Bandy Kiki / Cameroon
“‘Are you mad? Why did you kiss me in front of her? What if she saw us? I said, angrily, afraid and alarmed. “Because I wanted to, and I don’t think she even saw us, if she did, she wouldn’t say anything. She is my friend, and I will make sure she doesn’t say anything.” replied ‘my then girlfriend’ assertively and utterly unperturbed by my distress.
This was the conversation that took place in my university room, in 2010, Yaounde, Cameroon. Our relationship was a guarded secret, and we could only express our love behind closed doors because of the anti-LGBTQ laws and violence against LGBTQ people. It wasn’t my first relations with a girl, but definitely was the first with someone so bold notwithstanding the risks. Actually, I recall ending the relationship on the grounds of not wanting anyone to find out. So in sheer desperation to be ‘normal,’ I had convinced myself that I wasn’t a lesbian and was just interested in girls because I had never been with any guys. With that thought, I welcomed the male attention and eventually ended up in a relationship with a really nice guy, with whom I was emotionally disconnected from. However, it wasn’t long into the relationship when the guy noticed something was off about me and sat me down for an honest conversation. He wanted to know why I had never been sexual with him. My reply was “I’m a virgin”. “Even to kiss? Massa!!!” He went on “Virgin no di fear kiss Bandy, just tell me to say you no love me,” he said in a rather sad tone. I felt terrible and guilt-ridden, and without much thinking, I told him I’m a lesbian.
In truth, things didn’t change for the better between us. The perception of me in this way left him startled and confused for the most part, whereas on the other hand l panicked. Gripped by this interminable fear, I resolved to tell him that I was made lesbian by a girl. Well, while that was the lie that saved the day, the reality of it was that it was me who had, in fact, asked her on a date. Soon after that event and what seemed like an unending frustration for us, my ‘supposed’ boyfriend wanted to collude with his friend to sleep with mine since I couldn’t meet his sexual needs and as such, had to be taught some sense( such a shame!). After a bit, I went back to the girl I had ended things with. And not long enough I moved to the UK for studies.
Now life in the UK was more; I found new Sexual freedom and release. I didn’t have to sneak around anymore, and homosexuality wasn’t a crime after all. With all these regardless, what was still lacking was my sense sexual acceptance, so I wasn’t exactly vocal about my sexuality within the black community, by and largely owing to homophobia and the worry of such tales reaching my Catholic family and community in Cameroon, which regard homosexuality as demonic or evil. I did my might, I struggled to mask this part of me and cover all my tracks, but that fateful day came when for the first time my plans would fall apart. It was at a party; I was drunk and tried to kiss a Nigerian girl. And yes! you guessed right; the story spread within the African community that I was a lesbian. Despite the rumors and proofs, I denied it.
Come early 2017, when the political Unrest in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon was escalating, my views as a blogger on the crises ultimately made me a subject of public criticism and internet bullying. Eventually, I was branded HIV positive. Right in the middle of all these, someone I had confided in would go online to tell people that I am a lesbian. It felt like a low blow, and this time I would not only be in denial, I went farther to employ a standby boyfriend to discharge the facts. Mind you, prior to the online outing, a top Cameroonian producer with the host of other people who had found out about my sexuality started blackmailing me, wanting to control the content of my blog. At the time, denying could have been easy like before, but then I was living a lie. This is not me, I thought, So I made up my mind to come clean. First I came out to my family. Their reaction wasn’t good neither was it as bad as I had imagined. Next, I put on a brave front, sucked in all nerves, and would go on to do what had never been done by any Cameroonian; On October 14, 2017, I announced on all my social media pages that I was gay, an unapologetic lesbian.
Subsequently as expected, I got backlashed by family, friends and some people I didn’t even know. Most of my clients revoked our deals which affected my finances significantly. Standing alone and having to cope with all that was difficult, but the LGBTQ communities in Africa reached out. The support and show of love was massive.
Currently, there a lot of people in the closet, who are probably reading this and wondering to themselves, if ‘coming out’ is worth it. The answer is YES. Sexual freedom is Priceless, likewise your individuality as a person. Nonetheless, it’s imperative to scrutinize your level of safety and other forms of security before doing so, mainly owing to the crimininalisation and violence against LGBTQ people in countries like Cameroon.”