This post is a follow-on to a previous post on this blog.
One often hears and reads of people referring to homosexuality as an "act" or a "practice" and in a mildly sarcastic way, one has wondered whether in using the word "practice" they are perhaps suggesting that gay people are practising to be gay, in the same way that a football team practices in readiness for the next big match; or whether, (as I think they really mean), they refer to homosexuality as a practice because the idea of homosexuality for them revolves wholly around a single sex act. Let us get one thing straight. There is homosexuality, and then there is homosexual sex. These are two different things.
Homosexuality goes to the orientation and the disposition, to the mind and feelings of the individual. Homosexual sex on the other hand is physical sex between two (or more) persons of the same gender. And although homosexual sex acts are in many cases performed by individuals of a homosexual disposition, it is the case that even those who are not normally homosexually inclined are known to engage in homosexual sex acts in situations where the opportunity for sex with the opposite sex is absent. We have all heard stories about what goes on in prisons where men, who otherwise would have no sexual desire towards other men, engage in rampant homosexual sex with other male prisoners. These men have not become homosexuals just for the fact that they have engaged in sexual acts with other males. In actuality they are not homosexuals at all, since they would opt for sex with females rather than with males had they the option.
Given the inauspiciousness that surrounds homosexuality, it is hard for me to understand the assumption by many that gay people have somehow wilfully chosen to be gay; that they have deliberately chosen to subject themselves to all that hatefulness and resentment. I am not an expert on human sexuality and do not claim to be one, but common-sense makes it perfectly clear to me that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. And although I have no wish to pretend to be more knowledgeable than I actually am, I find it bewildering that so many others have failed to come to the same realisation.
Which brings me back to the title of this post.
Am I out of the closet? Well, I suppose this depends on what 'the closet' is. Wikipedia offers the definition for the terms 'closeted' and 'in the closet' as, "..metaphors used to describe a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person who has not disclosed his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.."
Insofar as this definition of 'the closet' is limited only to the non-disclosure of sexual orientation and insofar as this description does not include pretending not to be gay, then I will accept that perhaps for a time during my teenage years I was in the closet. The reality for me though has been that I have never really experienced any such thing as the closet. If at all there were times when I failed to disclose my sexual orientation, it was either because I did not think it was necessary to do so, or because at the time I lacked the intellectual maturity to face the possible consequences of doing so.
Looking back now I can only imagine how odd I must have seemed to my friends and peers back then, since I would hardly ever join them in talking about girls, or join them in their amorous activities. In those days, well before the advent of the Internet, it was nigh on impossible to make contact with others of a similar disposition in a place like Nigeria, especially when one was from a sheltered home as I was. But even if I did not disclose it, I never at any time pretended to be anything other than gay, being a one who thinks of any form of pretence or hypocrisy as highly repugnant.
It is true, I am now present in a country where I have no need to fear physical attack simply because of the pugnacious bellicosity of some others who might think of my sexuality as being resentfully displeasing. In this respect I suppose I have been fortunate so far, although it remains the case that the predominance of my social contact is with those of a similar ethnic and cultural background to me. But even then, I am able to pick and choose with whom I engage in social contact, unlike back in Nigeria where the socio-cultural circumstances are such that the individual has little or no control over who he must associate with.
With this in mind, perhaps I have been guilty in recent times of failing to fully appreciate the precariousness of the situation for those who are like me, but who are living in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa either by choice or of necessity. Perhaps, living away from home has caused me to become less sensitive to their vulnerability. I mean, I am able to without fear, write about my sexuality on this blog, using my real name. It is doubtless that there are those who will come across this blog and be utterly shocked. But for me it has been easy; my sexual orientation is not something that I have any reason to be ashamed of. And living in the UK as I currently do, I am protected from any unpleasant maliciously motivated acts by those who might be so inclined. Of course I'm aware of the issues concerning my reputation back at home in Nigeria, but I remain firm in my conviction that my sexual orientation is not a problem and that it is they who are homophobic, who by their homophobia are possessed of a problem that requires a solution.
A few days ago, Gayuganda (Gug) a long-standing friend of mine and a champion of the struggle for gay rights in Uganda, gave an interview to CNN on the recent exposing of gay men in that country's tabloid newspapers, which lay the men open to danger. Gug has now for years been blogging on the issue of gay rights with particular reference to Uganda, but has all along chosen to remain anonymous. Protecting his identity was sensible, given the unrivalled levels of homophobia that have been displayed in that country. In giving this interview, Gug was filmed and half of his face was broadcast to television screens right around the world, including of course Uganda, where he lives, works and is well known. It was only the lower half of his face, but it was quite easy to identify him, especially if one already knew him in person.
When I saw the interview on CNN and knowing how brave Gug has always been, my assumption was that he was aware that his anonymity was going to be blown, but that this was another brave and bold step forward in the struggle for recognition and acceptance. My thinking was that there are other gay Ugandans and indeed other gay Africans living in Africa who have openly declared their sexuality. Indeed, David Kuria a gay Kenyan gentleman is running for Senate in his country. Gug posted the CNN interview on his blog and in responding to it, I left a comment to the effect that there is only so much to be achieved if one remains anonymous, suggesting and expressing the view that coming out boldly could only be a positive thing.
However, now when I think about it I remember that, "Keeping our anonymity is the only thing that we have.." were among the words that Gug said during the interview in responding to a question and also, "I don't put my name on the blog because I don't want to be killed.."
In responding to my comment in a subsequent post on his blog, Gug pointed out that the CNN reporter had assured him that his anonymity would be intact and now that I know different, I feel some remorse. I put it down to what I was saying earlier about me in my mind possibly experiencing some disconnection from the reality of being gay in Africa, becoming less sensitive to the very real threats that gay people face on my home continent. I have expressed my apologies to Gug. Perhaps in my fervour to see change come about, I have been overly optimistic. But even then, I remain of the view that remaining in the closet indefinitely cannot be the way forward. Peace..