There are a lot of things that run through your mind when the word “abroad” is said. You automatically think of advancement, enjoyment, development, and freedom.
For most people, once you leave the country, you become a savior, one who is going to change their lives.
You think it’s all rosy, beautiful, and free. But no matter how free it is, you are still in chains.
I had dreams that never entailed traveling to the UK. I basically thought I could live in the closet as a female soldier without getting married. I felt if there was pressure for marriage, I would run away and just be on my own. I had it all mapped out, but things never go according to plan.
On the 23rd of January 2019, I came to the UK. The only reason I came was that my mum felt coming to London would change my mind about joining the army.
I was like a free bird. No cage. Nothing to hold me back because at that point I could dress the way I wanted to, and got treated like I mattered. But London is a lonely place when you are new.
Everyone went about their business, wearing long faces, but I was determined to enjoy the life and freedom I dreamt of, even if it was just for a while.
Soho became my home.
I would sneak there just to see like-minded people and happy faces.
I stayed there for hours and never felt like going home.
Although I was happy being here, I had so much dragged me down: From a planned marriage, to pressure from family. My parents wanted me to get married because to them, I was already old.
“At 26, they were expecting me to be the submissive wife the society paints women to be getting married, and taking care of your husband’s little needs-get pregnant, and have a child.”
For women above 25, society already sees the white hair that isn’t present yet on our heads. They have the belief that if you do not have a man, you are either cursed or gay, and I was the latter.
As time went by, London was not so lonely anymore because I found someone.
One who made me come out to my parents getting me disowned, and receiving phone calls from people who never called. People who tried to give a reason as to why I behaved the way I did back in Nigeria, by coming to the conclusion that I was possessed. They said I needed help. But my only response to them was “this is who I am”
I was depressed and scared. I couldn’t go home, and my girlfriend tried to control me. She treated me like a suspect and misunderstood me. Although I was free, it still didn’t feel like freedom.
This led to me becoming an asylum seeker. I hated those words. I felt so down like I shouldn’t be in contact with anyone simply because I was an asylum seeker.
I was suicidal. It felt like the world was against me. From getting disowned by my parents, and the one I was in love with, calling me names. I locked myself up, wrote goodbye notes, smoked a lot, but life had other plans.
As an asylum seeker in the UK, it was difficult for me to make friends, not because I was not social, but because there was nothing to talk about, and I had nothing to say too whenever I was asked: “where do you work?” I still didn’t like saying “I am an asylum seeker” because of the pity party that came with it. I dreaded going out except I had enough money for my drinks.
My mental health was deteriorating. I had nobody to tell how I felt, nobody to understand too. Even though there was someone who I could call my friend, I wasn’t going to be the friend who was always moody.
The Samaritans became my daily pen pal. Soho became my home.
My journal was my best friend.
I wondered if I was ever going to be free because, no matter how legally accepted I was, socially I wasn’t.
In a quest for freedom, I was thrown into yet another cage like a monkey in the zoo, with everyone hearing your story but never really caring enough.
You’re asked the same question again and again that you begin to doubt yourself. Is there a certain look I should have to be queer? You live in fear. Fear of getting detained any minute like a criminal.
I got funny looks when I walked down the streets of Newham. I could tell they knew who I was, and were uncomfortable seeing me.
I tried being in a relationship, but I was in a space where I couldn’t handle it because one day, you are happy, and the next thing you know is that you are depressed and filled with thoughts. I wanted someone by my side no matter what, and they wanted someone they were sure of seeing. Not someone unstable.
Is it all rosy? Well, I guess you can tell from the little I have written above, and it doesn’t end there…
Writer: Vanessa Nwosu | @nessakem
Editor: Chisom Peter | @peter.fect
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