By Mike Daemon
In Nigeria, many parents and families are still ignorant about the subject of homosexuality and still hold strongly to the belief that homosexuality is unnatural, an illness, a choice or a sin and thus something that should — and can — be cured. Our conversation with a gay 21-year-old Nigerian graduate, who now resides in Lagos, shows that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice, and can never be altered.
In the No Strings podcast’s telephone interview with Anderson (not his real name), he told what he suffered at the hands of a witch doctor [known in Nigeria as a native doctor, or a babalawo] and a Christian priest, who both tried to cure him of homosexuality. He also told of his parents’ reaction when they discovered that he is gay.
He said about his childhood:
“Growing up here in Nigeria with my family was fun, but when I go to know about my sexual orientation, I felt like I was the only one in the world.
“For me, it was something that has always been there, but I became more conscious of it at age 7. I would see myself getting sexually attracted to guys, but a full realization for me happened when I was watching a Jerry Springer show about same-sex marriage. All of a sudden I somehow felt strangely concerned and became moody as I reflected on the issues discussed on the show.
“A cousin noticed and asked me, so I explained to her how I felt and how I strangely felt connected to the show. She said to me that it doesn’t happen here in Nigeria, and that it only happens in the Western world.”
After a few years, Anderson was admitted to study at a Nigerian university. There he began to date. He said of the experience:
“I met someone and we agreed to date but, after some time, I figured that I wasn’t getting the needed attention, and that the relationship was heading nowhere. So I told him that I was going to quit the relationship and change my sexual orientation.
“He laughed and told me that it’s in me, and there was no way I’d be able to quit.”
When Anderson got home, his mother questioned his mood, which was how at age 19 he revealed his sexual orientation to his mother:
“I explained everything that had happened to her. She immediately shouted and cried and then became very confused. … The only reason why I told her was that I needed her to help me change.”
When Anderson’s father heard the news, he decided to do something to change his son’s sexual orientation:
“When my mother told my father, he became very worried and decided to take me to a church. There we met with a Christian priest who claimed that it was a spiritual problem, and that I was married to an evil mermaid who lives under the water, and so therefore asked for 30,000 naira [about US $150] to buy items for cleansing. Afterwards he provided soap and asked that I use it for bathing and that this will cure me from homosexuality.”
Of course, that didn’t change Anderson’s sexual orientation:
“After a week, the soap finished and the feeling was still there, and I explained to my mother that the soap obviously wasn’t working and that I still had the feeling. She informed my dad, who became furious and was so unhappy about how he wasted money on a fake soap, but this time suggested that we opt into something stronger.
“So he finally concluded that we meet with a witch doctor at a shrine. Upon meeting with this voodoo priest, he claimed that he could handle the situation, and finally collected some money from my father to prepare some charms.
“After a few days, he asked that my father come back in a few days to collect some herbs and instructed that I use it to have my bath every night before I sleep. But upon each application, my body would react to this leaf and become very itchy and I somehow started having rashes all over my body.
“When I told my father about my experience, he said that it was supposed to react that way and that it was a sign that it was actually working.”
Anderson knew that the feelings were not going away. He knew that he had to stop, given that he was not comfortable with how the herbs reacted on his skin:
“I could not deal with the torture any longer, so I lied to them that everything had stopped and that I was no longer having feelings for men. They became very happy, and my father said he knew that it would work.”
Anderson now lives his life as a gay man. He feels much better than when he was in the closet, he said;
“Up till now, nothing has changed — same sexual orientation, still attracted to men. Coming to accept my sexual orientation as something natural has made he happier, and lifts off a burden.”
The conversation was exciting, full of lessons, and will surely change your views, if you are one of the many people who still believe that homosexuality can be “cured.”
For more information, listen to the full No Strings podcast, titled “My Parents Took Me To A Shrine Trying To Cure Me Of Homosexuality! – Anderson, Nigerian Gay Man Says”
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.
Related articles on this blog about No Strings podcasts:
- To hell (and back!) with a gay Nigerian student (Jan. 3, 2016)
- Gay youth now homeless in Nigeria after entrapment (Dec. 24, 2015)
- Gay man trapped, beaten in Nigeria, where it’s too common (Dec. 14, 2015)
- Coming out in Nigeria: ‘Hate, isolation, loneliness may come’ (Nov. 24, 2015)
- Gay Nigerian: ‘My mum is still very much devastated’ (Nov. 3, 2015)
- Focus of Nigerian podcast: Gains and pains of coming out (Oct. 21, 2015)
- ‘Veil of Silence’: When LGBTI Nigerians spoke out (Sept. 30, 2015)
- Behind the scenes: Filming a British-Nigerian gay love story
- Denial, prayer, fasting — growing up LGBTIQ in Nigeria (Aug. 27, 2015)
- A life in Nigeria: ‘Discovered, abandoned, depressed’ (Aug. 18, 2015)
- Podcast exposes attack on LGBTI Nigerians at hotel (Aug. 11, 2015)
- LGBTI depression — topic for latest Nigerian podcast (Aug. 1, 2015)
- Relationship problems: Topic of Nigerian LGBTIQ podcast (July 24, 2015)
- Nigeria: Why the West keeps its hands off (July 4, 2015)
- Nigerian film maker: ‘Yes! You can be an LGBTIQ Christian’ (June 22, 2015)
- Nigerian podcast: I was outed, jailed, bailed, shunned (June 15, 2015)
- Hate, gender non-conformity: Topics of Nigerian podcast (June 5, 2015)
- Nigerian podcast, website join fight against homophobia (May 22, 2015)