BY HELEN NIMBE Claustrophobia; is the fear of closed, tight spaces. I never thought I…
Anticipating the backlash and fear of being rejected made my choice to come out on the 14th of October, 2017 one of the most challenging decisions I have had to make in my entire life.
Knowing how conservative and homophobic the Cameroon community is, I wasn’t fully prepared mentally on the realities of living as a lesbian. The backlash was frightening, to say the least. The shock waves hit in many unusual ways and unexpected ways. Death threats were slurred to both my family and I. These horrible and psychotic threats made me feel as if I had placed my family and loved ones in harm’s way. A top Cameroonian movie producer, Agbor Gilbert Ebot took to his social media platform and promised to raped the spirit of Lesbianism out of me if I ever set foot in Cameroon. Many people cheered him on.
The homophobic verbal abuses and threats were expected but a little hard to take. However, what literally knocked the wind out of me was the financial blow I suffered after coming out. Clients dropped me without warning. My bills and prior financial commitments were piling up. I remember sitting on the floor in my bedroom with my head in my hands wondering if ‘the coming out’ was really worth it. Nevertheless, I had to make it. I was very tired of living a double life among my friends and family
Not having someone to readily talk to about what I was experiencing cause me to slip into a minor state of depression. I didn’t think anyone would ever understand or had to deal with my pain. I continuously beat myself up. I felt so victimize and realized I was running into a wall if I let myself go. That was the moment, I decided to accept the fate of my action and saw the right side instead of the wrong.
That day, I reached out to a Nigeria LGBTQ activist Bisi Alimi. We had a riveting phone conversation. He shared his own experiences and struggles which completely washed away my self-doubt. Our conversation ushered an avenue of hope and renewed strength despite the shortcomings. I knew I wasn’t alone and more so, it is what makes me who I am so I had to stand firm not only for me but for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
“I think the sheer audacity
to not just embrace my truth,
but fight for the better treatment
of LGBTQ people shocks them”
The new-found sense of freedom improved my mental health significantly. You see before I came out, I was always anxious and slightly neurotic. As the founder of a very popular gossip blog, I was afraid of being outed, the underlying anxiety almost consumed me.
As the only LGBTQ person advocating for LGBTQ rights in the English speaking part of Cameroon, homophobes bash me daily. Some don’t even believe I am who I say I am. I think the sheer audacity to not just embrace my truth, but fight for the better treatment of LGBTQ people shocks them. They make my sexuality the center of everything I do or say.
I am currently suffering from a uterine fibroid that has been growing in me for almost five years. I have been vocal about it with my readers and updating them as my treatment progresses. I have a ‘bump’ and honestly, don’t fault anyone who has mistaken it for pregnancy. However, homophobes who are probably ignorant about what fibroids are, have capitalized on it to make their case. They say I am pregnant and have been deceiving young girls that I am a lesbian. From their understanding, lesbians don’t get pregnant. Others demand that I prove my sexuality by posting a photo of my girlfriend.
The truth is, the homophobia wouldn’t stop even if I show them my medical records. Something else would be used as a weapon. They are not going away anytime soon, and neither am I
I am determined to change minds by keeping the conversation I started in my community open. A lot of my followers and readers didn’t even know the meaning of the initialism LGBTQ when I started advocating for LGBTQ rights, but now they do!
A good number have even confessed that they have become warm and ready to learn or understand LGBTQ people unlike before when the discussion of same-sex love was a taboo. I think it is all about the little drops. More sensitization will go a long way. I am determined and believe in a Cameroon with equal rights and inclusion for all. Homosexuality is not a crime.
Bandy Kiki is the Founder of Kinnaka Group of businesses – a marketing and branding conglomerate; Co-founder of Rainbow Equality hub-an advocacy platform for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and an LGBTQ rights activist.