Nigerian gay YouTuber shares his coming out experience in exclusive interview
YouTube sensation, Victor Emmanuel, publicly known as Vicwonder who recently came out as gay to his siblings, has now shared his experience and journey so far in an exclusive interview with NoStringsNG.
By NoStringsNG contributor
Following his coming out, the young man left home to live by himself, describing the move as ‘freedom from toxicity’.
He also added that his decision to move has contributed to helping him gain his sanity.
Before coming out, the YouTuber has always been involved with LGBTQIA advocacy both on and off social media.
In an exclusive interview, Vicwonder spoke to NoStringsNG about his experience as a queer Nigerian, his advocacy, and his journey since coming out.
Hello, can we meet you; tell us about yourself and growing up gay in a homophobic clime such as Nigeria?
Hi. My name is Victor Emmanuel, known as Vicwonder across social media. I’m a final year student of Anatomy, a singer, dancer, writer, communications strategist, and LGBTQIAP+ activist and I’m gay.
About growing up country such as Nigeria, I’ll say has been both uneventful and bad.
Uneventful because up until recently when I started allowing my feminine side to be expressed, I’m an ordinary boy who will pass for a “normal boy.” I consider myself lucky because I really never got to deal with homophobia from outside (until now) because I once fit perfectly into the society. Only my family “saw me finish” as Nigerians would say, and hated my attraction towards things that weren’t considered “boy-like”.
What I’m trying to say is for the most part of my life, I didn’t see any need to fight for queer rights. I didn’t have queer friends; I consciously refused to explore my sexuality. I remember going to university and telling myself that I would never indulge my needs and desires. But I did. Boy, I did! And that’s when the bad part of existing as a queer, and Nigerian started.
Once I got to school and saw that I had the liberty to at least give myself a chance to live freely, I dived in. And I’ve since not come up for fresh air. I allowed my effeminate side (that has always been there, just suppressed) flourish. I hooked up with boys. I began to keep queer friends, friends who weren’t as privileged as I was to “pass” for straight. And while being friends with these people, I came to learn about the homophobic atmosphere that is in this country. They didn’t tell me. I saw it. I saw it in the way others treated them. I saw it in the way they cowered in fear of being outed or found out. I saw it in the way they faced violence. And the more I saw, the more I refused to go back to my shell. It wasn’t thrilling to start sharing in the common pain and struggle that it is to be queer and Nigerian. But it was necessary. It was necessary for me to experience that pain so that I can fight zealously. And that is what I do every day.
Okay, a few weeks ago, you came out to your siblings and left home, how has life been with you since then, and in what specific ways did they respond to your coming out to them, are you still in touch with them or?
Like you said, yes, I did come out to my family. What informed this decision is in two parts.
Firstly because I was tired (and I do not say this lightly) of living in fear and in the shadows. Two nights before I came out, I self-harmed for the first time. I went to the kitchen and took a butter knife. I hid it in my trouser pocket because I had to pass the living room back to my room because my brother was there. When I got back to my room, I rolled up my trousers and cut myself three times around my ankle. Three times because the first two times I didn’t really feel any pain and pain was what I wanted to feel. It was when the three cuts started bleeding and the pain registered in my brain that I realized what I had done. It was at this point I knew I had to tell them. I’m multi-talented and I promised myself that I won’t die before the world got a taste of me. So it was either I told them and set myself free or I die in silence. And, I was already mentally prepared to come out, so the opportunity came two days later (as if the universe was listening) I didn’t hesitate. Because the coming out took approximately four hours, I won’t give details here. I’ve done a full video explaining everything and it can be found on my YouTube channel.
The other reason I came out (remember I said two parts) was because by this time, I had immersed myself in queer activism and had started planning to take it off social media, which I still intend to do. So I didn’t want my family to see me in the news or SM and be surprised. You could say I wanted to give them a heads up.
Their reaction was: “we don’t accept your sexuality but we don’t cease to see you as a member of the family.” This wasn’t good enough for me so I left them for good.
I’m currently staying away from them and the support from the queer community in Nigeria has been overwhelming.
And yes, I am still in touch with them. My siblings still call me and when I feel like it, I pick their calls.
LGBTIQ+ people become even more vulnerable when they come out, how have you been able to stay safe since you came out?
Honestly, I’ve really not made any tangible effort to stay safe. I’m trying to be as honest as possible here. Like I said before, I’m someone who can “pass” for straight so where I am now, people don’t really know I’m gay. I even told my family where I’m headed. They know.
I am just enjoying the feeling of being away from that toxicity and breathing fresh air.
Are you completely out, or just to people around you, and for those who already know about your sexuality, how are they dealing with it, has anything changed?
Urm, I’m not entirely out to everyone in my family. Sadly, I lost my mum in April and my dad isn’t a regular figure. I’ll be seeing him soon though and I intend to come out to him too. I’ve told my siblings not to tell him, to give me that courtesy of coming out to him myself.
As for my friends, I’ve consciously selected only queer friends or sensible people (if you get my drift) for a while now so nothing changed. There’s tension no doubt with my siblings but I could hardly care. Lol.
You have always leveraged your social media as an advocacy tool, how has your coming out contributed to your advocacy?
Indeed, I’ve been able to use SM as a tool for my advocacy. The support since my coming out has also been massive. Like my friends, my followers and mutuals on SM are also either queer or sensible. I don’t entertain shit. I think I’m very lucky because all the DMs I’ve gotten ever since have been to either congratulate me or tell me how brave I am. No hate. I don’t even think I’m that brave. I just think I want to survive. I know this. That’s why I came out, I didn’t want to die.
For the past couple of months, people don’t really know this, but I’ve been building my SM platforms to a certain reach and impression level because of what I have planned. I can’t fully go into details but I intend to engage in a one man protest. This is exclusive. The bigger picture is to get as many people as possible involved but I’ll trigger it as an individual. And this would be done offline. I’ve been building my SM because I know that though I intend to do this offline, I’ll still need the power that is the internet.
I know what must be going through your mind as your read this. “Is that safe?”
Well, that is the same question that has held us at the crossroads we are now. Everyone asks that question and that’s why we haven’t been able to do much. So yes, it isn’t safe. In fact, it’s extremely dangerous. But that’s why I’m doing it. That’s all I’ll say for now.
What do you think will be your general advice to anyone, especially young LGBTIQ+ people out there who are considering coming out?
Come out on your own time. I know a lot of people say; make sure you’re financially ready before doing so. But I want to promise you there’s a community here and abroad that actually cares. You just need the right information. They’ll take care of you. If you think it’s very necessary that you do it, if your life depends on it, come out! You deserve to live freely. I can’t promise it will be as easy as mine is because lets be frank, people have it worse than I do, but at least you’ll have your sanity. Do it!
Lastly, we heard about your Gofundme, can you tell us a bit more about it and how people can support it? Mind dropping a link?
When I came out, I was faced with the obvious. Who will take care of me? I decided to start a Gofundme with the help of a friend in the US (because you can’t start one in Nigeria. I’m raising money to start my new life away from my family. I’m currently staying with a friend but his rent will soon expire and I’ll obviously need to co-pay the next one. I also need basic amenities and I’m working on starting a sustainable business. So yes, I’m crowdfunding. If you’d like to support here’s the linkHave something to share? Ready to tell your story? Contact us.