By Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, April 2008.
If homophobia is the unreasonable fear of homosexual people, which is not a problem for all free thinking people, and people who have no fear of their own sexuality around other people’s sexual orientation then it is safe to say that the fear is largely unnecessary.
I believe we can coin a new word, “heterophobia” which can be said to be the unreasonable fear of heterosexual people. If heterosexual people can be unreasonably afraid of homosexual people not based on any evidence except to say unnecessary fear, then homosexual people can become “heterophobic”, also exhibiting the unnecessary fear of heterosexual people. It all means that where people are unsure of the other person’s sexual orientation or come to knowledge of another persons’ sexual orientation and/or unable to fathom adequate understanding for whatever reasons then a phobia will occur.
I cannot imagine a group of homosexual men and women, including youth terrorizing heterosexual people in any community. This will be seen as absolutely absurd but then why do unreasonable thinking heterosexuals feel at liberty to terrorize homosexual people, why is it that the heterosexuals in government, society, religious institutions that are considered intelligent and free thinking people, which I believe are still in the minority, not defend and speak up against the foolishness of discrimination, homophobia, misogyny etc?
Many Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) people co exist with heterosexual people in a Global Civil Society, it is not too much to ask heterosexual bigots to understand the safe boundaries required for co existence of all people, especially recognizing the diverse sexual orientations. I found the irony of this parity unsafe that LGBT can live safely with heterosexual people, but some heterosexual people claim to have a great deal of fear, and either refuse to understand nor willing to live openly with homosexual people in the same community.
Often people ask me, how are you able to justify your arguments on the issues of homosexuality and Christianity? I responded easy. I am the pastor of House Of Rainbow MCC, the first and currently the only Christian bible believing ministry in Nigeria that welcomes without prejudice ALL people regardless of their differences, after all we believe that our differences as diverse as they are a strength and not a weakness.
After House Of Rainbow, a few weeks ago, as we proudly baptized three new coverts to Christianity and also called into full membership of our ministry ten more people, it was a busy and long day. I thought the day was over when later in the evening a guy in my neighborhood came with six other hefty men to my door about 7pm, they came not to start a war but to enquire and ask questions on the matters of sexuality and Christianity, this has been a regular occurrence, not the best, but when people have discussions on sexuality and spirituality and becomes unsolved, they adjourn their meeting to my home for more inspired knowledge. When they arrived, we began with an interesting gap in their knowledge as I asked questions to fuel their understanding. The issues moved from homosexuality to transgender interlinked with Christian faith. I believe my response was credible and they were indeed very keen to learn and find out more. This experience left me seeking more of such audience of ordinary heterosexual or perhaps people questioning sexuality and spirituality, the sad news was that there was limited time and we adjourned to another time. (I will keep you posted)
I am studying for my PhD in Theology, at the United Bible University, I am very proud of this achievement, also in trying environment such as Nigeria. I was admitted not based on my sexual orientation but on my ability and quest to learn. On the 8th April 2008, in an open class during a taught lecture, it was obvious that my liberal views would soon be challenged. I was expecting this at some point. I am no longer coy, I take the view as gay person, that I have to be more prepared with credible and intelligent responses, not waiting to be caught off guard. I believe that I have become bold enough, with the help of the Holy Spirit to defend the inclusivity of the mission I represent, the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ. I was called an apologist, that is safe, but the behavior of my fellow colleagues not only horrified me, it also created the parity in the knowledge and exposed a gap in our understanding of the issues of humanness.
Now at the end of the lecture, I gave lift to people in our vehicle which carried signs and inscription of our mission, the name of the church and the motto: which is “…no fear in love” according to 1 John 4:18. The motto is a constant reminder to be faithful to God and continue to walk with Jesus in love for all people and in all situations. If we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we automatically hate or dislike them as ourselves.
Halfway through the journey one of my colleagues, who have manage to select a devotional I shared with LGBT Christians from inside the bus and have had little opportunity to scanned the booklet, of the contents and the author’s name, began with a deceptive mode of questioning; Are you married, why are you not married, it is not right for a man not to be married, certainly you are old enough to marry?, As I truthfully answered his questions, he got pretty aggressive and said that God made woman for man and he will find me a woman to marry me, I kindly declined his offer. I made it clear to him that I was made in God’s image and that I no longer struggle with my sexuality or the person I am. And I believe my relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is very much okay. My friend from Theology School got off the bus and we agreed to continue the dialogue and his busybody on why I was not married, again I will keep you posted.
My point of writing these experiences which I am sure is not the end of this dialogue with my colleague, and the guys in my neighborhood is simply that we live in an environment that continues to fail to understand God and the supernatural abilities of God in the creation of humankind.
Many people share their stories with me in Nigeria; One of homophobic and the other a transphobic bashing; these stories tell of the unnecessary fear their assailants exhibited whilst bashing them.
If Transgender and gay people are not a threat to heterosexual people, why do they suffer so much violence with extreme hatred? These reports border on the verge of hatred, stigmatization, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia. I can safely add that the ignorance of the assailants is the real problem and the fear of their own sexuality no doubts comes into questioning.
With our church, we see many people that don’t come to our regular Sunday services, as we also run other programmes, especially counseling for LGBT Christians and these people take full advantage of this service and equally benefits from the mission of reconciliation of sexuality and spirituality.
My queerness also led me to begin to study the bible and share short or snippet devotional, many I believed have been blessed and it has created further challenges for others and for some they are embittered towards me for queering the scriptures. I remembered when I first came to Nigeria to start the church in August 2006. I was told by many gay men, that I was not welcomed in the country, to me they seem to either love the darkness of the closet and the hidden deception of the sexual powers or afraid to embrace the changes leading to freedom of minds, hearts, conscience and the inclusive mission we bring.
The scriptures stand as a moral guide and spiritual support for many people, what I am claiming back is the word of God as they speak to the people I serve, people like myself, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender people, which is the reality and relevance of scriptures. Many LGBT people serve other churches with their gifts and talents but are stuck in churches or religious communities that frustrate their physical and spiritual relationship with God. We are stuck in families and cultures that least understood us and are extremely afraid to step out of line, so we are forced to do what we don’t what to do, and thereby lead a double life and live a lie. In other churches in Nigeria where we believe LGBT people are present, the moral code is “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” there are no programmes that informs the sanctity and relevance for sexual minorities. Many LGBT will continue to suffer in silence or fall prey to many preachers’ ignorance.
The basic simple tragedy of such livelihood is deception, for those who persistently deny their sexual orientation in favor of the dictated norm, namely heterosexuality will continue to feel pain and anxiety.
Evidently, many people now favor bizarre arrangements in the name of keeping face with societal acceptance. Many gay and/or bisexual men now fashionably marry and too often their boyfriends or male sexual partners are their best men, some conveniently arrange surrogate parenting with a female and thus bring forth children, just for their families to back off. A gay man I knew in Nigeria finished his first degree aged 23 years old and enrolled for another first degree, I asked why not a masters degree, he said he needed more time to be a student to avoid the question of marriage in his family, how convenient but the reality is for how long will he run and hide?
I met a young Muslim man, I can safely say that we are family as his family and mine lived in the same neighborhood in Nigeria, he admitted that he loved me except that I was gay and that is the only thing he cannot deal with and this has become a personal wish on his path that I changed. I explained to my friend that even on the return of Jesus I can do nothing about what God had fixed for me, the only good, acceptable and mature thing I could do is to honor the “Will of God” that has made me gay. We spoke for hours, sharing my developed experiences and challenges. I am not sure if this man is won over to my understanding, one thing I know that is clear is that his views are informed from a heterosexual stand point and also the Nigerian societal expectations of what human sexuality should be. TO BE CONTINUED