By Kanyinsola Olorunnisola
When the boy was five, when he first learned about Jesus Christ, about a white man performing the miracle of resurrection, he did not know that he would someday become a miracle worker too, killing and resurrecting himself so many times that even death no longer recognized him.
His first death came as a child; it was cruel and sudden, as all children born the wrong way come to die. He learned that he was not created properly, that God had made some sort of mistake. The pastor preached that gospel every Sunday, reminding the congregation that the perfect God was in fact capable of imperfection. And that he was the imperfection, God’s only cosmic error.
He wondered what could have gone wrong. Was it the mixture of heavenly clay and water that was too diluted? Did the angels forget to bless him before pushing him into his mother’s womb? He could not answer these questions but he knew what he had to do. If God had made a mistake, then only God could undo it. So, he would fall before the altar every Sunday, praying for his own disappearance. Over time, after asking for his own disappearance several times, he would come to watch himself fade into nothing until there was nothing left of him.
Then somebody else took over the space he had left behind: masc, deep voice, heterosexual swag. This new person was twelve years old. He loved football, loved rap videos, thought Nicki Minaj had the fattest ass in the game. This new person certainly did not actually love Nicki’s music. That was such a pussy ass thing to do, he had learned. So, he took to obsessing over her curves, learning the language of objectification. He would hang with the guys and keep his eyes off the bare-chested one he could not stop thinking about. He was better than that. He had been reborn, remember?
But the world has a way of claiming its own. This newborn was not made for the world. His pretense could not withstand the pressure of the outside world. He could not hide from the eyes that sought to fish him out among the crowd. They could see the catwalk peeking out of the steps. They could hear the high-pitched glee creeping out of the deep dark voice. They saw the limp wrists that accompanied the fist-bumps. Our boy was exposed. So, he disappeared again.
He returned when he was fourteen. Or was it fifteen? He does not remember his childhood accurately. It is a side effect of growing up as someone else. Anyway, whether fourteen or fifteen, he was back. This time, he could not be found out. This time, he had a girlfriend. He even loved her. He did. That much is true. He would send her texts upon texts to remind her how he was going to marry her once they left school and became successful people in life. He loved her.
But his heart wanted more. It craved something stronger, truer to himself. Still, he would not feed it what it wanted. It was one thing to imagine what another boy’s lips tasted like. It was another fucked-up abomination to actually picture himself in love with another. Then, Glee happened.
At first, it was the music. The dance numbers. The camp. The power of friendship. And all that jazz. But, let’s be frank, please, nobody remembers Glee for the music. It was Blaine and the way he looked at Kurt the first time. That lingering affection in the former’s eyes. It showed our boy just what was possible. But he would deny himself. It did not matter that those he feared would hate him for living his life as he wanted were in fact living their lives as they wanted. They loved freely. They lived freely. They existed freely. But him? That was a fantasy he would not dare to indulge in.
At the university, in Kaduna, he decided to remake himself again. This time, he would become a sexless object. That way, he could pretend his virginity was by choice. But he craved another boy’s touch. It was all he wanted. All he could dream of. He would stare at the boys in the hostel and simply dream. He would watch his best friends hold hands with their girls, whisper sweet nothings into their ears and watch their bodies explode into giggles. That was not for him.
But he became determined. You see, a boy can only kill himself so many times. At some point, he starts to wonder if perhaps he could give this life thing a try. Maybe living, truly living, was something he could afford. So, when he found out about this dating app craze, where you could look for people who were born the wrong way like you, he decided to test the waters.
It was at first a cautious “hey” or “hello”, followed by a severe ghosting whenever the stranger got too close for comfort. Or a shameful, offensive cop-out: “I am sorry, but Yoruba men are not my type” or “I do not want to be stoned; we are in the north”. Or something like that. And so he went. Until he met a boy with a face as gentle as still water, a voice as soothing as a seaside breeze. For the first time, our death-defying boy fell in love with another boy.
This was strange to him. Not the love itself, of course; he tells us he had learned at that point that love like his was just as valid, as righteous as any. The strangeness that he felt came from the absence of guilt. He felt like he was doing something right, like he was doing everything right. So, he dived in and loved recklessly. If he would sustain any wounds then it was worth it. Love is always worth the risk. After all, what are we created for if not love? It is out divine mandate to love ourselves first – as deeply as we can – and then extend that loving to others. It is what powers the soul and he would no longer deny himself such.
This time, he chose to stay alive for himself first of all. And also for the object of his love. There is something badass, something divine about managing to breathe in a world that wants to drown you and erase your existence. He felt limitless by his acceptance of himself. He felt invincible. He was not just a miracle worker; he was the miracle. And he swore to himself that he would never die again. As long as he loved himself so radically, so fearlessly that nothing could dim his light, he would always live on as himself and through the body of boys like him.