“I’d rather die”
Everyone says those words every now and then. Everyone’s said those words in very many different contexts. They’ve been sometimes deathly serious and other times casual and playful. I’ve probably said those words way too often too, but there are two contexts that remain lodged in my memory.
First was when I’d just narrated an experience to a friend. I’d told him about secondary school and how I was expelled after getting caught in a compromising position with this other boy. I was in a sharing mood. And this friend was quick to say, “I’m okay with it if you’re gay. I don’t have anything against gay people.” To which I was even quicker to say, “I’m not gay. I can’t be gay. I’d rather die than be gay.”
I wasn’t being honest, obviously. Firstly, I was gay. Secondly, Secondly, of course I didn’t mean that I would literally prefer death to being gay. I simply said that because I thought that was what someone like me was supposed to say. I was the good son of preacher parents, and I believed that this was how I was supposed to react to the notion that I could ever be gay. At that time, a lot of my life was about doing what people expected.
Then it was no more.
Many things changed for me over the course of 2018. It was a formative year. The first half of the year saw me confront my sexuality with the help of really friendly strangers on Discord. The second half saw me confront religion with the help of a newly atheist course-mate who, at the time, wouldn’t shut up about Christopher Hitchens and the flaws in Pascal’s Wager. (Christopher Hitchens is a popular atheist who has written books and debated a lot of religious leaders. And Pascal’s Wager is a common argument used by religious people to insist on the existence of God.)
Toward the ending of 2018, I’d gone from what I was to a (self-described) homosexual unbeliever. But I was still naïve – that is, if it counts as naiveté to believe that “love conquers all”. I still believed that “the truth will set you free”. That if the truth is out there, you no longer have to worry about hiding.
Besides, didn’t my parents often say that they would love me no matter what? “You’re our child,” they’d often say to me. “We can’t disown you.”
And they didn’t disown me, but maybe, that it would have been better if they did.
One of the problems with realizing that you’ve been living your life based on everyone else’s expectations is that you’re now cognizant of the fact that there’s so much you’re participating in that you’d very much rather not be. That there are so many opportunities you’ve missed. And that it’s going to be hard now to course correct.
I was studying a course in the university because of people. I had created an image for myself because of people. I was hiding my suffering because of people. And I realized that had to change. I had to find a way to do what it is I wanted to do and to be who I wanted to be so this suffering would end.
And I was suffering.
Crying in my secret places and feeling like I couldn’t go on.
The ironic thing was that, even when I strived to present a sunny personality to the world, however much I tried to pretend to be happy, there were some people who would still say they thought I looked depressed. My misery was so great, it leaked through the cracks of my smiles, enough for them to notice.
I was stuck. But now I knew why and I was going to change it. I was going to free myself.
But we don’t come to this world alone. God places the lonely in families, they say. And power makes the decisions, not you.
So, I decided to tell the truth that I thought would set me free. And because I wasn’t strong enough, I told this truth to my parents by writing a slew of messages in the middle of the night on Facebook Messenger. Then I wrote a letter on Google Docs.
My truth was that I was no longer Christian, that I was gay, and that I was depressed and suicidal.
But love did not conquer the way I thought it would. You see, my parents had a history of being “supportive”. It was always “we can get through this” with them. That first time, during the mess in my secondary school, they’d come to school and we talked about what happened and it was fine. They didn’t say, “It’s okay. You’re okay.” They were simply not angry and “supportive”.
And this time, they selected what to react to. They ignored what I said about my mental health and simply tried to encourage me to be more Christian. They were more concerned with me being a “child of God”. Rather than listen to me, they simply tried to redirect my path to Christianity. It was always about what God wanted.
And as to me saying I was a homosexual, they basically said, “You’re not gay. This is just the Devil’s temptation.”
And so, even with the truth, I was trapped again. Maybe in a worse way, because I now knew there was a cage. And it was suddenly so suffocating.
I honestly could no longer deal with it.
But I tried.
Another problem with realizing that you’ve been living your life based on everyone else’s expectations is you probably don’t know yourself. You’ve, for so long, been a vessel into which people have poured their assumptions and expectations, so much so that you don’t know who “You” really is.
And when you don’t know You, then how can you know what to do with your freedom? When you don’t know what you’d do with freedom, why not stay in the cage?
But cages are see-through.
It was 2019, and I’d taken someone’s advice and opened an anonymous twitter account. And as I saw more and more people live unapologetically on that social media space, even if it was somewhat from inside their own closets, I began to know what freedom was.
And I tried to find out a bit more what I would look like free.
Anxiety is hard and when it gets really bad, you become a deer in headlights – stuck in horror’s path, unable to just step out of the way. This was where I was. The more I realized that I really did want to be free, and the more I believed that I probably would never be, the more stuck I was. Unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to live. And I was petrified by this.
But, at some point, fear didn’t cut it anymore.
“I’d rather die than live like this.” This was the second time I said those words that meant something to me.
I’d rather die than live like this.
So, I ran. I ran because I saw something, a possibility where I could thrive. And it was fleeting, but I’d be damned if I didn’t chase it with every ounce of strength I have.
TO BE CONTINUED
Written by Dimeji