The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
After refusing to accept his sexuality in Nigeria, today’s subject on Abroad Life moved to the US in 2015. He talks about how his relationship with God, his parents and church members made him realise that he had to accept his sexuality.
When did you decide that you were going to move to the US?
It wasn’t a personal choice. I finished secondary school in Nigeria in 2014 and got into FUTA, but somehow, my name disappeared from the admission list and I had to stay at home. During that year, my dad decided that I should move to the US for school instead of waiting.
That’s cool. What was growing up in Nigeria like for you?
It was hell. When I was 11 and in JSS 2, my dad found out I had a girlfriend, so he took me out of the boarding school I was in and enrolled me in a day school. Before we left though, he made me confess to the principal that I was a lesbian, and I was beaten. He then dealt with me when we got home.
He made me stay at home for two weeks — reading the bible and writing a summary of every chapter I read. That was his way of punishing me. We didn’t talk about me liking girls. It was like it never happened. After two weeks, I was taken to the new school.
Growing up, it was pretty obvious that I was different — that I liked girls. Everyone assumed I liked girls just by looking at me. People didn’t like me in school because of this. What I had going on for me though, was the fact that I was pretty good at math and I played football. So even though they didn’t like me, they needed me to teach them math or play football for them.
What was the new school like?
The new school gave my parents greater control over my life. My life was simple — go to school, go to church, go back home. I had zero social interactions. My parents made sure of that. I wasn’t even allowed to interact with my neighbours who were my age. However, at this point in my life, I was serial dating.
I would date guys in school, in church and even my neighbours’ friends. I needed the gay to go away, so I would date a guy for two weeks, find out I didn’t like him and then start dating another guy. Sometime in SS 1, I was dating a guy, then I had a fling with a girl. I thought, “Oh, this is nice.” So that’s what I started doing. The guys I dated from then were covers for the girls I was dating.
What happened after secondary school?
I became a Christian. I started going to church and praying the gay away. Church was also the only way to have a relationship with my parents. It was the only thing we had in common. For some reason, it was after secondary school I found out that in Christianity, homosexuality is a sin, just like lying and stealing are.
A short while after all of this, I had to come to the US.
What were your expectations of the US?
It was a scary experience for me. I thought God was testing me. I was here struggling with homosexuality, and he was sending me to a country where homosexuality had just been legalised. What was the point of that? I prayed even more and hoped that I would go to the US, face my studies, be a church girl, find a good man, marry and settle down.
One month after I got to the US, my grandma died, and that sent me spiralling. I really loved my grandma. I got depressed and started having nightmares. Eventually, I started smoking weed and partying. I partied so much, I missed one of my finals. At the end of my first year of university in Texas, I was on a two-point GPA. When I found out that I was failing, I found a different school in Maryland and went there to start again. The process was easy
What was moving to Maryland like?
I moved in with a family member who insisted that, as long as I lived with them, I had to go to church. So I would go to church high. They could smell the weed on me, but they didn’t care as long as I was in church.
My parents still tried to control everything I did through family members, family friends and church members. It was draining.
I think I needed a father figure in my life. In church, I became close to the pastor. We talked about my sexuality, and he talked me through the stages of sexual conversion. I would do some counselling, some prayers and then deliverance. I was in the church for three years— 2016 to 2019. I became a worker. I was the person they wanted me to be. I even went out of my way to date a guy, but the pastor didn’t approve of the relationship because I was still young, and he was a muslim. While I was in church, I tried my best to be in relationships with guys, but my homosexuality would overshadow it, and I’d have a breakdown and return to square one.
In the summer of 2019, I left the church because someone outed me.
How did that happen?
A friend from my secondary school came to school in Maryland too. We were still friends, so we started hanging out. I invited her to the church, and she became a member. When she got to church, she became friends with another girl. In 2019, I started catching feelings for someone at work, so as an accountable Christian, I told my friend about it so that at least I wouldn’t struggle on my own.
A few days later, the pastor called me to say that I was sleeping around with women. Apparently, my friend, in trying to help me, told the other girl and that other girl told the pastor.
I couldn’t stand the church anymore, so I left. The family member I was living with still had the I had to go to church if I lived under their roof rule, so I moved out and found an additional job.
At this point, I was done with Christianity. I had given God enough time to fix me. In my prayers, I asked him to fix me and take the homosexuality away. I even gave him a deadline. I said, “God, please before this year ends, heal me.” Nothing happened, so I left. I had tried all I could. Now it was time to be myself.
Do you see yourself going back to church?
I don’t think so. I’ve fully settled into my sexuality. I don’t believe in being a gay Christian. I see people say they’re gay Christians, and it confuses me because Christianity is a religion that says homosexuality is wrong. How do you fit in a religion that thinks your entirety is a sin? I’ve read books about people who were gay and now are Christians, and books about people that are currently gay and are Christians, and I can’t make any sense out of them. It just doesn’t sit right with me.
I’ve been in deliverance services where they cut my beads that I got off Amazon because they thought that was the source of my homosexuality. I can’t live that life anymore.
Damn. How was school in all of this?
School was good. I was working as a tutor and a DoorDash delivery person. As time went by, I got another job grocery shopping for people. I needed all the money to pay for my new apartment. It was a difficult period because I couldn’t find a flatmate to split the rent with. One of my uncles was very supportive though. Even with the whole church issue, he stayed by my side. My parents on the other hand were super angry. They wanted me to go to church at all costs.
I also switched majors in school after all of the church drama. I was studying civil engineering but decided to switch to mathematics because that was what I always wanted to do. My parents made me choose civil engineering in the first place because that’s what they wanted me to do. They told me I could do mathematics for my master’s. The plan was to not tell them I’d switched until I graduated, but the switch meant I had to do an extra year because of additional courses, so they found out. They couldn’t be too mad at me though. My grades were good, so they didn’t have anything to be angry about. My grades have always been good. That’s one thing they can’t take away from me.
Are you done with school?
Yes. Now I’m doing my master’s in mathematics. I still work my three jobs.
Do you see yourself returning to Nigeria?
Yes. Although I haven’t been to Nigeria since I left in 2015, I’m looking forward to going back because I’m dating someone in Nigeria and I want to see them. I might also miss some of my family members.
Oh, hell no. If I could go the rest of my life without talking to my parents, I would. My dad and I talk once a month. One time, we didn’t talk for six months straight because I blocked him. He’s a pastor and a lawyer who works in public relations, so you can already guess that he’s a smart and stubborn person. He thinks my homosexuality is rebellion. All my life, he’s believed that whenever I did something he didn’t like, it was because I was rebelling against him. He thinks my homosexuality is a phase that will pass.
My mum tries to reach out, but we don’t vibe like that. In the end, they’re the same: they’re my parents, they’re pastors, and they’re Nigerians. They will never accept me for who I am.
Damn. Is your return to Nigeria going to be final?
No. I’ll only go to visit. My children can never go to Nigeria. They don’t need to know that type of suffering. I don’t want them growing up in the same environment where I grew up. It’s too toxic there.
Hey there! My name is David and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.