To be queer is to be brave

an invitation to lgbtq+ Africans

When I saw the call for stories, I first ignored, thinking “I don’t have enough of a story to tell.” But as I pondered on it, I realised that my story counts, no matter how it may deviate from the regular queer story. It counts because there is also someone out there who feels the way I do and this story will affirm their experiences.

I do not even know if I can call myself queer yet. Deep down, I know I am bisexual but I have never been in a lesbian relationship or had a fling with a woman. I do not belong to any LGBTQIA community, offline or online. The closest I have gotten into the community is by sending a mail about wanting to share my story with OluTimehin.

I am an advocate for LGBTQIA rights but that’s all there is to it. People think I am simply fighting for the community because I am a ‘good’ heterosexual, an ally. But I fight for this community because it is my community, even if I’ve never felt included in it.

If I tell the community that I am queer, will they not ask for proof of queerness? And when I tell them I have only dated men, will they accept me into the fold? I have seen women, had feelings for them, dreamt about us having sex but that’s the highest I have done in exploring my queer side.

I was seven when we were playing hide and seek during after-school hours. I was hiding behind a dividing board with my best friend then, Dolapo. We had been there for a while, hoping they wouldn’t find us, when I blurted out of the blue “Let’s kiss ourselves.” The look of horror on her face and her threat to report me to our teacher killed every homosexual spirit that could have been building in me.

It was at that moment, I knew the society was against women liking women. Because this is a girl that we had played ‘Mummy and Daddy’ together with boys where we all fondled each other and there wasn’t a whimper of protest or promise of threat anywhere. But a harmless suggestion of a shared kiss between us brought out such bile in her. That incident made me ashamed of myself for years, thinking I was a perverted child. But I have unlearned the shame, knowing that I was just expressing who I was, and there’s no shame in it.

It has also cemented my belief that we are who we are, sometimes circumstances reveal the truth to us, but inherently, we are who we are without indoctrination. Here I was, a child having a crush on my best friend, wanting to kiss her. No one taught me to be queer. To be queer in this world full of hatred and bigotry for our kind, is to be brave. But we are who we are and that’s not going to change.

I remember this lady, a friend of my roommate in my final year days. Her smile used to light up my world. When I heard she fell ill, I found all the excuses in the book to pressure my roommate for us to visit her hostel so I could get a chance to see her. I remember telling my friends that I have a crush on a woman.

I don’t know how it fizzled out but the energy was not reciprocated, or maybe I just didn’t try harder out of fear. She is just there now, someone I view her Whatsapp updates once in six months. I hope she still checks mine too.

I don’t even know how to ask a woman out, or tell her I love her. But I want to believe my queerness is valid in spite of my inexperience. One day, when I have the courage enough to come out to the community, and to the world, I hope the community will accept me.

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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