”But not when it’s a guy,” I replied.
”Listen, you’ve always liked girls, you can’t all of a sudden feel attracted to boys,” she countered.
This was the conversation that happened between my mum and I when I tried explaining to her that I might be gay. If only she knew, I thought to myself.
I was 14 at this time, and hadn’t realized what I was doing by telling her what I did. But I remember feeling an extreme need to tell my mum the way I felt towards my male friends, something she failed to grasp, or simply chose to deny. I was born into a religious, extended family; I have a brother and sister, but I have also lived with my uncles and aunties and family friends. Yes, my mum was quite the ‘philanthropist’.
Growing up gay, I had often deemed myself ”inadequate” and the ”disappointment” of the family. I love my mum and was always scared of how heartbroken she would feel if she found out her beloved son was gay. Yet it was a burden I couldn’t bear to keep to myself. Due to my religious upbringing, I had labeled myself the ‘ultimate disappointment’, both to God and to man. Growing up wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences.
As I got older however, a change in views started to occur; I became more and more open with my lifestyle, and much more comfortable with my sexuality. I no longer lived with my mum and didn’t feel the same restraints I felt growing up. My concern of being a disappointment to the church and to God began to quickly vanish, to be replaced with a certain disdain and contempt for the same church that had constantly chastised and persecuted me for something that was beyond my control.
Despite my new found indulgence in and exploration of my new lifestyle, I still felt the urge to let my family know about my sexual orientation. The fear of their reaction was the only stumbling block. My sister and my dad had asked me a few times and I had denied every single time. I’d even overheard my dad voicing his concern about my sexuality to my mum once. But she was adamant that I was like one of my older cousins who started showing interest in females as he grew older. My uncle, once a prisoner in Saudi Arabia had come back telling tales of gay men having sex and their ‘private spots’ in the Prison Cells, something he seemed rather amused about. So I was sure of my sister’s suspicion, my dad’s über-suspicion, my mum’s denial, and my uncle’s amusement at my lifestyle. But about the rest of the family I wasn’t sure what reaction I would get.
Soon enough, I decided it was time to face my fears one after the other, so I started by letting my brother know about some flings I’d had with a friend of his. He showed more disbelief at the fact that a friend of his was actually gay, than he showed at me being gay. He simply shrugged and said, ”I can’t believe Emmanuel is gay.” Surprised, I quickly attributed his indifference to the fact that he was just as godless as I was. Still, encouraged by my brother’s reaction, I braced myself for the real task of coming out to my religious sister.
Thus, one day, while watching a movie with my sister and discussing her boy problems with her, I was prepared for the eventuality that she would pop the question again. And she did just that!
”Tobi,” she said, holding my hands. ”I’m your sister, right?”
”So, why don’t you just tell me, are you gay?”
”Why do you want to know?” I asked, hedging.
”Just answer, are you gay?”
I expected an overreaction, drama, an influx of questions! And of course, another reminder of how my life ”choice” was a sinful one. I expected yet another boring and tiring narration of the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. I thought it would be weird, I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life!
But again, I was surprised instead. I got as far as: “Hey, you know I’m gay—” before she interrupted me with a look. For a minute she didn’t say a word, just stared. Finally she grinned wildly,
“Yeah, I know Tobi, I just wanted to confirm…” And then the dreaded influx of questions started coming. ”So, do you fuck them, or do they fuck you?”, ”How is it like?”, ”When did you start being gay?”, ”Are you the man or the woman?”. Although I was ticked off at some of the questions, I was willing to satisfy her curiosity, as I knew there was no malicious intent behind the questions. After a hear-to-heart discussion, she rested her head on my shoulder, and everything returned to normalcy. It was like nothing happened!
I’m yet to come out to either of my parents, but the reactions I’ve gotten from my siblings have given me hope that things aren’t as dim as I initially thought. Their support and love have encouraged me to continue to live my life proud of the way I am. A gay individual.
Written by Tobi