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.