The bullying began in JSS 2. I would lift my bag after school and find it heavier than usual, open it to find my books buried in sand.

During break time, I was not allowed to play ball with the other boys, instead, I was sneered at and told to go play “ten ten” since I wanted to be a girl. I was pushed around, my head against walls, contents of my lunchbox scattered unto the playground sand, the laughter echoing, there was always laughter.

You know how everyone always tells you to be yourself? When you’re growing up, you hear things like: “You can be whatever you want, just believe in yourself! You can do whatever you want. They never tell us how to go about it though. Nobody ever shows us.

And when they say Be yourself.. they mean the person that they deem acceptable and not different from everyone else. But I’ve always known I was different from everyone else and that scared me.

In primary school when my friends had crushes on girls and used to sneak juvenile love letters into their school bags and lunch boxes, I could never understand it. I just knew my heart used to thump harder than usual when Goke smiled.

I knew I couldn’t look at him properly without my heart leaping into my throat and my hands becoming cold because he was so fine. Each day was a battle, lump of fear and hurt permanently lodged in my throat.

I hated school, hated them, I was even starting to hate myself.

All that changed, and that lump of terror dissolved when I was 14 I finally realized why Goke was filled with such self-loathing, such violent hate.

My parents had dragged me to a party at his parent’s mansion because they believed Olatunde needed male friends so that would drop my sissy ways. I was stepping out into the dark hallway when he grabbed me and pinned me against the wall.

The ever-present bitterness of fear leapt into my throat, along with something else, something I’d always hated feeling for this boy.

He had kissed me angrily, even while muttering words like “faggot”. I pushed him away, and even though he was beautiful, I’d never seen anything uglier. The fear of becoming that person, a person who despised who they were and was so afraid of it made me fight back.

They have left me alone but the hatred is still there and I’m still fighting. From parents to strangers on the internet, to neighbours, to the church: it is a constant battle, but one I’m not giving up. Because giving up means giving up who I am and that’s not an option.

My sister Sike is the only one that has my back. And today, I smile at her silliness as we get ready for the Pride March in LA, she’s singing loudly and dancing along to Formation. My eyes fill with tears as I start to paint my eyelids in the colours of the rainbow.

by Oluwatobi Afolabi

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