Coming out in Nigeria
Probably, not since Bisi Alimi came out on New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda in 2004 has there been a news story just about as explosive and interesting as Kenny Badmus’ coming out both as gay and HIV-positive. [Pulse.NG]
As usual, one look at the comments that post-fix each news publication of this story, and most especially the one on Linda Ikeji’s Blog, the vitriol out-numbers the support by more than 10-to-1.
However, let us address the fundamental issues in Kenny Badmus’ revealing piece, lest we lose the gravity of the substance from the sensationalism giving room for holier-than-thou sententiousness.
Previously, Kenny Badmus had revealed on World AIDS Day 2014 that he had been living with HIV for 15 years, the results of his tests should suggest clearly to many that being HIV-positive is not necessarily a death sentence, you can live well, be successful and thrive. Some of the comments I read on Linda Ikeji’s Blog were quite uncharacteristically supportive, I did not want to spoil it looking for the vitriolic ones. [Linda Ikeji’s Blog]
The pressure to marry
Kenny Badmus admits he was under societal pressure to fulfil the needs of typical Nigerian society to be married, yet, before marriage he told his prospective wife that he was homosexual and even told ministers in pre-marriage counselling to help dissuade from her quest for marriage to no avail.
The fact is, both young men and women are under pressure to tie the knot after a certain age and then they are supposed to begin to procreate, which in itself to many is proof that the marriage is working – in many cases, nothing can be further from the truth.
Even for a very religious and moralistic society, Nigeria has like many other places in the world a diversity of sexuality and sexual expression, and regardless of religious beliefs and we all do not believe to the same level, from atheist through agnostic and apostate, to relapsed, to committed, and to extremely fanatical, we fill the broad spectrum of beliefs in any religion.
Some will find some accommodation for heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, marriage, polygamy, celibacy, abstinence, adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, sadomasochism, or any kind of sexual expression – we are essentially sexual beings, at the very basic level.
You can’t ‘sex’ out sexuality
Despite the glaring truth, the unfortunate liaison was contracted because probably Kenny Badmus did not fight hard enough to stop it and also probably because his wife to be believed that she should make him straight, at least, she thought his homosexual predilections were simply a childhood disorder. I could almost laugh, but many do believe homosexuality is just a phase, a temporary outlet in the absence of opposite sex partners, some think it is an abomination.
Kenny Badmus alludes to another interesting fact, the tendency for women or men to think they can change their partners, literally ‘sex’ the other sexuality out of them. There is too much scientific fact out there as better understanding of human physiology and psychology in the last century has revealed that sexuality is a wiring of nature and hardly an adoption of nurture, in most cases.
That is not to say some people are not curious about the other sexuality, but to subscribe to the idea that all are curious, living a lifestyle rather than a life is as myopic as anyone can get. This notion is however, promoted by many religious leaders leading to the atrocious persecution of many who are already living a very difficult and secret life of guilt, pain and despair.
The pressure to conform
The consequence of this societal stance is no doubt why many homosexuals in Nigeria and some other unfriendly culture are living on the down-low; they have very public marriages, consummated with issue and yet find the greater sexual satisfaction in the arms of others of the same sex.
Laws and sanctions are not going to change the nature of man, the matter will be driven underground and become even more insidious. A society cannot forever ignore what it is composed of, that is, it will always be a representation of the broad spectrum of humanity, whether accepted or not.
After six years of marriage, the wife having failed in her silly quest to convert her husband into a single-minded heterosexual, divorce proceedings were instituted where the wife has allegedly perjured herself suggesting she had no knowledge of her husband’s sexuality before the marriage.
You cannot compete for sexuality
She probably is in for a bigger shock, because her vendetta exposes her to unintended consequences in seeking that her now to be ex-husband to be visited with the full force of that odious Nigerian anti-gay law. Kenny Badmus’ status carried some risk, though with an undetectable viral load, this might well have been minimal. She really should move on from this episode in her life than ruin it altogether with the fury of a woman scorned. [NAM AIDSMap]
The competition in the sexuality stakes is just too high, it is one thing for a woman to compete against another woman for a man’s sexual affections, it is a completely different thing for a woman to compete against another man for a man with sexual affections for men too, it works the other way too and it is a battle lost long before it has even started.
Live the truth of your life
A number of things can be learnt from Kenny Badmus’ story and I hope it helps many young Nigerian men and women struggling with their sexuality and being forced by societal pressures to contract marriages they do not have their hearts in.
First, is what Kenny Badmus learnt from his own father, “Die for your own truth, even if it's unpopular, but don't harm others with it.” More pertinently, I will say, live, live for your own truth, whatever the cost.
I hear of many desperate young Nigerians at the point of committing suicide just because of struggles with their sexuality, it ought not be so and I hope Kenny Badmus’ story offers some hope, stormy as the consequences have become, that storm will blow away for the calm.
Live a full life
The pressure to marry will always be great but you are never going to ‘sex’ away your sexuality, if a marriage is entered into with this lingering issue, the blow-back can be unexpectedly nasty. Kenny Badmus had to face the public spectacle and the shame apart from having to reinvent himself as his business contacts fell away after the revelations.
Being HIV-positive is NOT a death sentence, get tested and get on medication that can keep you healthy such that you can literally live a full life; do not suffer in silence.
More importantly, find an understanding support group that can help you through the hardest times, the coming out of Kenny Badmus strengthens him positively, he cannot now be blackmailed for his sexuality, he is free to be who he is, because he has fully accepted who he is.
Accept yourself and live life well
We all have that life’s journey, the journey of acceptance, from the denial of who we are, hoping we were something else, the depression that accompanies the incapacity to change what we have no control over, the anger of things past and present seeding in resentment and bitterness, eating away our innards, the bargaining that comes with rash vows we cannot keep, but the release that comes with acceptance of our humanity, our weaknesses and sexuality is the beginning of a new life. [Kubler-Ross model on the stages of grief.]
And like Kenny Badmus, we can begin to be really proud of who we really are, whatever that might be. We are all, if you allow it, God’s own children, gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, transsexual and inter-sexual, we are born of fellow human beings and surely this should not be the determinant of character or how we are allowed to thrive in this wonderful world.
Thank you, Kenny Badmus, for coming out and coming out wonderfully.