Ma Tee is always asked this question more often than usual: “Are you a lesbian?”
Maybe it’s her dress code; she likes dressing like a boy. As a result she finds herself dressing more “boy-ish” than like a girl. Although she is the first to tell you she is a natural tomboy, but whenever people stare at Ma Tee and start whispering before the question pops up again, she always politely responds: “No, I am not gay.”
Liberia stigmatizes those who hang out with men whose disposition is a bit feminine, calling them “girly,” and women who “dress and behave like boys.”
The fact that some people “look” gay can trigger someone’s curiosity and more than likely the question could be pitched. Looking gay in Liberia means you will be asked the question all the time.
A couple of days ago, Ma Tee was asked the same question at a relaxation bar and as usual, she smiled and changed the topic. But this time around, it was a guy who wanted her number that had asked. Interested in the conversation, she asked him the same question, which caused him to leave her at the table, never saying goodbye.
Minutes later, another man approached Ma Tee and showed her a picture of a woman.
“Ma, I am not gay. I noticed you think my best friend is, but I am not just because I hang with him,” the man whispered.
Ma Tee said she was surprised, “very surprised that his friend could ask me if I am a lesbian, but when I asked him if he was gay, he went and called his friend to answer for him,” she shared.
According to the bar owner, asking someone if they are gay in Liberia “could get you beat up.”
While the bar owner was explaining the stigma he has witnessed, there was a commotion when Ma Tee and the two men began to throw insults and objects.
“If you were a man, I would punch you in your face,” the man said in a feminine voice.
“He asked me first and I returned the question, and now he is threatening to punch my mouth,” Ma Tee shouted.
Ah! Just the thought of you being gay in Liberia…