The alarm goes off and I stare at the ceiling. It’s time to make the call, now before anything else gets in the way. Breathe..don’t forget to breathe, and don’t think too much, stupid.

“Hi Mum, I need to see you and Dad today, there’s something really important I need to tell you both”

Brief silence. Gulp, inhale.

“What is it? Tell me. What’s wrong?”

“I’ll tell you when I see you, I’ll be there at 12. Bye Mum.”

It didn’t quite seem real, would this be the day of days? It was the 20th Jan 2012, and it had been a long time coming. Every time I thought about my parents reaction I shook, like a wet dog. Best not think too much. But what if I break her heart? I remembered a story about an Egyptian Aunt I never met who cried herself to death, or was it blind, or white hair? I didn’t want any of that for either of my parents, especially not Mum.

A week before ‘the date’ someone close to me asked me if I really had to do it. He said that, knowing the culture, it might kill my Mum and that it seemed selfish to him. It was hard at that stage to deal with the discouragement, but he did make me really consider why I was so sure about going ahead.

“It’s what’s best for me mate, for once I’m gonna do what’s best for me, if I can’t do that for myself, who will?”

We can spend the rest of our lives living a life that we never chose, to protect others from their own ignorance or we can stand proud and defiantly march out those closet doors. It didn’t matter how late in life it was happening, it was time for the lie to end.

I get up, shower, dress, trying to keep as calm as possible. It was like I was watching a film – a bleak European one, or Russian maybe.  What was I going to say to them? Would I say gay? Homosexual? ‘Don’t like girls’? No idea. Shit..no socks, only the Christmas ones, is that bad luck? I used to hold auditions for my underwear before special occasions or going on holidays, each potential brief or sock would perform and I would judge; I swear I invented the whole format. Today deserved something special but all I had was Simpsons at Christmas.

I leave the flat and get on the bus, I am suddenly aware that this will be the last closeted bus journey of my life, a tear comes to my eyes and I nearly lose it, it wouldn’t take much for this to turn in to a panic attack so I go back to thinking of nothing and breathing in blue. There’s the sea.

“Hello beautiful, wish me luck”

Having lived by the sea most my life she was a real presence to me, and I called her beautiful. Many tears, much laughter and even love had been expressed in front of her, so I was glad to have caught a glimpse through the filthy windows. The bus is slow and the passengers slower, there’s that smell of decay on them, gag. Seeya later suckers, I’m choosing life! Gag. The bus arrives at the top of my parents road, I get off and the panic starts to set in and I allow it this time. Heart beat races, hard to catch my breath, vision narrows.

“Maybe I’ll die now and I won’t have to do this”

It would have been a relief but also a waste I guess. With each step down the road I calm myself further until I reach the front door in a Zen-like state, which quickly turns in to anger when no one answers. What was wrong with these people? Not only had they ruined my life they also wanted to make this as difficult as possible.

I won’t lie, anger was helpful, it certainly trumped panic and fear. After 5 minutes my Dad answers, he’d been out in the garden, Mum wasn’t back from shopping yet. I could tell he was trying to distract me with things, he was clearly worried. As I look at his greying hair, tired face and kind eyes I suddenly feel nothing but care and compassion for him, the same happens with my Mum the second I see her. I felt sad and sorry for all of us, none of us had chosen this.

Mum was trying to fill my bag up with toiletries and food, maybe the last I would ever receive, at least for a while. Dad was trying to make me some food.

“Mum, Dad, get a cuppa and let’s go talk”

They do just that, solemnly but quickly. We sit and there it is suddenly, the moment that I thought would never be.

“Mum, Dad, there’s no easy way to say this but I’m Homosexual, before you react I haven’t got a boyfriend that I’m going to suddenly introduce to you and the main reason I’m telling you now is I don’t want you finding out from anyone else.”

It was done. I don’t know why I said homosexual, I guess I didn’t want them confusing an identity with a sexual preference. I braced myself for vomit and fire but none came. They sat there calmly, my Dad took his glasses off and a few tears trickled down his face, my Mum did the same. There was a strange feeling of relief in the room. I decided to carry on.

“I kept it from you as long as I could, I prayed to be healed harder than anyone has ever prayed for anything, It’s not been an easy life so far. I’ve been depressed, I’ve taken so many drugs, I tried to change and be with girls thinking it was a sickness that could be healed. I tried it all. But this is me, and I am happier now than I have ever been, all that has changed is that I am no longer lying to you, everything else is the same.”

I explained about the documentary and the plight of the gay Africans, my plans to write to all the churches and Christian organisations in the UK to challenge them to face up to what was being done in their name. I told them not to cry for me because I had cried enough for all of us. They just listened, sometimes looking at me with tears in their eyes sometimes looking at the floor.

It was time for them to speak. It turns out that the morning phone call had really scared them and they had imagined the worst. Apparently gay was nowhere near the worst thing they could imagine, it came far after cancer, aids, murder, baby…and many others. It became very clear that the tears were for me and how hard life had been for me, not for anything else. It seems that they loved me as much as their faith, I was astounded.

I told them that I didn’t mind who they did or didn’t tell, that was completely up to them, but there was one rule – they must not pray for me to be healed, that would be disrespectful.

“But you know son, God can do anything..”

“I know Mum, he could turn me in to an elephant if he wanted to, but he hasn’t”

We talked for 2 hours, they asked questions, we gently discussed what the bible says and how unclear it is, and how this is about love and life not just sex. They tried as hard as they could to understand and didn’t lay a single bit of guilt on me. That was it. They thanked me for being honest with them, we all hugged and they carried on as normal, my Mum even catching a bus back with me. But hang on! Why no shouting or anger? Why don’t they hate me? Can’t they even pretend to be a bit disgusted?? Nothing. BEAT ME! It turns out I was the one with the problem. It’s only when all the excuses are gone you see who you really are and how you feel about yourself. There was work to do.

I got off the bus, the first openly gay bus journey of my life, I laughed and cried. I became a walking cliche, it was light and free and confusing. This wasn’t the end, but it was a pretty incredible beginning.

Comments
  1. theyoungplum says:

    “I know mum, He can turn me into an elephant if he wanted to, but he hasn’t” was pretty brilliant. I may have to use that.

    Beautifully written. Worth waking up to.

  2. queerlefty says:

    Hi.

    I really don’t know where to begin with this, other than saying “congratulations”, I guess. I’ve been spending some time reading all of your posts thus far, and you really live up to your ambition to be as honest as you can be. For that, and a host of other reasons, I salute you. And I hope you know that your writing is just beautiful. Reading your blog – which I discovered this morning after you liked one of my posts (thanks!) – has made me reassess whether I live up to the motto of my blog (“I’d rather be honest than impressive”). You’ve set a new standard for honesty for me to strive for.

    There was something about your coming story that moved me deeply, and as I think we do with nearly everything, at least when you’re as self-absorbed as I am sometimes, I looked for ways in which our respective coming out stories resembled each other. I didn’t find much at our backgrounds – I’m a 26 year old Norwegian, disabled student, life-long atheist with a highly supportive, non-religious family behind me, at least on my father’s side – but still I felt like I could relate to your story. I suppose there is something about the very act of coming out, about how you can’t take it back, either vis-a-vis yourself or the ones you tell it to, that makes it such a powerful and potentially liberating experience. I don’t want this response to be all about me, but I have to write from what I know, and I particularly recognized two things from your coming out story that resonated with how it was for me, although my troubles seem minor in comparison:

    1) The phone call to set up a meeting. Although I wasn’t afraid per se of what my father would say – my twin brother had paved the way for me in some ways by coming out just nine months earlier – it was incredibly hard to say the words “I need to see you. There’s something I need to tell you that I can’t say over the phone.” The hardest part about it, I guess, which you touched on, was how it closed the closet door behind me. From here on, there was no going back. If I tried to back out of it by telling him there was nothing in particular, he would have hauled it out of me some way or another. So when we met later the same day, I knew with myself I had to tell him. And even though, unlike you I had little to fear, I was scared to death right up until the moment I told him. (He said all the things you’d want to hear, we hugged, and then moved on to talk about sports or the weather or something.)

    2) How people don’t react the way you expect them to. You write about how you were able to talk things out with your parents, which I was very pleased to read. For me, the closest equivalent – like I said, I had an easier coming out environment, although it took me until I was 21 to muster the courage to admit to myself that I was in fact gay, and that in order to move on I needed to tell someone – was telling my brother. Being identitical twins, we had always been very close, so for some reason I feared that when he got to know that I was gay, too, he would somehow consider me a “copy-cat”. someone who was out to steal his thunder, just after he had finally gone through the exhausting process of coming to peace with his identity. And yet, of course I was wrong. He told me he was proud of me for trusting him on such a personal matter, we hugged, and then we proceeded to have the seven-hour heart-to-heart that he wished we’d had when he came out to me the previous year. So, yeah, the process of coming is hard and full of surprises, and when we look back at it, we often realize that our most deeply-held fears were somewhat overblown. The people around us seem to be able to adapt better than we imagined beforehand.

    Again, I am not trying to take anything away from your brave coming out story, or in any way minimize the agony that you felt. It’s just that the process of coming out is something we as gay people have to do over and over again, and therefore I also constantly renegotiate my own coming out process, and what made me into the gay person I am today.

    I’m sorry if I’m rambling off point, but the bottom line is this: I love your blog and will continue to read it faithfully and with anticipation of future post, and I admire your honesty.

    Thanks for reading, and for writing this.

    QL.

    • boyslikeme says:

      Wow – thank you very much, it means a lot to me that you can identify with my story and share your own. I love that we are all brought together by this shared experience which is not dependent on religion, race or location. Very interesting to hear about the experience and feelings between you and your brother!

      I’m so glad it touched you and I’m very flattered and grateful for your positive and encouraging feedback.

      Thanks again,

      P.

      • queerlefty says:

        The thing that you mention about how the experience and acceptance of a gay identity and coming out brings people together, has been a big part of why I’ve kept on blogging for these past four and a half years. After a few months writing mostly for myself, people started responding to my posts, and I realized that my experiences and trials with coming out and coming to terms with things wasn’t all that different from those of people from around the world. Today, I have readers (some of whom I even call friends) from the US and the UK who have been supportive of me for a long time and given me feedback on my writing, be it on gay issues, music, movies or everything in between.

        If nothing else, we will always have the experience of having had to come out and self-define to tie us together, even though my life has had much less of both sex, drugs and religion than yours. If you want to read my coming out story in full and other related personal essays, I’ve assembled them in the ‘The Gay I Am’ sidebar on my blog.

        I’m looking forward to continue to follow your blog.

        (Would it be OK with you if I included your blog on my blogroll?)

        QL.

      • boyslikeme says:

        I loved reading your story, totally unique situation wise but easy to relate to emotionally and with regards to your thought processes and internal journey.

        It’s been hard to find people to relate to in my every day life, in this regard at least, so it’s such a relief to be on here and connecting with people like yourself.

        I would be honoured to be included on your blogroll mate – thanks!

  3. Congrats! Wasn’t that an amazing feeling?!

  4. I was twitching in my seat, waiting to see how your parents would react. When you wrote that it seemed they loved you as much as their faith…that moment was exquisite.

    And congratulations!

  5. Eddie says:

    Thank you for your story. You are very courageous. I hope that grace descends on you like a light snow.

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