Continued from Coming Out – Crossroads
Although you going back to see your Dad would mean disrupting your plans to binge watch a Netflix series, you turn right.
Carpe diem and all that. The conversation is going to happen at some point. Better to have it now that you feel recklessly confident than dwell on it for a few hours and give yourself justifiable reasons why not to have the conversation.
You arrive at your parents’ place. Get out of the car, head for the main door of the building and press the buzzer for their apartment.
You hear your Dad’s voice through the intercom:
“Did you forget something?”
“No, I need to talk to you.”
Your voice is steady. You sound self-assured and not nervous. Logic hasn’t set in. This is a good sign.
“Ok”. He buzzes you into the building and opens the door to the apartment. He is standing in the hallway.
“What is it?” he asks looking at you quizzically
You get straight into it.
“Mum, just told me she told you I’m gay.”
“Yes, she mentioned something like that.”
You sense derision in his response. A slight feeling of apprehension begins to set in. Though your earlier confidence is slightly dented, you remain calm.
He turns around and walks towards the living room. You close the door behind you and follow him. You both sit down across from each other at the dining table.
“How do you feel about it?”
“There isn’t much to say about it. All you must do is see how you can get out of it. Nobody has ever been like that in our family and it will not start with your own generation.”
He has given it some thought alright and it sounds like he has a way out of your homosexuality. And like his wife he may also be averse to saying the “G” word. But still there is hope – He has never been keen on Church or religion, so maybe he may yet say the word.
“What if it leads to my unhappiness?”
“If you are determined to get out of it, I don’t think it will lead to your unhappiness. Onye kwe chi ya ekwe. If you agree, God will agree.”
It’s R. Kelly all over again, believing he can fly – “If I can see it, then I can do it”. It’s a mindset thing for him. If you put your mind to it, you can stop being gay. Combined with your Mum’s “Pray away the gay” approach, it just might work.
“I have tried before and I can’t be with a woman in a satisfying way. Should I live alone and do anything? What do you suggest I do?”
“I don’t know of the ramifications of people being gay and what it means truly, apart from what I see on TV about same sex marriage and all that. There are people who have been in it and who have obviously come out of it and started being with women. Try it again and persevere this time”
Hurrah the “G-word”. There is hope! You think he is referring to a man in your village, back home in Nigeria. Growing up decades ago you remember him, then in his thirties as effete and unmarried. You thought nothing of it then. But you remember he had a fearsome and domineering mother who was one of the pillars of society. One day you heard he got married to a much younger woman and had kids. At that time you thought nothing unusual about it. Men get married to women and have kids. Except decades later when you became aware of your sexuality and during trip back home, you wondered if you were “the only gay in the village” and he came to mind. Then the penny dropped when you realised his 5 kids who were born in quick succession, looked nothing like him.
“Even at my age?”
“Yes, you can. People still get married for the first time in their fifties and even sixties sometimes. You are relatively young in comparison. Just try. We are not condemning you. I am trying to…you know…I mean people at home keep asking when you will get married….”
“So am I doing it for show? I would be living a lie. I would be making the woman and myself unhappy”
“It will not be for show. Just try. Everything is by trial. Think of what it means for our custom, our family and everything. Try and see what you can do about it.”
Ah, the shame of it all. Ultimately, it’s all about not bringing the family name into disrepute. Your family’s social standing in the village is very important and should not be diminished by any scandal – least of all not by the sin of homosexuality – and this must be done at all cost. Never mind you have serial adulterers and unrepentant scammers in the family, being gay would cause the family name and status irreparable damage.
“What if I can’t?”
“You can. Just try”
“But seriously, what if I can’t. There must be an alternative. What would you suggest?”
“Well if you can’t, you can continue like that, but you are keeping us unhappy”
“So, you rather I be unhappy?
“You will be happy. Just try. Listen, all of us will be happy including you. I am sure you are not happy with the set up. Just try. When we heard about it, we were not happy. So just try. You too will be happy”
“I am happy with the set up. What I am not happy about is that you’d sacrifice my happiness for yours and the family. Not very fatherly is it?”
“Just try.” He insists.
You begin to get irritated by his insistence that you try and find a woman to marry. You know you must be patient with him (and your mum), as they are relatively new to the idea that their son is gay. Being from an older generation if at all, it will take sometime for them to get used to the idea. But you still feel the need to make your position clear. You get a bit fidgety and your voice is slightly raised when you respond:
“It’s not a case of “Just try”. Homosexuality doesn’t have a switch you can flick on and off. It’s not that easy. I can’t and won’t try.”
“And just so we are clear, I am not changing anything to make you happy. I am sure it’s not what you want to hear but you are responsible for your own happiness as I am mine. So long as I am not harming anyone I will do what makes me happy and I recommend you do the same too.”
“All I am saying is that you should try. But if you have made up your mind not to, well let it be. But my advice is that you should try. Let’s leave it like that for the time being, but think about what I have told you.”
His voice is calm and authoritative. It is the same voice he used to reprimand you when as a young child you caused any mischief. The same voice he used when your mid-term test school results were poor and he took away your TV privileges to ensure you studied harder to get better end of term results. You recognise the finality in the tone and it said, “Do what I tell you or there will be consequences.”
And with that you get up and leave.
Of the ways you dreamt the conversation would go with your Dad, it wasn’t quite the indignant Nollywood rejection or the mawkish Hollywood acceptance you fantasised about. Rather it felt like a Brexit meeting that typically ends in an impasse.
Forget the planned Netflix binge watching session – there is a lot to think about.
It’s going to be a long drive home.