‘Certified Homosexual’ for Being Different

Pointing at a black manImage 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

The Weird One Out

PHOTO: ONE EQUAL WORLD Society has defined how the ‘ideal woman’ should look, walk, talk, behave and be interested in. This evolves every once in a while but the core tenets of what society wants from women are basically the same; be pretty, talk less, marry, give birth, support your man and fade into oblivion. When a woman doesn’t fit into the well laid out specifics of the ‘ideal woman’, she begins to feel odd and worse, and doubt her self-worth. Her difference plagues her and she wonders if something is wrong with her. As she battles these thoughts, society sends men and women who fit in to her ‘ideal’ classification to pepper this ‘different woman’ with wandering anecdotes and poisonous sarcasm. Here is a glimpse of the thoughts that plague women who do not fit into the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘true definition of what a true woman should be’ classification. Let us start off on some of the questions she asks herself about her look: · Is it weird that she does not know the difference between a hair conditioner and a moisturizer? Or what their uses are?· Is it weird that she cannot tell between an original human and faux human hair? And that even if she knew, she would never spend over ₦50,000 just for her hair?· Should she be worried that she cannot tell the difference between a foundation and a concealer or even a highlighter? Oh! She knows what they are supposed to do but isn’t sure she can tell the difference when placed in front of her.· Why does the sales girl at the lipstick store ask her if she wants merlot, garnet, sangria or currant when all she asked for was red?· Why did the man at the cosmetic store snicker when she insisted there was really no difference between a ‘bleaching’ cream and a ‘toning’ cream?· Should she have been mad when the man at the underwear shop told her she was better off with the push-up bra as she isn’t well endowed?· Is it weird that she is not worried about her belly fat? And why was it acceptable to use waist trainers and give an illusion of a flat tummy when she had anything but?· Is her natural smell so wrong that she has to douse herself with multiple perfumes, deodorants, sprays and scents?· Is it wrong to just want to wear something comfortable instead of something trendy? That she wouldn’t spend money on designers who are all the rave now but whose designs would be outdated after a season? That she would rather wear generic clothes because somehow, they never go out of style?· Should she pretend those heels don’t hurt like hell or should she just stick to her ballet flats and scandals?    And when she is done thinking about how she looks, she also has to ponder on these other questions: · Why should she be quiet in public places when her voice is a great tool in correcting societal wrongs?· Why should she catwalk and sway her hips when all she wants to do is to get to where she is going?· Is it weird that she would rather spend ₦20,000 on books than on clothes, shoes, bags, makeup or jewelry?· Why do people give her the funny look when she says she never watches ZeeWorld or Telemundo or Africa Magic Epic? Is she so wrong for preferring Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC and the NBA channel?· What is so wrong with being interested in The Big Bang Theory, Fringe, CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, Sherlock and the Marvel series? Why should she have to limit her scope of understanding because girls are ‘not supposed to be that intelligent’?· And where was it written that women are only interested in sports because of their boyfriends or because they want to ogle men? Even when she proves she has been a supporter of Arsenal since they first signed Robert Pires, some men still think she is a supporter because Theo Walcott is fine.· And why do her female friends keep telling her she ‘sounds like a man’ when she discusses politics and the economy and global happenings? Like, because she is a woman, she shouldn’t be able to understand politics, economics or espionage?· And talking espionage, is it weird that she would rather cuddle up with a Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Steven King, Tom Clancy, Agatha Christie, James Patterson, Sydney Sheldon and John Grisham than Complete Fashion, City people, any M & B or eHarlequin?· Is it weird that she knows about NASA, quantum physics, coding and app creation, DNA sequencing and cloning, artificial intelligence and Einstein’s Gravitational waves theory? · Why should she have to take the words of ‘spiritual leaders’ as true and infallible when she studies the scriptures herself and sees that, many times, these ‘spiritual leaders’ are just wrong? And why should she not teach the word because she is a woman? These questions keep her up at night wondering if her difference will negatively affect her life. The worst area for her revolves around her sexual relationships. She wonders: · if her mind is sexy enough to attract the guy she wants; · if the guy she wants wouldn’t be bothered by her lack of interest in fake nails, caked faces and flamboyant clothes; · if the guy wouldn’t be threatened by her intellect and the quality of her mind; · if the guy understands that a relationship is a part of her life and not the entire essence of it and; · if the guy she wants even exists? What many people do not know is that more women are waking up to the realization that there has to be more to life than looking pretty, ‘slaying’, wearing the hottest designer clothes, getting married, giving birth and taking care of a family. These women want to change their world in their various fields. They want to leave a

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