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Outing in Cameroon ends in homelessness

by Erin Royal Brokovitch

Two gay men in Cameroon (Photo by Eric Ohena Lembembe)

Two gay men in Cameroon (Photo by Eric Ohena Lembembe)

The story of Aris, 26, will resonate in the minds of all those who have suffered violent setbacks after their homosexuality was suddenly revealed to their family.

Makékéné, is a village on the line dividing the Central region of Cameroon, and the Western region. It is there, in March 2015 that Aris, launched an SOS to his friends back in Yaoundé, the country’s political capital, to tell them the drama that transformed his life a few weeks earlier.

Aris, unwittingly, was outed by his younger brother, with whom he lived.  And for this student, smoothly promoted to a bright future, everything in his life collapsed for one reason … he is gay.

It all started in December 2014.  Aris leaves his phone at home to charge.  His brother Randol, 22, spies his messages.  At what he believes to have discovered, evidence of homosexuality, Aris does not hesitate to denounce his eldest brother to the family. Peppered by the questions from the family, Aris denies everything.  And the case settles, at least outwardly.

Two months later, Randol is still determined to denounce his eldest brother’s homosexuality.  What motivates his determination, trampling birthright and all respect for his older brother, would be difficult to understand, if not for the homophobia that impairs the judgment of these “closed” persons.

Indeed, on February 15th, when Aris went out to the village of Makénéné to shop, Randol returned to the charging telephone.  He once again raises an outcry within the family by denouncing his homosexual brother.  But his time, the case is critical because Randol was careful; he copied a love text message Aris has sent to a friend and shows it to the family, as a kind of exhibit.

Aris later learned that he was also betrayed by his cousin Darius, 20, earlier, in December to whom he had made a confidential confession.  The cousin had asked him to confide in him about his sexuality after Randol revealed some rumours. Aris admitted his sexual orientation to Darius thinking he could trust his cousin.  Unfortunately, the latter repeated the confession not only to Randol, but to the whole family, completing the assault on Aris.

Campus, University of Yaoundé (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.org)

Campus, University of Yaoundé (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.org)

After mid-February, a family meeting is convened and Aris finds himself tormented.  He is run out of the rented dorm room he shared with his younger brother in the University district of Ngoa-Ekelle in Yaoundé.  The whole family shuns him, including his aunt, with whom he has always been very close.  They brand him with with scornful characterizations including “sorcerer” and “demon.”

Faced with this turmoil, he has no option but to return to the village.  He is forced to stop his academic year, in the third year of Spanish at the University of Yaounde.  Even there, his uncle who had been paying his dorm room, expels him from the family home and thus Aris now finds himself homeless and without food; he was dependent on his uncle.

All perspective is instantly lost. Simply because he was born homosexual, Aris sees himself today with a co-opted future.  The doors to university benches are closed.  He plans instead to find work.  He did make his way back to Yaoundé, where he squats with a friend.

His friend, Alex, 23, says he understands Aris’ turmoil.  Five years ago, he himself suffered a similar traumatic experience of family rejection when one member outed him as a suspected homosexual.

When asked, one feels that Alex is blocked, particularly at the mention of those dark moments in his not so distant past.  He was 18, he says, but he remembers that he slept on park benches for several weeks.  His family threw him out without any mercy.

Aris is trying to rebuild himself and his life, having lost his family and a full academic year with tuition and lodging stopped, and all this because of intolerance.

The author of this article is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

 

6 thoughts on “Outing in Cameroon ends in homelessness

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