Friday 8 September 2017

Thought Picnic: What I feared from childhood had dissolved into the reality of a lived life

From the passing of George Michael
In December just around Christmas, I was staying with my friend in London when we heard the news on television that George Michael had been found dead.
I had always liked George Michael from after his Wham days and was saddened by the event. More pertinently, I was well aware of his struggles with revealing his sexuality, the international embarrassment that came with his importuning as a result of law enforcement personnel presenting as an agent provocateur to entrap men.
He consequently took that event and made a global hit of the episode with Outside. Whilst, I had never really been closeted about my sexuality, I’ve been out at work since in the 1990s in the various places I have worked in many countries, it was not until just a decade ago that I came out to one of my closest siblings.
Out in a rout
That revelation came with much distress on her part that when I was asked about it from another sibling, I was coy, even denying it. Meanwhile, for a while I had been badgered and harassed on many occasions in conversation with my parents about my marital status, some commentary and questions were just too difficult to address. I utilised the convenience of distance to avoid too much analysis of what I might be.
Besides, I was battling for another thing, my parents were in the UK in the 60s, and much as there was all the emancipation in social values, I could well remember that the worst thing you could say to anyone was, “You are a bugger.” With all the uses of bugger, the derogatory intent when deployed was complete in its contempt of the person so abused.
Learning to love me
It is hard enough coming out having seen the reactions of parents to that kind of revelation from basic disapproval, through being disinherited, sometimes thrown out of the home and in some societies, murder. This in somewhat emancipated societies, that somewhere between fear, shame and embarrassment, I felt there was no need for my parents to know anything about it. An acquaintance did suggest my stance was out of shame, though I decided not to take umbrage about that opinion.
Living in Europe, I had come from a time of being convulsed in guilt, being caught in liaisons that I could not defend and being a subject of blackmail that I refused to be subject to. I had come to accept who I was, made peace with the fact that I could live my life in comparison to an alternative life of the normal and the conformed, whatever that may be.
I am a gay man and with that comes all sorts of issues that one has to live with, in which I have found love, lasting friendships, extended periods of grief and a full awareness of the fact that I am just as human as any other.
I’m coming out, out, out
However, that December night, I told my friend, Funmi Iyanda that I was ready to put it all out there, if anyone was still in doubt or questioning about my sexuality, they should be left in no doubt about it. In countless blogs, you did not have to read between the lines to know some truths about me. Funmi then got to the task of writing this piece, she asked a few questions, sought some clarification and then just before she published the piece, she asked if I was fine with it.
I might have been a bit reticent, even considered informing my family about the possibility of this revelation going viral, but in the end, I decided, whatever comes of it is what comes of it, I had given the permission for it to go public from the hand of someone who had a huge following and we will deal with the consequences and the fallout if any.
I never expected the piece to have the reach it did when it was published on the 3rd of January, it got within the sight of people I never thought would encounter it, and not soon after, my siblings were reading of this issue and maybe even displeased with me about it. I had laid my bed on this matter and I was going to lie on it, come what may.
The letter arrived in the furthest post box
In the week that followed, I kept a low profile as messages of support and encouragement came from far and wide. I probably only encountered two negative reports in all, and I thought it would all die down soon afterwards. It did not, for months, people found the piece, read it and then contacted me.
Just about 3 weeks ago, a message appeared on my phone with an instruction to alter aspects of my life along with an acknowledgement of my having followed that instruction, at 51? At first, I smiled and then I crafted a 4-part response about certain other intimate details of my life that probably no one else knew. It was sent and I waited, unsure of what might come of it.
Then I received a response, the recipient of my message after recomposing the parts that were first read from the third part had gone into shock. The realisation that there was much more to the situation than the specific ordering to act in a particular way. The reaction and the response were understanding, sympathetic, compassionate and conciliatory, it gave me the courage to pick up the phone and call to talk.
We are, where we are
We were sorry that some things had happened in the past that probably could no more be corrected, the answers being sought in all sorts of places appeared to have been revealed in the response I gave that touched on some sad events in my childhood. I was encouraged to just be myself and live my life. I suppose my response and the suggestion that the piece to read fully had given some perspective to a difficult situation.
I could not have arranged for any of this to turn out as it did, but there is no greater freedom in acceptance of self and being accepted for who you are. When it came down to it, it was about humanity, understanding and possibly regret, but never to cease the need to communicate, what I feared from childhood had dissolved into the reality of a lived life. My father had learnt through that piece that I am gay.

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