I came out to my mother two months ago. The aftermath of that was a wrecking of our relationship, a pulling apart of our closeness – something that surprised me because she was the parent I was closer to.

Another thing that surprised me was how my father reacted to the situation. You see, growing up, my dad was the militant parent. The one who caned and belted us, his children, indiscriminately. The one who my mother used to get us to behave by simply telling us, “Just wait until your father comes back.” He was the parent I figured would fight me on all my life-changing decisions – not getting married, not having children, being out and proud.

I began to realize that my dad had mellowed after I brought up the issue of getting married with him, and he didn’t fly into a rage. He had questions, sure. But his whole stance on the issue was: Well, it’s your life. As long as you’re okay with it. Perhaps it helped that this discussion happened around the time that my brother got married.

After I came out to my mother, she of course called my dad to let him in on the horror of what their son had become. My dad called me thereafter. He wasn’t wildly upset like my mother had been. He wasn’t in a rage. His voice was low, his displeasure apparent but subdued as he said to me, “I’m going to pray for you so you don’t bring shame to this family.”

I wasn’t sure what stung me the most: my mother’s prejudiced betrayal or my father’s quiet disappointment.

However, after I spoke to my brother (you know, the one who’d become my staunch ally) about how my conversation with the old man went, he said he would speak to him. He did. I don’t know what he said to him, but the next time my dad called me, he was back to being my father. Paternal. Enquiring about my welfare. Wanting to know if I was safe. Wanting to know if I had a support system of friends. Telling me I’d be okay. Assuring me that he’d always be there for me.

“I’m your father,” he said. “It’s what I’m supposed to do: be there for you no matter what.”

It was a heart-warming conversation, and I felt lifted from the funk that I was dropped into by the initial reactions of both my parents. My mother was still furiously homophobic, her mind shut against the reality of her son ever being gay. All of our conversations – on the phone and as WhatsApp chats – were contentious, with her coming at me with religious indignation and me refusing to be guilted.

It was really aggravating for me, and when I talked about it with a few close friends of mine, some of them reiterated this sentiment I’d often heard in the past: “Give your mother time. It may take a long time or a short while. It may be never. But don’t expect her to just get it. After all, when you found out you were gay, didn’t you struggle for a long time to accept who you are? Why then do you expect anything different from your family?”

Now, specifically speaking, this reasoning does not apply to me. I am one of those gay people who did not struggle to accept his sexuality. I did not spiral into bouts of depression. I did not fast and try to pray the gay away. I did not volunteer myself for deliverance sessions. I had moments of self-resistance, yes, but those didn’t last long. I came into my sexual awareness when I was 13 and a classmate kissed me. that kiss felt so right, I didn’t even question my right to enjoy it. The same fluidity with which the boys and girls in my secondary school dated was how I fell in and out of love with boys. I didn’t other myself. I regarded my homosexual attractions as equally valid as that of my schoolmates’ opposite-sex relationships.

I experienced some conflict though. I got into the university and fancied myself in love with this beautiful girl who had asked to sit next to me for our very first university lecture. But for the one year I pursued her, it was more because of the conviction I had that if I liked her this much, then I had to be into girls too – than because of any self-loathing I held against my homosexuality. I’d just learned about the word “bisexual” and I was positive that had to be me.

Given my history with self-acceptance, I did not relate when friends told me to give my mother time – the time it took me to get over my own struggle. I understood their point, but I didn’t relate. However, I heeded the advice. So that whenever my mother sent me WhatsApp messages denigrating my sexuality, calling me sick, and asking me to get help by focusing more on god, I would take in a deep breath, swallow the bile and respond with a simple and listless “OK.”

And each time, I told myself: Your father has accepted you… Your father loves you right… At least you have your father’s unconditional love.

And then, a few days ago, something happened with my dad that gave me a new realization.

He called me, and as we talked, he said, “You are coming home for Christmas, right? You have to. I miss you, my son. I miss you. I miss you. I love you and I miss you very much, my son.”

Such effusive expressions of affection for his children is not alien to my dad. They don’t happen regularly. But they happen.

Hearing those words from him filled me with a deep love for the man. The words took on an even greater impact, because now I was hearing them as the son who he knows is gay. That was very profound to me.

Our conversation soon moved to him asking if I’d spoken to my mother. I was instantly irritated by the new topic, and my responses became curt. He was advocating for the reparation of my relationship with my mother, saying things like: “You have to talk to your mother, nna. Make right with her. you have to make right with your mother, no matter what.”

And then I said, “How do I make right with her when she believes what she believes about me? she is holding on to what she believes about me. And I am who I am. I’m not going to change. I can’t change.”

“Don’t say that,” my father said. “Don’t say you can’t change. You can change. Don’t say you can’t change. I know if you really mean it, you can change.”

Those words hit me with the ferocity of a backhand slap to the face. My father believes I can change? This same sentiment that my mother had been trolling me with had actually just come from my father too? The same man who’d been amazingly loving since?

When the phone conversation ended, I did some thinking, and I began to realize something. Parenting generally, especially Nigerian parenting, is very conditional. No matter how much society tries to sell this ideology that parental love is unconditional, in reality, it most often is not. Parents barter with their love, to make their children be who they want them to be. And it becomes a great test on this love when the child veers toward the path of not becoming who his parents want him to be. That is when you know the true strength of a parent’s love.

When it comes to coming out, we often conflate the love of a parent and his acceptance of the child’s homosexuality. You hear stories of parents who put their love for a gay child on hold until they are able to sort through their feelings over the child’s homosexuality. My father made me realize that those two can be separated. He had always loved me as my father, and when something he did not understand about me was revealed to him, I imagine he decided to handle the situation as two entities: a father and a person. A father who still cared for his son. And a person who has to deal with this new reality.

And that makes it easier for relationships involving LGBT people. When loved ones are able to remember that before the “gay” existed, there was love. And if that love was guaranteed by virtue of the fact that we are kin, it shouldn’t go anywhere simply because, well, homosexuality.

Someone once tweeted something about parenting. He said that before you parent, you should get it into your mind that your child will grow up to become anything. That you shouldn’t have preconceived notions of who your child will be. Your primary responsibility is to simply provide love and care, and help shape that child to be themselves, based on what comes naturally to them.

If more people went into parenthood with a mentality such as this, there would be firmer actualizations of the phrase “the unconditional love of a parent.”

My dad loves me unconditionally. And whatever struggles he may go through as he strives to come to terms with my sexuality, I shall condone, guide and help clarify if he asks me to. Because at the end of the day, he has ultimately proven that come what may, his constant is his love for me.

Written by Pink Panther

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  1. J
    November 14, 07:34 Reply

    I think most parents get worried because they feel as if you can’t give them grandchildren especially when you’re the only child. If not for our mentality of maintaining the lineage, life would have been easier…Gay couples can always start a family and the children must not be biological, there are so many ways of having children.

    Your mom will come to terms with your sexuality… I’m glad she can read, I hope she stumbles on articles/news/posts of how some parents are accepting their gay children and enlighting other parents. And I hope your dad isn’t preparing a deliverance session for you during Christmas, I feel a bit suspicious. I hope it turns out well. Wishing you good luck and please be strong!

      November 14, 20:56 Reply

      I don’t think its entirely the linage and grand kids thing. It stems usually from holding tenaciously to religious believes and the notion that homosexuality is unnatural. I dare say that even parents wld rather have a barren child who can’t give them grand kids as opposed to a gay one.

      • J
        November 14, 22:31 Reply

        Haba no that’s too much.

  2. julian_woodhouse
    November 14, 08:22 Reply

    Very nsightful…I wonder at times where I’d be without your blog…??

  3. Richie-Michie
    November 14, 09:04 Reply

    I always say this, the love of a Nigerian parent can only be declared unconditional until it gets tested. So many have failed that test. I know my mom will fail it. I can’t help but Scoff each time I hear a parent’s love is unconditional. Has it been tested?
    Unconditional love my ass.

  4. Keredim
    November 14, 09:50 Reply

    They are playing “Good cop ?‍♀️ Bad cop” ?‍♂️

    They both share a common goal – “Do not bring shame to the family.”

    I’d prepare myself mentally for Christmas, if I were you.

  5. realme
    November 14, 19:31 Reply

    I love the last line about parenting…

    • J
      November 14, 22:30 Reply

      Yes it’s very informing and liberating… I just wish my parents can read(they’re not literate), I would have sent them the link.

  6. Higwe
    November 15, 15:05 Reply

    This brings me to the day I was talking with my mum about a popular homosexual in our street possibly having AIDS.
    And my mum was like : do people contact HIV from gay sex? ?thought all they did was bring their penis together?
    Your mum will eventually come around, she may never understand it nor fully accept it but she’ll love you regardless as I believe she does.
    I for one think your parents are playing good cop, bad cop routine with you, don’t resent your mum, she’s not prejudiced but merely ignorant.

    • J
      November 15, 15:40 Reply

      Penis thrusting penis, or penis rubbing penis ? Your mother is a phenomenon ???

      So many people are ignorant of gay sex…Even me at some point, I never thought my hole would penetrated because of its tightness until I met Mr X

  7. Romeoux
    November 15, 18:49 Reply

    I hope to I overcome my fears just as you have. I’ve been having premonitions about a dystopian future life but I believe love is eternal. It remains in the aftermath of a catastrophe; love stays with everyone who truly hopes to survive an impending doom. I’ll just keep loving…

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