Sunday, 4 April 2010

Out of the closet..

I always knew that I was not going to remain in the closet forever. Indeed, as I reached adulthood and became even more comfortable with myself, I itched restlessly to communicate my inner sexual feelings to those around me.

The ideal situation would be if everybody, everywhere, was open-minded enough to understand that human sexuality is a bit more complicated than many assume it is. In those circumstances, being gay would be normal; heterosexual people would not feel threatened by homosexuality and gay and lesbian people could live happily, participating openly in the world around them. But unfortunately, that utopia remains firmly remote and exotic, nothing more than an imaginary Shangri-la. And especially so when viewed in the context of the African society where I found myself in my younger years. But my life is not imaginary, neither is my sexuality.

The reality is that regardless of the intolerance that Africa's homosexuals have to contend with, there are homosexual men and women in African societies, whether or not our societies acknowledge this fact and/or accept it. Expressing disgust and treating confirmed homosexual people with contempt is not synchronous with eliminating homosexuality. Indeed, to eradicate homosexuality is impossible, since homosexuality is just a naturally occurring variation of the expression of sexual feelings that are intrinsic to the nature of us all as human beings.

It is a fact that denying homosexual people the right to live their lives as they ought to is detrimental to society itself. The mental health of some homosexual people is affected, with a concomitant negative effect on their productive capacity as members of the community. Their specific health needs are ignored, whereas in truth, the majority of homosexual African men are involved in heterosexual relationships, mostly in an attempt to conform with society's expectations. And the involvement in heterosexual relationships by homosexual men of necessity implies that their specific health needs are quite more important that many African governments are willing to acknowledge.

I will try to elucidate as best as I can what I perceive to be the misjudgement of homosexual people by the majority of Africans. These are mistakes that are often made when people in Africa respond to calls for recognition by homosexual Africans:
  • Firstly, homosexuality is not a 'lifestyle'.
  • Secondly, gay people do not choose their sexuality.
  • Homosexuality is not a 'practice'.
  • Homosexuality in males is not equivalent to the physical act of penetrative anal sexual intercourse.
  • Homosexuality is a part of human sexuality. It is not a commodity capable of being transported across international borders.
The word "lifestyle" is defined here as: "the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group".

I shall use the following illustration to clarify my point:

Let us think about the 'habits', 'tastes', 'moral standards' and 'economic status' of a gay African man, who is well educated, probably holding a post-graduate degree, the Director of a successful international business conglomerate with offices in an African capital city, who lives primarily in Africa, but who for pleasure and in his line of work is privileged to enjoy foreign travel; who is in a monogamous long-term relationship with his male partner (albeit this must remain a closely guarded secret).

Let us then imagine what might be the tastes, habits, moral standards and economic circumstances of a lorry driver who prefers to have sex with men; but who being the oldest among his siblings, is "expected to carry on the family name". So he is married to a woman, who he conveniently leaves at home while he goes on his long lorry driving trips from city to city, availing himself of the relative freedom and opportunity that his job offers to liaise with various men in various locations. Some of the men he meets are male sex workers. (There are places where men can meet other men in many African cities, despite the hostility that surrounds them).

These are just two hypothetical, but realistic, examples of possible circumstances of gay men in Africa. It is possible to describe numerous other scenarios, but the point being made here is that in no way can the lifestyles of these two individuals described above be said to be similar. Indeed, the respective lifestyles of the two men could hardly be more unalike. Yet they are both gay, both African and both living in Africa.

I am quick to tell people I meet in African chat rooms on the Internet that I am a gay man. It is anonymous in the chat room, so no one feels threatened, and I like to watch for a reaction to this 'news'. Some would just shrug it off and move on. However, an unsurprisingly large number would make an odious remark at first, but some would then become interested to chat with me, seeking to know how a gay person feels. But not without first asking the question, "So when did you become gay? Or something like, "So why did you choose to be gay?" Well, the simple answer to both questions is, "I didn't!"

I did not become gay at any time. I still have not heard a heterosexual person tell me WHEN he or she became straight, or WHY they chose to become straight. You did not become straight, because you have always been straight. You did not choose to be heterosexual. You just found that you are. The same applies to me. I don't understand why some people find it difficult to grasp the notion that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. Is it not preposterous that I would make the deliberate choice to be gay, being fully aware of the attitude towards same-sex love in the society that I grew up in?

They argue that when I love a man, it is against Nature. But I put this down to the arrogance of mankind. Who are we as humans to question Mother Nature, speak for her, or dictate to her? It is my nature to love a man. Don't ask me why, ask Mother Nature the question.

(I will continue with this post later. I'm reticent to make it overly lengthy) See Part 2 here.

10 comments:

Akin said...

Anengiyefa,

It makes me wonder what I am doing in my own closet too.

If only people really knew that it was never a matter of choices because there is no doubt one would have chosen differently.

A blog is in incubation.

Thanks for this.

With deep love,

Akin

Anengiyefa said...

Hello Akin,

Thanks too. There have to be those like us who are able to speak up and challenge what is so obviously unjust. I don't intend to quietly bow out of the stage that is this life, without having said my piece.

Looking forward to that blog of yours. Love.

Peter Leeson said...

I tried so hard to stay in my closet but it was rotting me from the inside. Coming out to my wife and children was a challenge, even if I can say that I remained faithful to them and never lived any lifestyle other than heterosexual, middle-class, boring, family man.
Coming out of my closet has not really changed my lifestyle, but has freed me to be open and honest.
The only choice we are given is whether we want to live a lie or be true to whom we are.

Anengiyefa said...

Hello Peter,

I totally agree. We've only got the one chance to live life, and we deserve to live it honestly and freely.

THERishouldbeAPY said...

(Speaking from and firmly planted in my closet): I truly admire anyone who has the courage to come out and be proud of being queer. I don't know if I will ever know such freedom... I am VERY afraid of what my family and friends will think and most of all, I fear they might all turn their backs on me and I'll be all alone, save the 4 friends who know about my orientation. I make the same arguments and points when talking about LGBT issues to my straight family and friends, but I don't know if when confronted, I would be able to defend myself as ferociously as I do others...

Thank you all for being so brave.

“Have courage. Stand up. Don't hide. Be honest...” ~Lt. Dan Choi

Waffarian said...

You are very brave. The world belongs to all of us. Everybody MUST be themselves. Thats just the way it is. I don't believe anybody has the right to even ask such questions of another human being. We are all here to live...and then we die. Surely that is hard enough? I believe the best we can do in life is to be true to ourselves. Thats all we really have at the end of the day. Everything else, is mostly....bullshit.


@Akin: Me self, I dey wonder wetin you dey do in that "imaginary closet" of yours...hehehehe...

Anengiyefa said...

Hi TisbA,

Thanks for your comment. I wouldn't have it any other way and I would rather that those who accept me, accept me knowing who I am. I wouldn't want to be accepted by those who would only accept me if they thought I was someone I am not.

Anengiyefa said...

Waffarian,

If only everyone understood this. It appears that many people think that others must conform to their own view of the world. As if for some unfathomable reason, they think that others are under an obligation, or owe some kind of duty to please them.

I think of it as people having an over-exaggerated sense of self-importance, when in reality its only a matter of time before we're all turned to dust.

Rather than focussing on living their own lives, some people are more interested in how I live mine. Well, if that's the way they want to spend their own brief time on the surface of this planet, there's little I can do to help them. I just want it made clear that I owe no explanation and no apologies to anyone for being who I am.

Anonymous said...

My dear friend,
I wish that my family would realise that my sexuality is not and has never been my choice.I have to go as far as meeting my boyfriend in another town to avoid being outed.He is out of the closet and my family know him.Its strange that they are so kind to him but yet if I came out-It would be the end of the world.

I love him so much and want to one day share a life with him,you know a commited relayionship,but how that will ever come to pass I dont know.I just wish we could be with eachother without any dilema.

He chooses to be with me even though he knows the consequences if we were ever to be caught.I am so in love with him ,want hin, to share my life with me ,but unfortunately this will never be so.
Do you have advice for me my friend?I cannot do this to him,I feel that Im wasting his time ,but I know that he is my soul mate.What do I do with regards to my homophobic,Christian and fundamental family?Your advice is so appreciated.

Kind Wishes,
IN The Closet

Anengiyefa said...

Dear Anonymous,

Welcome to this blog and thanks a lot for leaving a comment. I thought for your sake it would be better if I threw your question to everyone, so that other visitors to this blog too may be able to offer whatever advice they can. "Two heads are better than one" is a saying that comes to mind.."

I posted a new blog post today 13 June 2010. It will be on the front page of this blog. Check it. The new post is about your comment and your request for advice. I have offered a few words of advice there, but I am hoping that others too will contribute.

All in all, I wish you well and hope that sooner or later you and your boyfriend will be able to be together as you ought to be.

Kind regards


Anengiyefa