|Pointing at a black man
Image Credit: The Sacramento Observer
I met a lady on my way home and complimented her hair. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was engulfed in a memory I shelved a while back.
It was early 2016 and I had just moved to Lagos. To welcome me to town, my friend – and her friends – took me out for ice cream and pizza. When we got to the spot and it was packed full, we had to wait on this really long queue. I offered to stay on the ice cream queue while they got the pizza. A lady was behind me and something made her bump into me. I turned and saw she was a beautiful, classy looking girl. Yes, in the two seconds I looked at her, I digested all of that. What was most interesting however was her attitude; she was very polite and apologetic. I smiled back and told her it was okay.
In no time, we struck a conversation about the ice cream flavors as we waited to get to the front of the line. Just as we got to our turn, my friends returned and we ordered. Because we were ordering for four, the girl behind me was done with her order before ours was ready. As she turned to leave, we waved at me and walked away.
I was so impressed at her charming behavior that I didn’t notice my friend giving me a look. She scuttled closer to me and asked if the girl was my friend. I said I had just met her and described the situation of our ‘meeting’. My friend looked at me long and hard and said, ‘you need to be careful oh. This is Lagos. Look at how friendly she was. I thought you guys were old friends. You better be careful because girls like that are certified lesbians.’
I was shocked to my bones. I looked at my friend in the hope that she was joking but her expression told me all I needed to know. I asked her why she would say that and she insisted she knew what she was talking about. I let it go but the memory stayed with me for a while. Soon enough, I started asking myself if the girl had truly been hitting on me. Apart from the friendliness, there was nothing untoward about our exchange. We basically just talked ice creams and the service of the people at the creamery. All these happened in less than five minutes. If she was flirting, wouldn’t she at least have asked for my number?
Before shelving the thought into my memory, I concluded my friend was jaded and it really wasn’t her fault. She had lived in Lagos longer than I did and had heard stories. But even more than that, she has grown to accept certain stereotypes about women. If, at first glance, these women didn’t fit into the accepted norm, they needed to be boxed and labelled in the ‘do not touch or associate with’ category.
It was not the first time I had been told to be wary of overly friendly girls. Even I had been told to stop being overly friendly. Reminds me of when I was younger and a super friendly ‘tomboy’. I really hate that word because it seems to say we are abnormal when all we just do what comes naturally to us. Anyway, EVERYONE was my friend! People liked me and I liked them in turn. It was very normal for people to come visiting or for me to go to their homes. My parents tried to make me conform to their definition of me but when their backs were turned, I always went back to the real me. One day, an older lady called me to her house and told me that I needed to stop dressing like a boy and being so friendly because that was how lesbians behaved. She preached for long and when I left her room, I felt so dirty and ashamed that I went out in search of my first girlie clothes. Like my friend, the woman had been conditioned to think in boxes. Girls had to be a certain way or be labelled bad.
So I asked myself, what if the lady at the restaurant was a lesbian? Does that make her less human? Is she unworthy of my conversation? Is she carrying a communicable ‘disease’ of lesbianomania? Plus, telling me to be wary felt like I couldn’t be trusted to make my own decisions about my sexuality, like a simple conversation was going to convert me into the grand dame of lesbians in Africa.
I must admit that this isn’t just a female matter; it affects guys too. When a man does things that are not like the rest of his gender, he has to be gay. God forbid that a man is a makeup artist, a fashion designer, a model, an interior decorator, a chef or one who just likes to look good. Woe betides that man whose fashion sense is amazing or who dares to wear pink. In fact, a man who knows the difference between beige and plum should be thrown into homosexual jail. Be openly romantic and face the wrath of the gods. Hate sports and be stoned. Cross-dress and have people refuse to be on a panel with you. Want to be certified homosexual? Be different from the norm!
I think this has to stop and soon! We cannot continue to label people homosexuals just because they are different from our accepted form of behavior. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own view of life and it is unfair – and quite frankly mean – to try to make people conform to yours. When you put people in a box, you close yourself to the possibilities they have. One of the greatest things I heard Aries Spears say is that ‘everyone has something to bring to the table.’ You won’t see it if you are already prejudiced against them. You are you and they are them. So for crying out loud, can you live and let live?