I am a pastor’s child and I am gay. I laugh out loud any time I use “Pastor’s son and gay” in the same sentence because in Nigeria it’s like saying you are white and black but I am and recently I have accepted that as my narrative.
Growing up was tough for me and the older I got the tougher it was. I started to deal with depression earlier than my mates had to and this made me recline from people and events because I thought that the more I hide the safer my secret, especially from my dad.
I recall a certain incident. I met this cute boy named James from a nearby Secondary school one evening, his school didn’t have a football field so they come to mine for their sports activities and after a while, both schools started to do sporting activities together. James was an athlete, he ran for his school’s White House and I do the same for my school, same white house. One evening after games James walked up to me to ask for water, I was thrilled he spoke to me as he didn’t look like someone who liked people very much but we became immediate friends afterwards and would be inseparable throughout sports times.
Because his school is boarding and mine day kind of made it a little difficult for us to see outside school but when we do we make it count by catching up from the last time. James’ school came to our inter-house sports. During the peak of the event, he asked that I show him my class. We walked into the empty classroom and there was nothing special to show him so we sat a bit. A few minutes later and James snuggled up to me, entangled his palms into mine and rested his head on my shoulder, I neither moved nor protested. My heart began to race and my body shaky, I had never been this close to another boy, a cute one at that. James Effiong!!! Girls in my class are all drooling for him.
He raised his head to meet my eyes and ask if he was making me uncomfortable to which I replied “no” (How can I be uncomfortable when a fine boy is resting on my shoulder) then he asked if I had a boyfriend to which I also said “No”, at this point I started to sweat in all my hidden places. After a purse, it occurred to me James had just asked me about a “Boyfriend” instead of a “Girlfriend”
“Why did ask about a boyfriend and not a girlfriend?” I asked with a bit of shock. To this, he looked at me ridiculously.
“Please… I have seen the way you look at me, don’t worry, I like boys too” chills went through all my veins at once and I felt like I was having a conversation with my unknown self because I couldn’t imagine there were other boys who like and admire other boys like me but here I was with a cute boy who was already aware that his kind existed.
We spent the remainder of the event in the class talking about things we have both only imagined and didn’t think anybody else imagined as well and the more we talked I realised how much we both had in common. From then on James became my person in the real sense of the word.
We kissed before he left and from then my heart was captured and I always looked forward to game days. James was very proud of me as I was of him and he made things easy for me. I am not sure what I had with him was a relationship, but we both liked and enjoyed our company a lot.
My earliest depression started this one Sunday in church when my dad (the pastor) didn’t stop preaching about gays and homosexuality. He swore by his “god” that they would suffer in this lifetime and the afterlife. I remember I walked away from my seat, ran into the church toilet and wept my eyes out. I later found out a junior pastor’s son was caught with another boy in the church library making out.
That holiday was the longest and most torturous I have ever had to live through. There were Children and Youth classes that held five days every week and the only topics were about homosexuality and the “evil” they are to the world, the hellfire that awaits them, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and all unprintable things awaiting them in the future.
I was broken and defeated, started doing everything within my power to stop thinking about James but the more I tried, the sadder it made me.
Everybody noticed how moody and secluded I became, my mother even hinted that I was happier in school than at home and wanted to know why but I couldn’t tell her I was just me doing what I could to not fall victim to the condemnations and destructions accrued to people like me, people who have harmless feelings towards other people who like them too.
After school resumed I couldn’t stand James anymore despite how much I wanted to hug him and kiss his pink, soft lips but I couldn’t because “the devil was using him to ruin my life and heaven is the ultimate goal, or so I believed.
I hated James, ruined my relationship with him and didn’t hide my condemnations for people I would later meet in my life who I perceived as gay.
In university, I helped some boys in my hostel organise and rape Toyin, a feminine presenting guy who was openly gay on campus. I did many things in that line that I will live the rest of my life atoning for because I believe I was an abnormality and abomination.
After University I left Lagos for the UK where I am based now, I remember my father sitting with me more than three different times before I left to remind me how evil abroad is and how rampant it is to encounter gay people there, I should avoid them else they would ruin my relationship with God and I would become doomed like them.
After six months I got to the UK we lost my uncle who was the major sponsor of my education I had to work and carter for myself including rent and other bills but I couldn’t keep up with schooling and working to pay my bills so I lost my accommodation and squatted with different friends for months until someone told me about a shelter for queer people. I was desperate and didn’t care if it was a shrine for Medusa so I filled out the forms, and lied my way into the shelter.
But that was where my life changed for good as I witnessed and saw love like I never thought was possible. The community was the most peaceful and chaotic environment I had ever lived in but it was satisfying and warm and felt like home.
Went through a lot of unlearning and relearning and found love but most importantly I realised God has a space in His heart for those who love him and who are queer too, that the condemnations preached in the church were as a result of the darkness of human heart and has nothing to do with God. I realised my father lied and that I have lived my entire life internalizing homophobia and acting on prejudice and misinformation.
I have been disowned by my father after I came out to my family but I am okay with that, if he ever reaches out I’ll forgive him but until then, I am here, I am queer and I am a CHILD OF GOD!
About James? I found him on Facebook and explained what happened, he forgave me but he couldn’t choose himself either as he is married to a woman and is living in an unhappy marriage, I feel sorry for him but I can’t save him now even if I wanted to. I only reminded him to live for himself and his truth.
To my Nigerian siblings, choose you, live your truth and if anybody tells you about a homophobic god, tell them He is not a Homophobic weapon. Shalom!!