Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

14-anthology

1.

I WOULD like to begin by saying that if you are visiting me, and you don’t want to be outed by association, then don’t bother. Add to that: I am not asking anybody to visit me; my city has just about enough people for that. Disclaimer: I am not trying to be bitchy, whatever that means.

The deal is, I am out. By out, I do not mean that I came on NTA or Channels TV wearing a huge pink sweater. I do not own any pink clothes. Pink requires a certain fastidiousness, a certain flair: It is for boys who know what to do with colour. A little cliché: I could have tried pink in secondary school, when I still glided through corridors, all feminine grace.

“Stop doing like a girl,” a classmate once said to me. “Don’t you know you make some of us high?”

What the fuck?

In secondary school, I fought a total of two times in six years. Cried a handful of times. Lashed out a million times: “Yes, I be homo. Na your father fuck me. Idiot!” I was a hell of an angry bitch. Still am. Back then, my anger hadn’t crystallized into the calm, insistent dissatisfaction that it is now. It had been a huge roaring flame. I was still praying to God to change me, not necessarily because I was tired of all the cat-calling and snide remarks, but because I loved God terribly, hopelessly. So, where did that anger come from? Did it stem from the fact that those boys, who were mostly sweet on good days, had no right whatsoever to tell me what to do, how to be?

Fast-forward a few years later, and I am in my final year in university, and my friend Ken has told me that “Louis said he likes you but the only problem is that you’re out, even to the girls in your class.” Louis is a boy that I had asked out, a boy who knows I know he’s gay, and yet told me, “Guy, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” People think he’s sweet and kind, but all the bitches I know say he’s a bitch (see definition). He will not talk to you if you are obvious or out. In other words, you are fuckable insofar as you can disappear in the crowd and become like People (see definition).
Fast-forward even further, and this guy whom I fuck out of a lack of options (I’m not trying to be a bitch. See Bitch [2]) tells me that, “The reason no serious person will date you is because you’re out, and it’s so childish, coming out to every guy you think you like.”
I cringe. “So I’m out to the girls too because I like them?”

“It’s just childish. UC thinks you’re a bitch, that’s why he stopped visiting.”

I like to think that I have pretty thick skin, but even the thickest skin melts under intense heat. Alone finally in my room, I cry. I have not fixed my bulb, and the darkness covers me, fills me with a profound loneliness. This is not the place for me, I think. I am too real for Nigeria.

(Definition of Terms: People: Men who fuck women or women who fuck men. Bitch: A man who rolls his eyes, dangles his wrists, or simply says, “I am.” Do not use this word if you do not self-identify as one. Bitch [2]: Annoying prick. Asshole. Doesn’t mean his prick is big or his asshole tight.)

2.

i. I HAVE a theory about love: We accept the love we think we deserve. (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky.)

ii. I have a question about gays: Who does the chores? (The movie, Pride.)

iii. I have found the answer to life’s problems: We love to choose misery. (Plain fact.)

3.

THE GUY Whom I (Used To) Fuck Out of a Lack of Options is kind of right. Or, better, he would have been right a few years ago. I started coming out, actively at least, after secondary school. I
had not yet taken up a boring job washing bottles at a pharmaceutical company in my neighbourhood. I had been self-diagnosed with a case of Post-Graduation Nostalgia, which meant
that I watched and re-watched High School Musical, and cried. In the evenings, I went for keyboard class or choir practice, depending on what day it was. There was a girl and a handful of boys, my
second family, with whom I walked home from church. On my way home, I branched off at Greg’s to chat. Greg was a year my junior in secondary school, and he had about him the air of someone
for whom the world could bend. I told him I liked him. No, not in the friendly-hug-and-pat-onthe-back way. Like, really liked him.

Happened, dude was as straight as an arrow (even though I’ve never touched an arrow to make sure, and who else has noticed how suspiciously like a dick an arrow is shaped?).

He was surprised, he said. I was so into God, so spiritual.

Yes, I said. But some things cannot be changed. (On my uncle’s wardrobe door, the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, etc.)

But it’s unnatural, he pursued.

I was born this way, I argued. (Thanks to my father, I recently had a phone. Thanks to Iomfats.com and the life-saving stories of Grasshopper et al. Thanks to Nifty.com, strangely.)

But still.

You don’t know what I’ve been through…. (My mother told us stories as kids, and I happened to tell them as well, perhaps better, my brothers thought. The gift of a man maketh way for
him. God is good that way.)

4.

REPLICATE THE conversation in 3 above maybe dozens of times, add a few girls, then more, to it. At this point I just couldn’t stop, not with the reactions I was getting. In first year, when someone asked if I was gay, I told the same story: I was born this way. An apology of sorts.

What if I wasn’t born this way—so fucking what?

Someone once asked, “Have you ever faced rejection upon coming out?”

The worst I’ve gotten: “We have to pray about it. It’s not of God.”

The bad: “I don’t believe you.”

The good, from an older friend, a spiritual mentor when I was still in the spirit, a wise lady: “I will listen just as you have asked me to.”

The better: “I kept thinking about it, and you’re still Rapum.”

The best, from my brother, Ulonna: “Is that your boyfriend @ dp?”

Maybe, one day: “Guy, get lost. I fit kill you.”

And I won’t give a fuck. Maybe a little fuck, but not too much; I would hate to make them sore.

5.

A LITTLE fact about coming out: There are two kinds of homophobes—those who will say what everybody else says because they have no head. Until you come along and give them brains. And those who will hate you no matter what. You will know before you decide to tell. Your guts will tell you.

Also: A point will come when none of these will matter. You will not have to make speeches, or give long lectures. You will be. And your being will give the haters nightmares.

6.

i. IN THIRD year, a classmate of mine stood up like other people to talk about his “unrequited love experience,” and it was for another boy. He is a bitch, this classmate of mine. Perhaps the bitch of bitches. His role model? Lady Gaga. Lecturer said, in response, “It is also a love experience.” On Facebook later, where a “female sister” had put up a subtle post about it, our classmates came on to say, “He’s so brave” and “It’s his life” and “Some people will come and be judging now,” etc. Not to be outdone, the homophobes and As Yet Undecided came on to sputter and mutter, “Hmmm,” and, “I comment my reserve.” For once they were swallowing it and not spitting out a drop.

ii. I have a number of pictures on my phone that I took with the two most special friends I have in school. Leonard and Oozy. They like to call me the Slut of the group, but it is only because I take it up the ass, and a lot of straight men can only define a slut in terms of who
takes it in. Leonard is the real slut, however, and when we don’t have work to do, I pose as his Bitch and he my Slut, my arms around his neck, his around my waist, our bodies meshed together, and Oozy takes the picture. “And you say he’s straight?” bitches ask.
“I know, right?” I say.

iii. “God, the girl was mad. I came like in minutes, and she made me hard again.”

“Wow, when I come, it gets painful. He has to stop.”

“You come when they fuck you?”

“Sit down here, guy. I listened to your own.”

iv. When I came out to my brother, I did my best to look him in the eyes. He was teaching me to ride a bicycle, holding the bicycle to keep it steady because I was a little scared and a little too excited, because I kept wobbling off-course. I was a little sad, too, because my third brother had been making homophobic jokes all morning. We were riding up the sleepy road of our mother’s village, edging towards the junction where the tarred road gave way to glorious red earth. I said to him, “So, if I’m gay that is how all of you will reject
me.”

“No,” he said. “But you’re not gay na.”

“My friends accept me the way I am,” I said. “It would be so sad if my own family doesn’t.”

v. Third Brother: Rapum, I go soon start to wear iron pant.
Bicycle Brother: Shut up!

Leonard’s Girlfriend: This film is nice, but all these gay stuff are weird. Okay, see these guys…eeew.

Leonard: There is nothing weird about this, baby.

7.

I AM afraid of dying too soon. I am afraid of loneliness. I am afraid that I am too lazy to write a novel. I am afraid that someone I love might die. I am afraid of the day when I’ll come out to mum and dad, and to uncle Okwi and aunt Nneoma. I am afraid of kito.

8.

PEOPLE THINK I am not bad looking. Some people think I am in fact cute, but if the opinions of our family and best friends counted, we would all be hot. I think I am okay. I like to say funny things, to make people laugh, and most times I succeed at that. I am not Albert Einstein, but I can hold a conversation. (Albert Einstein wrote Oliver Twist, right?)

The world of movies wants us to believe that these are all we need to find love, or at least get laid. Good looks, wit, intelligence, kindness. God, in his infinite mercy, has given me teaspoonful of each, so that, no matter how little my intelligence, or no matter how ordinary my
looks, I can, with a little kindness, purchase happiness for myself in this world. But why, after hanging out with my friends on some days, do I return to my room hollowed out, full of the emptiness of the lonely?

“I am discreet,” I once typed, and hated myself immediately.

“I don’t out people,” I say often, too often, but already I know I have lost him, the object of my disclaimer. Sometimes, I try not to let it on that I am not really in the closet, but they always know, somehow. It ought to be tiring, to go through life always watching one’s back.

I finally worked on my wrists and my gait years ago, before university, because of the things I saw in gay forums online: If I wanted a girl, I’d find a real girl. Or, I want a man, a real man. Ironic, that the scared, ignorant boys in secondary school who were my family and my nightmare for some six years couldn’t get the message across, despite their numerous jabbing.

If happiness is the end of all our journeying, then why do we often choose misery? And why do we cause misery for others? In plain English, Why are we such bitches?

Sometimes, I get mad at Achebe’s generation. I ask my friends, “Are you saying there were no gay artists and intellectuals then?” I know they had a different war to fight, but it is the right of children to blame their parents for their woes. Zadie Smith: generations are known for the projects they undertake together. Why do I feel
so strongly that this is our project—to make the bed, not necessarily for ourselves, but for our nieces and nephews and children? Instead, we fight wars within ourselves. “He’s such a bitch,” Ken, who has fucked half the boys in school, says. “He’s all over the place.” If I were not Ken’s friend, he would have given the same verdict on me. After all, I meet the specification: I say, “I am.”

 

About the Author:

Rapum Kambili is a Nigerian writer. His short stories have appeared in an anthology and a magazine in Nigeria and the US. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of 14, a queer literary collective.

*

Rapum Kambili’s “Gay Wars: Battle of the Bitches (or The Tops and Bottoms of Being Out in Nigeria)” first appeared in 14: An Anthology of Queer Art: Volume 1: We Are Flowers, a Brittle Paper-published anthology of writing, photography and digital art. Helmed by the LGBTIQ group 14, the project has an Introduction by Binyavanga Wainaina and blurbs from Unoma Azuah and Ikhide Ikheloa.

Download and read 14: An Anthology of Queer Art: Volume 1: We Are Flowers.

Tags: , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was born in Aba, Nigeria and attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A finalist for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, his short stories include: “A Tenderer Blessing,” which appears in Transition Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015; “Mulumba,” which appears in The Threepenny Review; and “You Sing of a Longing,” which was shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and appears in Pride and Prejudice, an anthology by The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and in Brittle Paper where he is Deputy Editor. His interviews appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa Magazine, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. A postgraduate student of African Studies, he currently teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [The JRB Daily] JRB Contributing Editor Bongani Madondo up for Brittle Paper Literary Award – The Johannesburg Review of Books - 2017/08/23

    […] “Gay Wars: The Battle of the Bitches (or The Tops and Bottoms of Being Out in Nigeria),” Rapum K…(Nigeria)  […]

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Chike Frankie Edozien’s Lives of Great Men | Inside Nigeria’s First Memoir About LGBTQ Life

lives of great men copies

Chike Frankie Edozien, professor of journalism at New York University, has a remarkable book forthcoming. The memoir, titled Lives of […]

Africa39 Author and Caine Prize Winner Mary Watson’s New Novel Arrives in 2018

mary watson

Mary Watson, Africa39 author and winner of the 2008 Caine Prize, will have her third book released in February 2018. […]

Chimamanda Adichie Covers The New York Times Style Magazine’s The Greats Issue, Alongside Nicki Minaj and Amy Adams

chimamanda adichie 1 Carrie Mae Weems. Styled by Malina Joseph Gilchrist

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the seven artists on seven covers of The New York Times Style Magazine T’s “The […]

Event: Aminatta Forna in Conversation at Oxford University

aminatta 5

Aminatta Forna will be in conversation with Elleke Boehmerat, Oxford Professor of World Literature in English, for an event at […]

Meet Omi, the First Yoruba Character in the Star Wars Anthology Series

star wars nnedi okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is known for building fictional worlds from elements drawn from African culture and narratives. Her recent contribution to […]

A Kenyan Tank Engine Joins The Hit Children’s TV Show Thomas & Friends

nia tank engine

Thomas the Tank Engine is the fictional character in Reverent Wilbert Awdry’s The Railway Series about steam locomotives. Thomas who […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.