“Why are you gay?”
That is a popular question that informed a meme that originated in Uganda. A curious interviewer – whether genuinely or not, asked a question whose inherently willful ignorance had young people across the country and the world rolling with laughter even years later. That interview ended with LGBT+ rights human rights activist Pepe Julian Onziema, the subject of that question, walking out after having endured listening to both interviewer and anti-gay rights pastor Martin SSempa endlessly dismiss and question his existence. The question however did not die with the birth of that enduring meme.
Every now and again grown adults with adult problems like taxes, bills and chores ponder the question “why are you gay?” as if life itself isn’t enough senseless drudgery. For some, it is sheer curiosity – seeking to know why anyone will ‘choose’ to be something they can’t wrap their heads around. For many, it is plain bafflement that anyone will ‘choose’ to be something they, try as they may, can’t begin to fathom. For many yet, especially as it pertains to homosexual women – lesbians, it is a fetish that seeks to finger this peculiar existence for fault lines that can allow for an ‘I told you so’ moment that advances the narrative that all lesbians lack is a magic penis to reset them to the heterosexual default sexuality many assume is the only way that makes sense.
This ageless, if tiresome, pondering is what inspired Twitter user @SomtoSocial to question, in a now-deleted tweet, the sexuality of what even his tweet acknowledge are bisexual women. Sharing how he slept in a room with two women who happen to be bisexual, every one of whom was inebriated, he revealed with glee how both women ditched their lesbianism at the sight of ‘big penis’. It is no matter however many times people like him are reminded that bisexuals are bisexuals and lesbians are lesbians, but a reminder if only for a record for posterity, is never too much to have. The following is crash-course on sexuality for those genuinely curious to learn.
Sexuality is not about who you have sex with, or how often you have it. Sexuality is about your sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviours towards other people. You can find other people physically, sexually or emotionally attractive, and all those things are a part of your sexuality.
For starters, human sexuality is diverse and personal, and it is an important part of who a person is. Discovering one’s sexuality can be a very liberating, exciting and positive experience. Any LGBT+ person will tell you that for free, but what does it mean to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or whatever else sexual or gender group one identifies as?
Heterosexual and homosexual
Most people are attracted to the opposite sex – boys who like girls, and women who like men, for instance. These people are called heterosexual, or ‘straight’.
Some people on the other hand are attracted to the same sex. These people are homosexual. Around 10 per cent of the population experience same-sex attraction.
‘Lesbian’ is the common term for people who identify as women and are same-sex attracted. ‘Gay’ is the most common term for people who identify as men and are same-sex attracted, although women identifying as lesbian also sometimes use this word.
Sexuality is more complicated than being straight or gay, however.
Some people are attracted to both men and women, and are known as bisexual.
Bisexual does not mean the attraction is evenly weighted – a person may have stronger feelings for one gender than another. And this can vary depending on who they meet.
There are different kinds of bisexuality. Some people who are attracted to men and women still consider themselves to be mainly straight or gay. They might have sexual feelings towards both genders but only have intercourse with one.
Other people see sexual attraction as more grey than black and white. These people find everyday labels too rigid. Some of these prefer to identify as ‘queer’. And others use the term ‘pan’, or ‘pansexual’, to show they are attracted to different kinds of people no matter what their gender, identity or expression.
There are many differences between individuals, so bisexuality is a general term, only that it doesn’t preclude anyone regardless of the degree of their attraction to one or the other gender.
A person who identifies as asexual (‘ace’ for short) is someone who does not experience, or experiences very little, sexual attraction.
Asexuality is not a choice, like abstinence (where someone chooses not to have sex with anyone, whether they are attracted to them or not). Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like homosexuality or heterosexuality.
Some people may strongly identify with being asexual, except for a few infrequent experiences of sexual attraction (grey-asexuality). Some people feel sexual attraction only after they develop a strong emotional bond with someone (this is known as demisexuality). Other people experience asexuality in a range of other ways.
These definitions are as universal as the air we breathe. Hopefully, they help clear some of the persisting confusion that seems to bedevil Nigerians, straight as well as gay.