By Nicholas Chisha
Trigger warning: This article mentions sexualized abuse of children.
The purpose of this article is meant to highlight the challenges that LGBTI+ persons encounter as they develop from childhood, teenagehood, adulthood and developing an identity in a society that is not naturally programmed for the development and sexual maturity of non-heterosexual humans. It is a continuation from the previous article in the HeartCore issue ‘INCLUSION’ from August 2021.
The real name of interviewee has been withheld on grounds of privacy.
Interviewer: What are your earliest sexual memories and how did they develop?
Chuene: Somewhere between the ages of 5 or 6, my older half-brother, who at that time might have been 15/16, asked me the question, “have you started producing sperm yet?” Of course, at that age I had absolutely no idea what he was referring to. I replied that I hadn’t. He pulled me into our carport and started wanking me. He then said to me, “try doing this in your own time and see if you will have any results.” While the above scenario might come across as abuse, my brother had learning challenges. So, I look at it as sheer ignorance.
Anyway, that singular experience set off a curiosity. About a year later, I remember thinking to myself, “today I gotta see this sperm that my brother talked of.” There was a heap of fresh laundry due for sorting that the maids had just brought in. I dove on to that heap and started wanking. After what seemed like an eternity, my pelvic region was suddenly gripped by these contractions that were painfully pleasurable. I had just experienced my first orgasm at age 6, without the sperm of course. I remember my mother asking if I was experiencing constipation as I was suddenly spending a lot of time locked in the toilet (she was none the wiser). This went on for a while. Around age 8, I realized I was becoming keenly aware of the boys in my class. It was only until I was in my teens that I started connecting male images to my solo sessions. Even then, I still couldn’t connect the growing same sex sexual fantasies to homosexuality, or at least acknowledge it to be that. In a way, this side was a separate part of that I compartmentalised away.
Interviewer: Before you go on, could you please explain why you felt inclined to ‘compartmentalise’ this side of yourself?
Cheune: Well, one night while watching TV with my mother, and this was very early in my teens, a man who represented an activist group came on air. He was trying to explain why it was wrong to criminalize homosexuality. My mother’s reaction stunned me. She was so angry she was literally spitting at the man from behind the screen. It was the first time I had heard someone put a name to or talk about same sex relations. Also, as I was now in middle school and learning in detail about sexual maturity and copulation between boys and girls, and yet not once did the issue of same sex intercourse pop up. From that moment on I thought it best to keep to myself. The irony was that I was a mommy’s boy. We were very close. Now when people say mothers always know their sons’ deviant sexualities from an early age, I say, “Not in countries where homosexuality is criminalised.” They often do not have a frame from which to reference, and therefore cannot say, “my son has peculiar mannerisms. I think he is gay because that other gay guy behaves the same way.” Everyone is in the closet.
Interviewer: Do you recall the moment that made you acknowledge your sexuality?
Chuene: I was 19 and visiting my uncle’s wife in another part of the country. Unbeknownst to me, her nephew was also visiting. It was love at first sight from the moment I laid eyes on this guy. Whereas previously, I might have fancied other boys and fantasized about them, this was a full-blown crush right before my eyes. Unfortunately, because of the culture surrounding homosexuality, I couldn’t do anything about it. I stayed with my aunt for an agonising three days before leaving. The object of my desire was most likely unaware of what was going on with me.
That moment led me on a path of deep self-introspection. Simultaneously my best friend from childhood had come out as gay to me that same year. He introduced me to gay porn. Because I came from a background that was deeply religious and of course religion was against homosexuality, I wanted to understand homosexuality from a mental and psychological perspective. Partly hoping that I’d make myself ‘normal’ after learning about it.
I read Matthews Vine’s God and the gay Christian, Paul Roesenfel’s Homosexuality: The Psychology of the creative process, Stanley Siegel and Ed Lowe’s Uncharted Lives. I stumbled upon a site called ‘Nifty Archives’. This site hosted authors who wrote LGBTI+ erotica. I found that though I lived in a terribly homophobic environment that criminalized people like myself. The stories I read here on this site gave me a chance to escape and live vicariously through the numerous well-written stories. It was a great consolation. These sources formed the core of my education on homosexuality and queer culture. It took me 6 to 7 years to come to terms with my sexuality. Unfortunately, with that acceptance also came the realization that I couldn’t live as I was in my country.
Interviewer: You’ve talked about coming to a point of acceptance with regards to your sexuality. One could say that 7 years is a very long time?
Chuene: It is indeed. And I will say I am fortunate to have gotten to that point. I doubt that I am completely whole. When you come from a culture/religion that criminalises, shames, and literally tries to exterminate you, and a part of who you are, it is a very hard journey to come to a point where you are ‘psychologically healthy’. While I function very well sexually, I still struggle to form intimate bonds.
Interviewer: What are your views on sexualisation? Any experiences?
Chuene: Have I had experiences? Hell yeah! It usually happens on online dating/hookup sites. Being a person of colour, I am most often flooded with one of two expectations. The first being that I am ‘hung like a horse’. The second being that I will ‘rape the shit out of them’, or at the very least most of them want to be dominated sexually. When I first moved to Denmark, I used to find these notions flattering. The novelty wears off very fast, unfortunately. Talking of sex education, we still have a long way to go in that regard.
Interviewer: What has been your experience as a queer person from a health perspective?
Chuene: I had read a lot about the high prevalence of STIs and particularly HIV among the homosexual population. Because I had left my country of origin and had just started living the gay life, I remember running to the doctor the first two occasions that oral sex had led to full contact with another guy’s body fluids. I was prescribed ‘PEP’ and not ‘PrEP’, charged to my insurance. Later on when I was living in Denmark and in the asylum system, after a sexual encounter that I thought had compromised my health, I was told I could not be given PrEP, but would be given a blood test immediately, and again after 2 weeks, and only then if I tested positive for HIV would I be listed for treatment. I remember fuming at the thought that someone was willing to wait for me to potentially become HIV positive before considering giving me treatment that would then manage the disease, and not prevent it in the first place. I can’t recall what reason this denial to be prescribed PrEP was based. Fortunately, I was still negative after the 2nd test. I should applaud AIDS-Fondet, as I recall learning a lot through them and their collaboration with LGBT Asylum. They facilitated meetings and workshops with asylum seekers and refugees covering sexual health matters and STI testing. I got the sense that a de-stigmatisation was happening when sexual health was openly discussed with people coming from homophobic countries. It was also AIDS-Fondet that facilitated my enrollment into the PrEP programme and not my own doctor.