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Nigerian mother battles to ‘cure’ gay son

An anti-gay potion, prayers, probing questions, counseling and psychiatry were the techniques that a Nigerian mother was offered for an attempt to “cure” her son, John, of his homosexuality.

This generic photo of a mother and a son was used on NoStringsNG.com to illustrate John's story. (Photo courtesy of NoStringsNG.com)
This generic photo of a mother and a son was used on NoStringsNG.com to illustrate John’s story. (Photo courtesy of NoStringsNG.com)

She was unaware that none of those methods works — the conclusion reached by an overwhelming number of scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists. In fact, as the American Psychological Association concluded, “several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations … to conclude that [gay, lesbian and bisexual] orientations represent normal forms of human experience.”

But John’s mother thought otherwise, sticking to a homophobic attitude that she shared with many in Nigeria and elsewhere. Here, John (a pseudonym), tells his story to the NoStringsNG website, which provides a voice for LGBT Nigerians. The confrontation began with John’s mother telling him that he should tear up a set of his clothes that she said looked too feminine.

I said, “Mummy, these are the clothes you asked me to tear.” At first she pretended she didn’t hear me. So I decided to drop the clothes beside her to go finish my laundry.

As I was turning back, she told me that if I moved another inch from where I was, I’d be in trouble. I didn’t take it seriously. I laughed and looked back at her. She asked me what my problem was. I had I tried as much as possible not to make my homosexuality be visible to them.

She asked me what I had posted on Facebook. I was shocked because I don’t have a family member on Facebook. I had posted that I was going to leave home.

She ordered me to strip and threatened to have me arrested. She reminded me that  gay people in Nigeria can be sent to prison for 14 years or possibly could be stoned to death.

I began to cry fearlessly. I said to her, “I am ready to go! I am ready! Would you look at me to suffer for something which I have no [choice] about? Would you? And you call yourself my mother?”

Those words touched her. She began to feel.

But she was still telling me how their God was against homosexuality, and how God ruined the city of [Sodom].

As she was talking, she touched my penis and insisted that it is for women. She said that God, who created it, created it for women and that God had not made a mistake.

She asked me many questions. Was I impotent? Who or what lured me into being gay? How was I feeling as a man?

She decided to call different people for help, including a friend of mine at school, a pastor, and a woman she considered her “street aunt.” She told each of them what I was going through, and they all had different views.

Her street aunt said she was unsure, but she was going to give me a concoction to cure me, or would take me to a religious place.

The pastor said that I had been struck with madness and that I needed to be taken to a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

My friend said I was depressed, that I had a lot of things I was going through.

I laughed when my mother told me what the pastor and the street aunt said.

But what my friend said was true — I was feeling suicidal and helpless. I had told him about all the pain surrounding me, and he was able to figure out that I was depressed.

As for the pastor, my mum listened to him, but their plans didn’t work. I was taken to a hospital for counseling. There I was told that I should be taken to a psychiatrist unless things changed. The counselor later tried to contact me, and keeps trying.

After we left the hospital, we went to a Celestial Church, where we waited till after their prayer session before we saw the pastor. After the prayers, the pastor told my mother he wasn’t fine about the decision of the counselor. He said it was pure madness to be gay.

He told her of a psychologist to contact, but we couldn’t go because my mum said she didn’t have enough money to spend.

All this is tiring! I am just tired of everything, I swear!

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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