Among Africans generally, same sex attraction has been a myth. It has been as much the subject of whispered conversation or gossip, as it has been talked about in absolutist, loud, angry condemning tones, usually from the pulpit, but also in the media and even in social situations. There has been an overwhelming leaning towards intolerance and there appears not to have been until recently, a moderate middle ground. Outbursts of "This is an abomination!", "Our people don't do that!", "We will never accept this!", are familiar reactions. Sometimes, homosexual behaviour among Africans is blamed upon the "white man". Our continent's leaders have even publicly declared that homosexuality does not exist among Africans. Declarations such as, "There are no homosexuals in Nigeria", or "They have been corrupted by Europeans," are common.
I heard all of this as a young person growing up in Africa, while knowing that at no time in my young life had I interacted with anyone from Europe to the extent that he would have had the opportunity to impart his sexuality on me, if at all that was possible. The only Europeans I met were those who I ran into at the supermarket, or by chance at the swimming pool at a place we called 'The Club', sort of like a country club, which was a relic of the old colonial administration. The Club was originally intended to cater for the frolicking of that administration's large number of expatriates, for whom a posting to Africa was supposed to mean a life of comfort and luxury. After independence from Britain The Club remained in existence, but it was now the domain of big-wig Africans in top government positions and their expatriate friends in the private sector, more particularly the petroleum industry; expatriates who still saw Nigeria as a veritable gold mine. Then there were those Europeans who were fellow passengers on the very occasional flight in an aeroplane. As a youngster my movements were so tightly controlled and my parents so strict, that I simply had no opportunity to stray into the hands of a predatory African to be 'corrupted', much less a European. And not even if I had actually desired to be 'corrupted' and had actively sought it..(I use the term 'European' loosely, to include every person of Eurasian ancestry).
I heard these things being said and I knew they were wrong. But I had no way of pointing out to people that they could not be correct, because here I was among them, feeling same-sex attraction, having never even once been intimate with a European. This caused me sometimes to be upset and there was a strong temptation to be negative about my same-sex feelings. There are many gay men who unfortunately succumb to this temptation; self-loathing, sadly, is commonplace among gay people. But I refused to be negative. I knew categorically that I did not ask for the feelings that I had, and that I had had these feelings for as long as I had been sexually aware, which would take me back to when I was about seven years old. I was attracted to the boys more than I was attracted to the girls at school. I liked the girls too, but I liked the boys better. There was nothing to it. I was not influenced or taught, nor was I "corrupted". And I was never ashamed of it, despite all the negativity that surrounded it in the conversations that I heard. Indeed it is in being true to my feelings that I believe I have remained pure, by staying the same-gender loving man that I was intended to be. In other words, I could in fact have become "corrupted" had I sought to become a pretend-heterosexual man, while knowing deep down that this in actuality is not who I am. I am fortunate that I did not experience to a great degree that psychological and emotional turmoil many gay men go through as they progress through their teenage years into adulthood. I was always sure of who I was, but the downside was that I found myself in a very lonely place, since there were hardly any others that I knew socially who shared the same sexual feelings. And it was impossible to share these feelings with most of my peers at the time..
Over the years I have come to realise that there are many other gay Africans. We have remained hidden because our society has been firm in its intolerance towards us. But I am convinced that this intolerance is borne entirely from the lack of information concerning homosexuality among Africans. And this is where we come in, me and many others like me who through our blogs have sought to tell our story more honestly, clearly and persuasively than ever before. The result we see of this huge unprecedented amount of information about homosexuality and Africans being put into the public domain, is that among my generation of Africans and younger, there is a greater awareness of the fact that gay Africans are real flesh and blood human beings, who are entitled to live their lives happily just as everyone else. I see the beginnings of a shift in opinion, a shift that becomes apparent when we hear respected African men and women publicly voicing moderate opinions, and calling for restraint and caution when gay people have been maliciously vituperated in the media, as in Kenya and in Uganda recently. Times are changing and I am positive that this story will have a happy ending. I just hope that I am still around when that ending does come..