Andrew 27, South-South Nigeria

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The first thing I got to know about the Bible was hell. And on several occasions, I have visualized myself burning in its scorching flame. This visualization could be daily or more depending on when my mother feels she needs to let me know how uncomfortable it is to be condemned to such ‘bottomless pit’, as she likes to put it. Mother found out quite early that I was gay, and according to her, hell is where God reserved for people like me. I often wonder if this is true. I never was able to summon the courage to find out from the Bible verse she usually quotes in Leviticus, in case she might be right.

The prospect of that being the gospel truth confounds me till date. My thinking is that if what I was told about God being my creator is true, then, I reasoned that he must have created me this way.

So my question has remained why would God create me knowing fully well that I will eventually end up in hell, to burn, going by the view of my mother? I had a close friend then that we were inseparable, so people think. Truly, we were inseparable, but deep down our closeness transcends the mutual fondness people thought we had for each other. He became almost like a part of my family. One day however, the bubbles burst.. We were caught in the act, and that day marked the turning point in my life. I was asked to leave home. To where, I don’t know. But I had no choice. So I moved in with some friends.

It was going on smoothly until one fateful night. We had slept, but then there was the persistent knock on the door. Without thinking, one of us just opened the door. And that indiscretion marked the greatest mistake of our lives. The community neighborhood watch had been alerted by one pastor whose church was close by that some homosexuals and cultists have moved into the neighborhood. It was enough to have us all, five in number, in the dead of the night marched out, stripped to our boxers and off to their office.

On getting there, they poured water on our body and started beating us mercilessly. They left us outside in the chilled cold till the morning. Around noon of the second day, without food or water, and with our battered bodies we were tied to poles in the backyard compound of the building which serves as their office, and told to look straight into the rays of the scorching sun. That lasted for several hours. Imagine broken skins without treatment in the sun.

So at will, they came  to give us more lashes till they got exhausted.. At a point they did not bother to beat us any longer because we were a sorry sight. One of us had  some money on him when they picked us, so they used the money to buy us bread and sachet water, which was the only food we kept eating throughout. Our moment of freedom was unplanned. I am not sure of what really happened but people trooped in for a case. It was one of the men involved who saw  us and asked what we did. So the man insisted they either took us to the police station or freed us.

That was how we were set free. I bear the horrible mark of that dehumanizing treatment on my back till date. We were there with them for three days. On being set free, we all felt very weak and sick, and we managed to contact relatives outside of town where we went to recuperate. I left town almost immediately  I felt strong enough to travel. A month later, one of us, and I believe it was because the torture was too much for him, relapsed in his sickness.

His family took him to the hospital, but I think the damage was done as he did not survive it. Every morning, at the point of having  my bath, because I feel the scars then, my mum’s words about hell reverberates, only this time, she did not tell me the hell is not of God, but of men laying claims to be God’s men and their followers who can’t understand that I was beautifully made by God, that I am just differently made from them. I bear my scar with dignity, they remain scars of freedom. After all I went through, I finally was able to accept myself, fully now, and proud of the man that I have become, even when I am gay.