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21 Jan Written by  Kimberly Ward

Anti-Gay Laws: The Casual Observers’ Response

There’s a strong breeze of heightened homosexual awareness blowing across the world right now.

Led by the liberal media and news stations of America and the UK, television programmes, movies, music and news reports are ramping up their coverage of pro-homosexual issues, both from a human rights perspective and also using humour and dramas to make the world understand that ‘gay people are people just like you.’

The demonization of celebrities who dare to utter any kind of negative slur against the American-protected minority that is the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, and the vilification of Russia for refusing to allow outward displays of homosexuality during the Winter Olympics being held in the country adds to a brewing consciousness of gay issues in the popular media.

And as the debates rage on, if you’re in Nigeria you’re in one of these four camps:

1. Gays and Gay-lovers: Yes! At last, the gays and lesbians have a voice! Roll on happy gay marriages across the nation and civil rights for gay people everywhere! Today debates, tomorrow full acceptance, maybe even a gay President!

2. The Homophobic Majority: God bless Jonathan for putting those nasty gays in their place! If I catch any of those dirty men ehn, I will...Hmm. Imagine leaving the luscious beauty of a woman and handling the nether regions of my fellow man? Tufiakwa! Abeg, if they even dare to protest I will be the first in line to beat those men-chasers. Imagine!

3. The Ignorant Minority: Wait, there are gay people in Nigeria? Since when? I thought it was only a white man’s disease. Wonders shall never end...

4. The Casual Observers: Wow, all this talk about gayness. I don’t really care if they want to bum each other, that’s their prerogative. They want to marry too? Umm, OK, but just NIMBY (Not in my back yard) please. Thank you.

Admittedly, it is mostly the voices of Group 1 loudly drowned out by the distaste of Group 2 that has taken over the airwaves, with nary a voice from Group 4 even acknowledged. (Group 3 were previously in the dark about matters of same-sex relationships thanks to the culture of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ prevalent in Nigeria, and only came across images of homosexuality on Western TV, hence its association with white people).

So I am making a bold stand here today on behalf of The Casual Observers, the silent and nonchalant minority watching the whole hot debate unfold with a raised eyebrow and a shrug of the shoulders.

As a non-homosexual with no ties to homosexuals and a balanced view of the Bible, I am blasé about the issue. I’ve had friends that were gay and read a ton of testimonials written by secretly gay Christians, who are completely tortured by their desire for the same sex and have prayed, fasted and had counselling to dispel it, some even married and had children, but still they can’t shake it off. If they could take a pill and become heterosexual tomorrow, they would do it in an instant. They often question God in tears asking him why He would inflict them with such a reprehensible affliction.

So I’m sympathetic to their plight, yet concerned about their growing confidence and demand for not only acceptance, but full immersion into the mainstream and for their lifestyle to be accepted as alternative rather than deviant.

We are at an age when formerly niche groups can present themselves on their own terms thanks to social media and the ability for anyone and everyone to make a film, write a book or even pen a Wikipedia page. Formerly secretive societies viewed negatively by the majority – from witches and Scientologists to the Illuminati and the mafia– can now state their cases on their own terms following years of existing in the shadows. So too with homosexuals.

Then comes the Nigerian government riding rough-shod over the Western media’s delicately-handled ‘Operation re-educate the world’ PR exercise, by banning same-sex marriage, same sex unions and even same-sex associations. President Goodluck Jonathan, in signing the bill into law earlier this month seemed to say, “The West can legalise homosexuality and go to hell in a hand-basket if it wants, but as for us Nigerians and our country, we will serve the Lord (and punish those homos with their anal activities).”

The African man that is pro-gay has probably either spent some time abroad, is remarkably well-read and well-versed in Western literature or is gay himself (much to his own initial horror and shame I’m sure.) But there are many men who tick all three boxes but remain outwardly homophobic and inwardly tormented.

The intellectuals who argue for the rights of homosexuals in their small enclaves of enlightenment do so with the haughtiness the well-read have over those they consider less-exposed, viewing the homophobic majority in Nigeria as intolerant zealots.

But I believe there are Nigerians out there who are viewing all this with a pinch of salt and a slow shake of the head. The world will not end if gays get married, but we don’t want to see them canoodling in the back-row at Silverbird cinemas either. The law has come, good, if it is repealed tomorrow, fine.

So as the official spokesperson for the Casual Observers, I declare that nobody should be lynched or beaten or insulted for being gay, but homosexuals should also temper their demand for acceptance with sensitivity: not everyone likes what you do, so if you must, do it quietly and don’t make a scene. Thank you.