EDAFE OKPORO’S Asylum: A Memoir & Manifesto opens at a market in Warri, a rural town in southern Nigeria, where he experiences his earliest years. As he and his mother wait in line for hired street youths to help them carry their purchases, two of the young men come to blows over who will get the job. This incident triggers an early recognition that he will never fit into the culture of masculinity reinforced by his mother. She tries to calm her terrified child with the words, “It is okay, my son. … This is how Warri boys are supposed to behave.”
Not surprisingly, Okporo’s preference for the company of girls and women earns him the taunt of “Mama’s boy” at school until, at nine, he and his only friend Gloria distinguish themselves on the debate team. This early talent for argument will serve Okporo later in life. But threats of kidnapping from a violent militia group and his prospects of eventually entering college curtail his immediate debating prospects. Sent to live with an aunt and enrolled in an all-boys boarding school in a neighboring town, Okporo experiences his first sexual encounter with a boy named Eric. This episode confirms that he is gay and precipitates complications that will follow him for the rest of his life.
Anne Charles cohosts the cable-access show All Things LGBTQ.