“……Yes Mum. I am gay”
Those words knocked the wind out of me; like a sack of garri had fallen on me.
Chima. My son. Gay?!?
“I can’t exactly explain the “How”, but I have been aware of my attraction to men for a long time now. For more than half my adult life and I have come to terms with it” He responded. A bit defiantly too.
And you didn’t you say anything?
“Mum”, he said calmly, “Growing up we never discussed anything related to sex. You and Dad never gave me the “talk”. Sex was a mute subject, but I knew what the expectation was. As a young adult coming to you with those thoughts would not have been well placed.”
“If you had said something, we could have gone to see somebody. A doctor; Maybe even the Pastor.”
“I don’t think it is a sickness and I don’t think you can “pray it away”. Believe me I tried” He said. “The feelings, for me at least, will always be there. However to act on those feelings is a choice. I have chosen not to repress them just to satisfy what society deems as normal. It would be living a miserable existence.”
“Did you try?”
“Yes, I did. It wasn’t for me. I was unhappy.”
“Maybe it was the wrong woman.”
“There were several” He replied.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed
There was a sermon on TV the other day, by an American Televangelist, I forget his name. The sermon was about homosexuality, I did not pay too much attention to it, as I thought it would never affect me. I wish I had. Now Chima my son, says he is gay.
“You know it’s a sin. You know what the Bible says about it.” I quoted a few Bible passages for him. He said he had heard it all before and quoted just as many if not more, Bible verses for me that advocate love and God’s compassion.
We talked some more. I told him I was worried for him. I was concerned about his well-being and future. It will be a lonely one. He assured he was fine and that he was far from lonely. He understood that the news would take awhile for me to process and that we will talk some more.
We hugged and he left for his house.
I cried. Not sure why. Mixed emotions. Was it because I know he will never get married to a woman, have kids and continue the lineage? Or that he went through this without being able to confide in me? His brother and sister have known for a long time. He told them, but he couldn’t tell me.
Had I failed in my duty as a mother? As a mother you want the best for your children. To protect them from harm; Pray that they grow up accomplished and be a continued source of pride to you but with this now, I am not so sure.
How do I explain this to my sisters? His cousins? My in-laws will say it’s my fault, that I should not have shunned our cultural values when raising him. Now they will say he is an efulefu – a worthless man, because he has no children.
There were no signs. He does not present the stereotypical effeminate look used on Television to portray gay characters. He is quite the opposite; he is manly and ruggedly handsome just like his father. Or maybe there were signs when he was growing up and I ignored them.
I remember when he was 3 years old his father and I lived in England then. We used to take him to a child minder to look after him while we were at work. The first one we took him to had a daughter around the same age. We thought it would be good company for him as he would have another child to play with. He did not take too well to that child minder and would not look forward to going there in the morning.
We found him another one. This one had a son, Simon I think his name was. He was about 4 years old. Chima got on well there and would look forward to going. Whenever we approached Simon’s house, you could see him looking out the window waiting to catch a glimpse of Chima and I coming down the road. As soon as Chima walked through the door, Simon would take his jacket and put it away and take him over to his toy dinner set and they would play. Little boys don’t play with dinner sets. Was that a sign?
As a teenager in Nigeria, though he played football with all the other boys in the neighborhood, he was not crazy about football like his father or any sport for that matter. Instead he would watch TV soaps like Dynasty and Dallas. But there were hardly any gay characters in them.
He was into the popular music artists and their videos at the time – Michael Jackson, Prince, Wham, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Tina Turner (But come to think of it , he spent lot of time watching Tina Turner walking in the music video “What’s Love Got to do with it?” I thought he was admiring her legs. But most of his mates liked these same artists and they turned out ok. They are married with kids. What happened to him?
He was a very obedient child. As a teenager he did not give either his father or myself any trouble. While his mates were causing trouble for their parents, like staying out past curfew; selling their mothers’ jewelry to fund parties or what not; Driving the family car without permission and being generally irresponsible, Chima was very level-headed and attend to his chores and school work. He was very helpful when his younger siblings arrived and could be trusted to keep things in order while we were at work.
My friends had only high praise for his behaviour and would frequently congratulate us on how well-mannered and responsible Chima was.
“Why can’t you be like Chima?” They would say while meting out punishment to their errant children. I am travelling to Nigeria in a few days and they will ask after him and when he is getting married? How can I tell them he is gay? What will people say when they find out? I bet they wouldn’t wish their children were like Chima now.
But I should have suspected something was amiss , when in the last 20 years he has not introduced any lady to us, not even as an acquaintance. Always men.
Maybe growing up I was too strict with him having female friends coming round to the house. I didn’t want any problems with an unwanted pregnancy. There was an Igbo girl from his university he was close to and she used to visit during the holidays. She was very beautiful and was studying Economics or something similar. I made some discreet enquires in case they were going to get serious as she had marriage potential. I found out that her family was Osu – Social outcastes. I discouraged their friendship. Is that what caused him to swear off women?
Was he born that way or was he turned gay? I know the bible abhors it and it is not in our culture. But he is my son; my own flesh and blood, my firstborn, I cannot disown him.
I will keep praying for him. With prayer and faith, despite what he says, he will change. Or at least be chaste.
God will do it for me.