‘Our country is as gay as any other’ BBC Stories

Hi, my name is Son of a Tutu
African drag queen extraordinaire!
The entire look is African queen.
Some of the fabric patterns
I’ve chosen today
are not necessarily African
but the style in which I’ve applied them
are very African
which is a bit me actually
born British of Nigerian-African heritage.
So the gele is worn by
many of the ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The Igbo use it, the Yoruba use it
my family is from the Yoruba part of the country.
Being a Nigerian
drag queen,
it’s unique
because there are not that many of us out there,
but it also can be fraught with danger,
because some Nigerians still feel that being gay
or being a drag queen is something
that’s alien to their culture
that some of their children
have picked up from their proximity
with Western culture.
It’s a lie!
We are as gay as
any other country
on the planet is.
My dad’s Muslim – or was Muslim
he passed away last year
My mother is ultra fundamentalist Christian
When they met, God knows what brought
them together
But I suppose at the time they were not practising
but when they got back to Nigeria
religion caught up with them.
I’m the only boy and the first-born
so in a traditional value-driven African society
I am the heir apparent
the hope of the patriarchy
everything that every fibre in my body goes:
that is not me
I just want to wear dresses
and be, you know,
and be a drag queen.”
I first started to do drag
when I was about seven or eight
I would just wait for the parents to go to work
and go into my mother’s closet
and put on whatever I wanted to put on
and then I would stand outside on a platform
and try and make all the local kids laugh.
My father discovered I was doing drag because,
an aunt found out when I was mid-flow of show
and a pantomime ensued between the two of them
that I wouldn’t understand until decades later.
He was trying to get up and beat me
and she was trying to hold him back
and he kept saying:
“What if he becomes one of those?”
And she would say:
“No, he’s not going to become one of those.”
and I was transfixed to the spot
trying to figure out what one of “those” was.
Years later I found out what they were
and I realised they were right!
I am one of those, and you can’t beat it out of somebody
it’s either in their DNA or it’s not.
Although I was living
in one of the best buildings in New York
on a six-figure salary
I literally hated my life.
And then September 11 happened
I was meant to have been in the Twin Towers
on the day of the attack
decided not to go in that day
and then watched the whole thing unfold
from my office windows
and then realised I had that narrow escape,
and then thought to myself:
“So if that had been the end,
what kind of life was it?”
So unfulfilled, everything I wanted to do I hadn’t done.
I was so miserable.
I was living for other people.
But it literally took over three decades
for me to get over that childhood trauma
and actually be the person that I was always born to be.
Before I had any sexual awakening
or anything to do with puberty
I was a drag queen.
Why? Because it is hard-written in my DNA
but circumstance, and nurture, and environment
and family tried to separate us – and so…
I had over 30 years of not being myself
being unhappy but then it’s never too late
and I eventually came back to it,
and I’m so glad I did.
I have a dream
that one day I will perform at a Gay Pride
in Nigeria and I just hope that I get
to do that before I leave this planet
because I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Stories that shape us.

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