Home / Featured / THE LANGUAGE OF PREJUDICE. Or: THE HEARTLESS (CRAZY) (GAY) PERSON?

THE LANGUAGE OF PREJUDICE. Or: THE HEARTLESS (CRAZY) (GAY) PERSON?

As we saw in this Facebook post from a couple of days ago, a certain Darren shared the story of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child in the hands of a man who was his soccer coach.

First off, let me say how sad I feel about what he went through; an adult should never take advantage of an innocent child that way.

That said – and not to distract attention from his pain – the wording of Darren’s post raises some concerns about the language of justice, privilege and prejudice. I’ll start from his post then move on to a few others.

Now Darren, from what I have gathered scrolling through his wall, is a humanist and atheist; and has nothing but kind words for LGBT people. However, with the posts about his abuse, I am finding his pro-gay stance a little creaky at the hinges. How he made such an anti-gay-leaning error, I do not know. What I know is: he made the error anyway.

Error #1ab 1

Darren begins the post with identifying his molester by his sexual orientation – which is like making sure to always specify in conversation that your neighbour who is a sex-worker is an Owerri girl.

*

Error #2 (When he made the post)

The next time he uses the H-word, it is an adjective, qualifying the noun predator.ab 2

The thing with human identity labels is to know when to use them and when not to. When used correctly, they are descriptors; when used wrongly, they can be an underhanded way of saying: This is what I think about everybody who shares so and so identity.

Is the story about Darren being abused by a man (or a crocodile for that matter); or is it about Darren being abused by a homosexual? Both sentences don’t mean the same thing.

*

Error #3

The third time he mentions the H-word, one gets the niggling feeling that homosexuality and paedophilia are somehow interchangeable.ab 3

Did he just suggest that some soccer-field slang was euphemism for paedophilia AND homosexuality?ab 4

Now this is where he gets things right:ab 5

His initial hate of homosexuals is valid psychologically: hating all gay people because you were raped by a gay person; stigmatizing all persons living with HIV because you were infected by one person; despising all Christians because your pastor was a psycho who locked kids up in the church basement… Yes, irrational sentiments arising from abuse/trauma are understandable; and there is therapy for it.

Although, if – as he says – he is past hating homosexuals, why the relentless emphasis on his abuser’s homosexuality in his PAEDOPHILIC abuse, knowing full well how easily people conflate both concepts and look for negativity to pin on difference so they can rationalise their bias?

One more thing about human identity labels is to know which one matters in which conversation. When narrating a story of rape, for example, the point is, I was raped by a man or woman or crocodile. Other identity features like the person’s ethnic group, race, or sexual orientation or what fetishes they are into are secondary.

In Darren’s story, it could have been a woman fondling him at night. Would the story then have been about a “heterosexual predator” who abused him?

***

While I was arguing this issue with a friend, he accused me of side-lining Darren’s pain in order to focus on mine: “It’s not his [Darren’s] job to protect the LGBT,” this friend said.

I agree. It’s not Darren’s job to protect us: after all, he is straight. But it is not his job either to bait people with our necks. I want to believe this was unintended. However, I suspect that were he someone known to be antigay, the comments under his story would have been homophobic. So… #DarrenForPresident

***

And this brings me to this meme/post from another Facebook friend, Bura-Bari Nwilo. Apparently, the meme under the long post had been flying around for a while, and generating some controversy, all of which I missed.ab 6ab 7

Anyway, after this Nwilo made his post, Amatesiro Ede pointed out that the post was a gay bashing post.

Of course, Nwilo took umbrage with being accused of homophobia; and he got one or two people backing him up.

Now, let’s ignore the condescension dripping off the first paragraph of the post, and ask this: Since when did speculating about the sexuality of a person amount to “ridiculing” them?

Please entertain yourself by going through the comments that post elicited: reams of homophobic nonsense which the OP, conveniently, did not correct or challenge. And why would he? Make a post alerting Nigerians that the Gay Tsunami is fast conquering their sacred Bible; set us up for an afternoon of verbal bashing and the shuddering of God’s holy people; then pretend you don’t know what you have done. Very subtle.

***

Sometimes I think non-LGBT persons need to try being gay for a day, so they can actually get it.

Speaking of which, there was this incident which made me giggle a little (I hope I’m not an evil person.). A straight guy I know from around Facebook, Caesar… We don’t talk to each other directly, but we enjoy the company of mutual friends. Some woman, out of spite, announced this guy is gay all over social media. She even Photoshopped images of the guy’s inbox chats to prove it. Gurrrrl! Throughout that day, till the next day, my harried fellow did everything he could to exonerate himself from the woman’s claims. I saw our mutual friends use phrases like “tarnish your image” in a bid to save this guy’s ass from being stained after this horrible-horrible “accusation” of homosexuality.

And during this furor, I wanted to say something to him: Ooooooh, the words were on the tip of my tongue! I wanted to ask him and his support group when homosexuality became a “tar” on a person’s “reputation”. Most of all, I wanted to tell him to snap out of it. He had only one job to do – one job: be gay for a day, have his sexuality on probation for just 24 hours, and he was already falling apart!

Now think of me who has to be gay every day and forever and, pending when I come out, have to anticipate landmine questions, dribble my family, and weirdly refer to myself in the third person plural when talking about gay issues… Did he have any idea how emotionally exhausted I felt most days, or how disgraced I felt by his gay panic? Yet I’m still sane! I still wake up every morning with hope, trusting that one day everything will be fine.

Like Denrele once said, being gay is hard work but someone has got to do it. Apparently when we contract the job out to non-gays, all they do is fuck it up. Mtscheeeeew! *jejely collects my gay back*

***

Back to Nwilo’s ‘David & Jonathan’ meme-post, did I mention that one of his backers told Amatesiro he needed to “learn calm”? That he was “too emotionally invested” in this [gay matter]?

Did I also mention the argument I had with Nwilo last year when he branded lesbians “confused” because a Nigerian woman left her husband for her girlfriend? I mean, God forbid that this woman might have been one of millions of LGBT persons who chose a heterosexual lifestyle in order to fit in – until she got tired of living that lie. She, and every other Nigerian lesbian, just had to be…confused.

You see life? People will finish oppressing you, and then when you complain small, they will say your aggro is too much, you are too extreme, you should calm down. Wawu. Unu mean-iri ihe nkea? Were you people calm when you were bludgeoning #Akin to death? Some jokes are not even funny.

***

All I’m saying: Not all homophobia will announce itself as “Kill the Gays”. A lot of it will be subtle– Hmmmm, gay couple wed in Missouri. What do you wish the couple?

What else will Nigerians wish the couple, if not death? – and if you ain’t woke, you might miss it.

Just as some gay people miss the fact that Linda Ikeji is a homophobe.

People also forget that homophobia is actually very common, like geckos in most homes. It is so firmly in rooted in our culture and speech we don’t notice it anymore; and when we do, we make excuses for it.

***

Anyway, speaking of “calming down”, I shall end this article with screenshots of one of the best pro-gay statements I ever read, which made me tear up (considering how I was feeling at the time). It was made the day after #Akin was murdered. There was this debate about whether or not the tragedy was partly enabled by people’s anti-gay rhetoric, particularly opinions drawn from religious beliefs; and it was disgusting how, in the argument, people hurriedly expressed sympathy over #Akin’s murder so they could move on to clarify that their personal anti-gay sentiments invalidated homosexuality.

So this lovely woman Rose Kahendi weighed in:ab 8ab 9

See what I did there with the red marker? Hehe. Toodles!

Written by Absalom


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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7 comments

  1. As an LGBT person, you live in a society that’s so overtly homophobic, and when you get a slice of acceptance, you clutch to it so fiercely that when this ‘ally’ expresses the subtlest of homophobia, you make excuses for it.
    This piece is ruthlessly on point. ????

  2. 1. I have a feeling misunderstood and read too much into Darren’s words. But I know too little about Darren or his post to say much on that.

    2. The meme posted by Bura was originally posted by Nkechi Bianze, and the words he posted with it was a comment on the post and yes, Nkechi’s post was ridiculing. You got the comment out of context and without the background information, you misunderstood it. He was pointing out Nkechi’s erroneous assertions which she posted alongside the meme. If you follow her, I think you should find the post and go through it.

  3. It is indeed a sensitive thing to call out a victim on another issue however, I think it is necessary in this case. It is interesting to note that he hated all homosexuals for an act perpetuated by a paedophile who happened to be homosexual.

    It is important to point out that homosexuality and paedophilia are not the same thing. It is known that heterosexual men abuse far more young girls than homosexual abuse young boys. It probably is a numbers thing as there are more heterosexual men. However no one equates heterosexuality with paedophilia because of privilege of being the majority and perceived norm. However homosexuals are all painted with this brush because it gives more ammunition to those that demonise homosexuality.

    I hope this post will help raise the awareness for the proper distinction and clarity needed in addressing these sensitive issues.

  4. Hmm, while I don’t think Daren deliberately meant any harm, there is a linguistic implication with words and the order they are used. There is already this notion that gay men are pedophiles, so asserting the sexual orientation in that case naturally directs the reader’s thought to strengthen that association. For a lot of well meaning people, this linguistic consequence is an innocent mistake. Like when in the news they say ‘a black man robbed a store’, this strengthens the idea that black men are criminals because the notion already exists in the culture. When you also put this in context with the society that is Nigeria where homophobia is rampant and people are already seeking for patterns to reflect their bias, it become even more dangerous.

    For the second issue, it also shows the underlying prejudice we have concerning homosexuals. If it was a picture to suggest that a person in history once thought to be gay to be straight, it would be seen as a picture to restore his image, not to ridicule it. As for the label of homosexuality being a tar on someone’s image, the fear is rooted in the social consequence of being labeled gay in a society where homosexuals have to live with negative consequences. Again, it comes back to the social context of being gay in intolerant cultures.

    Unfortunately, these modes of thinking is often deeply embedded in our brains this side of the sea. It will require strict vigilance on communication to escape these pitfalls of unconscious prejudices.

    Brilliant analysis on the write up.

  5. I’m glad I read this and while I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend the daily struggles of the LGBT community, I am willing to listen and learn. This post did reveal quite a bit that I have to ruminate on and put into words my feelings towards what I read and raised my eyebrows at eventually. It’s a wonderful read and educative; thank you.

  6. This is one write-up.

    I’d blow a muted trumpet on this one.

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