Sunday 15 March 2020

Thought Picnic: On the price of a marriage contracted to make you straight

Preamble: The timeframe of the origin of this blog was, in fact, the 8th of February, the day after he came out, but an abrupt conversation with a friend put this in the cooler until today. Then, in a blog I wrote earlier, I referred to work I was doing on this blog. It would appear, I have been able to conclude the piece and publish it with as close as possible to the fervour that inspired it over a month ago.
Doors falling off the rattled closet
When news broke last month of Philip Schofield’s revelation that he was gay in the midst of a 27-year marriage, I was ready to applaud him for coming out, but I could not completely commit myself to any celebration of the news without consideration of the others besides him involved.
Much was made of the love and support of his wife and two adult daughters to this coming out moment and as is always the case, people contributed messages of support for his courage, his bravery, and his decision to be true to himself.
Yet, I am still here thinking not so much of Philip, but of Stephanie Lowe, his wife of 27 years and everyone else who for all their open-mindedness to the sexuality of others might well be considerably affected by it much closer to home.
Always think of the partners
Now, I cannot speak to the quality of the relationship between Philip, Stephanie, and their daughters, but as the developing news begins to generate other perspectives, one of the headlines does say she was ‘absolutely devastated’ to learn her husband is gay. That she has had the time and space to process the information will not make it any easier for her.
There was a scene in the film, Body of Evidence which starred Madonna where in court she was asked about what she did when she discovered her husband was in a homosexual relationship. She said, “I couldn’t compete.”
It is a fundamental psychological break when your spouse directs their sexual affections to a same-sex liaison. What you can put up to fight for the affectations of your spouse in situations where the object of their affections is the same sex as you is lost in the battle with the opposite sex.
Knowing is usually a process
However, by the way, I appreciate that sexuality conflict and the point at which one is ready to accept wholeheartedly that they are one way or the other is a complex process of development. It is quite possible that people do not realise who they are until when they are completely committed to a heteronormative path and in it find dissatisfaction and discontent in the relationship they forged in the hope that it would make them whole.
I believe there is a discussion to be had when such issues arise. In my own case, whilst my very first sexual experience was at 7 with a female much older than I, I cannot say that I had a primary sexual attraction to the female. It never developed beyond the appreciation of beauty, intellect, and personality.
From about the age of 7, I do know that something about men made them more attractive to me than I could understand. That attraction was taken advantage of by some people employed to care for us as kids. The little threat here or there to force compliance made me a willing catamite to a few trusted people all into my teens.
Accepting yourself is deep self-discovery
After the age of accountability, I agonised about who and what I was, consumed with guilt especially the religious kind, I sought ways to rid myself of this thing when at the same time, I could not forgo my predilection for same-sex liaisons. With time, I found there were others like me, and we were not evil even if maligned.
At the time I was about to leave Nigeria, I was being blackmailed, I refused to pay up and challenged my blackmailer that when he tells whoever he decides to tell, he should be ready to explain how we both got together without any coercion for the many months of whatever we did. I guess, that put paid to that.
As I arrived in The UK, I was ready to come to terms which who I was, I sought out and found people boldly expressing themselves without fear. In the midst of such confident people, I gained the confidence to accept my own sexuality and to a direct question about it, I gave a clear answer, for I was of the view that if you asked, you just wanted a confirmation rather than a denial.
Peeling the onion of coming out
To my parents, siblings, and relations, I was a bit more circumspect and discreet, it took much longer to broach the subject. In the case of my parents, they were in the UK in The 1960s when the worst thing you could call anyone was a ‘bugger’.
It came with all sorts of connotations of homosexuality, paedophilia, bestiality, and murder, I felt I should save them from such an association, though it did not stop me from having same-sex relationships completely away from the scrutiny of those I didn’t want to know. I had compartmentalised my life.
With time, the pressure, and the expectation to get married became a constant refrain in conversations with home, I batted away the direct questions and prevaricated on other requirements.
I was offered arranged marriages by many who thought I was the most eligible bachelor around. This all to satisfy the needs of culture and become as it were ‘responsible’, I could easily have contracted a marriage of convenience, even gone along to have children. There were many offers that just required I ask, but I did not step up to any of those opportunities.
In a series of tweets yesterday, whilst using the news as a reference point, I put a perspective to things which are probably not the broadest in terms of issues of sexuality and marriage, I hope it contributes to the discussion.
I decided long ago
My life and the issue of sexuality was complicated enough I swore to myself not to embroil anyone else in that situation, it was hard enough to be in the closet, live a false life with the risk of being exposed leading to scandalising a broader relationship tree beyond the close family ties.
If I alone had to deal with the issue, it was contained without compelling anyone else to play to a script they never signed up for in the beginning. In another way, I was not successfully praying away the gay, rather, I was getting more affirmation of who I was towards the maturation of accepting who I am.
Other extenuating factors came to bear, the issue of offspring or heirs, the concept diminished with time as I began to make peace with myself with the likelihood, it might never happen. I did not consign myself to default to the findings that many prematurely born didn’t go on to sire children.
However, I felt after a certain age, it did not matter any more and then post-chemotherapy the natural ability to procreate was lost and I was not going to expend any energy in the quest to regain what rarely was a goal in life.
Be yourself, not another person
Then I concluded that contracting marriage was not a panacea, an antidote, or proven conversion therapy for personal or imposed sexuality conflict. Some people might have found adaptations with this distraction, sexuality variance was not a change of clothes, it is more ingrained than that.
It has now transpired that Philip Schofield’s hand was forced, besides the view that his sexuality was already known in closed circles and certain liaisons were about to be made public that he might lose control of the narrative of his private life, some unscrupulous tabloid editor that gotten hold of the story and was ready to go the press. In view of that, he had no other alternative, but to come clean. [Byline Investigates]
I feel vindicated that I was not immediately celebrating the event and still feel that whilst he might now freely live his truth alone with the support of his wife and daughters, he suspected his sexuality before he contracted the marriage, he could not shake off the urges of his primal sexuality and regardless of the public front presented, lives have been more radically affected than the façade we see. [The Guardian]

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