I only ever feel queer when I am safe

an invitation to lgbtq+ Africans

Who gets to be proud? Who gets to celebrate Pride? It’s hard to feel like you belong in the celebration or the protest of Pride if you don’t live it out loud. 

I will probably never come out to my parents.

The first time I came out to myself was on a bus in London. I was on my way back from helping Flo and Co take pictures for their portfolios. I have never seen light do things the way Co made it do that night. We got drunk off red wine, spag bol and the specific content you feel hanging out with your friends on a late summer evening. The feeling that says, “you’re home, you’re safe”—it makes me cry all the time. I was on the 24 bus back home, head against the window, crying and out of the blue just said “yeah, I like girls”. I was not scared. 

I only ever feel queer when I feel safe. 

I am/was a Christian. I don’t know. I pray sometimes but I don’t go to church. I listen to gospel music and cry. God and I have an interesting relationship; she doesn’t mind. I’ve never been scared of being queer, she loves me because I’m queer. 

The second time I came out was to my best friend Jack. We were driving to a church weekend, I was in the passenger seat, he was driving and there were other people in the car as well. We were having a chat about conservatism and someone said, “oh, I don’t have any gay friends. I don’t know how I would react if my friend came out to me”. I turned to him and whispered, “what if I like girls?”. He smiled and shrugged. 

The first time I felt queer, I went to Pride by myself. I needed to feel queer, feel something. I stood by as thousands of people marched, sang and danced. I blew a drag queen a kiss, she kissed me on the lips in return. The guys next to me painted my face in glitter and bought me drinks. A group of out and proud Africans marched past, dancing to Wizkid or Davido, and I wept. My new friends held me as I explained to them this was a future that I could not picture. They told me I was enough as I am. They saved my life. 

I only ever feel queer when I am safe.

My therapist says I cannot be happy or my true self if I don’t come out to my family. We argued. She’s African; I expected her to understand. I cannot be responsible for killing my mother. She’s a pastor who has been maligned and held back her entire career because she has a husband who travels for work. The church is the only thing she has left, all her friends are tied to it. My dad is abusive. I have a brother who is very ill. She doesn’t have very much room in her life for another ‘problem’. Most importantly, she has never been a safe place for me.

I have managed to find queer family, I go to Out in Tech/ Out in Science events and have made a lot of friends. People quite similar to me, immigrant kids who are mostly not completely out to their families but are married or dating long term or are not either but are completely happy. I’ve been to dinner parties with a bunch of older gay people, been clubbing at Heaven with the youngins, played queer dodgeball. Every time, I’ve come back with the feeling that says ‘you’re home, you’re safe’. Who’s to say I don’t have a happy, full, quietly queer life? 

I often think about the luxury and safety of being a Nigerian living abroad. About how I am not using this privilege well, not lending my voice. I think about the awfully brave Nigerians in Nigeria sparking a revolution by living their lives out loud. I feel ashamed, proud and helpless all at the same time. On good days, I feel like the life I’m living is revolutionary in some way too. Maybe it’s wishful thinking.

So who gets to be proud? Those who live their lives out loud in areas with or without persecution? Married people in hetero relationships using the cloud of dating apps to find queer partners? Or me who desperately hopes to find a queer man to get married to so I can be in good graces socially while also being safe enough to be queer?

I don’t know, I don’t know. 

To find out how you can share your story with the Quietly Queer Collective, please send an email to forcolourfulgirls(at)gmail(dot)com.

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2 thoughts on “I only ever feel queer when I am safe

  1. Vavy says:

    My mum talks about my future husband and kids everyday. Ofcourse i do think about having kids but where i’m from there’s no way i can have a family with a beautiful woman that i love.

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