Coming Out – Impasse

 

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:

“Hello”

“It’s me”

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Out – Crossroads

It is a routine visit to see your parents. One you carry out once, sometimes twice a month. You spend two or three hours with them. You talk about everything but nothing. You help them fix anything that needs fixing around the house, but usually you help find a “missing” icon on the Ipad or other hand-held device.

You watch TV, the news is on. They give a running commentary on all the news items. This time it’s Brexit. There are over 500,000 people involved in an anti –Brexit protest march in London.  You listen to your Dad, a Labour party supporter, bemoan the Conservative Government and confidently assert that a Labour Government would do a better job of the Brexit debacle.

You really don’t know what the fuss is about. Supposedly educated people exercised their democratic right and voted in majority to leave the EU, albeit based on a campaign led by very questionable characters peddling obviously flawed information with a dash of xenophobia. Now a few months to Brexit day, they have changed their minds and want  another vote. Some would call it natural selection.

Somehow your Dad’s running commentary segues into the state of Nigerian politics. Your eyes glaze over. It’s time to leave. Your mother asks for a lift to the corner shop. This is a bit unusual. She normally prefers walking short distances to the shops to get some exercise. Doctor’s orders. The corner shop is a 2 min walk away.

Your Spidey senses are activated.

You say goodbye to your Dad and leave with your mum. You both get into the car and as she fastens her seat belt she drops her bombshell.

“I have told your father”

Spidey senses go into over drive

“Told him what?” You ask in befuddlement.

“About your lifestyle”

She can’t even say the word “gay”. It is that loathsome sin, greater than any other sin. And as far as she and most women her background are concerned it is a condition, which if remained unspoken and with powerful prayer , will be miraculously eradicated.

“You mean that I am gay. You told him I am gay?” You ask with incredulity in your voice.

Spidey senses are decommissioned.

Immediately you feel a sense of relief, not trepidation. Relief because your Dad is the only member of your nuclear family you have not come out to. You, your mum and siblings had kept it from him. And though it might sound a like a cliche, you never felt you were being as authentic as you could be with him and that was bothersome.

That said, you often debated telling him or not. And if you did how it would play out. And in all the scenarios – which were anywhere between an indignant Nollywood rejection to a mawkish Hollywood acceptance – that you played out in your imaginative mind, you were always present in every scene. Your mum and siblings maybe played supporting roles, but you were always the lead act breaking the news to him. A part of you feels something has been taken away from you and you should be angry, especially as your Mum was key with that indecision of  whether your Dad should be told or not, because of the “health concerns attributable only to an 80-year-old Nigerian man”. But no, you are not angry, you are calm. Just a bit curious how the scene played out between them.

“I thought you said not to tell him, that it may have “a negative impact his health and well-being”. You said it would “devastate him leading to untold consequences” (Consequences your “nagging” failed to achieve in over 45 years of marital bliss” you wanted to add; But not today Satan) “What made you change your mind?”

“I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. It was worrying me.”

“You decided to share your “worry”, despite the possible outcomes you highlighted. When and how did you tell him and what did he say?

“About a month ago. It just came out and he hasn’t said anything about it since”

You remember you’ve spoken to your Dad, several times in the last month and you had seen him at least twice. In fact two weeks ago, you took him to see his cousin a good hour’s drive each way and he didn’t say a thing. Not a word. He did not betray any evidence whatsoever that he knew. He just kept a poker face. You feel like a fraud.

You wonder what’s been going through his mind ever since your Mother unburdened her soul. Had he always suspected? Did this confirm his suspicions? Was the news a surprise? Either he didn’t care that you are gay, or he isn’t sure how to broach the topic with you.

Just then your Mother’s quiet sniffling break through your thoughts. You hadn’t noticed she has been crying. She can snot cry on cue for Africa – Viola Davis has nothing on this one.

“So why are you crying? I thought you’d be happy now that you have told your husband and your “worry” has halved?”

“It is the whole situation. He hasn’t said anything to me about it. Your lifestyle it is not good, I am sure it is hurting him. You are my son and I love you unconditionally, but the Bible says your lifestyle is wrong…..”

“Thanks for your love, but have you considered giving up your religion, so that your unconditional love for me is without any limitation?”

She looks at you aghast, like someone just stabbed her in the chest. You know only too well that her coming to terms with your sexuality will take some time. After all it took you a few decades to accept yourself – it would be impractical to expect her to be comfortable with it within a year of you coming out her. To help her on the journey, you introduced her to a gay friend’s mother (Aunt M) who shares a similar background and is comfortable with her son’s sexuality. But your Mum remains unconvinced. Instead every time she visits Aunt M she tries to convince her to ask her son to change, by quoting Bible passages and making cultural references.

You speak before she collects herself and says something that would require going into therapy rest of your life.

“Anyway, this is not about you right now. We talked about this a few times already last year and I have introduced you to Aunt M. How you deal with it is your palava. It’s about Dad for now and I wouldn’t know how he really feels until I speak with him about it.”

You drop her at the corner shop.

You drive up to the top of the road.

You must decide which way to go.

Turn left and head home, plagued with the thoughts of what your Dad thinks about your sexuality and wondering when/if he would ever discuss it with you or indeed if you’d ever have the courage to bring it up; Or turn right and head back to your parents’ house deal with it now, satisfy your curiosity and start a new chapter of your relationship with your Dad.

You indicate to turn…..

To be continued on Coming Out – Impasse

Dear Nigerian Homophobe II

Hello fiends,

I throway salute o!!

It’s been a minute.

In my previous  letter I said I’d try and help you look less asinine in the World Forum of Homophobes (Click here to recap). Not an easy task and I am under no illusion that it will happen in my life time. But as the saying goes “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

This one is directed at the Bible thumping ones among you.

In Chike Frankie Edozien’s brilliant memoir “Lives of Great Men” (or as I like to call it, “Naija Homophobes fear God – Stay in your lane or be run over), he said “……In recent times many Nigerians have embraced a rabid religiosity that veers towards conservative and literal interpretations of religious texts…..”Read More »

Coming Out – Mother’s Woe

“……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?!?

How?  

When?

“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 OsuSocial 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.

 

Hell or High Water – A Short Film

A few days ago, a friend sent me a YouTube link to this Nigerian gay-themed short film titled, Hell or High water  presented by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a Nigeria based NGO.

Though the film is only 30 minutes long and void of the usual Nigerian gay stereotype characterisation, it is quite incisive, emotional and audacious in addressing a topic considered very taboo in Nigeria. It was also brave of the Nigerian actors who did a stellar job in delivering the various emotions in the film, knowing only too well the assumptions most viewers would make regarding their sexuality and the impact it may have on their respective careers.

It is a long road to stamping out legalised homophobia in Nigeria. But like TIERs, I hope this short film kick starts the journey by instigating intelligent conversation (albeit initially laden with vitriolic homophobia) about recognising and accepting homosexuality across in Nigeria.

Please enjoy and catch the moment the Pastor’s wife alludes to wanting to get fellated.

The Prayer II – Finding Jesus

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So it’s Christmas day and I see a missed call from my aunt. (The same one who prayed for a wife for me in the Prayer click here). I had sent her some cash for Christmas, earlier in the month and half expected her to call me to acknowledge receipt.

In fairness I did try to answer the phone, but it only rang twice and stopped before I could pick up. This is not unusual among my people and is called flashing. This is a  type of call collect where the calling party  (e.g someone from my village without enough phone credit as is always the case) makes a call at the called party’s (someone living abroad or deemed to always have enough phone credit) expense.

And woe betide you if you don’t return the call within five minutes, especially if the call is from an elderly relative. You and anyone else who has ears to hear will Read More »