Why I write
I wrote the themes of this blog in my mind and my head as I walked back from the cinema after watching Moonlight, the 2017 Best Picture Academy Award winner.
Normally, I would write a review of the film and from it draw allusions and relationships that resonate with me. However, on this occasion, I would suggest everyone who has the opportunity go and watch the film.
What I have to write below touches on some very personal things that in my own coming of age I feel I must express and I am sorry if anyone after reading this is adversely affected. We bottle up too much of our experiences in silence and hurt, giving no option to expression and lessons to be learnt.
As a child
Moonlight comes to us in three chapters of life, of childhood, of adolescence and of adulthood, the story of understanding sexuality and the relationship between mother and child in the midst of addiction.
As a child, I first recognised issues with my sexuality that began to find expression originally in sexual abuse at seven, and more towards an affinity to people of the same sex from around that age. In the process, there were people who took advantage of me and took their sexual favours whilst I obliged like a catamite.
I was 3 when I noticed my mother’s own addiction, it was religion and the constant visits to prophets and soothsayers, the inclination towards syncretism and the rituals therein, the recitation of Psalms and the invocation of inscrutable angelic beings, none of which inspired confidence in me for what a useful religious devotion could be.
In my teens
As I moved into my teens, I grew rebellious and difficult, the relationship with my parents deteriorated and my mother’s addiction took its toll on her reasonableness, her marriage, our family and consequently her career. My baby sister’s medical condition sunk her under the mesmerising spell of a ‘prophet’ who I considered false, she lost her agency as my sister was shunted between hospital and grotto, my mother finding justification for her actions in such atrocious hair-raising conspiracy theories.
I sank into depression, failed at school, took religion and almost lost my bearings. Meanwhile, I found a different friendship, occasions for a sexual outlet, all guilt-ridden and self-loathing, yet taking a hold I could not deny. I, without a doubt, had same-sex attraction that I could not explain and understand other than beginning to come to terms with who I was and who I am.
I got older
As I entered adulthood, I found some stability and an accommodation for expressing both my religiosity and sexuality, a family that took me into their bosom and gave me a grounding that became the foundation of who I am today. My mother in her own way that done really terrible things to me, things she dismisses but no child can forget.
It irks me when people interfere thinking there are filial duties incumbent on me without any acknowledgement of the deeper issues that necessitate estrangement. My situation is not necessarily unique, but my experience is exclusively mine to understand and that hopefully would be respected by others.
Whilst I was bullied in secondary school, I was saved the physicality of beatings, people exercised power in other ways. In adulthood, before I left Nigeria, I was being blackmailed but I refused to pay up knowing it was the gateway to something beyond my control. I was ready to face the consequences, just as I had years before when I was caught in a sexual liaison with another man.
I accepted myself
On leaving Nigeria, I decided no more to live in the shadows, I reached a point of self-expression and acceptance of who I was and that freed me to enter relationships, find love and develop productive and useful friendships amongst people like me.
Beyond that, I was freer with information about my sexuality in my workplace and it meant I did not have to live a double life. It also meant my managers quickly nipped any homophobia in the bud. I was fortunate to be respected for who I was regardless of my sexuality.
Sex had its attractions, an outlet, a search of companionship, a kind of addiction and a self-destruct button that was pressed more times than I could reckon. In that scheme of things, I became HIV+, developed AIDS, had cancer, lost everything and rebuilt my life from scratch again.
Sadly for my father
My siblings probably do tolerate my mother, I cannot, she has no capacity to reflect and that is to reflect on anything she might have done wrong, she feels entitled and makes demands of entitlement to fealty from her children, failing which we are emotionally blackmailed. I stopped giving in to this kind of manipulation some time ago.
My father who by commission has done little wrong, but by omission failed to save me from the menace of my mother’s caprices sometimes finds himself on the cold shoulder that is given my mother. His ability to reflect and accept wrong is sometimes limited by his inability to empathise with settings in which he cannot find a frame of reference. I probably should be more forgiving of that inadequacy, but everything is quite emotionally draining, it is sometimes best to let sleeping dogs lie.
I don’t hate her
Invariably, I do not think I would ever get to wipe the tears from the eyes of my mother from her acknowledgement of the hurt that I have suffered at her own ‘motherly’ acts. I do not hate my mother, then I cannot convince myself that I love her either. We exist because of the accident of circumstance, not something I had the freedom or will to affect beyond the fact that I was born.
My moonlight is a story with parallels and analogies, it is not a movie, it is my life and the way I have been affected. In my moonlit night, I find the peace and tranquillity of accepting who I am, and in my coming of age, I cannot deny who I am. The pursuit of happiness endures and a better story will be written, either by me or by those who learn something from my life.