Africa

To hell (and back!) with a gay Nigerian student

By Mike Daemon

Growing up in a homophobic and conservative religious country like Nigeria wasn’t easy for “Victor,” a gay Nigerian university student in Lagos.

He struggled for many years with his sexual orientation. Then, when his family discovered that he was gay, life at home became hell for him. Eventually, though, he found what he considers to be a new family — a small, but accepting, Christian family.

Illustration for the No Strings podcast containing Victor's interview.

Illustration for the No Strings podcast containing Victor’s interview.

“I grew up in fear and a lot of confusion,” he tells Mike Daemon on the No Strings podcast. “I won’t say I had the best of my childhood. When I realized that my sexual orientation was different, I got scared.

“I thought it would pass. … It was obvious I was different from a lot of people, and when people noticed that I was effeminate, they started calling me all sorts of names like ‘woman wrapper,’ ‘girl,’ ‘woman.’ ”

His father had died in 2006.

“I really wish my dad was still alive, because I would’ve opened up to him,” Victor says. “I think he would’ve understood me.”

When his mother found out about him, she broke down and cried. This lasted for days.

He says, “My mum did not take it like every normal African mother; she cried for days, called me all sorts of names like ‘Anti-Christ,’ ‘black sheep of the family,’ ‘a disgrace.’

“She said I should disown her, just as she has disowned me, that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me again.

“She said she wouldn’t be responsible for anything that concerns me again, including my education and everything.

“She warned my siblings to stay away from me and not to have anything to do with me again.”

The entire family turned their backs on him. His mother asked his brother to beat Victor because of his sexual orientation.

With permission from her, his siblings started tormenting him by stealing his possessions and damaging them.

“My elder brother became a monster. My younger brother all of a sudden started calling me different horrible names, and intentionally hurting me. … He’d steal my phones, steal my shoes, because he knew I wouldn’t be able to report him to anyone as everybody was against me.”

His brother, Victor says, “threatened to kill me several times. He has also physically assaulted me several times, inflicted a lot of injuries on my body, leaving me with a scar on both my hands and on my head.”

Victor tried to change his sexual orientation several times, with no success.

“I have really tried to change. I have tried to delete all the social network applications on my phone [because they connect him to other gay men].

“In the past, I have tried to be mean to other gay guys.

“I have also tried shutting myself completely out from the world, I have tried Googling about it. … The more I tried to change, the more frustrated and depressed I became.”

He became depressed.

“I questioned God. I took a lot of pills.

‘I wanted to end it all. I wanted to kill myself,”  he says, but some neighbors and his sisters intervened.

“I was frustrated and depressed because my education was stopped. I had to start fending for myself, and I took on odd jobs to survive.”

He describes his current relationship with his family as distant.

“I see them once in a blue moon and, when I see them, I don’t feel anything, I don’t miss them, no emotions. There’s no family bond between us any longer,” Victor says.

But luck met him when he found a lady in church whom he now calls a God-mother. The woman took him in as a son after listening to his story.

“We were actually in the same study group,” he says. “We got to talking, and I explained everything to her. She said she appreciated the way I explained everything to her without the fear of being judged.

“She felt OK with everything, because she [had previously met LGBT people]. She has studied in England, even though she stated that she is not in total support of [my sexual orientation].

“Since it is not a choice for me, so therefore she’s just OK with me as a person. She loves me and she is cool with me. Since she doesn’t have a child of her own, she now calls me her son, and ever since then has been supporting and financing my education.”

But despite her positive presence in his life, Victor still says,

“Life to me is misery. I have two brothers — why me? Why not them? Basically I look at life as not fair.”

Occasionally, he is more optimistic:

“Sometimes I say to myself, ‘Life is what I can make out of it.’ ”

 


 

For more information, listen to the full No Strings podcast, titled “My Mother Asked My Brother To Beat And Injure Me Because I Am Gay, I Have Now Been Disowned.”

The No Strings podcasts, which can be streamed or downloaded, provide a voice for the LGBTIQ community in  Nigeria; they are the first of their kind in Nigeria. They are presented in the form of a traditional radio program that  chronicles the struggles, tells the stories, and reports on issues affecting the lives of LGBTIQ Nigerians.


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