Coming out can be an incredibly freeing thing to experience. All those expectations that are placed on your life by family and friends, the lies you tell to thwart suspicion, the silences you respond with to situations that demonize your identity, the damaging relationships you have to endure because they come with the territory of being in the closet, the fears you have to live with over one day being found out – most of all these you get liberated from when you come out and identify openly as who you are as you’ve been doing secretively.

And for many queer people, this freedom is beautiful. It makes them better people, because you can only be your best self when you no longer have to hide who you are. It puts them in more honest relationships and creates an environment around them that, where once it was prejudiced, begins to use them as a compass to see the humanity in others like them.

For some other people, coming out is bittersweet. It’s a combination of some of these beautiful experiences with some of the more trying ones. For some other queer people, coming out is just the beginning of another hurdle they have to conquer.

I came out to my mother – and by so doing, to my family – in September 2018. As someone who’d only ever cared about how my life affected my immediate family, coming out to them was I ever cared about. And when that happened, I refused to be held back by anything else. I made myself as free as I could be under the circumstances of the society I live in, speaking out, using my life to try to normalize my realities as a gay man…

And constantly locking wills with a mother who has refused to accept the truth of who I am.

I used to tell close friends that years ago, I’d always believed that should I ever come out, because of the closeness I shared with my mother, she would be the one to support me and stand by me, whereas my father, who raised me and my brothers with a “do not spare the rod” mentality, would probably disown me.

The reverse was the case when it happened.

The older my father got, the less intractable he became, I got to realize. And so, when he learned about my sexuality, his reaction, after the initial wave of disappointment, was to struggle with acceptance while wishing and praying for a son that would stop being gay. In his private moments, he would pray for God to “cure” me, and then emerge to ask me questions about my welfare, my struggles, my past. The day I told him about how lonely it was for me as a child who had started to realize how different he was, he broke down in tears, saying in anguish to me: “How could I be your father and not know?”

My father would talk to me about getting married, saying things like, “Are you sure you are gay? What if you’re really bisexual… That way, you can still get a wife…”

But he would also ponder things with me like, “Are you happy? Does this make you happy? Do you have other people in your life who know, who support you?”

He would express his mortification over how he should respond when relatives ask him about why it was taking me long to get married, and his dread that my homosexuality could ever be something that’d be publicly known by other family members.

But he would also listen whenever I talked about gay rights in Nigeria and the advocacy I am involved in, always responding with some encouragement here and a word of prayer there.

My father didn’t know any better, but the reality of a homosexual son was making him want to know, to understand, to accept.

My mother, on the other hand, has been a different story.

For two years, she has stayed doubling down on her homophobia, so wrapped up in her religiousness that she is sure that there is no way I can have a good life as long as I claim to be gay. And that is what makes my continuing estrangement from her very sad: the fact that I can see that she loves me, but loves me so wrong.

In the months since I came out to her, we have alternated between fighting and not speaking to each other. In those rare times when we manage to talk on the phone without any bursts of anger, the exchange is usually wooden and joyless or tense and awkward. I keep waiting for her to want to know, to ask me to tell her about me, about how I got here – and all I get is a mother who stays triggered by what she believes is my willful disregard for the will of God in my life.

During a homecoming last year, my parents had called a pastor to pray for the family. The man of God was supposed to pray for the house we had just moved into, pray for the endeavours of everybody in the family – and pray for me.

“You see, Brother Emeka,” my mother said as we were all seated in the living room with the somber expressions of a people about to go into the serious business of prayer, “there is something I’m asking God for my son. I have been asking God to deliver my son from this particular will of Satan for months now. I need you to help me ask God to loosen him from this shackle of the enemy.”

For a moment, the pastor looked at my mother, undoubtedly expecting her to go ahead and elaborate, to tell him what satanic shackle it was he was supposed to pray to be broken. He looked at her and she looked back at him, not saying a thing.

And I chuckled inwardly, wondering if I should give in to the sudden temptation to say to the pastor: “Oh sir, what my mother means is that she wants you to pray for me to stop being homosexual.”

But I didn’t.

And the pastor prayed.

And then we went back to our lives, while this incident became yet another block on the growing tensions between a son who just wants to live and a mother who won’t accept that.

This past couple of years has been a journey of freedoms and frustrations for me. I am always grateful for the circumstances in my life that have made it relatively easy for me to live out and proud of who I am. That have made it so that I still enjoy close, loving relationships with people in my life who didn’t use to know but now know, and are accepting of me. That made it so that the first time I typed something that was very openly gay which I wanted to update on Facebook, I was able to click Post, and after a few heart-pounding seconds, realized that I was okay, that it was now okay for me to be me on social media.

I came out, and suddenly, there was an end to everything that made me scared and doubtful and loathing about who I am.

But I came out, and it became a new beginning to reassert myself and say to people like my mother” “Yes, I’m gay and it’s perfectly fine that I am gay.” A beginning to new doubts, that I have to stop and tell myself: “No, you did not experience that failure because you’re gay. Your mother may believe so, but you know better.” Or “you are not cursed for being homosexual, no matter what your mother says.”

Coming out is beautiful, but sometimes, it is a reminder that life is something you have to constantly guard against moments that make you lose yourself.

It can be exhausting, but what then is the alternative?

Written by Pink Panther

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  1. Ken
    October 11, 07:56 Reply

    Interesting read. I have a friend who came out to his parents, got accepted by then but then slumped back into homophobia: his reason being that he wants to marry and have kids. I mean his mum is white and his dad is liberal open minded so they weren’t even that bothered about the whole “I’m gay episode”.
    Well the truth is some of us have so much gingered ourselves to expect anger and retribution from our parents that when all they give u is love and acceptance, that acceptance leaves a big hole to be filled. It’s weird I know.

    People should only come out when they absolutely have to. Or not at all. It’s even harder when u are bisexual. Like what do u even come out to.

    • Pink Panther
      October 11, 08:10 Reply

      “the truth is some of us have so much gingered ourselves to expect anger and retribution from our parents that when all they give u is love and acceptance, that acceptance leaves a big hole to be filled.”

      You’re so right with this. Sometimes, we have been so engineered to expect rejection when we come out, that when we don’t get it, we don’t know what to do with that. It’s the same thing with how we hold our trauma close to our hearts. some of us have romanticized our trauma so much that we often don’t know who to be and how to be without that trauma.

  2. Black Dynasty
    October 11, 08:17 Reply

    Sighs, whilst mine was a bit different to yours @ mum. I still catch the occasional side comment. I genuinely had to accept that’s just the way my mum is and whilst i can’t change that, i will not accept to be disrespected. That boundary will simply not be crossed, i.e. keep your thoughts and beliefs to yourself, i won’t entertain even hearing it.
    Maybe it’s because i truly never expected acceptance or even understanding but mentally i don’t have tension with my mum in general as long as that boundary is respected.

    Hopefully you get to a place where you no longer expect this “I keep waiting for her to want to know, to ask me to tell her about me, about how I got here”, she will come around if/when she’s ready… it would likely be years. Remain resolute and let your actions continue to speak for you, you can love from a distance.

    I continue to show genuine love and affection to my folks and making the most of the time left with them, i want to make sure there are no regrets no matter what happens. Hopefully you get to do the same too.

  3. Outcast
    October 11, 10:25 Reply

    I wish I had the chance to come out to my family. I got outed by this fucker I barely knew because he thought I was smashing someone he liked but didn’t like him back.
    My experience has not been bittersweet. It’s been BITTER. I think I’m broken sometimes because it’s hard connecting with people. I try, believe me I do. You know, it’s funny how family chooses to overlook all the good you’ve done because of one thing they think is bad. One thing that shouldn’t be tagged “evil.” One thing that isn’t evil. I’ve never shamed myself for being gay. I love being gay. But being out?
    I think this might kill me. That’s if I don’t kill myself.
    At this point, I don’t feel anything. Five years of mental torture has done something to me. I know what happiness is like. It’s on my Instagram. So yes, I still smile and take pictures.
    If you’re out there and you’re a therapist, kindly reach out if you can. I’m starting to tell myself I’ve had enough. And this time, I might act on it.

  4. q
    October 13, 16:24 Reply

    @outcast you can call ICARH therapist toll free therapist line on 08008437279

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