Human beings have an ever expanding list of wants, these things vary from person to person and more often than not make up part of what makes us individually unique. When we come down to needs we realise how very much alike we are.
We all have core needs: food, water, air, some kind of shelter and once these things the lack of which could very quickly jeopardise our existence are met, we turn our eyes to emotional needs. Far from being pursued in order of immediate importance, many of us chase everything at once even if we don’t realize. This is why a hungry child could in one breath cry to be fed and to be held.
We are all conditioned to desire the approval of our parents and the love we hope would come with said approval. This becomes ever more pressing when a factor like the complication of human sexuality comes into the equation.
Many cisheterosexual people have pondered, even asked, “Why do you feel the need to come out? Heterosexuals don’t have to come out.”
This can be a dishonest question that ignores the reality that LGBT+ people’s whole existence is built on the foundation of the wrongness of who they know themselves, often from a very young age, to be. It can also be an honest question seeking to understand why anyone will risk possible ostracism when they can just sit and stew in their silence without making it difficult for them to be loved by their friends and loved ones.
We spoke to three LGBT+ persons who have come out to their Nigerian parents and/or friends about what inspired this decision that many even in the LGBT+ community consider a foolhardy decision.
The answers may surprise you.
Hassana* (F, 22)
I wouldn’t call it inspiration, because that presupposes it was like a light bulb moment, and you will agree with me that that is reductive of my lifetime experience of being a lesbian. I knew for a long time I would need to come out some day, I just didn’t know when that day would come.
All my life up until I came out to my Mom and siblings some 5 months ago, I’d lived with this tension in my body that never went away. Whether asleep or awake I was in constant dread of what will happen if they find out about my sexuality. There are a number of ways this could happen.
I had a girlfriend for the 3 years of senior secondary school who came to our house often during school break. They could have walked in on us during any of those visits. After we broke up just before I went to University, the both of us were shattered, either of us could have expressed that hurt in ways that outed us. I remember wanting so badly to speak to my sister about my first real heartbreak. I couldn’t.
It wasn’t a momentary decision, I just became too tired of the tension and decided to let it out so I can either properly grieve for good the loss of the love I was never assured of because I was holding back an important part of who I am, or come to know unconditional love.
As it turned out, it was neither and both. My mom assured me I am no less her child and she doesn’t love me less but she wants me to work like hell to overcome what she called, “This abomination.” My siblings, both teen girls, were shockingly understanding. Halima*, the younger one, is constantly pestering me to date again so she can have two big sisters.
So I didn’t get loathing from my mom. I got loving indifference – it is the best way I can explain it. And then there are my siblings who came through with that unconditional love.
It was worth it.
Seun* (M, 25)
They were constantly asking if I am gay from when I was 16. I am very feminine-presenting, as you can see. I kept denying it because I was afraid of the outcome. My dad is actually insane – keep me anon.
I had to finally come out because I fell in love.
It may sound cliché that I did that to myself for love, even I would have thought it cliché before I fell for the best man I had met until then – we are no longer together thanks to the storm that followed my coming out.
My mom struggled to accept that I am fully gay, I remember her asking over and over, “You must at least like some girls.”
My Dad was unequivocal, he was ‘sick to his stomach’ at the thought of me and another man naked in bed together. He threw me out because in his words, “I won’t have you under my roof so the wrath of God doesn’t find you here.”
We have since worked things out, he has resigned to the truth. My mom, bless her, on the other hand is now supportive. She will sometimes joke about when I would bring home my “male wife.”
I know, I still have work to do so she gets used to the idea of a man having a husband.
Joseph* (M, 28)
My love for my mom is what did the trick. Which is sad to think about when I remember how much she hurt after I came out to her.
I am very close to my mom in ways none of her other children is. I love her so fiercely, I always have. Yet, each time I thought about how starkly different our love for each other was before I came out, I would come up devastated because I couldn’t imagine her affection remaining the same if she finds out I am gay. My mum is a pastor.
I came out one Sunday after church – she had given a sermon to the whole church that was largely addressed to the married women and mothers. The theme was “The rise and rise of homosexuality, how to protect your husbands and children from the demon of LGBT.”
I had been tasked with designing the flier for the program, and I remember being meticulous about the proper spelling of everything. I told myself that that was my protest. It would have been enough too because that wasn’t the first time the subject will be addressed in the Church, but it was the first time she would address it. That broke something in me.
She noticed my grave countenance on the way home and joked about food saying something along the line of, “This one you are squeezing face, calm down, the rice is ready.”
I remember I blurted out “I am gay” once we were settled in the house. “I am gay, I guess I am possessed by the demon you preached about.”
This was 4 years ago, and we still haven’t fully recovered, but we are building day by day.
She replied my, “I love you,” farewell in a call last week with, “Me too.” That is huge.
*All names have been changed for anonymity