the time for heads to go in the sand, for nothing will change if the voices of those who know same-gender loving people remain silent.

@OutTales

Nigerian-LGBTI-In-Diaspora-Against-Anti-Same-Laws.-Protest-Londo-006-Copy

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. aguywithoutboxers
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 12:26:51

    An awesome post and so true, my blogging friend. You are absolutely correct in your observation that even the repeal of the ban against same gender love will change attitudes and judgments. Only when religion returns to the basic teaching of acceptance, love and tolerance will people gradually and slowly realize the absurdity of hating someone simply because of who they love. Great job! Much love and naked hugs! 🙂

    Reply

    • OutTales
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 21:56:15

      Thank you my blogging brother. I am often sad when i see people forget the essence of religion and use it instead to promote the opposite of its essential nature. I pray for the day when we all to wake up to the realisation that we are all one.. Peace xx

      Reply

  2. thecontentedcrafter
    Jan 17, 2014 @ 19:37:00

    Ridicule is the opposite of empathy and fear is the opposite of love. Both ridicule and fear are rooted in ignorance. Laws do not change who we are or what we think and feel, education can, love will.

    It is appalling that there are still so many places in the world where ignorance rules!

    The best way to change the world is to be true to who you are, to live your life as an example of how to be a good man and to love and forgive yourself and others for any wrongs done.

    I do not know you personally Ade, but through reading your posts I see a man with such a huge heart and such good intentions that you cannot help but be an impetus for change for the better.

    As a mother I am saddened that your mother was not able to freely love and accept who you are – as the child of a mother who could not love, I understand the residual pain in you. If I were your mother I know my heart would swell with pride at the person you are!

    We cannot force others to change Ade, we can only work on ourselves. My experience has been that the more I change me, the better my world gets. I am sure it is, and continues to be, the same for you.

    From the other side of the world I send solidarity and support for you!

    Reply

    • OutTales
      Jan 17, 2014 @ 22:01:38

      wow Pauline, your words have moved me to tears…. i am deeply touched by your sharing, compassion, love and wisdom – Thank You. It is really so moving to hear your words, as a mother.

      Yes, we cannot change others and we can only work on ourselves…. and so true, the more i embrace and accept myself, the more i am able to let go of how people respond to me and the better my world gets…. Much love to you.

      PS – love your art and creativity!

      Reply

  3. Nomzi Kumalo
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 08:19:54

    Oh wow, what a powerful post. Speaking as a mother, I know that your own mother is proud of you because you are true to yourself. Thank you for reminding me to be true to myself 🙂

    Reply

  4. John Adewoye
    May 30, 2014 @ 18:19:23

    Family will stand up when more and of us Nigerian LGBTI brave coming out and endure the long dialogue. At least my family seem to be at peace now. My nieces, nephews and the younger one are more understanding to my surprise.

    Reply

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