Sexual Preference Versus Identity
From international headlines to our readings in class, the excessive homophobia across many African countries has been made aware to many parts of the world. However, within African society itself, the concept of homosexuality is often absconded. Moreover, the title of Jude Dibia’s novel, Walking with Shadows, is quite apt for the situation of underground LGBTQ community on the African continent. In fact, Adrian is rarely confronted with the fact that he is “gay”, with characters choosing to circle around the word instead. The concept of gay as an identity is something that Adrian and his close ones struggle with throughout the passages we have read.
After Adrian is outed by his co-worker, he is asked by his supervisor to take a short leave from work until people can get over the shock of certain rumors about him. But when Adrian asks him about the content of the rumors, his supervisor has a hard time dictating to him the office’s fear of Adrian being gay. He only describes the accusations as ones regarding his “sexual preferences” and Adrian’s supposed accosting of a bodyguard. In this case, Adrian’s gay identity is reduced to a mere lustful choice.
The scene in which Adrian is flogged by Pastor Matthew at the hands of his brother Chiedu is another example of Africa’s denial of gay identity. Pastor Matthew cites the Biblical story of the evil people of Sodom and Gomorrah who succumbed to promiscuity, and states that it is the devil’s temptation that has caused Adrian to want relationships with other men. Once again, and this time through imported Christianity, we see Adrian’s self-identification as a gay man diminished to the idea of sex. But at the end of the novel, Adrian and even his ex-wife Ada overcome this trope, seeing “gay” as part of a person’s being rather than a purely sexual desire. We can only hope that Nigeria and the rest of Africa will one day come to this perspective.