THE BROTHER’S KEEPER (A Coming Out Story)

THE BROTHER’S KEEPER (A Coming Out Story)

I come from a large family, seven siblings and my mother. My father passed away years ago. My siblings and I are all adults and grown out of our home in Benin, everyone in pursuit of happiness in places where the grass is green. However, my aged mother is our responsibility – something you’d think everyone would be fully aware of.

But no; instead of everyone to make steady and equal contributions to the welfare of our mother, some of my siblings would often shirk their responsibility, coming with their excuses and leaving the bulk of the obligation on the shoulders of others. I was the one of those most affected, as I very often had to make hefty budgets on my salary to accommodate my mother’s welfare.

However, the situation got so frustrating that I had to create a WhatsApp group and added all my siblings to it. The aim was for us to have a more accountable and frank communication on how to take care of our mother. Surely, as eight grown-ass people that we were, we could figure a way forward, right?

Well, wrong.

The conversations we had frequently ended with tensions running high and lots of bickering. The person however who was most often on the receiving end of everybody’s censure, majorly because he was the one who was the heaviest slacker, was my younger brother, Jeremiah. He is based in Europe and it was very exasperating to the rest of us that he could so comfortable where he is and yet be the least committed to the welfare of our mother.

Now, Jeremiah is a very querulous and belligerent person. He is unlikable. He is that one sibling who everyone else has a hard time being friends with. He always ends up souring things. Growing up, he and I were never close.

And in the WhatsApp group, when he started perceiving that he was getting dumped on, he started lashing out, going after each and every one of us with what is supposed to be our faults and why we should get down from our high horses. One after the other, he came for us, and he didn’t hold back on the insults.

The things he attacked everyone with were basically mundane stuff, nothing really damaging.

Then, he turned on me. And the words he dropped into the group froze my blood.

“Gaia, even you! You’re talking! You that is a faggot who keeps looking for boys’ nyash to fuck up and down! You are homo, and you are also talking!”

I read those words and I couldn’t move.

My brother had just maliciously outed me!

I was stunned. My fingers kept moving across my keypad as I typed and deleted and typed and deleted my response. I didn’t know what to say and everything I wanted to say felt inadequate. I didn’t know whether to deny or to be defiant. I didn’t know whether to be dismissive or to hurl back verbal abuse at him.

Finally, I was able to do something: I kicked him out of the group. I didn’t know how incensed he was and if he had more to say. I simply couldn’t take the chance of him revealing anymore.

Then I sought out some close friends and asked them what I should do. My brother’s words were just sitting there in the group, unattended to, like damning evidence of my “transgression”. I had to do something, right? Say something? Respond somehow? I could imagine the various expressions of shock and doubt and disbelief on the faces of my siblings as they stared at those words, all the while wondering why I hadn’t responded.

My friends told me to absolutely not say anything. Not saying anything would give the impression that Jeremiah’s words were so ridiculous that I couldn’t be bothered to deign them with a response.

That sounded like a good plan. So I heeded it.

The next morning, my eldest brother called. He is married and is a pastor, as religious as they come.

I’ll call him Pastor.

So, Pastor called and started by saying that after I kicked him out of the group, Jeremiah buzzed him to tell him that what he said about me was the truth. That I am a homosexual and that he has evidence. That one time, while we were growing up, I’d given him a letter to give a boy down the street, and he’d read the letter and seen that it was a love letter. That he had also once walked in on me making out with another boy.

As I listened to Pastor talk, fulminating rage began to swell inside me. So, this guy had not only outed me, but he was backing up what he did with lies?!!! Like I said, he and I had never been close and as a teenager who was well aware of how abhorred my sexuality was, I would not only never write a love letter to a boy and entrust its delivery to a family member, but he would be the very last person I would give such a letter to, should I need a mailman.

And I was pretty certain that he was also lying about walking in on me kissing a boy, because the few times I ever had a boy over to our house in Benin, I always, ALWAYS locked the door to my room. And also, considering my brother’s belligerent nature, seeing me do something like that and not say anything about it or try to use it to his advantage was not like him at all.

“Gaia! Gaia, are you listening to me?” Pastor’s voice cut into my angry thoughts.

“Yes, brother?”

“I asked if what he said is true,” he said.

“What if it is?”

The retort flew out of my mouth before I could think it through. It was the warning shot of a man frustrated by the constraints of his closet. I wanted to know just what the big deal was with being the person whose homosexuality is known by his family.

My brother immediately went apoplectic with outrage. “What do you mean ‘what if it’s true’? It had better not be true! You hear me? If it’s true, then you have to stop it right now! It is a sin! It is an abomination! We won’t accept it in our family! It is a sin! There’s a man of God in my church who God embarrassed recently because of this! Don’t let God embarrass you if this is what you are doing, Gaia!”

I listened to his tirade until he was done. Then I simply replied that I’d heard and hung up.

As I sat there, I could feel a surge of upset inside me. I was fed up. I’d had it with the hiding and the lying and the weaving and bobbing I’d had to do all my life to accommodate the sensibilities of my family members.

I am a grown man.

I have a life that I am living that is independent of them.

Why did I have to sit here and have one brother use my sexuality on me as if it was a weapon to take me down with, and another brother talk to me like he knows a goddamn thing about my life?

I remembered years ago when Pastor’s wife had also tried to weaponize her homophobia against me by spreading rumours that I am gay. That really didn’t go anywhere, but I often wondered what her aim was. What had she hoped to achieve by being so nasty about what she suspected of me?

Well, all that was about to end. I was done with hiding. It was time to step into the light.

Even as I was thinking these things, tears had welled up in my eyes and were streaming down my face. I didn’t know why I was crying, whether in pain over the betrayal I felt from members of my family or the realisation that I was about to take a step to free myself.

So, I went to the group and started typing:

By the time I was done with my narration, emotions were running high in the group. Everybody had something to say, voice notes and messages. Some in anger and outrage, others in confusion and sadness; some full of questions, others brimming with recriminations.

I had said my piece. I wasn’t about to put myself through anymore, so I stayed away from the group, not bothering to go there and respond to any messages. But I did see some messages from those who were asking me to delete the group, seeing as the reason it was created had been defeated.

They were right about that. So, I deleted the group.

This however caused them to start bombarding me with private messages and calls. I wouldn’t pick any calls, and the only messages I replied to were those from the two siblings I was closest to: my oldest sister, Mama P and my immediate older brother, Delight.

Mama P told me that she would always love me no matter what. However, she encouraged me to “stop doing this thing.”

“I know it will take time,” she said. “So you can be stopping gradually. There’s no rush. Just put your mind to it and you will stop. It is a gradual process. And I will be here for you all the way.”

I didn’t have it in me to try and educate her on the absoluteness of homosexuality. I knew she loved me and that she meant well. And that it would take time, patience and lots of education to get her to stop thinking that I could gradually stop being gay. But today was not that day.

So, I replied, “I don’t want to talk about this. Not now. When I am ready to talk about it, I will tell you. For now, just let this be.”

Delight is my immediate older brother, and he also resides in Europe. He was also full of commiseration for me over what I shared about my experiences as a child. He was the one who defended me from bullies and he hadn’t even known the damage that all that bullying and discrimination were doing to me.

However, he too, like my sister, was too ignorant to get it.

He assured me that he would always be there for me. Then he reasoned that I must be “doing this thing” because of my distance from home. That I am all alone in Lagos hustling, far away from family, and the loneliness must have pushed me to seek intimacies like this. He told me to quit my job and return to the family house in Benin, and we would see how he can help me work my way out of this thing. He told me he wouldn’t mind paying me a monthly salary to make up for me resigning from my job.

“I know the same way you chose to do this,” he said, “is the same way you can stop it. Just go back home. I will be sending you 50k for now. You stay home with Mummy, take your Christianity seriously and let’s work our way out of this together.”

Here was another sibling who meant well, but who simply didn’t get it. And as with my sister, I didn’t have the presence of mind to educate him. I simply told him I am fine and that we didn’t have to talk about this now.

These were the only siblings I interacted with. I refused to pick the calls and respond to the messages from the others, especially Pastor. Even his wife had the audacity to try to reach out to me. Her husband must have let her know how much I hate her.

My mother doesn’t know. She wasn’t in the WhatsApp group and when I came out to my siblings, I told them that I would not tell her, but if they want to do so, they are free to do that. None of them has dared to do so.

And so, that is it: my life on the outside. Lol. Sometimes, I find myself feeling guilty for unloading the “burden” of my secret on my family, for making my business their business.

And then I stop myself. I tell myself that I did no such thing. I simply took the power from them and restored it in me. I tell myself that I have as much right to live free and in my skin as every one of them has been doing for all their lives.

Written by Gaia

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  1. Black Dynasty
    October 17, 08:59 Reply

    Well done!! Like bloody well done!!!

    I stan your bravery to take the bull by the horn. Don’t stress yourself too much, this way you can filter who wants to be in your life and who doesn’t!

  2. Bliss
    October 17, 09:06 Reply

    Waw, just waw
    What you did was great, you had the Courage to face your siblings.
    Whatever you do next from this point, apply wisdom. Because i for sure know that the will still try to get to you either emotionally or 🤷🏻‍♂️.
    Don’t quit your job, please na beg i beg.
    You will be just fine, No i mean you will be Great. 😘

      • law
        October 17, 16:24 Reply

        I’m really proud of you,let say we have the same story

  3. Pie
    October 17, 11:03 Reply

    Don’t quit your job. I don’t believe in promises. No matter from whom it’s coming.

  4. Sage Philip
    October 17, 11:49 Reply

    I Envy you’ll thats out of the closet.
    Gaia, CHEERS!
    As independent as I know you to be, you don’t need to be afraid.
    Just live and be happy. 😘😘

  5. McDuke
    October 17, 13:22 Reply

    Good riddance… remember you did this for yourself and not for anybody. Now you’ve finally set yourself free (in your own words, “taken the power from them”), don’t let anyone or anything stop you. You should be proud of yourself, continue to live unapologetically…

  6. Delle
    October 17, 15:13 Reply

    You’re the definition of bravery. All I want to tell you though is not to dare leave your job to go back to Edo. That will be your undoing. The reason you have the respect you do from them is because of your independence. Do not give it up.

  7. Saucebutton
    October 17, 18:18 Reply

    Your independence brought you freedom. I admire that. Congratulations. Your bravery is commendable.

  8. Demi
    October 17, 21:54 Reply

    You did well.. I can’t imagine someone with a masters degree in a shitty country like Nigeria where job is hard to find should just quit whatever job puts food on his table. Lol I’m sure delight meant well but they also need to respect you and back off that part of your life..

    Me as a person will just block all of them (calls/texts) for 3months and then after I’ll resume communications with only the two favs, shielding them from any talk of my sexuality henceforth and hopefully the break will subconsciously set / reinforce a good boundary..

  9. S.Freude
    October 18, 04:35 Reply

    Try at the least and process your way out of Nigeria. There might be potential for happiness out there. If you’re under 30 or about, the Canada thing might be a good option. Wishing you the best.

  10. Peace
    October 18, 06:52 Reply

    So there’s somewhere I read that it’s isn’t a coming out, but rather a letting in. So in other words you have given them permission to come into your life, this is about you and not them. And it is indeed à brave thing to do. This is the beginning of the journey, and no one knows what the future holds, but whatever happens, when you feel down, or weak or overburdened, remember that we are here for you and we love you. And hey! Don’t forget to keep breathing………..

  11. Dimkpa
    October 18, 08:11 Reply

    Well done!
    You took control of your narrative. It can only be used against you if they see you’re ashamed of it and hiding. When you proclaim it, it loses its potency.
    I came out under similar circumstances, though for me it was an ex that was doing the outing. After I wallowed in self pity for two days, I decided enough was enough. I came out to my siblings, then parents, then friends.
    I had been reading KD for years then and the lessons I learned from it gave me the courage and pride I needed to do it.
    Well done, it only gets better!

    • Delle
      October 18, 09:42 Reply

      Share your story, Dimkpa, will you? 🙂

      • Dimkpa
        October 18, 17:53 Reply

        I already did. It has been a while though.

  12. Gaia
    October 18, 16:33 Reply

    Thanks guys… I really appreciate your kind words.

  13. Rudy
    October 18, 21:40 Reply

    I legit went through this some few months back and it never gets old. I was freaking out reading the screenshots of the messages you sent to your family knowing it could go downhill from there.

    A word of advice, forget any hopes of attitudinal change and expectations from your closest siblings even.
    Don’t even bother having the discussion with them. Because they wouldn’t listen and will only see things the way they want them to be (Religion is largely to be blamed for that and the straights love that totalitarian advantage hence not giving that up anytime soon).

    From experience, unless of course your siblings were born in the diaspora, expecting them to understand who you are will be like mixing water and oil, it’s not gonna work.
    If anything you directed them to the internet and if they do care about your happiness and want to truly understand you, they’d spare a minute to read about it instead of gleefully siding with their ignorance and here-say rhetorics.

    You’ve got the power now, they now know, that’s all that matters, there is no secret any longer.
    The rest is yours, living your life and finding Peace & happiness amidst this crazy world.
    So go make it happen man 💪🏽
    You’ve got this in the bag!

    Above all, I admire your courage. It takes tonnes of that to do what you did.
    If anything, know you’ve got a virtual family on here.
    Hugs!

  14. Suzo
    October 18, 23:28 Reply

    It’s a pity what happened to you Gaia. But I have this to say to you and all readers concerned, the socially stigmatized like us: Stay out of people’s matter as much as possible, and with the same effort and seriousness, enforce boundaries to what you’d tolerate from others. If you do this, most times people will be careful around you– maybe even scared of you.

    Your brother might have felt that you guys were weighing down on his matter too much more than he could bear. He wanted to get you guys off his back. Unfortunately, he was privy to some of your secrets.

    The writer might think that he had the right to be bothered by his brother’s attitude towards their mother’s welfare and as such attempt to check his excesses. But should he really be?

    I have similar situation in my family, but some of my siblings attitudes are none of my business. I make my own share of monthly contribution (or as much as I could afford) and move on. I don’t discuss with anyone those that fail to make their own contributions. I believe those people already know that they aren’t doing well enough.
    Now if I should feel entitled to express my displeasure about any of my brothers’ attitudes, I would consider that my sexuality could also be or have been a concern to individual family member of the family. After all, most of them usually believe that homosexuality tarnishes the general family image as well as their own private images just by being related to you.

    So Gaia should have condoned such irritation which I personally consider trivial. Perhaps his little brother was also condoning the irritation of his sexuality.

    Moving forward, let’s try to stay out of people’s mattere as much as we can, and make sure we are independent and insist that they respect our personal boundaries. From my experience, most times they would stay away from your private matters.

  15. Tad
    October 21, 04:26 Reply

    I had similar experience. My eldest brother outed me via a family group WhatsApp- with only my siblings as members. I did not deny it. I told them “so what”. “I will not apologise for who I am “

  16. C.K
    October 22, 19:20 Reply

    “I simply took the power from them and restored it in me.”
    This! I love your bravery man.
    Just know that once you come out, you never stop coming out.
    Stay strong.

  17. Ethan
    October 25, 09:11 Reply

    How come your siblings who find it difficult to contribute to the care of your mum, one of which is now asking you to quit your job, that he’ll be sending you a stipend of 50k monthly…be wise.

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