• Blog Stats

    • 437,473 hits
  • Follow MY MIND SNAPS on WordPress.com
  • Walt Shakes

    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

    Verified Services

    View Full Profile →

  • WHAT CAN WORDS DO (poems)?

    What Can Words Do?

    Buy your copy of Nigeria's best selling collection of poems. Contact 08060109295 or click image to buy on Amazon.

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • It looks like the WordPress site URL is incorrectly configured. Please check it in your widget settings.

WHY CAN’T HE JUST BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? – Chimamanda Adichie

This piece, first published in TheScoopng.com, is a very compelling argument penned by a very compelling woman. There have been many things written since the signing of the Nigerian anti-gay bill, some for and some others decrying it. Many more things will be written, I’m sure. In the meantime, here’s Chimamanda’s take. Read and let us know your thoughts.

*

WHY CAN’T HE JUST BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? 

Chimamanda AdichieI will call him Sochukwuma. A thin, smiling boy who liked to play with us girls at the university primary school in Nsukka. We were young. We knew he was different, we said, ‘he’s not like the other boys.’ But his was a benign and unquestioned difference; it was simply what it was. We did not have a name for him. We did not know the word ‘gay.’ He was Sochukwuma and he was friendly and he played oga so well that his side always won.In secondary school, some boys in his class tried to throw Sochukwuma off a second floor balcony. They were strapping teenagers who had learned to notice, and fear, difference. They had a name for him. Homo. They mocked him because his hips swayed when he walked and his hands fluttered when he spoke. He brushed away their taunts, silently, sometimes grinning an uncomfortable grin. He must have wished that he could be what they wanted him to be. I imagine now how helplessly lonely he must have felt. The boys often asked, “Why can’t he just be like everyone else?”

Possible answers to that question include ‘because he is abnormal,’ ‘because he is a sinner, ‘because he chose the lifestyle.’ But the truest answer is ‘We don’t know.’ There is humility and humanity in accepting that there are things we simply don’t know. At the age of 8, Sochukwuma was obviously different.  It was not about sex, because it could not possibly have been – his hormones were of course not yet fully formed – but it was an awareness of himself, and other children’s awareness of him, as different. He could not have ‘chosen the lifestyle’ because he was too young to do so. And why would he – or anybody – choose to be homosexual in a world that makes life so difficult for homosexuals?

The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust.  We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.

A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people ‘suspected’ of being gay. Ours is a society where men are openly affectionate with one another. Men hold hands. Men hug each other. Shall we now arrest friends who share a hotel room, or who walk side by side? How do we determine the clunky expressions in the law – ‘mutually beneficial,’ ‘directly or indirectly?’

Many Nigerians support the law because they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. The Bible can be a basis for how we choose to live our personal lives, but it cannot be a basis for the laws we pass, not only because the holy books of different religions do not have equal significance for all Nigerians but also because the holy books are read differently by different people. The Bible, for example, also condemns fornication and adultery and divorce, but they are not crimes.

For supporters of the law, there seems to be something about homosexuality that sets it apart. A sense that it is not ‘normal.’ If we are part of a majority group, we tend to think others in minority groups are abnormal, not because they have done anything wrong, but because we have defined normal to be what we are and since they are not like us, then they are abnormal. Supporters of the law want a certain semblance of human homogeneity. But we cannot legislate into existence a world that does not exist: the truth of our human condition is that we are a diverse, multi-faceted species. The measure of our humanity lies, in part, in how we think of those different from us. We cannot – should not – have empathy only for people who are like us.

Some supporters of the law have asked – what is next, a marriage between a man and a dog?’ Or ‘have you seen animals being gay?’ (Actually, studies show that there is homosexual behavior in many species of animals.) But, quite simply, people are not dogs, and to accept the premise – that a homosexual is comparable to an animal – is inhumane. We cannot reduce the humanity of our fellow men and women because of how and who they love. Some animals eat their own kind, others desert their young. Shall we follow those examples, too?

Other supporters suggest that gay men sexually abuse little boys. But pedophilia and homosexuality are two very different things. There are men who abuse little girls, and women who abuse little boys, and we do not presume that they do it because they are heterosexuals. Child molestation is an ugly crime that is committed by both straight and gay adults (this is why it is a crime: children, by virtue of being non-adults, require protection and are unable to give sexual consent).

There has also been some nationalist posturing among supporters of the law. Homosexuality is ‘unafrican,’ they say, and we will not become like the west. The west is not exactly a homosexual haven; acts of discrimination against homosexuals are not uncommon in the US and Europe. But it is the idea of ‘unafricanness’ that is truly insidious. Sochukwuma was born of Igbo parents and had Igbo grandparents and Igbo great-grandparents. He was born a person who would romantically love other men. Many Nigerians know somebody like him. The boy who behaved like a girl. The girl who behaved like a boy. The effeminate man. The unusual woman. These were people we knew, people like us, born and raised on African soil. How then are they ‘unafrican?’

If anything, it is the passage of the law itself that is ‘unafrican.’ It goes against the values of tolerance and ‘live and let live’ that are part of many African cultures. (In 1970s Igboland, Area Scatter was a popular musician, a man who dressed like a woman, wore makeup, plaited his hair. We don’t know if he was gay – I think he was – but if he performed today, he could conceivably be sentenced to fourteen years in prison. For being who he is.) And it is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating ‘same sex marriage’ and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage. Where, in Nigeria, whose constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has any homosexual asked for same-sex marriage?

This is an unjust law. It should be repealed. Throughout history, many inhumane laws have been passed, and have subsequently been repealed. Barack Obama, for example, would not be here today had his parents obeyed American laws that criminalized marriage between blacks and whites.

An acquaintance recently asked me, ‘if you support gays, how would you have been born?’ Of course, there were gay Nigerians when I was conceived. Gay people have existed as long as humans have existed. They have always been a small percentage of the human population. We don’t know why. What matters is this: Sochukwuma is a Nigerian and his existence is not a crime.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

50 Comments

  1. Alexie

     /  February 19, 2014

    Thank you God…..someone hu actually wrote my exact feelings….best write up so far on d anti-gay law….no offense walter

    Reply
    • Hehehee! Why should I take offense? I haven’t written anything on it myself. And yes, I’m absolutely inlove with the intelligence and precision of her point of view.

      Reply
  2. Sallie

     /  February 19, 2014

    All I know is, if someone’s son or daughter wakes up one morning to tell him/her ‘I’m gay’ Let d person not cry or start disturbing churches for prayer point. I don’t support the ‘mobbing’ of people suspected to be gay… But I’m all for the anti-gay bill. No one has ever mobbed sm1 suspected to be a fraudster or an armed robber. The people mobbing suspected gay people know what dy are doing. No one sent them

    Reply
  3. Sallie

     /  February 19, 2014

    *with prayer points…

    Reply
    • anyibaba

       /  February 19, 2014

      So its OK to mob one suspected to be gay?
      Meanwhile suspected armed robbers and fraudsters also get mobbed. Where you on another planet when ALUU happened?

      Reply
  4. villebilingue

     /  February 19, 2014

    I think this is over rated… the law has been passed, can we please get on with other things??? those gays, who gave birth to them? Adam & Steve or Adam & Eve?

    Reply
  5. david

     /  February 19, 2014

    Emm….I don’t very much like the anti-gay bill. I think it should be ammended. I also do not favor the gay thing, I think its ridiculous…but that’s just my own opinion…but I also do not understand it. I might sometthing concrete to say about it when I do understand it. Chimamanda….”because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic”….nice line…real nice to read. But democracy IS the rule of the majority. That’s the point of the whole debates and ruckus in government. Yes the law is harsh and should be repealed but “live and let live” is a ridiculous notion, its like saying “let people do anything they like”…the point of a goverment is to keep order. If the majority of nigerians feel that gays are offensive then unfortunately they are offensive to the “Nigerian” people. Unless you’re saying gays are not offensive to the majority of nigerians. We do not have the percentage of gays that the US or the UK has so we definitely should not expect the kind of support they have there. The law is silly for jail time but its also silly to expect that gays be accepted as ok in our society. Personally I think the whole gay thing is garnering too much attention…apparently its also “hip” to pen something on the subject matter…hehe…make I follow na…abi wally, don’t you think?

    Reply
    • ‘the point of a goverment is to keep order.’ Your words. Have you been observant of Nigeria post-anti-gay bill lately? Are you the only one who hasn’t seen that there’s nothing orderly in the wake of the passing of the law by the government. Is order been kept?

      Reply
      • david

         /  February 19, 2014

        Wally I’m agianst the law….I don’t think agree gays should be jailed. I said that. I’m merely pointing out that “live and let live” is as close to anarchy as it gets. The question is if “Nigerians” decide that gays are offensive what do “we” do about it? Your thoughts please….

      • That’s exactly what I think Chimamanda meant by ‘live and let live.’ Leave the gays to live their lives as long as they are not breaking any laws that are worth reasonable prosecution. Ignore that person you know loves a person of fellow sex. If you think he or she sins, it’s between him or her and God. As long as the person isn’t a criminal, why go after him simply becos he doesn’t love the way you do. Live and let live. That’s just it.

    • martin

       /  February 19, 2014

      democracy is a government whose LEADERS are.chosen by majority count. Upon election, those leaders are charged with the responsibility to protect people – whether in the minority or majority – from injustice. Law does not care for numbers or popular support; it just cares for justice.

      Reply
    • John

       /  February 19, 2014

      DAVID. . Based on your point about MAJORITY deciding, Years ago, The MAJORITY of a certain group of people thought TWINS were EVIL and they should be killed! SHOULD we have LET THEM because they were in the MAJORITY? THINK!!

      Reply
  6. Kelechi

     /  February 19, 2014

    David, Live and Let Live is not anarchy. It is freedom, and it is liberty within reasonably personal and interpersonal boundaries.
    A man chooses to love another man – it ain’t your business. A woman chooses to wrap her lips around another woman’s nipples – it ain’t your business. They are doing THEIR thing which’s got nothing to do with your…thing.

    An armed robber lived, but did not let his neighbour do same, that is why he is a criminal. A paedophie lived, and got in the wheels of the parenting of someone else and healthy child development of someone’s else’s kid, that is why the law is after him. The rapist lived and shattered his victim for life, that is why he belongs in jail.

    What part of consensual man-to-man, girl-to-girl businesses look like the above scenarios?

    Democracy is the NOT that KIND of majority rule. Because when that majority will rise up tomorrow to annihilate an entire ethnic group – Rwanda remembered the 1994 genocide last week – that would be fine, right?

    We need to grow up. We need to learn that respect for the OTHER does not make us less of ourselves – but actually improves us. Supporting LGBT rights is about RESPECT and not COMPROMISE of your personal stand/beliefs/taste. That remains your right. Now, can someone else have theirs and let’s all get on with our lives?

    Reply
  7. uyime

     /  February 19, 2014

    Well chimamanda spoke my mind cos we really have them all around us.But iam off the opinion that the bill should be revoked and iam still of the opinion that same sex marriage shouldn’t be passed in nigeria cos u sha know nigerians they would “take to the streets”.If the country can just turn a blind eye but prevent public display of affection so our younger generations can be protected.

    Reply
  8. Kachi

     /  February 19, 2014

    Vivid and Precise… Best write up I’ve read so far on the anti-gay bill…. Homosexuality is something no one understands,so why purnish people for not understanding what they didn’t choose but what they got? Tanx to chimamanda for this.

    Reply
  9. Oh *sigh* this gay thing again. Can we just move on?
    1. Nigerians are not ready to accept homosexuality.
    2. But there are gay Nigerians. Maybe not a large percentage but they are many.
    3. There are a lot more bisexuals, mostly because they are not allowed to be gay
    4. The law is against human rights and makes no sense at all.
    5. I have a gay friend. Two, actually. The female tried to touch me. I didn’t let her. She’s still my friend. Called her yesterday.
    6. Nigerian Christians and Muslims should stop acting like being gay is the worst sin. Last I checked Bible spoke more against adultery than homosexuality.
    7. Gay supporters should calm the heck down. Being angry, antagonistic, verbally abusive and blasphemous cannot make anyone listen to their reasoning.
    8. Our government is stupid; many gay people inside there too. Hypocrites.
    9. Many of our kids in secondary schools have been raped by older students of the same sex. Why is no one talking about it? If Nigerians think homosexuality is a problem, they should consider child abuse and their kids being forced to be gay.
    10. The law cannot be changed, especially now or we’ll be like SA where women are being raped to make them straight just because a law was imposed on their society they clearly were not ready for. For naija, where people like to mob and have learnt to rape anyhow, the sentence can only be lessened to protect the gays.
    11. Just because I am a christian and I do not condone or accept homosexuality doesn’t mean I’m a bigot or backward or narrowminded. The law of my God stands first. Can gay supporters understand that and let’s live in peace?
    12. Jesus wouldn’t do what our government is doing.
    13. Can people in yankee stop poking noses into our business here, biko. Last I checked, Naija is a sovereign nation.

    *drops mic into chilled glass of zobo*

    Reply
    • Hahahahahaa!!! This is the longest comment I’ve seen Sally Moskeda make…er, anywhere. Indignant much? 🙂

      Reply
      • Walter, the whole anger against and for the law is tiring me. The government shouldn’t have visited it in the first place. Before this, Nigerians were not mobbing gay people. There was discrimination, yes but not like it is now.
        Everything is just scatter-scatter now. I’m tired. Live and let live abeg.

      • Me and you, Sal. That tiredness of the mess is for me and you.

    • Beautiful comments….i agree with you

      Reply
    • Dr Aitasweet

       /  February 19, 2014

      On point! On point! Still on point!!!!!!

      Reply
    • sholgirl

       /  February 20, 2014

      Correct

      Reply
  10. Well said! Anti-gay Act is unjust, inhumane and pathetic in a country plagued by heavy illiteracy, corruption, environmental pollution, unemployment, poverty and unparalleled terrorism. Yet, Nigerians and their law-makers are more interested in imprisoning gays. Foolish!!

    Reply
  11. All these pro-gay write ups always have the highest number of comments. I am already tired of dissenting with writers on this issue… The Law has been passed sha.. It is left for you to resort to the courts to seek a declaration that the la is unconstitutional and should therefore be declared null and void. All these write-ups changes nothing.

    Reply
    • ‘All these write-ups changes nothing.’
      This is funny coming from someone who is supposed to be a writer and a believer in what words can do. Apparently you’re just one and not the other.

      Reply
  12. Moskeda- you and I have the same take on the matter. That pretty much sums it up for me.

    Reply
  13. Peter Escriva

     /  February 19, 2014

    There is some basis for your line of thought. However, moral issues are not academic exercises; they are to be handled in such a manner that respects the occasion that spurs it. There is indeed a difference between law and morality though sometimes used interchangeably. Yesterday it was Yerima’s case of child-marriage, today its the challenge of homosexuality. The point here is that for gays or lesbians prosecuted, punishment may not be the deterrent, but efforts to attend to disordered hormonal distribution. The law forbidding same-sex union need to look in this direction, and all those concerned may see this as a checkpoint towards a community that Africa is characterised of.

    Reply
  14. williams

     /  February 19, 2014

    I think she is quite reasonable, and logical, in her treatment of the subject matter. For that reason, I am inclined to concor. Personally, I don’t support the act, but that’s just my opinion. I respect theirs too. And the Nigerian constittion provides for freedom of conscience and religion that doesn’t constitute threat to peaceful existence. Gayism meets this requirement.

    Reply
  15. Well, let us learn to accommodate people’s differences. We don’t have to believe or support the act based on our religious beliefs but we should respect their rights of charting a course for their own lives even if it disgusts us. That is the whole essence of democracy!

    Democracy is when you are willing to allow a person shout at the top of his voice things you are willing to spend the rest of your life shouting against.

    The Bible is binding on all that believe in it, so also are the other holy books. They cannot however be used as a basis of passing a law that will be binding on others that do not believe in them. Our belief should not be a basis of judging or condemning anyone.

    A crime is one that infringes on human rights not one that goes against a religious belief. If two men agree to marry each other (and by extension forfeit their right to procreate) it doesn’t infringe on any other person’s human right (and it doesn’t matter whether your sensibilities is offended) and if we think they are doing evil, leave it for God to be the judge! Religion says do not judge.

    Criminalizing a behavior based on personal beliefs is like ramming your belief down another’s throat. And that is violation of a human right.

    Reply
  16. Chuks

     /  February 19, 2014

    Ha!!! All this grammar and comments on top say Government no want make man fuck man. Maybe I go go fuck one guy see how e be. So I go know if I fit support the law or protest.

    Walter wetin you tink on top this matter?

    Reply
    • *wondering if there’s any imprisonment for blog owners whose blogs have knowledge of gay activity*

      Reply
      • Chuks

         /  February 20, 2014

        Really the whole thing feels so contrived and oh so very annoying.
        Politicians pound babies, behead virgins and commit atrocious despicable crimes to get in and stay in power. Senators steal public funds and set up bogus committees to look into the matters but end up spending more public funds carrying out paper investigations. See how long it took them to fire the Aviation Minister whose tenure had more scandal than Shonda Rhimes could create. Rapists abound. Police Officers harass and abuse the citizens they swore to protect…and people feel so helpless in the matter. Hence, people are angry everywhere and look for the slightest misdeed from people they can beat up or kill to feel like they have a say in the matter. Case in point the various public mob attacks and lynchings. Now the Government has provided another distraction for people to vent their helpless God-forsaken anger on. “You mustn’t question our misdeeds and gross corruption and call us to question. We know you are angry and may one day get to a boiling point where you all snap and repeat the French Revolution or the Russian Bolshevik Revolution here in Nigeria. So by all means, bash the gays. They are the unnatural ones here, not us.”

        And Everyone here is busy saying they don’t support the act but don’t endorse the law either.
        If only the legislators were this neutral on the matter. Gays would not become prone to hate crimes and violence in a nation where the justice system is a caustic case of ineptitude.

      • God bless you and your insight.

  17. I still struggle to understand how we choose to fight for gay rights in a country where human rights are close to non existent. It baffles me. All i will ever say on this topic is right here… http://www.singlenigerian.co.uk/2014/01/23/an-open-letter-by-snm/

    Reply
  18. Adeyinka Adebusuyi

     /  February 20, 2014

    used to be a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, not until i read her article “Why can’t he be like everyone else”, i read the lines with utmost dismay, i didn’t find that article scholarly, the beautiful nigerian writer committed so many fallacies;
    1. Fallacy of hasty generalization (What is true in a weird special case must generally be true).
    2. Red herring (The premise(s) of an argument does not infer its conclusion).
    3. Ignoratio Elenchi (Also known as irrelevant conclusion).
    4. Fallacy of composition (what is true of the part, must be true of the whole).
    and almost every one is shaking their head in acceptance because she is chimamanda, how sheepishly people are committing the fallacy “Argumentum ad verecudiam” (something is true because an expert so), H*ll no, we all have a mind capable of thinking.
    If nature approved of same sex affair, how come we exist as male and female? i have seen a girl who behaves so much like a boy, her influence was she up as the only girl in the midst of boys, does that make her a born lesbian?.
    I have seen a boy who catwalked perfectly like a girl, talks like a girl, the mere sight of him is hilarious, i was shocked the day i saw him beat up a muscular guy, because the guy was making passes at his girlfriend that he cherished so much (chimamanda would conclude that because the guy is effeminate, he was born gay) HOW FALLACIOUS!!
    WHERE WAS CHIMAMANDA WHEN THE GAY BILL WAS IN DELIBERATION? I WONDER WHY THE OUTCRY DESERVES A WORLD ATTENTION.
    Have you ever thought of how hillarious it would be, if our children were to be taught, a family consists of TWO MEN AND TWO ADOPTED CHILDREN, you can imagine the extent of emotional damage and psychological torture that will be dished out to chidren who passes through such homes.
    Article 17(3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states thus: “The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the state shall be the duty of the state”.
    Article 18(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states thus:
    “The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected by the state which shall take care of its physical and moral health”.
    CHIMAMANDA SAID THE BILL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL, I WONDER HOW SHE ARRIVED AT HER CONCLUSION, I REALLY HOPE SHE KNOWS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN “LEGITIMACY” AND “LEGALITY”.
    GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

    Reply
  19. the reason y we stil ve to b moulded by our parents after birth not mindg our already given shape is because it is believed dt d re-shapeng act ll correct som things consider’d as defects..i respect the clear cut facts stated in this article..ve we stoppd to consida d fact dt Nigeria is cultured state,dt majority of the gay percentage werent born so n that abuse birthed som?m just saying the mere fact dt a girl feels like a boy doesnt mk her one…by virtue of interactn wit sm of diz people werent born so…i opine that corrective measures b taken rather accepting it as normal..

    Reply
  20. chukarudy

     /  February 22, 2014

    Aunty chimamanda aη∂ her way of weaving lots aη∂ lots of comments fϑя any matter wey she bring up ℓ☺ℓ.46 comments aη∂ counting….

    Reply
  21. Since it has not been scientifically proven that homesexual is genetic, I totally disagree with this argument!!!! I don’t care how nicely done words are woven together.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: