I received this personal mail that simply broke my heart, some days ago. It came from an aunty of mine, a very strong woman, who is also an award winning writer, and one of the smartest, nicest people I know (I am posting with her permission):
“This is just a note of appeal for you to lend your voice in condemning the possible passing of a bill that would violate a basic human right: the right of adults to their private affairs, it would be greatly appreciated. The debate on the passing of this horrendous bill begins on Wednesday, February the 14th in Abuja.
Please be a voice for the voiceless; be a voice for a group of people who do not necessary fall into the shade of black or white. A group of people who found themselves in the gray area of life, not by choice but by providence. As a sister, as a daughter, as a mother, as an aunt, as a friend, I am one of such repressed voices. Please, assist in making me visible. Give me a voice.”
Now if this doesn’t touch you, a cry from one human soul to the next; then I wonder what will …
I had promised myself I wouldn’t be drawn into any gay debate in Nigeria because it really is a draining one. When you see sound intellectuals who don’t even want to talk about it; and if you speak too much about it, they begin to look at you with disdain, then the point hits home. Sometimes they are people you respect; people who are very deep and very cosmopolitan and very progressive in EVERY OTHER respect except this: when it comes to this matter of sexuality they clam up. For them it is a deeply personal matter – just like for me.
Arguing it therefore never leads anywhere, except resentment.
So I decided not to stick my neck that far out any longer. After all, wetin concern agbero with overload? In any case, it is very easy to be gay (just as it is quite easy to live a double life) as long as you are responsible and sensible and no one would ever know about it. But after getting this mail I knew I couldn’t play the ostrich. It is one thing to ban gay marriages and to refuse recognition for gays, but after some quick research I found out that this Bill is actually INSANE.
If passed into Law, it will ban gays from being seen in public, as well as ban association with anyone who is gay. You must know that this law includes those who are ‘closet’ gays; so those of you who have such friends, when you fraternize with them, you stand the risk of jail!
Even worse, reading a book that has gay themes, watching movies, etc with a gay person (we are talking Will & Grace, Desperate Housewives, The Devil Wears Prada, Monster, and of course Brokeback Mountain), reading a website that promotes homosexuality, amongst others could land you in jail!
Bree Van De Kamp's son, Andrew - "Gay-themed" character in Desperate Housewives
In other words: this Law seeks to completely ban the gay reality. A reality that is neither new nor negligible in Nigeria: a country that has thousands of gay millionaires, gay actors, gay clubs, gay politicians, gay parties – and has had them for decades.
As at the last count, I know at least 25 people, living in Nigeria who are the most wonderful and the most brilliant people I know – and they are gay. I may have reservations about their orientation, but that doesn’t translate into sitting back and allow an insensitive government pass a legislation that calls them criminals!
I am drained already. I really don’t want to argue this anymore. The thing is, it should be pretty self-evident; it is one thing to detest gay people, but to say they cannot LIVE?
Incidentally, just a few days ago, the new FARAFINA Magazine came out, and in it there is an interview I did with an openly gay Nigerian guy (the first such comprehensive interview, I hear) who came out on the NTA Network via New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda (and the show got penalized for that, by the way) about two years ago. I read that interview again right now and I can only feel intense anger for those who think that gay people are less than them just because of their sexuality.
Because I really, truly can’t go through all that emotional energy or making the points, I am going to post an article I wrote in THISDAY some years ago, that deals with the issue extensively. It is quite different/interesting for the fact that it uses the same premises that anti-gay people use, to destroy their arguments.
Of course when it was published, it attracted a DELUGE of comments from both sides of the divide (which also proved to me that there is as considerable a number of Nigerians IN Nigeria who are not anti-gay as there are those who are), and my email address was practically crying from the fire and thunder. I expect the same to happen now.
No matter what side of the divide you belong; I think you will find the piece … stimulating. (I will attach it in a few hours).