This is what we should focus on in debates of queer people found in heterosexual relationships

In Nigeria, the topic of sexuality is usually met with deafening silence. Rarely does it enter into the realm of public discussion. However, on September 7, Nigerians not only considered the topic of sexuality but also delved into the sensitive issue of mixed-orientation marriages. In other words, marriages in which the sexual orientation of the spouses differ.

While debates like this are often sparked by events, this particular debate seemed to stem from nothing more than one twitter user’s personal rant about gay men marrying straight women. According to his thread, the gender that a person’s spouse cheats with, should not matter more than the cheating itself and the reason it frequently does is only because of homophobia.

The climax of his rant was his declaration that though it is desirable for a partner to come out to their spouse, it is not needed because in his words, “nobody owes you their sexuality.”

As expected, the thread received backlash from many Nigerians who argued that non-disclosure of sexual orientation in marriage is deceitful. The general consensus was that it is unethical to enter into long-term commitment without disclosing your sexual orientation. Majority also argued that a gay man married to an unsuspecting straight woman is guilty of misogyny.

These are valid points. A person may not owe just anyone their sexual orientation, but they are definitely obliged to disclose this information to their spouse since they are likely to be directly affected by it.

However, we should realize that it is not only queer men that are guilty of entering into heterosexual relationships but also queer women, and gender-nonconforming people. And frequently, it is more about survival than anything else.

In the highly cultural and religious Nigeria, sexual diversity is frowned upon to the extent that it is criminalized. As a result, queer people are discriminated, attacked, arrested, brutalized and even killed. When presented with this fate, it is not difficult to understand why a queer person will choose to remain closeted within a heterosexual relationship.

In fact, in some ways, this is what society encourages by continually peddling the false myth that sexuality is a choice or a phase. So, a queer person is expected to ‘grow out’ of the phase and settle down in a heterosexual relationship. For some, they are even forced into these marriages by family members in an attempt to change their sexual orientation. However, as enough research has shown, sexuality is not something that can be willed away or corrected.

While this does not absolve the individual from the obligation to disclose their sexual orientation to their spouse, it forces us to face the essential truth that we often circle around. That homophobia endangers not only the queer population but also the heterosexual men and women that they use to survive.

As long as homophobia exists, queer people will, unfortunately, continue to closet themselves within heterosexual relationships and the only way to combat this is to stand together against homophobia.

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