When we come out as gay, we say that it is a deeply personal experience. And it is. I think everybody’s story is unique. But we can also relate to almost everyone else’s coming out story in some way or another. We might have experienced similar reactions by parents or friends. Or we may relate to that initial fear before we let those difficult words escape our mouths: “I am gay.”
Fearing the “I am gay”
I think most of us have had (and maybe still have) this immense fear of saying the words “I am gay” to someone who is important to us when we can’t predict their response. It is this crushing fear of complete rejection. Maybe we fear abuse, physical or verbal. Or maybe we fear we will lose them. We fear they will take it badly, and suddenly our whole world will cave in.
How much of that fear is the fear of their reaction, and how much is the fear we have of ourselves?
I have dated a lot. Not commercial pilot a lot, but for me, it feels like a lot. I started dating when I was 19 years old, probably a bit later than most, when I fell head over heels in love with someone who was totally wrong for me. This happens to everyone, I’m sure, and just like everyone, I got my heart broken and thought it was the end of the world (spoiler alert: it wasn’t!). What happened immediately afterwards though set the tone for a lot of the relationships that followed. I began a quest to ease that terrible heart break by looking for someone new to fill the void. Of course, as we all know, this strategy doesn’t work and I soon realised that you just have to get over heartbreak in your own time.
Since then I have had on average 1.5 relationships a year, and I am now 26. I am on good terms with (almost) all of them. We speak. We keep in touch. Some were more serious than others. Some were good, some were shitty. I was in desperately in love with some, I was momentarily in love with others. But one thing is true for almost all of them. It was me who broke up with them.
If I had to describe my romantic inclinations, I would generally site William Thacker of Notting Hill and say “I’m a fairly level headed bloke, not often in and out of love…”, but the evidence says otherwise. Please note here that I am a fairly well-adjusted person, and I am pursued by very few ‘relationship issues’ demons. How did it come to be, that level headed, unromantic me, has so many ex-girlfriends? I am not a “playa”, and I am often single for long stretches of time, I don’t rush into relationships, I don’t (often) accidently keep one night stands (I never said I was a saint), and yet I have this huge suitcase of exes.
I wonder if everyone really understands the meaning behind LGBTI Pride Parades and Events? The role and purpose behind it? And it’s significance?
The dictionary defines a Gay Pride as a sense of dignity and satisfaction in connection with the public acknowledgement of one’s own homosexuality.
The purpose and the importance; is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance. A specific day would be diarised within the community, and in most cases the media is invited to capture this.
Gay Pride culture has spread almost all over the world from big cities to small towns. In Africa, Uganda has zero tolerance towards the existence of LGBTI people. In fact, they want to do away with Gay people altogether. Despite this, the first Ugandan Gay Pride was organised in that country even though the harsh laws makes it suicide for one to partake in such events.
I remember the first Gay and Lesbian film festival I attended. That moment of seeing my first queer kiss on that screen was the first queer kiss I had ever seen - in real life or on the screen. In a world where the only embraces, kisses, sexual experiences, love, relationships and experiences we see are heteronormative, that first kiss will stay with me forever. I remember seeing it and thinking: what I feel, desire, experience, who I am, is shared by others and is ok, normal, beautiful.
And so, I cannot express the enormity of the feelings I have as a queer film I was privileged enough to be part of will make its big screen debut at the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in October. The fact that I am able to live my truth, my experience, my Otherness in a country and a continent where people of other and othered genders, sexualities and sexual orientations are raped, mutilated and murdered on a daily basis is something I am grateful for and celebrate. The fact that I can celebrate my Otherness on a platform where others can see it and take hope in that celebration; that for some 15-year old confused or scared or hetero-flooded queer I can represent the possibility of an alternative life of my choice? HUGE. So proud. So grateful. So humbled
Recently, I’ve been contemplating life. Not just my life, but also the lives of others. Some things that I thought I had put to rest had to be dusted off and re-examined again, touched up with a little glazing of the wisdom that experience brings.
Like so many others, my upbringing was suburban - unremarkable by anyone’s standards. My parents loved me (still do) and did what they thought was best for me. The only feeling that pervaded was that I lived in a world that did not resonate with my emotional, intellectual and spiritual being. It was a narrow world, a world filled with demons and angels, sin and evil and hatred, but very little love and very little regard to the truth, the two things I hold in highest regard. To me it seemed an unjust world. Through painful processes of denial, self-deception and efforts to conform to the norms of society, I had to realize that I could not change who I was meant to be. Painful as the realization might have been, as strongly as I had felt like a disappointment to my parents, I could not walk away from my responsibility to LIVE. This did not happen instantaneously or indeed spontaneously. Rather it was a cascade of events that ran its course through many painful years of hiding and fearing the outcomes of my secret being uncovered. My big, shameful secret. In fact, I tried very hard to live the life others wanted for me, but something was always missing. I could not feel fulfilled.
When you’re harbouring a shameful secret, everything takes on ominous tones. Sometimes it feels like other people can see straight through your skull. In fact, the secret becomes the melodramatic centerpiece of your life. You cannot see the wood for the trees. You feel like you’re the only one and that you are so abnormal and shameful that nobody will love you once they find out your secret. Yet you cannot see the simple truth that you cannot live in darkness and not also live in despair.
You may fear some religious people, but you will find they are ignorant of God’s extent if they do not realize that we are all in God’s plan - and God does not make mistakes.
Though the title of the 1955 science-fiction novel The body Snatchers sounds titillating, the subject matter was anything but.
It told the story of alien seeds that invade humans and re-sprouts their bodies from pods. Once a human was re-birthed they became known as a pod person, and had a mere five years of life left before going to the great unknown. But, being a pod person recreated you as a perfect physical version of yourself for those five years... A price many of my fellow gay friends will gladly pay.
This got me thinking of my community in Northern Johannesburg which have emerged as a semi-upscale Gauteng-based gay paradise. Here, no man is exempt from a gadget with the words pad, pod or phone attached to it. With these gadgets we are certainly creating perfect versions of ourselves that is amerced in al that clicks, glistens and connects to the internet. Creating that beautiful illusion of youth and perfection. We are pod people.
As discrimination against homosexuals in Africa reaches a new murderous peak, Guardian Films travels to Mombasa, Kenya, to hear from a male prostitute who risks his life to support his younger sister.
This video is one of a series of investigative documentaries about poverty, commissioned and editorially controlled by Guardian Films, produced in association with Christian Aid. Go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/poverty-over for more details
Which path do you intend to take, Nell?' said the Constable, sounding very interested. 'Conformity or rebellion?'
'Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded. They are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.'
---Neal Stephenson, "The Diamond Age"
Recently I have found myself looking back on the pain I have suffered throughout my life and this year in particular, when I had a miscarriage, got the measles, lost my job and relapsed into a Bipolar depression.
In retrospect, I realise that somehow I have walked away profoundly grateful, no matter the sadness I have had to deal with. Things could have been a hell of a lot worse. I could be dead.
When your tightly controlled little universe comes crashing down around you, you have to confront who you are deep down in your heart. I did not truly know who I was until this year. I did not know what I had in me.
Had it not been for the trials of this year, I may have lacked the deep confidence in myself needed to pluck up the nerve to face society on my own terms. All of us should be able to do that at some point in our lives.
I know now what I have to do with my life, and to do that there is a matter I must address that I have been neglecting for some time.
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