I Know Who I Am – Chika

I Know Who I Am – Chika

Hello, my name is Chika. I am, by the grace of God, 32 years old. I was born in Enugu State in Nigeria and I am currently residing in Lagos. I am an Anglican I consider myself a humble, obedient and tolerant person. I also accept situations as I see them. However, I don’t like being taken advantage of. I don’t like people using their beliefs to cajole me or trying to force me to their views, no.

As for my sexual orientation, I will say that, yes, I am gay.

Some people will say being gay affects them; it affects their life, their growth. For me, also, I will say that growing up with this wasn’t an easy thing. Back in Enugu, my parents were civil servants, working at the government house where we also lived. I attended a community primary school, and secondary school before we moved to Anambra where I schooled in a boys’ only school.

From my earliest memories, I have been not been the “typical” boy. This showed in the way I behaved, the way I talked, and the way I interacted with people. I always preferred doing things that even my sisters could not do. I preferred to assist my mom with cooking and other chores. Yes, I knew that I was different from others around me but that didn’t stop anyone from communicating with me. I didn’t find this too difficult though, because even as a boy I could see that I was different, but I was myself. Even more, I was always attracted to the personalities of other boys.

When my family later relocated to Anambra, I was well recognised in the Anglican church as a chorister. For a while I stayed with my parents but later I lived with the Reverend who prayed at mass and gave communion. I stayed with the man as a house helper and, from there each morning I would go to school. The Reverend was unmarried but he took care of me well enough. He is a nice man and he specifically picked me to stay with him. I stayed with him but I wouldn’t say there was much to it although he recognised my difference. He understood what my sexuality was but he didn’t sermonise at all. I can say that, maybe, we had a couple of general discussions on sexuality but, otherwise, there wasn’t any disturbance. The experience was very nice, he is a good man, I adore him because even at the time that my dad died he was the one that ordained mass at my dad’s funeral service. I still keep in touch with him although he has been posted to another district.

In Anambra, I was fully respected for who I am because I also respect people. But, Lagos was very different and difficult. When I tried to join the Anglican church choir in Lagos, something which I always love to do, I was stopped because people believed that I am gay from my mannerisms and expressions. I had no other choice than to attending the Anglican church since it wasn’t that easy for me to sit in a place I wasn’t welcome.

I have attended several Pentecostal churches. As a Christian I believe that Christians should live the sermon that is supposed to preach love and courage for people. Instead they were preaching hatred, discrimination, not to mention the kind of homophobic environment that they created in the church. Wow. I couldn’t stand it so I stopped going to church entirely. Church is an important thing for me, but after the issues I had with them I had to quit. I didn’t go again because the church did not recognise me for who I am. They equally labelled me as being possessed or devilish.

Later, a friend of mine introduced me to House of Rainbow church which I started attending. We moved around Lagos before the Reverend there had to travel out of Nigeria due to issues he had with the government. Then I had no where to attend church, I didn’t know whom to meet and how I could join a gathering in order to praise God for who we are.

As for my family, my dad was a real leader. Although he is late now, I believe he knew me very well. My mum also understood me. It was only after the death of my dad that my mum started getting worried over who I am. I am not the first son in my family, we are three boys and three girls but my mum had this tendency of believing that one day I will be straight. For example, when my sister visited me in Lagos and went back, my mum would be asking questions. My mum would want to know if my sister had seen any girl coming to visit in my house or anything of such. My sister would say no, then ask why. My mum kept on getting herself worried about my sexuality until her death in 2012.

But before her death, I told my entire family what my sexuality was. I was about 20 or 21 years old then. Not that they didn’t suspect in the first place. But now they knew. I told my brother and sisters, ‘This is who I am so none of you can do anything other than to accept me this way’. But, during that period everything went wrong. They disassociated themselves from me, until, one day, I received a phone call from my mum asking how I was. I said, ‘I’m fine’.

As God will have it, every one of them now accepts me for who I am and they respect me for coming out to them and are very proud of me. My family is aware. They are aware and accept me for who I am. They did not take me as an exception but as the same me.

What pushed me to come out to them was most of my friends. At that time, even though some of my friends had the feeling that I am gay, they always opposed it. Although I didn’t stop them from keeping their girlfriends or from their escapades wit girls, yet they kept on trying to push me to heterosexuality. ‘When are you going to get a girlfriend?’, ‘Can’t you come out with us?’, ‘Let’s go and socialise’ and so on. I always acted uninterested because, even though I really appreciate them, their behaviour didn’t suit my own being. They couldn’t understand this and I had to stay on my own before I started meeting other gay people I befriended.

I am not in a romantic relationship right now, but I once had a very bad relationship. I cannot even call it romantic. It was a bad omen for me though I thank God that it gave me an opportunity to understand myself better. This relationship started in early 2002 and it lasted almost 10 years before we had to separate. The other guy was bisexual and he equally drew girls around him. But it is hard to explain or talk about our relationship. It didn’t end well. I find it very difficult, even at this moment, to think about the way things went. The past experiences, the humiliation, the maltreatment—I still have some scars on my body—that I endured during the relationship, but I am still myself. I will not lament over it. In all things I give God the glory; at least I am out of it now.

As for my future goals, I pray I still have the steadfast hold in being who I am, I hope to be one of those who wipe the tears off the faces of the young ones. I do hear about people’s lives, I hear about people taking their lives, committing suicide, I hear about all sorts of discrimination and maltreatment the LGBTI youth are passing through. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy hearing people say that someone being gay is a choice because no one chooses to be anything in their mother’s womb, we are born that way. The earlier they get to accept it, the better for everyone. And we should equally know that in every family most especially in Nigeria, in every family in Nigeria, there is an LGBTI person. Most of the leaders that fight against the gay rights in Nigeria, most of them have relatives, children, brothers, families that are LGBTI. So does that mean that they should condemn a person or get rid of such person because he or she is gay?

Well, I pray in the future that I shall be part of those that are putting smiles on the faces of younger ones, the upcoming youth that are passing through so many terrible things in life. And those that are still in hiding, afraid or being maltreated one way or the other in their working place, school or organisations just for being who they are. I can remember my uncle who took me to one pastor when I was younger. I spent not less than two weeks there fasting and prayer all because they claimed that I am possessed and that I need to be delivered. Yet, the junior pastor himself slept with me. I can’t say he didn’t know what he did, he knew what he did, and being who I am I could not hide it. I opened up to my uncle and told him that so-so thing happened the very next Sunday when he came for service there. I was punished for revealing this truth, they beat me bitterly and did all sort of things to me, saying that I am lying against the man of God. But it’s a past experience. It is something that I cannot stand to remember and talk about, same with what I’ve passed through in my relationship, it’s just like calling back bad memories.

Those are the things that I can say I’ve passed through but my family is at peace with me now.

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