My reading challenge for the month of June was to read any fiction or nonfiction about the LGBTQIA community. I planned on writing a review at the end of the month but that particular month was dramatic.
The most remarkable being the way a popular Facebook celebrity was schooled for his opinions about the community. People were sentimental, judgemental and defensive. My post would have added firewood. So, I didn’t write it.
For July, I was to read any book set in the Nigerian Biafran Civil War. ” Under the Udala Tree ” was my pick. To my surprise, the book centred on the same theme.
After reading, I decided to write a review. To document what I’ve learnt so far, to take a stand, help someone understand the community better and with hopes of starting a healthy conversation.
This is because the more we put a face to sexualities, the more people will begin to take the reality that people have different sexual orientations seriously.
1. GAY GIRL, GOOD GOD BY JACKIE HILL PERRY.
I found Jackie’s narrative to be piteous. This is because she believed that her sexual orientation is a sin. She spent her entire life trying to change herself. Going as far as getting married and giving birth in a bid to be heterosexual and obey God’s command.
However, she said in the opening sentence of her chapter two that ” I was attracted to women before I knew how to spell my name ” This debunked the myth that no one is born gay. One’s sexual orientation is not a choice… Individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual.
Another myth debunked is that gay people can choose to leave homosexuality. Although Jackie was married to a man, she never stopped feeling attracted to a woman. One would then question what she meant by being healed. And she said this “…But in God calling me, it was not for me to find a man to love. Or to live as if my same sex attractions weren’t a reality; it was to love God with all my heart, mind and soul “
That reply was wrapped with so much uncertainty influenced by religion. If you say you’ve been healed of an ailment but it still surfaces. Then, you’ve not been healed or there was nothing to heal you of because it’s not a disease. Therefore, it requires no cure.
I finished her novel feeling really sad and angry. However, I want to respect her decision to live that way.
2. 14: AN ANTHOLOGY OF QUEER ART
‘ 14 ‘ refers to the number of years in prison that the same sex marriage prohibition act stipulates for LGBT persons. January 13, 2014 was a bleak day in the lives of LGBTQI Nigerians. The anthology seeks to reclaim that day as a day of celebration.
The two volumes of this anthology, We are flowers & The Inward Gaze are a rich mix of LGBT narratives, artworks and sketches. Each chronicles featured leaves you in awe of the brilliant minds. These are people with powerful dreams, heartfelt passions, creative minds and only asked that they are free to live their lives.
Reading this collection debunked another myth that gay people are mentally retarded. Reading this collection was a proof against that line of thought.
3. UNDER THE UDALA TREE BY CHINELO OKPARANTA.
…the place where you realize that the thing you do for love is survive
This novel is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly in Nigeria. Okparanta uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue towards self hood. However, this story offers a glimmer of hope; a future where a queer woman might be able to shape her life around truth and love.
Today, we would rather lynch queer people than make good economic policies or improve our education system or stop the corruption that is draining the goodness and reason from us. We try hard to keep our place as the most moral of the world’s continents. But the world does not belong to us straight people; it has never really belonged to anyone.
I believe it’s time as a nation to stop giving teeth to the stigma and loathing just because of fear and ignorance. We should try to embrace empathy. I’ll end this essay with a quote from Ifedimma Osakwe.
Empathy requires a leaf of the imagination and an open mind and it is a gift for the person who feels it when it sprouts. There is peace to empathy, soberness, a better understanding of the human condition and the helpless situation in which we are all entangled. It is about seeing your fragility in others. It is a gradual process.