Story by: Pierrot Obi, 25, singer-songwriter, London.
I was born in Northern Italy, in Central Reggio Emilia. We moved to the very outskirts of Reggio when I was 8, to an in-the-middle-of-nowhere type of town called Campagnola Emilia. To this day, Campagnola is the place I call “home town”.
I’m the first of three, born in a very strict and poor Nigerian family. I always knew I was different. To be quite frank, I thought I was pretty normal until I was told that, in fact, I was different. To me, it was normal to prefer having girl friends, playing dress up. My only guy friends, where the ones I would kiss under the slide.
My first crush
As far as I can remember, I was always physically attracted to boys. My very first crush was on a cartoon character from an old Japanese animé. I didn’t have a name for what I was feeling inside until one day a classmate of mine came up to me and asked “is it true that you’re a faggot?”. I must have been 9. If I recall correctly, I went straight to the teacher and asked her “Miss, what does ‘faggot’ mean?”. I can’t remember what was her answer.
School was a life of bullying
I was relentlessly and mercilessly bullied for most of my school life. I was an easy target – the only black and flamboyant kid. From the minute I hopped on the morning bus to school, up until when I got home in the afternoon, it was a daily Calvary. I used to get pushed around, things thrown at me, and chanted at. I probably went through every action you associate with bullying.
One time I’ll never forget – I was part of the school musical and at the end of the show I came out for my bows. This guy, one of my most avid bullies, came to my ear as I was taking my bow and whispered “you die, you faggot”. I didn’t react, I never said anything, I never defended myself. My only defence mechanism was to pretend I wasn’t there, my brain would shut off and I would convince myself that that was not happening to me.
Home life was just as bad
By the time I got to high school, I was basically a recluse. I didn’t go out, I didn’t socialize much. I was mostly in the classroom, church and home. Home life was just as problematic. I was on the receiving end of a childhood filled with physical, verbal and psychological abuse from both my parents. My parents were very young and inexperienced when they had me. As far as I’m concerned, my childhood was loveless. What I can remember were the daily beatings, the yelling, the verbal abuse, the violence.
I ran away from home 3 times. The third time the police got involved and took me back home and convinced me that if I really wanted to leave, I had to wait until I turned 18. I believe my parents always knew I was gay, but in a Nigerian family homosexuality is a big No-No. So the fact that their first male child was gay, needless to say that they didn’t take it well. I didn’t tell them though. They simply found my collection of gay porn in the computer. “You can’t be gay, because gays go to hell” was my mum’s opinion on the matter. “I won’t allow you to be a faggot in my house” was my father’s.
Being sexually active
I was 14 by then but they didn’t know that I had been sexually active since I was 12. I was 12, he was 28, but I told him I was 17. Looking back, I was looking to fill the void my whole life created in me. I did not care if it was coming from a complete stranger I had met at the swimming pool, all I wanted was to be loved, to be held.
Moving away from it all
As soon as I finished high school, I moved as far and as quickly as I could to London. I wanted my own space; to be on my own. I wanted to become a professional singer. I wanted to be happy. The only way I could be happy was to leave my home town, and so I did. But that’s when things down-spiralled almost out of control. All the issues that I failed to deal with in my childhood all jumped at me at once and I was not ready for it.
Depression and anxiety became my daily companions. I have attempted suicide 3 times since I moved to London. Because of my lifelong need to be loved, I got into toxic relationships that, by the time they ended, left me lonelier, sadder, more broken.
Luckily, I found friends along the way who loved me dearly. I found the strength to come out to them and they’ve accepted me with love, and I’m so thankful for that. They pushed me to seek help, which is what I did. Fast forward to the present time, I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which allowed me to start therapy, get on medications and to begin my recovery. I’m just at the beginning of my recovery.
Learning to love myself
I’ve come to terms with the fact that life is tough. Life is like a wind: sometimes it blows against you, other times it blows in your direction. It’s all about what you make of those moments, it’s all about never giving up on yourself. We are alive. We have the utmost privilege to be here now, to be alive. It is our gift back to The Creator to make the most out of it. I’m learning to put myself first; learning to love myself. But I’m nowhere near fixed. I’m still working on bettering my relationships with my parents, who have shown the desire to redeem themselves and to make it right now. I’m learning the immense power of forgiveness and the peace it gives you.
There’s still so many questions I have, I don’t know what will be of me tomorrow; but today: I am trying. I deserve peace and I deserve to be happy. I am ready to be happy.
Check out Pierrot’s Instagram: @pierrotobi