To the girl in the closet
Where are the safe spaces for young queer girls to explore their sexuality that does not involve sex, guilt and exploitation? I found out the hard way; the closet is not safe, but neither is the world outside the closet. The only thing I seek now is freedom. This is my coming out story.
As a young girl, I always knew I liked girls. This wasn’t because my guardian used me to satisfy her sexual urges when I was only six years old. No, it wasn’t that. This is who I was, a girl who liked girls. At some point, I too found myself experimenting with a younger cousin – who was also in the phase of exploring. My curiosity about sex and its workings only grew wilder even before my 7th birthday.
I always believed something had broken inside me that somehow always needed fixing. From my teen years into adulthood, I desired attention and undue care mostly from older women. The sense of comfort I found whenever someone was willing to give me that only pushed me to keep chasing this fix. I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you how.
At Uni, it was already established that I had a thing for older women and an irrational fear for penises, especially erect penises. I would go through the next five years of my adult life only dating and having sex with women behind closed doors. Save for an incident I have willed myself to forget, I never had any experience with an adult male. Until…
In the year 2016 after I graduated from university, I met B. No B wasn’t a man, but I liked to think that she was and I think she did too. She was such a stud! A butch lesbian if there was ever one. I could say I was in love with her, not just for her masculine looks but for how I felt whenever I was with her. With her, my sexual curiosity widened. We had amazing sex and I craved it daily. I remember giving excuses at work just to steal a few hours to be with my B. I wasn’t hers though. I was in love with B and I wasn’t ashamed to tell her. I reminded her every day. There are moments I regret being so open to B about how I felt about her knowing she was only taking advantage of me and my love for her. On other days, I knew that my love for B was something that would have erupted inside me if I had kept it to myself. I did love her even though she didn’t love me back.
B and I were ‘together’ for more than three years until one day, I decided I would no longer be the side chick. I always knew B had a woman in her life who meant more to her than I ever did. Maybe I waited all this while because I wanted B to pick me as I had picked her every day, but that day never came. So I picked what was left of my self-esteem and walked away.
Now, this is where it gets complicated. After my relationship with B dissolved into nothingness, I found that perhaps I had the possibility of being attracted to men. It actively brewed in me and saw myself craving for a man’s touch – a thing which I have abhorred all my life. Was this because B had ‘manly’ features? I really did miss B. I missed how she’d brought me to countless orgasms every time she fucked me with her strap on.
The dislike and disgust I had for the male organ were gradually fading away. The few years following this discovery weren’t pleasant. Looking back now, I would say I was not proud of how I handled my newly found pleasure streak. I started doing a lot for male attention. I’d drink, smoke and have meaningless sex in a bid to fill up a bottomless void and with each passing day, things only got worse. I’d find myself sexually engaged with multiple men in situations that didn’t serve me in any way. This was a performance for what felt cool at that time because I needed acceptance from men to validate my sexuality. My friends couldn’t understand it. They tried to help me but I didn’t care to be saved. All I wanted to do was jump into bed with any man I found physically attractive, smoke the guilt away and drink till I no longer felt shame. Could this have been sex addiction? I couldn’t quite tell. All I knew was my compulsion to prove something kept leading me astray.
Then came my label. I soon realized that there was no winning. I wanted to prove to myself that I now liked men and I was cured of my childhood trauma-induced lesbianism. I found myself in several ‘situation-ships’ that involved friends but even though it took all of us to tango, it later turned out I was the only one who “hoed” around. I was soon tagged an “ashawo”. That label stuck. I slowly condemned myself every day until I’d wake up hating myself. I started to believe them. I let them break me and break me they did.
After a few years of battling depression, I opened up to a family member who helped me through getting some closure. I hated myself for not knowing what I was. I desperately wanted to move but I didn’t know in what direction. The thing that kept nagging me was why I felt the need to prove that I only like men or women even though neither was acceptable by my society. Why did sexuality have to mean sex? Nothing made sense. Slowly, I started to realize, I was bisexual!
I’ve since accepted myself for who I am and I’ve chosen myself first. I’m a firm believer that life is short so it’s best to go for what makes you happy not what makes ‘sense’. I thought about how a lot of the questions I had about my sexuality could have been answered without being exposed to harmful sexual behaviours. I thought about all the times I condemned myself as a sinner for liking women and all the times I thought I was cured when I liked men. All the sex I didn’t have for myself because I needed to prove I wasn’t a lesbian. All the names I was called for being with men. All the self-hate. Needless.
I have come out several times yet I still exist in the closet. I remember confiding in a senior cousin after she stumbled on private conversations on my phone and just like always, she told me it was devilish and that I need to repent from it. Thank God I no longer think of myself to be an abomination. How can I be? I am a beautiful creation of God who just so happens to love women as much as she loves men. How can that hurt anyone?
A lot of young people struggle with sexual identity and labels. My journey might have been long and ugly but right now, I only seek freedom. I strongly believe that everyone deserves safety and freedom to navigate life. I now know that it’s not a phase as I was told it was, I haven’t outgrown it as my friends said I would and I am not possessed by the devil as my family seems to think. Whatever anyone thinks or believes, I get attracted to both men and women and that is not a thought, not a belief, it’s a fact. What matters is I now believe it’s normal. I’m normal.
I am sorry that I didn’t come out in a way that you’d hoped but I’m out of society’s closet. This is my closet and I’m safe here until the day I truly come out.