I grew up with my fair share of insecurities. Insecurities over my complexion, my writing, parts of my anatomy, my personality and eventually, my sexual orientation. However, unlike most acquaintances I’ve made who spoke of the demons they fought over their sexualities, torments that pushed them to extremes like fasting and attempting suicide, I never once let the fact that I was different bring that much darkness inside me. I had bouts of depression, yes. But I was basically still a child, loved, pampered and blissfully unaware that my difference could pose a real problem in my adulthood.
However, I got older, and became more aware of the world around me. I began to realize the extent of society’s disdain for my kind of person. I fell prey to a homophobic opportunist; I was kito-ed. I heard the stories. I shuddered at other people’s experiences. I began to know the fear. Depression threatened ever so often. Questions about the future began to plague me: Do I want to be this person? What about my family? Do I want to risk alienation from them by staying true to myself? What about marriage? Can I stand marital eternity with a human being I feel no sexual attraction for? Can I live that lie? Do I want to? Shouldn’t I want to? Does not getting married mean I’ll lack companionship as I age? What about children? What about old age? What about the continuation of my legacy?
I was in my early twenties, and suffering the torment I shouldn’t have to at that age. And I grew so alone, even in the midst of the love and dynamics of my family.
As I grew older and more independent, graduating from school, relocating to another city and getting a job, I began to get jealous over my identity. Selfish over my life. Less inclined to please anyone with ideals that didn’t suit me. My defiance was subtle, a rebellion over the fact that I couldn’t simply say to the world: Hey, I’m gay, now can we get on with our lives!
I used to live in fear of my family discovering my secret, so much so that it came as a mild shock to me that when my brother found out, I felt not even the slightest twinge of unease. We had a fight over it, and he was especially riled when I refused to be apologetic about what he now knew about me. He made veiled threats about outing me to the rest of the family, and I simply gave the ‘It’s up to you’ shrug. I was conflicted in that moment. On the one hand, I wished he wouldn’t tell; I didn’t think I was ready to know my parents’ disappointment of me. On the other hand, I really wished he would; it would be like ripping off a Band-Aid, you know, let’s get it over with already so I can live.
To the best of my knowledge, my brother didn’t go through with his threat.
We drifted apart though, and after a while, reconnected, and never once talked about my sexual orientation again. I wanted us to, but I could understand his need to act like he didn’t know what he already knew.
The feeling of liberation I got from that encounter with my brother emboldened me. It made me realize that there existed a future for me which involved me having the kind of personal life I wanted, one that wouldn’t be muddled by the interference of family. A naïve, utopian thought to have, I knew, but I had to believe in it. Getting to that future was going to be a long journey, and it would require me embarking on that journey one step at a time.
Yes, one step at a time.
When the calls started coming about my marriageability, with my mother wondering aloud if I had a girlfriend, and my grandmother telling me about how my grandfather married her when he was aged 23, I felt no panic. I felt so impatient with the entire issue that when a close female friend of mine quizzed me about marriage, and I told her it wasn’t for me, and she asked me why, I snapped, “Because I’m gay.” And just like that, I outed myself to another person in my life.
One step at a time.
My father recently visited Lagos for some business, and I spent an evening with him at his hotel. We talked about a myriad of issues, and for the first time, the man asked me, “So what about marriage, my son?”
I looked at him, gave a small sigh and said resolutely, “Daddy, I will not be getting married. Ever.” And then I braced myself for the thunderstorm.
It didn’t come. He simply stared at me and asked, “Why?”
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him the God-honest truth. But I still wasn’t ready. So I said instead, “Because I don’t want to. Marriage isn’t one of the things I want to accomplish with my life.”
“Have you told your mother?” he asked.
“No, I haven’t.”
“You will, won’t you?”
“Yes, in time, I will.”
“Ok then.” He nodded and segued into another topic, effectively ending his interest on the issue of my marital status. I had a feeling he had left the battle to the better warrior.
One step at a time.
I haven’t figured it all out. I still have some fears about the future, about growing old alone. I’m positive I don’t want children, but I’m anxious about whatever legacy I’ll have. I have love in my life currently, and that makes me realize I have something to lose. I’ve got great friends and family who I constantly hope will tighten into a support group when the chips fall down.
It’s all just one step at a time. And the intrigue of the journey is in the not-knowing what the destination will be. Satisfaction can only be gotten from knowing that you’re doing all you can to justify your pursuit of happiness.
Written by Pink Panther