Being different as a child was one of my earliest inductions to how uncomfortable being anything other than societal expectation makes people. I was bullied for playing with the boys instead of my fellow girls, looked at with disgust for walking like a guy, labelled for preferring my brother’s clothes to that of my sisters, for preferring to do carpentry with my father instead of helping my mother sell her goods like my sisters does, I didn’t even know I liked women at the time and when I found out about my sexuality at age 7 I was truly bothered. I prayed and fasted, hoping to wish away my feelings for Ozioma, my classmate but that feeling never went away. I also didn’t tell her how I felt about her because I didn’t want the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to befall me like my Sunday school teacher emphasised. When the feeling refused to go away I resorted to isolation and self hate, I was sure something was wrong with me, that I was bound for damnation and every Sunday when I listened to similar sermons in church I buried myself further in self-shame and fear.


My self-hate made me hide, I stayed away from crowds as much as possible because I was afraid that when they look hard enough or come too close they will figure out what I had to hide and would not want to associate with me anymore so isolation became my hiding place. I only felt safe in my own company.


My isolation was again blown when my twin sister announced her first boyfriend at 16, not only was she living the ideal life but dating the son of the “perfect” family in the neighbourhood was the goal but then there’s me, the confused twin who was caught in the middle of neither being an ideal female or male, trying to figure things out and find a path that fits how I feel in my head. From that point I knew I didn’t belong where I was and needed to change environment but that was seemed almost impossible.


My sister and I finally left home for the university and I couldn’t contain my joy for the first few months, I was just happy to finally exist, in an environment where people see me for who I am regardless of how I dress, walk and present. I met girls who wanted to be friends with me disregarding how their closeness with me would be perceived by people and for the first time in my life I felt seen. Gradually, I became my best self and it showed in everything around me, even my parents noticed during the first semester holidays. My father teased me at how happy I was to leave home.


I met Gina, a free-spirited beauty who became my light into the path I had searched for all my life and with her school became even more eventful. We became inseparable on campus and two month later we decided to combine our accommodation allowances to rent a place. It was all good and jolly. It was my first time living away from family and boy did I have a swell time?


But it didn’t last as we began to notice some neighbours being a certain way towards us when we walked by, some shop owners would not sell to us and the only source of water would refuse to answer us when we go to buy water when we go ourselves so we resorted to paying Aboki for water, it was the Aboki who told us the neighbours are unhappy with us because according to him we are soiling their neighbourhood with our abomination. Upon further enquiries from our only neighbour who is friendly with us we learnt that our next door neighbour have been spreading the news of hearing us having sex times without number.


We reported to the nearest police station but that yielded no fruit, we were told there was no established threat to our lives but they were wrong. We woke up on a Saturday morning with every entrance to our self-contained accommodation being burgled, if it wasn’t daybreak I would say we were being robbed but we weren’t.


Gina and I were still in bed, with Gina in my arms when our windows and door were forcefully kicked open and a reddened eye looking us dead in the face with a threat to remain in the position we were in. I was naked and Gina with just a sleep top and we didn’t even get the chance to get something decent to wear. Gina, in her confusion didn’t stop asking me what was going on to which I had no answer. In a jiffy, we were surrounded by an angry mob wielding killer weapons, pictures flickering and voices echoing from outside to bring us outside. I felt a strong grip on my under-arm before long Gina and I was inexplicably flung out of our room into the midst of an angry crowd, women, men, youths and children alike, all looking at us in disgust, all taking at the same time and that was the last thing I remember.


I woke up the next day in a hospital, with my sister and Mom sitting inches away from me, my Mom was too buried in her bible to notice when my eyes fell on her.  I can correctly guess my mother have been praying but I got startled again when my sister dashed out of the room and her speed walk broke into a run, I jumped out of the bed to join her but my mother held me down. “Calm down, she’s going to get the nurse” she said calmly and with that I collapsed back into the bed to the reality of the pains I felt all over my body and immediately the memories of what happened and where I was dawned on me.


While the nurse checked my heartbeat and eyes I saw my sister crying and I knew something bad had happened. Gina!!!!! “Where is Gina?” I asked my sister and her sniff broke into a proper cry.


Gina didn’t make it, she sustained so much injury and died on the way to the hospital, we were saved from the mob by the Priest of the Catholic Church two compounds away from our house and according to my sister police is currently raiding our neighbourhood, arresting all and sundry.


I left the hospital after a week and spent the next torturous month at home to recover. My mother seized every moment to remind me how much of a disgrace I was to the family. “Do you not see your sister?!!!” “Why can’t you just be like her and save us this whole stress?!!!”, “Are you not worried about damnation?!!!”


I didn’t think I would survive my days at home, dealing with my father’s silent treatments, my mother’s constant nagging and losing the first person I have ever loved to unwarranted violence. I was dying silently in depression and grief, and even though I had never been happy at home I just wanted to die so we can all rest from the discomfort I bring to people around me.


I had to pretend to be better than I felt so I could be allowed to go back to school; little did I know I had been expelled while in the hospital. I got a hold of my phone after two months and realized my pictures and videos of our assault were all over social media and according to my sister, they trended and made headlines for weeks. “Lesbian Couple found caught red handed” “Two female Lovers caught in abominable position” “Lesbians Found In Compromising Position” “Community resist evil by killing Lesbians found in bed with each other” were some of the headlines I found online with bloody pictures of Gina and I lying in the pool of our own bloods.


I reached out to a couple of my queer friends in school and before long we found a way to meet, I was still in pain but I made it to every meet we scheduled. Then we decided to do a documentary of what had happened, telling our own sides of the story, only Gina wasn’t here to tell her side to I made sure to tell the story well enough for the both of us. I didn’t think I would get the amount of love and support I got from within the community. They came through for me.


Three organisations sponsored my documentary and before long I became the global face of Homophobia in Nigeria and Africa, within a year I was speaking in conferences and delivering speeches in different countries. My stories stirred tears and broke hearts in any room I shared it.


I was inspired to start an organisation that helps lost LGBTQI+ youths find themselves and find purpose despite what the society think of them. GINAH (of course, named after my late lover) provides a home for young LGBTQI+ folks who have nowhere else to go, provide legal services in cases of violations, psycho-social and economic supports and empowerment to ensure people like me don’t stay in uncomfortable environment just because they have nowhere else to turn to and it feels like the perfect way to protect people from being where I have been and ensure no one else has to die the way Gina did.

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