Ready for a good-news story for a change? Here’s an account of how a gay teenager in Cameroon overcame taunts, insults and physical attacks. He took charge of his life, earned the respect of his family, and has even seen a change of heart in his homophobic neighbors.
By Jacks Oke
“Where will I live if I am always rejected by everyone?” Tika asked himself often. “Is there a world reserved only for people of my own kind? ”
Tika (not his real name) is a gay 17-year-old in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who lived with his mother and his little brother. He has never known his father.
Because of his somewhat effeminate manner, he was often taunted and insulted by other teenagers. Eventually, the taunts became so intense and so frequent that he stayed in the house by day even though his mother had grown hostile to him. He only went out at night. He signed up for evening classes because attending school in the daytime was unendurable.
He was a good student, but his mother threatened to stop paying for his studies if he did not change his sexual orientation.
His response to that demand was to go out and get a job as a dancer. That allowed him to earn a living and take charge of his life. A cabaret in Yaoundé’s 4th district hired him after seeing his talent as a dancer.
At the cabaret, he worked many night shifts. Several times he was the target of homophobic attacks at the end of his shift. Tika considered them as merely an obstacle to be overcome.
He filed complaints at the local police station, but police did nothing to end the attacks. Still, Tika was determined to persevere.
“I knew the dancing was risky, but I couldn’t do without it. I had to persevere to gain my autonomy. I showed my detractors that a gay guy can make it on his own.”
With the income from his dancing, Tika was able to pay for his evening classes with money to spare. Now he works just on weekends and holidays. The rest of the time is devoted to studies.
“My relatives are now proud of me and, from time to time, they encourage me to continue my studies. It is the only way to build a stable future. It also proves that gays in Cameroon are not just irresponsible people who only think about sex and alcohol.”
Tika’s current situation is much changed from what it used to be, he says. He has regained the esteem of family members, who seem to have forgotten his homosexual side.
Even his neighborhood has become more welcoming. He no longer needs to live his life locked away from the eyes of others.
Jacks Oke, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.