“There is something about love, it doesn’t go away because you’re unable to express it.”
If like me you’re often possessed by the curiosity to be able to picture from close observation of the lives of older queer Nigerians what your own life could look like in years to come this is for you.
One thing that every person interviewed for this piece shares is increasing bafflement at what Rasak* termed “this bold new generation of gays,” who won’t shut up about their homosexuality.
“I see the dream, I admire the courage, but I often wonder if it is necessary at all. I did just fine without making a big deal of my queerness,” Rasak said.
He is a 58-year-old man married to a woman he swears he has been keeping all-round happy since they married 20+ years ago. He is not unhappy, but this writer wonders if he could have been happier in a world where he never had to settle into a marriage he could otherwise have done without if he could have happily cohabit with his then-lover.
What was it like being gay in the 20th century?
Before the internet became our dumpsite and our worldview expanded beyond most of our ancestors’ wildest imaginations there was life. Queer lives.
Rasak (M, 58)
“It is really all about the circle you run around in and – in my particular case and I believe a lot of my peers over the years – constant denial.
For instance, there is a guy I had a thing with years ago in the backseats of a cinema; the outdoor kind. We met again and again at the same spot for a while until we eventually exchanged names and in years to come got to mingle with each other’s circles. After I married we agreed I’d arrived at a place where I had to stop ‘this thing.’
Decades later I think I will be convinced I’m not gay if I were in his shoes looking at my life. I still get action now and then, with this younger bold new generation of gays who don’t care a thing what the world says about homosexuality. It is revitalising to see that, and to witness it firsthand.
I am glad for my family, but I wonder if we had maintained our relationship, me and that guy, would it have meant continued happiness or eventual ruin. God knows I’ve lost a friend or two to public humiliation when they got outed. We used to dissociate and cut off fast in such situations. Clean-break.
That’s about the summary of it.”
Martha (F, 46)
“I used to say women always found a way to take care of things, and for a while, I was taking care of things but then a strange thing happened when my daughter turned 5.
The passion I once had for my best girl returned manifolds.
I married because I’d gotten pregnant with my then lover who is now my ex-husband, thank God. I needed my child to know she is a product of love, so I killed whatever feelings I had for my girl at the time for duty’s sake. We had met in school so it was easy to separate cleanly once we finished, but we always knew where one another is at every point.
Lucky for me I think I’m bisexual or pansexual, don’t know, these are words I’m just learning thanks to my daughter. I say lucky because you need some stirring of feelings to endure these things, years of pretending to care will break anyone. Yet even that will prove inadequate because I had to leave eventually.
I think all that life of gymnastics isn’t worth it to be honest. I’m grateful for my baby girl. I am free of my lukewarm marriage. And I’ve largely reunited with my girl. We see every so often because we’re in different states. She is in Abuja and I stay in Port Harcourt. We make it work somehow, career woman to career woman.”
Wale (M, 62)
“It was many things, some hurtful and others just stale memories.
It was forcing myself out of my parents’ at 20 using the excuse that all my guys had this place in the community where you haven’t left where you grew up but you have largely moved out of the house you grew up in. That worked for our kind of shanty neighbourhood.
It was hanging around a girl to get closer to her brother because I love the brother.
It was getting the brother and still sticking around for the sister because I might otherwise have had to explain myself even to the brother with whom I slept often.
It was getting a scholarship to study in the then Soviet Union and being elated not because the opportunity is golden, but because I got to leave the girl I’d been using as a decoy to get the love of my life.
It was also grieving the death of the best man I’ve ever known, the one true love that even time could not replace if it tried, but doing so very measuredly so it is not too extravagant a grief for just a friend.
It was all these things and it was also the snatches of happy memories we shared in my first private room which I paid for with the token I received for tutoring kids at the time. Memories of cinema hangouts and swimming in the river after a farm visit and having sex in the bushes because we couldn’t wait to return to my room.
It was a dangerous and glorious existence overall. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I ended up marrying the sister I feigned loving, partly because the girl that she was loved me very deeply but also because I needed a reminder of him. She has been that and more to me for the 30+ years of our marriage.”
(Editors Note: Our ancestors, living and dead, trust us with their stories, and we want to do them justice. Oasis is a youth led organization; We are aware that we move in the footsteps of those that came before. Our love is not in isolation, our community is not in isolation. You are not alone. You have never been.)