By Udoka Okafor
There is this joyous celebration of queer pride in Canada - pride that in my country was a cause for banishment and shame. Before I came to Canada, I was surrounded and immersed in homophobia. Homophobia was the norm, an unspoken ideal, and one that never needed an explanation.
I watched people get suspended and expelled from my very strict catholic high school simply for being gay. People shriek and become nauseated at the very idea of the possibility that being gay was okay. Though not legalized, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, is the regime that we are expected to live by.
The hate surrounding gay people in Nigeria is ridiculous. It can warrant bullying, extreme hate and abuse, expulsions from school, correctional rape arranged by family members, and death.
Being gay in Nigeria is difficult. And death, I promise, is not the worst of fates.
I was surrounded by so much infectious hate and I never understood why I was expected to hate them.
Some people that got expelled for being gay were my friends, but they didn’t seem different from me in any respect, and so I wondered why someone’s sexuality had so much power.
People gave moral, religious, ethical, social, and so many other forms of justification for their homophobia. What developed within me was an inherent tendency to look at all homosexuals differently. But the worst part of it all is that I never looked at them with hate, no, I looked at them with pity.
Coming to Canada was very radical because I was suddenly immersed in this culture of equality with actual reasons for equality, not baseless justifications taken completely out of context. It was different and different was good. I began researching on all things homosexual, their history, the plights they have been through, their fights for equality and the progress they have made and how much farther they needed to go. The moment I discovered equality trumps homophobia was the moment I began to resent my country for teaching me ideals of hate.
There is nothing wrong with being gay. I had to say that to my self repeatedly in order to flush out the garbage that I was taught. It was a whole new experience for me and it was liberating.
All of this is why the importance of pride events cannot be overstated. No matter how pro equality we are, sometimes we have to remind ourselves that there is no vice in being homosexual. I have met a lot of homosexuals and their sexuality did not make them evil. In fact, their sexuality had no defining basis on their character.
But sometimes, when we throw ourselves into pride week, we forget about homosexuals everywhere. As you are reading this article, in this moment, a gay person is being raped to correct their sexuality, or beaten to the point of stupor. And even when they are killed, the depravity and immorality of the circumstances that they are killed in are torturous. Some are burnt, others are stoned, and much worse.
So no, in a sense the concept of pride events is still somewhat overwhelming to me. I understand why Canadian homosexuals would want to celebrate their pride because the progress that they have achieved is amazing.
But I have seen the best and worst of both worlds and homosexuals are still treated terribly in my country.
At one point, I was actually thinking about becoming an activist and speaking out for homosexuals in my country, but that is simply a death wish for me.
So yes, it is good to be thankful that Canada has come so far in terms of acceptance and equality but what about Nigeria? Or is their progress towards the acceptance of homosexuals irrelevant?