As I lay on my bed early that April, my heart raced as I pondered over what may have transpired the previous night. I was left all alone in the sitting room as my mum and siblings held a discussion in the bedroom. This was quite unusual as we normally had our discussions together. The hushed tone of their conversation was far from comforting. Somehow, I knew I was the topic of their discussion.
Months prior to that time, I made the tough decision of telling my mother of my sexuality. She didn’t yell or wail, as I had imagined. Instead, she calmly told me that it was good I told her and even blamed me for not telling her earlier. She said everything was going to be fine. I blinked in disbelief as I heard her words. It sounded too good to be true –indeed, it was.
About two days later, she told me of how she had cried her eyes out over the issue and I felt miserable. She insisted I was being ‘indoctrinated’ into homosexuality and needed to change my friends. I told her over and over (and over and over) again that I’d always liked guys and that I was in my twenties when I had my first gay friend. She didn’t listen. I supposed she was in denial.
Not long after my talk with my mother, my brother hacked into my phone and stumbled upon ample evidence, including my chats with my then-lover, which revealed that I was not straight. When he confronted me, I told him the truth.
And so, as I sat in the silence of the sitting room that night, I was sure that my sister, the only person who hadn’t known about my sexuality, now knew about it.
Interestingly, the first and only person I came out to before my mum was a Christian friend with whom I’d been about to start a business. He initially told me he had no issues with my sexuality. However, a week later, he sent me a text message saying he could not be a part of “such”. When I asked him what he meant by “such”, he didn’t respond, and we haven’t seen each other since then. Ironically, before my revelation, he had professed that my business idea was God-inspired.
The experience was hurtful, but was nothing to be compared with the hurt I envisaged I would feel if I was to be rejected by my family. As teenager, I had prayed never to see such a day. But here it was staring right at me. It was almost dawn and I feared what was going to happen when it was morning. A family meeting was inevitable.
Just as I foresaw it, the sound of my brother’s voice woke me up.
“Wake up! We need to talk.”
I woke up to see myself surrounded by my family members. The much dreaded family meeting was upon me.
For the next two hours, I was bombarded with questions ranging from ‘How long I had been gay’ to ‘How long I’d been dating my lover’. With all the calm I could muster, I answered all their questions as truthfully as I could. I told them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sadly though, my words didn’t seem to be understood.
One interesting question asked was: “Do you think God created you as a homosexual?” That had been a question I asked myself all through the years. I knew the undertone to the question was if being gay was a choice or not. I answered that I had been gay for as long as I could remember and that there was no point in my life where I decided to forsake my heterosexuality to become a homosexual. I tried educating them that my experience was not peculiar to me, as homosexuals generally have the same experience.
Ultimately, my family demanded that I “change”, even if it required a miracle from God! They asked if I believed God could change me. I couldn’t answer because I had cried to Him for so long to change my sexual orientation, and I’d never gotten an answer. In my opinion, when His answer came, it came in the form of self acceptance. I had been troubled about my sexuality for years, but when I learned to accept myself, I was filled with inner peace.
But, now the peace was threatened by the probing questions of my family members, and I found myself unable to effectively define the person I had grown to become.
I looked into their faces and understood the reason why it was difficult for them to understand who I was. The reason was that they were not on the same phase as I was. I figured that the phases to the acceptance of one’s sexuality for the gay individual should be parallel to the acceptance by his loved ones. In their eyes, I saw what I used to be long before I accepted who I was, and now, I saw the same expression of despair, denial and anxiety I had long left behind. Knowing how much I had suffered then and now, watching my family suffer the same things was almost unbearable. I felt helpless. So, I made the decision to help them understand who I was as a gay person.
In the months that passed, my family made no mention of my sexuality. I was never victimized verbally or physically, and I was appreciative of their decision to respect my individuality, even though I sometimes felt that they were still in denial over the issue. However, some of my doubts were dissolved when my younger sister broke the ice by asking about my boyfriend (she could still remember his name). I took her through the story of how my boyfriend and I broke up. We laughed over the funny details of the story. I also shared with her my past experiences and my hopes of finding someone new. At the end of the conversation, she expressed gratitude for my opening up to her and told me to be careful about whom I dated.
From the discussion with my younger sister, I could see that she had taken a major leap in accepting me as a gay person and I felt a whole new dimension of self-worth and hope to face the future. At the same time, I was anxious about what the future had in store for my family, should they fully accept me as a gay man. I still worry about the socio-cultural and religious effects that a decision to be openly gay may have on my family. There are many LGBT persons whose family members know about their sexualities. I wonder what support and counseling programmes are available to help them fully understand the sexualities of their LGBT loved ones and protect them from possible verbal and physical assaults. Agreeably, LGBT individuals need help and support…
But so do their families.
Written by Kaytee