Ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May) Junior gives a personal account of life in Cameroon.
Junior, 36, is tall, well groomed and handsome. He is also gay, and ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May) Junior gives a personal account of life in Cameroon:
Waking up every morning and facing daylight is a perpetual challenge.
I am sad my mother died but happy she is not here to see I have become the black sheep of society. I have no child, I live alone, I hardly socialise and I have stopped going to worship God as mum taught me.
Many of my friends are men and the few women I know are either colleagues or former classmates. I earn my living working for a big company in the capital Yaounde.
Prisoner of my conscience
I am a child of shame, all my mates my age are married and fathers. I have to answer so many inquisitive questions about my bachelorhood. Often I have to create a virtual date or, as I did during a certain period of my life, appear accompanied by a lesbian sharing the same frustrations as me.
I always bless each day that passes without me having problems like some of my friends. Some have even been murdered. I live in a shell; I smile with colleagues but maintain a secure distance. I always have a work excuse to avoid attending most of the family reunions. Or else I have to portray a snobbish attitude to keep people away.
For a long time I thought I was alone until I discovered through the internet that there were people like me just a few steps away. I was already feeling apart from society as my peers at the time were on their tenth date. I didn’t fit into that society and so having people show an interest in me was like being reborn.
Now it’s mixed, I have no place in society as a whole but I get my consolation from belonging to a micro group where I can just be myself.
How do I see my life?
Homophobia is rampant. Now my family knows that I prefer men, many of them have rejected me. Some still chat with me but sometimes I am conscious it’s because of the financial help I represent to many of them, but I am ready to buy their acceptance and love.
I was once driven from a house by my landlady because I only had male visitors and one day I received a white guy in my house. I had been a loyal tenant but she could not accept her house being “tarnished” by the presence of a gay guy.
TV and radio programmes condemn homosexuality almost on a daily basis. Article 347 of the penal code means that same sex relationships are punished by six months to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to US$ 420. Many of the cases that have been judged and condemned so far have been based on denunciation rather than being found in flagrante delicto as stipulated in the Article. So believe me I feel blessed each day when I can enter my house and sleep until morning.
How do I survive?
Nothing too complicated I would say: it’s either you die or you just ignore and survive. But the pressure is too much. Often there is a lack of sexual health counselling. Sometimes, due to your social status you can’t go to publicly known gay places. You rely on the internet and then potentially make yourself the target of swindlers and sometimes policemen who set out to trap gays on the web.
Many guys die of HIV and the prevalence of the virus is high among gay men. I think this is due to the fact that guys exploit the few opportunities to be loved and have sex with less care thus getting exposed to infection. Many can’t face seeing a doctor and self-medicate instead. Some local non-governmental organisations now want to address this issue but, without the support of government authorities their fight will always be one sided.
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