Richard, FCT, Abuja

How will I even begin to hide my sexuality? Most people can add one and two together upon sighting me. So, I try to be as open about it as possible, especially when with people I am familiar with. From the time I was five till adolescent, I realized that I wasn’t interested in those things that were of interest to my peers. My peers played football, they are fascinated by girls; but for me, I loved cooking and plaiting hair.

People in the community used to refer to me as a lady but at that age I didn’t know who I was. But as time passed by, people began to refer to me as gay. I had to pick a dictionary and check what that means, and then I began to have an idea of what it signifies. In 2013, I was sick, I had a problem in my anus so I walked up to a doctor and when I told him, he asked if I was gay and started preaching to me, quoting Leviticus and so on. You can imagine, instead of treating my ailment, he was preaching to me to change. If there was a way to change, believe  me, I would have changed because I am really fed up with all the challenges I face on a daily basis.  When you report yourself and say you have anal warts for instance, the first thing that comes to the mind of the doctor seeing you is–this person must be gay. Otherwise, why would he have anal infection? In most cases, it marks the onset of discrimination and stigmatization. So the reality is that most members of the community delay seeking help because of the experience in the hospital setting. And when they agree to treat you, it is with such disdain.

Till date this remains one of the biggest challenges facing the gay community in Nigeria. Years back, I tested positive to HIV/AIDS, and this is the first time I am coming open about it. Who do you tell? Who will understand? I remember a friend of mine who was admitted at one hospital like that, he was bleeding from the anus, he did not get good care and eventually died. Even his family deserted him.

We were the only one he had till he breathed his last. This scares me the most, because I am afraid there would just be no one for me too. We lack the confidence, since there is no confidentiality. At times I skipped drugs to extend the period of my refill. Because having HIV comes with a stigma itself, now being gay and also HIV positive is seen as the right reward. Even other people who are HIV positive look at a gay man as the source of his or her problem. The emotional trauma is not easy to deal with and it is by God’s grace that some of us are still standing.