HIS COMING OUT STORY (The Equation Called Family)

HIS COMING OUT STORY (The Equation Called Family)

I was in a recent conversation with a bunch of friends, one where we were talking about guys, relationships and Kito Diaries. Boye’s Coming Out Story had just trended on KD, and we were talking about the issue of coming out. Somebody talked about how he’d just come out to his father over the phone and how hell hadn’t broken loose yet, and there were lots of oohs and aahs from the rest of us.

“I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to just come out to my parents, just like that,” someone remarked.

“Often times, they already know,” I said. “I believe my parents do. In my case, as far as coming out is concerned, I don’t know what else is left to do, except I don rainbow-coloured robes and sashay out to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.”

As my friends laughed, I found myself remembering the past, going back to that period in my growing up years. The year was 1996 and I was in JSS2. That year was the apex of the psychological battle I was engaged in over my sexuality. I was struggling to come to terms with my attraction for boys, and the more I strived to accept myself, the more the make-up instilled in me by my religious upbringing fought against it. This unsettling of my psychological insides made me reserved, secluded, a loner most of the time.

Because I’d rather stay indoors than go out to play with my siblings and the other children in the neighbourhood, I watched a lot of TV. One evening, a religious program was showing on TV. It was called Turning Point. I settled down to watch.

That episode of Turning Point was about a man testifying about his homosexual feelings, and how he’d had sex with men in the past. Then he encountered the man of God and confessed his ‘immorality’, after which came an intense prayer and deliverance session. And now, the man was pleased to testify that he was healed and no longer had any homosexual tendencies.

As a boy fresh into his teenage years and who was caught up in a mine field of doubts and self condemnations, what I was watching touched me. I felt like the show had reached out a lifeline to me, and I was eager to grab hold of it. I believed in the man’s miracle, and I wanted one for myself.

I decided to write a letter to the church that hosted the Turning Point program. I wanted to tell my story so they could help me too. Emails were not prevalent then, so I took out a pen and paper and began pouring my heart out. I noted my age, my identity, where I lived and my place in my family. I revealed my feelings for boys and how I at once enjoyed and felt bad about these feelings; I let on that I felt nothing sexual for girls, and how all this was troubling to me. Then I confessed that after I watched their program about the man who was healed of his homosexuality, I wanted my healing too. I signed off the letter with a desperate ‘Help me please.’

I proof-read the letter, rewrote it, enveloped it and then addressed it with my school as the return address. I would be returning to boarding school for a new term soon, and I wanted any reply from the church to come straight to me. All that was left was to get some stamps and then send off the letter by post.

Before I could get around to doing that however, I fell sick, so sick I was admitted into the hospital for close monitoring by the healthcare professionals. I got better and was eventually discharged on the week I was to return to school. My discharge was on Wednesday, and I would go back to school on Friday. As I left the hospital with my father, who’d come to take me home, I was thinking about my letter and how it was imperative that I post it the next day, Thursday.

When we got home, I went inside the house to meet my mother’s gloomy countenance. She clearly wasn’t happy about something. I didn’t bother asking what about, my mind was too consumed with thoughts of my post office errand. When I got to my bedroom, I was surprised to see that my things had all been properly arranged – my clothes, bags, books, everything I’d be going back to school with. I stepped out momentarily to ask my mother who’d arranged my things. She said she did. I nodded and went back inside to look for my letter. I looked and looked, sifting through my books and later my clothes, all to no avail. There was no letter, not where I’d tucked it away before I left for the hospital, and not anywhere else.

I went back out to meet my mother. With my heart beating a little faster, I addressed her, “Mummy, did you see any letter when you were arranging my things?”

Her expression shuttered as she faced me and her lips compressed into a thin line. “What letter?” she asked in a flat tone.

“I wrote a letter –”

“What is the content of the letter?” she interrupted.

Now, you have to know that I was a very headstrong child growing up. Initially, my parents had reacted to my willfulness with a lot of scolding, beating and caning (the last two especially from my father), but when it became apparent that their precocious, stubborn son was here to stay, they simply let me be. The result of this was that I was very forthright in anything I said to my parents, too forthright sometimes.

And so, my response to my mother’s curt interruption was, “That’s not the point, mummy. The point is did you see any letter in my room.”

Her expression tightened even further and she seemed to struggle with her temper, before she snapped, “I don’t know anything about a letter. You can go and ask your father.”

“Why should I ask him? You arranged my things. Or are you saying the two of you arranged the room?”

“I said go and ask your father!” she flashed at me.

At this moment, it began to dawn on me that something grievous had happened when I was away at the hospital. And it was clear to me that my letter was the heart of whatever had happened. My heart began to beat faster as I realized that my parents had discovered my letter, my confession, the unburdening of my heart. As I left my mother to seek out my father, I braced myself for whatever storm was brewing. I willed myself to accept whatever would happen. I remembered the tortured boy who’d been laid bare on the pages of that letter, and I told myself my parents had to have seen that boy and they’d understand and empathize with my troubled state of mind.

I located my father in his bedroom. “Daddy, there’s a letter I wrote –”

“What letter is that?” he growled his interruption, his countenance already brimming with that wrath that was familiar to me.

I swallowed hard and stood my ground. “I wrote a letter and kept it amongst my things, and mummy said she arranged my room. But I can’t find the letter, and when I asked her, she said I should come and ask you.”

“You did not answer my question! I said what letter is that!”

“I’ve been asked that question severally,” I said impatiently. “And it’s not the point. I just want to know if any one of you saw my letter.”

“Am I the one you’re talking to that way?” my father bristled.

“I’m not talking to you anyway, daddy. You’re the one asking too many questions that are not necessary–”

The rest of what I’d been saying died an instant death when his open palm lashed across my cheek. The slap rocked me backward and I staggered back a few steps. Then I regained my balance and stared at him, frozen in place by a mixture of pain and anger. I wasn’t surprised he hit me. But I was here to get my letter. So I continued, like he hadn’t slapped me, “All I want is my letter, daddy. If you have it, please give it to me.”

He blew his top then. His eyes flashing with anger, he exploded, “You useless son! I never knew this is what you have been doing! Why are you even writing letters? Will a letter solve the problem? A letter won’t solve your problem! Why not just go to Obalende or Ikoyi and stand by the road and be patronized by the nonentities who are like you! No wonder when you were growing up, you had too much attachment to ihe umu nwanyi! What kind of boy would want to be playing with dolls! I should have known then that there was something seriously wrong with you!”

“Daddy, that’s not the point,” I retorted. “I just want my letter.”

“Shut up!” he raged, advancing with his hand upraised. “Shut up that your useless mouth or I’ll shut it up for you! What rubbish letter are you asking for? What do you need the letter for? So you can be seen and heard on TV where you will open your mouth to say rubbish?! Over my dead body! I will kill you first before you disgrace me like that!”

I gave him a long hard stare, one filled with disappointment. My tone was quiet as I replied, “Daddy, I came to the realization that I might be doing something wrong. And I’m trying to seek solution. And instead of supporting and understanding me, I am getting condemned. What does that say about you?”

My father exploded with a fresh batch of vituperation. He slung swearwords at me, calling me names, names I had become used to hearing from him. I simply turned and walked away from his presence.

I never got my letter back. In fact, following what happened, I lost all interest in finding the ‘solution’ to my ‘problem’. It was as though that ugliness finally gave me the will to forge ahead with my self-acceptance. I began to take the time to grow into myself, learning to live my life to the fullest.

As a young man of marriageable age, I have often clashed with my father on the issue of settling down. We had never talked about what happened that day 20 years ago, but every time we argue over his demand for my wife and children, I see the fear in his eyes. With every word I say to him in defiance of his demands, I see the painful realization he must have shunned all those years ago.

During the Mother’s Sunday in February, my mother visited me to check out my new apartment. She was pleased. And then, during her visit, she turned a grave expression to me and said, “Nwa m, amam na iwughi onye nwanyi, mana me’elu me’ala, ihem choro ka iluoram nwanyi, muoram umu.” (Translation: My son, I know you are not into women, but all I want is for you to marry a wife for me and have my grandchildren.)

I smiled sadly as I looked at my mother, choosing not to say anything in response, but understanding now that my reality, the reality of my life which I began to make my peace with 20 years ago, was just now becoming theirs.

Written by JBoy

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48 Comments

  1. bruno
    April 14, 06:30 Reply

    oh wow.

    you were one cheeky child. each time i read “that is not the point”, i cringed a little.

    nigerian parents being clueless about parenting as usual. *sigh*

    • JBoy
      April 14, 23:38 Reply

      Hahahahahaaaa…

      I used that so often…I was, you lie not.

  2. Mandy
    April 14, 06:59 Reply

    You were this headstrong as a teenager? Wow. And your father, he comes of as an abusive parent. Luckily you had the temperament to face off with him.
    Family almost always knows. They simply choose to live in denial.

    • JBoy
      April 14, 23:40 Reply

      Yeah, I was…I managed to outgrow it a bit; denial will never take the place of reality. Someday they’ll wake up to either accepting me, the way I am, or reject as the case may be.

  3. Uziel
    April 14, 07:37 Reply

    Resignation. Such a wonderful thing. I like your mother (based on what I read up there). She understands the basics of not being in another person’s business.

    I imagine what its going to be like for me in a decade when I’ll start this from my grand family. Haha.

    • JBoy
      April 14, 23:41 Reply

      Feel free to love her…she has a way of having things her way, even in the toughest of it all. But I’m still doubting in this case.

  4. Kenny
    April 14, 07:41 Reply

    Often times, they already know,” I said. “I believe my parents do. In my case, as far as coming out is concerned, I don’t know what else is left to do, except I don rainbow-coloured robes and sashay out to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.” this killed me ???

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:59 Reply

      ????

      What would you have me do, Kenny?

  5. Brian Collins
    April 14, 07:49 Reply

    Wow… Just read Boye’s coming out story and I gotta say I am ALMOST inspired to be brave but not quite.
    I just feel that my parents would blame themselves if I came out to them as gay. My father didn’t live with us cos of his job when I was a child and then it was my mother’s turn when I became a teenager. I just don’t want them to blame themselves for something like this cos the distance put a strain on their marriage and they constantly blame each other.
    The devastation they would both feel would be too much for me to bear.

  6. Absalom
    April 14, 08:31 Reply

    I love the bit of shrinking you did in recognizing that your parents are only afraid. A life outside of marriage and heteronormativity? Why then does the person exist? I think that our parents do not feel at peace until all their children cross that “last” hurdle.

    But “alas”!

    They’ll be fine. I suspect you may want to discuss this matter with them extensively for closure so they don’t keep coming back to it.

    • JBoy
      April 14, 23:42 Reply

      One Day At A Time…

      Thanks, Absalom.

    • JBoy
      April 16, 00:01 Reply

      I sure will.

      I want to have kids…my own seeds.

      Not sure ’bout marriage.

  7. ambivalentone
    April 14, 08:44 Reply

    I am quite surprised myself. You took steps and they went ahead to not support them….what do people really want? Don’t be gay. Don’t publicize your ‘problem’ to disgrace us….#sigh I had a headache there abeg

    • JBoy
      April 14, 23:44 Reply

      Take some TABs, you’ll be fine by ‘moro. LOL!?

  8. Delle
    April 14, 10:35 Reply

    Oh my Jboy, this is some hardcore, touching story. I don’t know why Nigerian parents are so clueless on what it means to guide their kids, many a time, they are just wanting to protect ‘their’ own selfish interests. It’s so pitiful though, really saddening.
    I loved your defiant self towards them, loved the fact that you were so headstrong…cos it may have got you several beatings but honey, they have a deep-rooted respect for you nonetheless.
    My parents on the other hand act like they don’t know anything about me in that light. I’m sure they know I’m gay (you dnt need a crystal ball to decipher that), but they ignore that completely. Now, I don’t know if it’s a wonderful thing but I do know I’m comfortable where I am.
    I wonder what would happen in 10 years though cos I can’t even kiss a lady not to talk of getting married to one. Such lesbianism.

    • Tommen
      May 24, 13:10 Reply

      It’s not their fault Delle…
      just because we know things now that they didnt or av not understood or cannot..
      you can’t really blame them.

  9. Absalom
    April 14, 10:52 Reply

    It’s unfair to bash “Nigerian parents”. Every parent – all over the world – will raise their kids according to their own beliefs and philosophies about life. It is always a painful realisation for parents to realize that their children have choices and lives – and that these choices will not always go the way the hoped.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:34 Reply

      I get you, Abs.

      Wait! Did I just give someone some packs? Sexy Lucky You.

      We aren’t bashing…we aren’t.

  10. Truth
    April 14, 11:10 Reply

    “ihe umu nwanyi!” ?.

    I’ve heard that before several times. I have a lot to say about Nigerian parents, but let me just hold my peace.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:32 Reply

      Say joor.? We’re all ears.

  11. badboii
    April 14, 11:42 Reply

    It was really sad to read your story, but the harsh reality is that this is very similar for most us in nigeria and I can’t hold our parents responsible… they don’t knw better, even the so called exposed folks in the western world struggle to come to terms with their kids coming out and their choice of lifestyle. … for most nigeria parents it’s the fear that eats them the most… and that fear is so loud even when they say nothing and choose to act like all is well and be ignorant to the writings on the wall… our society makes it hard for them to understand and support a child nd most times prevails on them to turn their back on us. .. fear is a bad thing…

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:31 Reply

      They will turnaround someday…it’s gradual.

  12. sensei
    April 14, 12:05 Reply

    Touching story. Very inspiring too. We hope for better tomorrows.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:30 Reply

      Awwwww!?

      Thanks Sensei, you are inspiration yourself.

  13. michael
    April 14, 15:28 Reply

    So JBoy, after this your little encounter with Dad, you were ship off the FGC right? Where you shocked PP with that question. Lol.

    Say I was the one in your shoes, after searching for the letter and didn’t find it, I would jejely pretend like I didn’t write any letter. And move back to school quickly.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:28 Reply

      Wait!

      Do you know me that much?

      Seems he does.

  14. Mitch
    April 14, 15:48 Reply

    Wow! Jboy, you were and still are everything I wish I was and still am striving to be. It is things like this, the mistreatment and misunderstanding of a person who is striving to please the family, that make people say family is overrated. And that’s the truth. Family isn’t something we are born into but is who loves, accepts and aims to make us the best we can be.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:26 Reply

      Mitch Darling, I’m not all you would wish to be…I’ve got my fears, I’ve had things that made, and still makes, me cry. Be You, Be more Careful and Be Better.

  15. Tobee
    April 14, 16:49 Reply

    I like the fact that the parents had had to acknowledge it at some point, I guess it would reduce the burden of having to hide it completely; especially given JBoy’s depicted personality!

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:22 Reply

      Tobee, you’re right there…I’m so free with being me; like when my Mom came back from our last born’s matriculation and she said “I really do love that Ifeanyi (real name here) of a guy, he was so helpful and has been like a Big Brother to your Sister; he’s so funny and behaves so much like you”. I smiled and said “he’s an amazing fellow”.

      PS: Forgive me, Ify, if you’re reading this.

  16. Lorde
    April 14, 18:28 Reply

    “but understanding now that my reality, the reality of my life which I began to make my peace with 20 years ago, was just now becoming theirs”.
    Lol I love this phrase, (abi na clause, I hated english growing up) , I like the fact your dad thinks that if he’d handled the situation better, you’d turn out different. And I know you like it too lol

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:16 Reply

      Lol! Do I?

      As for the English, call it whatever…; spoke and spark whichever way, in the end, it remains borrowed.

  17. Lorde
    April 14, 18:33 Reply

    I want “love and sex in the city” *throwing tantrum*

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:13 Reply

      You’re not alone, Lorde.

      Throw, Fling et Scatter…I’m with you all the way.

      *side-look at Pinkie*

    • KingBey
      April 16, 13:13 Reply

      Me too ! Dafuq is holding it? 🙁

  18. JBoy
    April 14, 23:35 Reply

    Thanks People, it’s been a hectic day for me…Apologies for not engaging my esteemed readership, here on the comment session. Love you all, you guys rock!

  19. Frank_Einstein
    April 15, 07:27 Reply

    Thank you JBoy for this piece. I can almost totally relate with it.
    Growing up, my mum called me her daughter(she has just 3 boys) and i was glad i could make up for the absence of a girl in the house. I was thoroughly into ‘ihe umu nwanyi’ lol.
    But then i can only say that family chooses to live in denial of the obvious. I’m 100% sure my brothers know about my sexuality, my mum too. Coming out is out of the question for me; i like them to gradually come to terms with the reality, the harsh reality i must say. Few years from now, all their questions will be answered…..time has a way of doing that!

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:11 Reply

      Time truly does. Thanks Swèets.

    • JBoy
      April 15, 23:36 Reply

      Happenings made me so…

      Thanks W_Stranger

        • JBoy
          April 15, 23:54 Reply

          It isn’t dead…just been tied down by so much work pre§ure. Will sure do the needful, Boss.

  20. KingBey
    April 16, 13:19 Reply

    I bet my Dad noticed I was different much later in life. He told me coldly last Easter eve that he noticed I don’t like women and I don’t have a girlfriend and that he hopes I’m not in that Homosexual cult…because he won’t hesitate to disown me if I’m a member. Mom has always known….she’s has been throwing in subtle shades and advice since I was a teenager. #travailsofanigeriangayman

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