Friday 22 January 2021

Understandably some fathers will not get to acceptance

Hard truths of sons

From a personal perspective I can understand how difficult it must be for a Nigerian father to countenance the idea that their child is not heteronormative. If it were a matter of choice or lifestyles, it is likely they might have been different, but the world we live in is diverse with expressions of individuality and uniqueness that may not follow the orthodoxy.

When I father challenged the public acknowledgement of my sexuality as a gay man years ago, I was directly instructed to come out of the gay world. I had no other alternative than to tell him without mincing words some truths about my life he might have been suspicious of or never knew. Until then, I was hiding my reality from him in the misconception that I was saving him the shock of my person and my personality. [For Akin – Funmi Iyanda]

From aberration to acceptance

In the 1960s, I appreciate the cultural aversion to homosexuality in the UK even as acceptance of the fact that homosexuals exist and are neither mentally incapacitated nor deviants. In 1967, homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, though it took decades for acceptance to gain traction towards non-discrimination based in sexual orientation. [Wikipedia: Sexual Offences Act – 1967.]

When I returned to the UK in 1990, I did not shy away from who I was, considering I was being blackmailed in Nigeria. The way I dealt with the blackmailer was to say he would have to explain how he found out, why were involved for an extended period and whether he would not be just as exposed and unlikely me with an exit plan, he had to exist within a homophobic environment.

My son

When my father responded, he said, “You are my son, I cannot reject you.” Whilst I did not read that as a wholesale acceptance of who I am, it was conciliatory enough an acknowledgement that there was nothing he could do about it if we were to retain any form of relationship. We have developed that filial relationship despite occasional hiccups.

Dr Doyin Okupe, a former presidential spokesman for the President of Nigeria today from the papers finds himself in the same situation of first acknowledging against every gain in his religious and patriarchal body that his son, Bolu Okupe is gay. The most important and significant statement he could make was, “He (Bolu) is my son.” [The Nation: Doyin Okupe, son in a row over ‘gay status’]

Beyond that, any discussion by anyone else is an exertion in conjecture and vain jangling. It is no doubt a trying period for heterosexual fathers, but their homosexual sons do have their lives to live. I have a partner to whom I hope to get married. I affections have never had any inclination apart from a homonormative existence, I accepted myself long before I needed to tell anyone about who I am, even at work from the 1990s.

A deluge of ignorance

What I find utterly irksome is the crass and ignorant reportage that masquerades as journalism in Nigeria. With the abundance of knowledge, expertise, academic material and legal precedent in many countries not only acknowledging homosexuality but conferring rights and freedom with the criminalisation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, we have people who offer stupefying opinions, bias and bigotry as fact, that I read, “He resides in France where the law allows him to experiment with his sexuality.” Experiment?

You do not experiment with sexuality, it is embodied in the person, their expression and their identity, it is their life and they live it in or out of the closet, depending on the agency and autonomy they have. We need to banish the concept of lifestyle or choice from the canon of sexual orientation or we risk being refused access to societies where the debate about sexual orientation has long passed from a wedge issue of societal and cultural exclusion.

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