My coming out was in phases, almost like those days when MTN was rolling out service across the nation, though theirs was at a rate that could be considered fast enough to make one’s head spin with the attendant dizziness. I came out in turn to each of my siblings, growing in confidence after each one so much that now I have started coming out to friends. I didn’t wake up one day and decide: “This is the day that the Lord…” (Sorry for that slip. It is a force of habit. My hands were forced basically in a situation that would make an interesting story. One I however will not tell out of inexplicable respect for the parties involved.)
It all started with the possibility that my brother had found out or had been told by an ex, the latter which turned out to be true. I had basically been outed by an angry ex. The day I realised what had happened, I sent my brother a message on BBM asking if he had heard anything. Unlike him, he read the message but did not reply.
So began two days of the worst days of my life. I began imagining all sorts of things. How he must be disgusted with me and no longer wanted anything to do with me. I imagined who else he may have told and the kind of conference that would be going on about me. Were they expressing disappointment over how reprobate I was? Was anyone gloating that my halo and sheen had fallen off? Was this going to make it out on the social media? How could I ever face anyone again? How could I go back and see my parents, face the disdain from them and endure their words of condemnation which would be sure to destroy the very heart of my soul like only the words of a parent can? Thoughts were just running around in my head, each new scenario painting a more terrible picture than the preceding ones as I tried to work out all the implications of this outing.
My whole outlook on life suddenly became bleak. I could not imagine a future beyond a few days. There was no escape, no matter how I tried to picture alternate possibilities. All I seemed to have was just enough time to figure out how to end it all and put it into action. In the coming two days, I understood what people meant when they said, “O kwuru oto taa aru.” (That is, that someone lost weight right before their very eyes.) I could neither eat nor sleep, and when I managed to dose off out of sheer exhaustion, I would have dreams about having been exposed as a gay man with the horrible consequences and I’d wake up without feeling rested. I had read a lot of novels especially Mills and Boon where the author would describe someone as feeling adrenalin rushing through their veins; in those days I understood that as well. It was as if my blood was flowing faster than usual and I could hear it in my head. I was always alert like one who had taken three cans of Red bull. My brain had sensed I was in crisis and was on full-on Flight or Fight mode. If the movie Inside Out was filmed inside my head, it would have shown little monsters in full panic, screaming and scampering about with the realization that the ship was about to sink and take them down with it. I thought of jumping from a tall building or in front of a truck. I called a friend who really helped, telling me to hold on, that things would pass. He called me so much, trying to counsel me, that I actually became upset with him for disturbing my misery.
For the next two days, I was holed up in my room. I didn’t see another soul. I didn’t bath, brush my teeth or eat. I felt I was coming to the end. I spent the two days in bed hoping to drift away somehow.
However after those days, I got a call that my supervisor for a project wanted to see me and I had to go. I got up and realised my legs could barely carry me. I had never been so weak in my entire life. It was as if I was being held upright by my bones and dragged along by an external force somewhere outside my body. I felt like I imagined stick puppets must feel.
Getting out that day was my saviour. I stepped out into the sun and loved the feeling of the cool wind on my skin, even though I was afraid I would keel over if it blew any stronger. I took in the fresh air which was miles removed from the stale air I had in my room where I had isolated myself. It was like light dispelling darkness. I saw people going about their daily lives animatedly, the vehicles taking people from one place to the other, people talking and laughing – lots of human beings going about the business of living…
And not one of them knew I was gay!
It hit me in that moment that even if they knew, they were not going to stop living and focus all their energy on me. I further realised that if I had harmed myself, all this activity would continue and their lives would only be interrupted for the briefest of moments as they paused to consider the tragedy I had become, and that would even be only if I made the news. There was life happening all around me, and when I got to my supervisor, I reintegrated into it as I was forced to interact with not just him but other humans. At that point, I realised what two days of not eating had done to me; my clothes were wearing me, and I was so weak, my movements were slow. I was deliberately trying to hold myself together, holding onto furniture or leaning against walls so that I would not collapse. I started thinking about the stress I’d put myself through. And for what? Life would go on one way or another, I eventually told myself. I came to the conclusion that here I was, worrying myself to death over what other people would think, while they were busy living their own lives. That epiphany made me resolve that never again would I put myself through that for someone else. I also realised then how terribly hungry I was.
When I got home that day, I ate for the first time in two days, took my bath (Yes, I didn’t do that before I went out), and felt myself return. Then I thought of what I would do and decided that if Kilimanjaro wouldn’t come to me, then to Kilimanjaro I would go. I took up BBM again and sent a message to my brother.
I typed to him: I am sorry you had to find out this way. I would have told you but I know you are against it like so many others are. I don’t know why I am the way I am, and nobody knows why, but I can assure you it is not a choice. If it was, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen this. Not to be considered ‘normal’, to constantly hide, endure abuses and persecution, be depressed and lonely all the time, not have any friends because of fear of rejection of what you are. I have struggled with this. If you remember, I was a bit effeminate growing up. I never wanted to play football and all. I was also teased for it, like you know. I tried to change, act more like a man but that was only part of it. The realization of this other aspect came in secondary school and I have fought it by all means I could, but I couldn’t change it. No one can. It is who I am. Life has been difficult because of it and I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I’ll understand if you never want to speak to me again but know I am still the same person you have known all these years.
He replied: I love you no matter what and I am sorry you had to go through all this alone. I apologise for all the bad things I’ve said about gay people to your hearing. You being the way you are does not change anything.
To say I was over the moon is an understatement. I was over all the celestial bodies, the galaxy of stars, the clusters and super-clusters of galaxies. The closet had been opened and I had a foot out and the earth kept on spinning, life continued. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel so alone. The statement that ‘No one in my family understands me’ was no longer true. I felt a connection that was whole and complete. At that point in my life, I couldn’t have asked for more. In true human fashion, I regretted not having come out earlier. I thought of all the wasted times I would have been happier had I been bold enough to do the deed. (Talk of greed and avarice, lol.)
Following this, my thoughts turned to my other siblings. Some may wonder if they didn’t already know as my brother should have told them. But no; in my family, we are very private and keep our secrets. The injunction to mind one’s business is wasted on us because we were born doing just that. So I knew my brother would not mention this to anyone else. I had to do this myself. My sisters were next. For both of them, I used a well-known technique for breaking bad news which is to fire a warning shot. I essentially waited for an opportune moment in my chats with them, and when it came, I said, “There’s something about me which I need to tell you. It would probably change the way you feel about me but I think it should be said.” The reply on both occasions was, “What is it?” Then I followed with, “I am not ready now but will tell you soon.” After this initial exchange, the next time we chatted some days later, I came out to them.
My elder sister’s reaction was: “When did it start?”
“It didn’t start anytime,” I replied. “I have always been this way. It is something you realise growing up, especially at puberty and it is the same for other gay men I know.”
“Who else have you told?”
I mentioned our brother.
“I knew it!” she exclaimed then. “I knew that there was something else behind homosexuality other than this thing that people like my husband say that it is a choice! Anyway, I still love you and this does not change anything.”
I was surprised to hear this from her, the same statement my brother used when he accepted me. I actually started to think that a conference may actually have happened on my matter.
My sister went on to tell me that after my warning shot, she had thought about “this serious thing” I had to tell her, and that after excluding some possibilities, she concluded it was going to be exactly what I had told her. She asked if I was going to tell our parents and when I answered in the affirmative, she said, “If you are going to need any support, just let me know when and I will come and lend my voice.”
It just kept getting better and better. My esteem for my sister in that moment multiplied exponentially. You see, growing up, my sister was as religious as I was. I had since become a turncoat and my sexuality was one of the main reasons for that change. I had an inkling she had also given up on religion, which I later confirmed to be true, but I couldn’t for the life of me fathom why that was so. She was married with children to a man with means, and it seemed to me her apostasy was borne out of nothing more than personal conviction and logical reasoning, which was in my estimation more authentic than my reason of just wanting to have sex without feeling guilty or asking for forgiveness for that which I was made to do and which gave me so much pleasure.
For my younger sister, it was basically the same. She had also reached the same conclusion about the serious matter I was going to tell her. She had even gone a step further to ask the brother I’d come out to if I am gay. He either didn’t answer her or denied it. (I told you we keep our secrets and mind our business). So she was less than surprised when I actually confirmed her suspicion. When I probed further to find out how she arrived at the conclusion, she cited occasions I couldn’t remember (suppressed memories?) of my dressing up in our mother’s clothes. I only remember ever doing that once, while we were all playing, and I wasn’t the only one that did it. Besides if that did happen at the time I think it did, she would have been too small to remember. Then she suddenly asked, “Does this mean you are going to be alone for the rest of your life?” I was touched that not only had she moved on from my being gay, she was now concerned for my well-being. “Not exactly,” I replied. I didn’t elaborate, because I felt that was not a good time to educate her on gay relationships. Hell, I still needed education on that myself at the time.
And so it was that coming out to that point had become a bit of an anti-climax. There was no drama like I had feared, no rejection, and no tirade threatening fire and brimstone. I confess I was a little bit disappointed. Not that I lived for drama but…you know. On some level, I could not help regretting not coming out sooner; it would have made for a better past. I did not tell my eldest brother and I have not yet told him. The time I wanted to, I was advised against it by my sister who felt he would not understand.
My next challenge was to tell my parents. I didn’t talk to them as often as I felt I should. Part of the reason was that our conversations always started with or gravitated to questions about finding a girlfriend or partner. This was our hello and goodbye, and I was getting tired of it. The day I told my mother, I’d called after a long hiatus and the conversation gravitated toward the usual topic. This time, I headed it off by telling her there was something I wanted to tell her. I asked if my father was in the room with her. She answered yes and I told her not to worry, that I would talk some other time. Telling a mother not to worry about her son, especially when there seemed to be an issue is like putting salt in someone’s mouth and asking them not to taste it. It was therefore no surprise that later that night, when my phone rang, it was my mum on the phone.
“What is it you want to tell me? I am alone now,” she said.
“It is about this issue of marriage you keep talking about; it is not something I can do. If it was, I would have. But I can’t. So I would like you to stop talking about it because that is why I don’t answer when you call me sometimes.”
“But why won’t you marry? It is good that you marry. You are a tall, handsome man. There’s no reason for you not to marry.”
“The thing is that I am not attracted to women,” I dropped that on her.
There was a pause.
“What do you mean you are not attracted to women, is it men you are attracted to?”
“But we have asked you before and you denied.”
“I didn’t think you were ready to hear it then.”
“Should I tell your father?”
“I don’t know, you can if you want.”
“Hmmm… You will need counseling.”
“I don’t need any counseling. This is just the way things are.”
“OK, let’s sleep on it.”
“OK, good night.”
The deed was done. We slept on it for a long time, and the next time we spoke, there was no mention of marriage. Victory! Or so I thought. It did come up again, but this time, I was able to reply, “I thought we have discussed this thing before.” And thus the matter ended. I don’t know if she told my dad or not. I haven’t. However the last time I visited home and stayed for weeks, there was no mention of marriage for the first couple of weeks. It eventually came up from my dad, but it was more of a conversation and advice, a gentle plea even, rather than the demand it had been in the past. I know it will take some time for them to adjust and I will expect it to come up now and again till it eventually dies down.
Charity having begun at home has since stepped out and started showing off to friends. I have since come out to a number of my friends, male and female alike. The reaction of one of them prompted me to write the post I did about religion and homosexuality. The responses have been varied and have included, “I will pray for you”, “You should go and fuck a woman and it will all change”, and one of totally unexpected acceptance from a chap who I mentored while doing my national service. I will relay part of the chat here.
Him: Sir I am really worried about something, I am afraid of telling anyone, mostly you.
Me: Tell me. I can’t do anything. I am far away.
Him: I am afraid you’ll think low of me.
Him: And you might be disappointed in me.
Me: Did you get a girl pregnant?
Him: Are you a soothsayer or a seer?
(Yes Nigerians do answer questions with questions)
Me: I lived in your community.
Him: So you know. I really do not want to hide anything from you, that is the only reason why I am telling you this.
Me: I cannot judge anyone, but you have to decide what to do with your life now.
Him: Well, thanks for saying this.
Me: I have my own confession which I am almost sure you know anyway.
(I suspected he had caught me watching gay porn one time he visited.)
Him: Lol, please do tell.
Me: Nah. Not sure you can handle it, but in the spirit of what you’ve told me, I can’t have your problem because I’m gay.
Him: Hmm, I am not surprised and really I am not judging either. I have come to learn a lot about life and I amazed at how much I have grown.
Me: Why are you not surprised?
Him: Maybe I have seen the signs… Or maybe the last time we had that intense chat, I eliminated most of the options and ended up with the idea that it was either this or you had a manhood problem.
Me: Lol, Smart.
Him: I have so much respect for you… You are my greatest human hero… I am honoured you told me this.
Him: Nope, I should be the one saying that from now till as long as I can.
Then I judged. I responded, “Next time though, invest in a condom, except you want to have another child… Sorry, I had to say that. And as for my manhood, it works well, maybe even better than yours, lol.”
Another lady I told was sitting before me, and she went: “You are my second gay friend. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Well not exactly.”
“Have you had sex with men?”
“I am not a child.”
She paused after a while and then said, “But wait, there is something I want to ask.”
I saw the glint of mischief in her eyes and knew exactly what she was going to ask.
“Don’t ask!” I replied.
“I must!” she insisted.
At this point, we both burst out laughing. I knew she wanted to ask about gay sex.
“That your thing,” she said, extending her right forearm with fist clenched, her left hand clasped around the right forearm close to the elbow. She stared at her extended forearm, turning it sideways while imagining it was the size of an erect penis. “How does that get into the tiny hole of an ass? You will be causing a lot of damage and incontinence.” She was back to laughing again.
I joined in, and at this point, we had both keeled over in our chairs and were laughing uncontrollably. The irony of the whole situation was that we were in a place surrounded by glum-faced couples and we looked for all intents and purposes like one as well. It was not lost on me that they would look at us and think, “What a happy couple!” That could not have been farther from the truth.
Coming out so far has been interesting and led to some unexpected experiences. It helped me realise that people are more tolerant than I had given them credit for. I have remained good friends and on good terms with all the people I have come out to, for which I am grateful. For one lady, my coming out to her was at the time she was questioning homosexuality being a choice, like she had been made to believe. After our conversation, I’m almost certain she will not hold on to that view much longer, or at least, she would entertain the notion that people are actually born gay. I am not yet done coming out, as I am too openly gay as yet, but I have come to the point where I am comfortable with myself and have since gone beyond lying about my sexuality. So the moral of this story is that I am tall, handsome and have a big problem with my manhood. I don’t know why I felt I should highlight that. (lol)
Written by Dimkpa