On August 2, 2018, a Nigerian artist made the decision of revealing his sexuality on Instagram, with the cheeky caption “In case you didn’t know. Now you do” to his whooping seventeen-thousand followers. For anyone (really, anyone!), coming out is a life-changing decision. However, for this young Nigerian, the road to coming out wasn’t a shaky one.
Patrick Chuka had always known he was gay, and at fourteen, he made the courageous decision of coming out to his family. His mother and siblings supported him. For Nigerian men who are gay, family acceptance or understanding is as rare as a horse passing through the eye of a needle. One might say this is what families do, but definitely not in the case of homosexuality and families in Nigeria. Parents take their children to churches with the hopes of exorcizing the gay out of them, in other cases – disown them out rightly.
The now 18-year-old artist who, until March 2018, lived in Nigeria is now based in California, USA. A Nasty Boy’s Christopher Ebuka caught up with him for National Coming Out Day, on the thoughts, possible aftermath, and exhilaration that came with that singular Instagram post that has no doubt changed the course of his life.
A Nasty Boy(ANB): Tell me, when did it first occur to you that you were gay?
Patrick Chuka(PC): I’ve always known, really. I just didn’t have a word for what I was feeling when I was 14-years-old. I look back at my young life now, and I realize I’ve always been gay. There wasn’t that one moment I discovered that part of me. It just has always been there.
ANB: And did you feel the need to hide that part of yourself?
PC: I never got the chance to – I would have if I knew being gay was unacceptable by society! But I was already out before I realized that.
ANB: What led you to come out to your family?
PC: I remember the day. I had had a heavy heart for so long. I didn’t know why, but I felt like it was something I needed to do. I told my mom first; I have a [close] bond with her – she’s the one I go to for everything. She was in the kitchen when I entered the kitchen, she could tell there was something up with me. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her that I was gay. She paused for a while and, I would never forget this, told me somehow she’d always known, and that she loved me. And taking my hand, she insisted we tell my dad and siblings – they were in the living room. I told her I didn’t want them to know just yet. But she told me they were family, too. When we told them, they were all supportive – the only thing my dad said, jokingly, was, “Don’t start bringing men to my house oo.” After my immediate family, I came out to my uncles and aunties knew as well, they were all supportive. So did my friends.
ANB: Most Nigerian families would never have accepted having their son come out to them as gay. What do you feel was the reason for their acceptance – more importantly, an acceptance without hesitation?
PC: I really do not know. I mean, my mom has never really been the super religious type. All my friends call her cool; once, she tried to fix me up with her male hairdresser. That is how cool she is. For my extended family, I don’t know why they did. In the entirety of my family, only a cousin does not support my sexual identity. He’d call me names and all. But besides him, everyone supports me and during get-togethers, we’d watch movies with gay themes, and all.
ANB: Coming back to that Instagram post, what was your feeling after you made that post?
PC: I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing.
ANB: Why did you feel nothing?
I guess, in my mind, I was already out. My family and friends knew. So, revealing my sexuality didn’t feel like a big deal anymore. And I got a lot of love from people. There was just one person in my comment [section] who had a homophobic slur.
ANB: That’s beautiful! You talked about your cousin who didn’t accept you, and then this person who commented with homophobic slurs, how do you feel about these comments?
PC: I mean, not everyone will accept you. And I’ve been very lucky to get the kind love I have. Those comments don’t really hurt me. I’ve learned to ignore them.
ANB: And has your life changed in any way since you revealed your sexuality on Instagram?
I’ve become a lot more vocal when it comes to the struggles of people I perceive to be different. My friends and family gave me all the love, especially, when I represented something they could easily have opposed. So, now I just want to give that love back to as many people as I can, by being loving; respectful; understanding; and supportive.
ANB: Receiving and giving love are two cardinal principles that we all definitely need to live by. But I wonder, have you always lived in Nigeria all your life?
PC: Yes, I have. I left for the United States in March of 2017. My parents and siblings still live in Nigeria.
ANB: What informed your leaving?
PC: I am an artist. I need to study more. And I felt like America would provide me with better opportunities to present my art to a global audience.
ANB: Do you have any plans of returning to Nigeria anytime soon?
PC: Hopefully, someday.
ANB: Finally, what are your thoughts about Nigeria’s Same-Sex (Prohibition) Act, do you believe the law could ever change?
PC: A forward-thinking president could fix it in a snap but, sadly, forward-thinking people don’t run for the presidency in Nigeria.