What About The Gays In Our Parents’ Generation?

What About The Gays In Our Parents’ Generation?

You know how you’ll start thinking one thing, and then it’ll cascade and before you know it, you’re ending up in a different thought process than the one you started with?

Well, that’s how it started.

I recently engaged on a tweet where a woman was rather obnoxiously talking about the virtues of marriage and lecturing women who want to divorce their husbands to instead hold back and pray and go to therapy – anything to save their marriages, that divorce shouldn’t be an option, that we should follow the examples of our parents, that staying married is the best.

As you can imagine, that tweet provoked a lot of reactions, with many people dragging the woman for promoting unhealthy standards for marriage and for being ignorant to the fact that being married shouldn’t be forced on anyone. Someone responded with a tweet that stayed with me: “Just because our parents stayed married till death did some of them part, just because they are the ones celebrating 30 years and 40 years and 50 years anniversary doesn’t mean staying married was a good thing for them. Do you have any idea how unhappy some of your mommies and daddies were staying together?”

Those words stuck to me and had me thinking. In today’s Nigerian society, we often like to consider homosexuality as something that is relatively new. When we think about who’s the oldest gay Nigerian, we think about someone probably in their forties. The idea that we have mommies and daddies, grand-papas and –mamas who could be gay is just unimaginable. It is after all only Millennials and Gen Z children who keep making noise upandan about gay equality; the generation of our parents and grandparents simply had respectable marriages and raised good families, like they were supposed to.

But we know that’s not how homosexuality works, right? We have to know that. We have to know that homosexuality isn’t some airborne missile that the British dropped on us during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War to ensure that the offspring those alive then had would become the first generation gays of Nigeria. We know that, don’t we?

I recently saw a movie called My Policeman. It is the movie adaptation of the 2012 novel by Bethan Roberts of the same name. It is about 1950s Britain, when Tom, a policeman, gets into a relationship with a schoolteacher, Marion. However, Tom had already been carrying on a passionate same-sex love affair with a museum curator, Patrick – an affair that was very secret, considering the fact that homosexuality was illegal then. This affair carries on even after Tom and Marion get married, and becomes a secret that threatens to ruin all three of them.

from left to right: Patrick, Marion and Tom in My Policeman

I am currently reading the book, but the movie is a masterfully-told story about love, passion, guilt and the struggle between doing what is right and being true to oneself. The storyline kept alternating between two timelines, one of 1958 when the lives of these three – Tom, Marion and Patrick – collided, and the second of many years later, when they were now elderly retirees still finding their way to their truths.

In one scene from the timeline of them as elderly people, Tom encounters a young gay couple in the supermart. The couple are exchanging loving glances, touching each other, kissing each other, completely unencumbered by the societal restraints that kept Tom from expressing his love so freely for Patrick years ago. He becomes so stricken with grief, that he quickly leaves the store and hurries to his car where he breaks down into fitful tears. This movie served a lot of scenes that touched me, and this was one of them.

Tom and Patrick in My Policeman

It had me wondering: Who in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation is feeling this kind of grief?

What 60-year-old father of a young man currently doing his NYSC has glanced at all the social media expressions of same-sex love and forced back tears of regret?

What 70-year-old grandmother, who has gone for her daughter’s omugwo, has spied her grandchildren watching a romantic comedy with a queer character in it, and felt her heart constrict with regretful thoughts of the past?

Which of our daddies and mommies stayed in unhappy marriages because the alternative – which is to be with that same-sex partner they loved – was unthinkable? How many tears have they cried in secret because they could not have what it appears the whole world is now daring to have?

Sometimes, when I have these thoughts, in spite of the hostile gay clime in Nigeria today, I remember to be grateful that I was born when I was. That I was born in a period where I would grow up to have the freewill to speak so confidently about who I am, to post a picture of me snuggling up to a same sex lover, to not allow myself to be bulldozed into a marriage that might make me cry secret tears of pain 20 years from now.

Somehow, even in the midst of today’s darkness, I try to be grateful for the small light I have which those in the older generation never had.

Written by Pink Panther

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  1. bamidele
    November 23, 13:25 Reply

    Wow!
    I can imagine. I am unable to see the movie but I’ll grab a copy of the novel. I’m really inspired to curiosity by the this post, especially as it relates to part of my studies

  2. The Man You Wished You Loved
    November 23, 16:05 Reply

    This is insightful. I’ve never considered this. Could it somehow be that, some of the vicious homophobia we get from parents towards their gay children could be borne out of this? Come to think of it, we might have gay parents and they regret seeing us live the life they thought was once impossible. So they mete horror on their children for daring to live freely.

    Thank you PP.

    • Pink Panther
      November 24, 10:41 Reply

      Very appropriate deduction. Maybe it is internalised homophobia that is manifesting in the cruelty that parents treat their gay children with.

  3. FRED
    November 24, 06:10 Reply

    I once lived (read squatted) with a coursemate back in my university days. He (my coursemate) lived in one of the empty self contains owned by a family of 2 brothers. The older one lived alone, unmarried, and was obviously in his 50’s. The much younger looking brother had a family. I asked my coursemate why the older brother was unmarried and he said the man wanted to live out his days “…like apostle Paul.” That was when this thought hit me.
    But then, some of them must have learnt to be Bi just to keep a DL profile. Let’s not forget about some drunks and wife beaters who no longer slept with their wives.
    I remember the homophobia that came from otherwise loving neighbours in the early ’90s that made me wonder why the gays – who were reportedly caught – could let such fate befall them in this country.
    Despite certain rare stories of past crossdressers, I think Nigeria has always been brutal at its LGBT people and would do anything to wish us away.

  4. roaring-butterfly
    November 24, 10:15 Reply

    I remember sometime ago, my dad came to see me when I was in University. After I thought he’d left, I was about going out when I saw his car still packed outside. Wondering “why” because it had been quite sometime since he’d supposedly left, I went to check if he was inside the car and there he was… starring into space with his hands glued to the steering.

    Worried, I got into the passengers side and asked him what was the matter. After a long pause, he took a deep breath , exhaled loudly and said – “a time comes in life when you biggest regret is not doing what you want to do because you were afraid what people would think or say”.

    Though he is physically no more, those words of his were carved deep in my heart. There is a part of me that thinks my dad may have been queer.

  5. Him
    November 25, 13:42 Reply

    Wow
    I saw this movie some weeks ago and it is a captivating love story but all i could feel was sadness.And i said to myself if that was the kind of life i want to live.A life full of regrets and lying to myself constantly about the the truth that will hunt me everyday of my life.

  6. Mike
    November 25, 23:10 Reply

    I don’t have an answer to this, i just know that i would never do this to myself; not live my life.

    I once had a thing with someone older, who was queer-queer though manly, i broke it off when he got married, even though i knew that he didn’t have a choice, i just couldn’t fathom it, he loves men, the genuine deep type of love not the maybe type of queer.
    I think i was scared of catching the feelings of his powerlessness against fate and society, that’s why i broke it off.

    I am matured now, and can separate my feelings and have had alot to do with MGMs but it’s the same recurring theme of regret, sadness, escape, lies, fear and secret.

    No sir, i will not do this to myself.

  7. BRYAN PETERS
    November 28, 01:08 Reply

    That penultimate paragraph right there. That is something I try to never forget. It is definitely worth being grateful for.

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