Real AF is an anonymous series that explores the interesting lives of Nigerian women. Navigating life as a woman in today’s world isn’t easy, and we all have stories to tell.
We spoke with a 23 year old Nigerian woman who got real about her journey to embracing her sexual orientation. In this interview, she narrates how she learned to accept herself and the experiences that shaped her.
What’s your sexual orientation?
I’m a lesbian.
walk me through How you discovered this about yourself.
Right from when I was much younger, instead of having crushes on guys, I had crushes on girls. During my younger days, I was a little bit rebellious. My mom put me in an only girls boarding school and that’s when I actually came to the realization that I like girls. But I didn’t explore it because I was scared. Eventually, when I was done with high school and about to start uni, I was getting more and more curious. I met a friend during this period. She was my best friend actually, but I liked her and wasn’t sure how she felt until the day we kissed. Afterwards, we started dating and we were together for three years. I graduated university and that’s how we broke up. I really thought we were just having fun and nothing too serious, but I guess I didn’t want to come to terms with the truth.
As time went on, I met another girl. From the beginning, I had a crush on her and couldn’t hide it. I couldn’t resist her and that’s when I accepted that I’m a lesbian. I liked this girl and I found out she also liked me. She was more exposed and more mature in terms of knowing things about the LGBTQ community. I was not as exposed before meeting her but she ended up helping me come to terms with who I am and that I can’t change. She helped me understand my body and helped me enjoy sex. We are actually in a relationship right now.
Aw! Was she older than you?
Yes. She’s two years older than me.
Let’s get into your earlier stages of discovery. Did this start from primary or secondary school?
Primary school. There was a girl I actually really liked a lot. I wanted her to be my friend so I got close to her and anything she asked for, I would do. I would always think about kissing her but I never acted on it.
Tell me more about your Experiences In secondary school.
In secondary school, I met a girl. That was the first time I got with a girl actually. She would want me one minute and then condemn what we were doing the next. Sex in boarding school was the norm. It’s something you see your seniors doing and there’s no judgment around it. Everyone had a girlfriend and we used to call it bloke and chick. It was just something we were used to and considered normal. We had no thoughts about the outside world, we were in our own world.
When I was in SS3, I had a corner mate in hostel. There was a friend of mine who used to come to stay with me and I would bully my corner mate just so she could leave the corner for my friend. At night, my friend would come to sleep on my bed and I usually sleep naked. There was one night I let her suck my boobs, touch me, and finger me. I kept quiet and didn’t say anything. The same thing happened the next day and I participated this time. After we did this three times, she wrote a letter to me basically saying what we were doing isn’t of the Lord and tried to guilt trip me! I thought it was so weird.
Has religion ever had an Effect on your sexuality?
Yes, but I would say it’s mostly society and not religion because I care about what people think. As an only child, it isn’t something I can just come out and tell my mom. Hi Mom, your only child has decided that she wants to only be with girls.” I can’t. Right now, I’m still a very religious person. I go to church and I say my prayers because I believe religion should be a relationship between you and God. So I have my relationship with God but that doesn’t change who I am.
Have you ever been condemned about your choices?
I came out to my friends in the past and a few of my close friends know. Some of them tried to make me feel bad about my sexuality. They will say to me “Stop, what you’re doing is bad. I’m not judging you but I’m your friend so I have to tell you the truth. It is something that you have to stop.” Presently, I’ve met people in the same community as me. There’s no form of discrimination and I love it.
What made you decide to come out to your friends, and Did this happen recently?
I spoke to five friends about it recently. Two of them tried to talk me out of it and told me that they love me either way. Then I found out the others were sort of just like me. I came out because I needed at least one person to talk to about how I was feeling and what I was going through, so I spoke to a friend of mine first. I found out that she isn’t a lesbian, but sleeps with girls because it’s “just for fun and for a short while.” I feel that many people are bisexual or lesbians but can’t come to terms with it out of fear of what people would think.
How about your family? Do you think you will ever come out to them?
I don’t owe anyone an explanation. My dad is late. I would say the only person I owe an explanation to is my mother but I don’t want to impose that on her. She will be heartbroken. She’s the only family I care about. The rest are my extended family. I’ve not given her any impression that i’m queer but she is well informed about the LGBTQ community.
Have You Ever Had Any Intimate Experiences With Boys?
At 14/15, I was raped. In the past, I’ve been in male relationships but right now I don’t have any interest in them. After being with a girl, I find it difficult to be with a guy.
I Am So Sorry To Hear That. Have you been able to connect with a community where you are?
I’m currently in an LGBT group chat actually. I’ve connected with other people who are just like me and I’ve met with a few of them already.
How do you navigate life daily? Do you find that you have to code switch in public?
I really only mingle with people of like minds. In public you have to respect yourself because being queer isn’t exactly accepted in Nigeria, but when I’m indoors I’m completely myself.
When trying to figure out if someone is queer or accepting, how do you approach these situations?
It’s by striking up conversations really. This way, you can pick up on people’s thoughts and opinions to sort of know where they stand.
What would you say to a young person like you trying to figure things out?
I will say explore in silence because the way things are now, exposing yourself means putting yourself in danger. I know you want to come out and accept who you are and not have to change for anybody, but at the end of the day you have to think about other factors. Your protection is a priority. You just need to mingle with people that are like you and also cut off anyone toxic for your mental health. There will always be people who will accept you for exactly who you are.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.