How do gay/lesbian Africans survive homophobia?

As you can tell, this post is very straight and goes to the point.

As promised in my last post in November, I felt ready at 30 years old, to tell my parents that I am gay and intend to live my life as openly as I can. ( Do not think of me as a pictoresque exhibitionist, but yeah, once in a time I hug and kiss my boyfriend when we reunite).

November was a good month. Midway that poetic Fall month was my birthday. I decided to let the celebration time pass. To have a last happy family portrait in my memoir and after that, I wrote a lenghty letter to my mum telling her what’s was like to be gay all these years and what I have gone trough.

November passed. I had a wonderful and birthday party full of love and presents. All looked so perfect after some many years celebrating always abroad, famililess. And them came December. I printed the letter and kept it home for some days. And then a Saturday, I went to visit them and took the letter with me. Before come back, I dropped the letter in the mailbox and later called my brother to make sure mum did read it the next day after work.

I told her of the many times I thought about suicide. I told her how sad and lost I felt when I turned 18 and realized I was actually gay and started to envision my future life, which was unthinkable, despite the governement had just passed a law legalising same-sex marriage. I told her how hard it was trying to focus on my studies, keeping safe and feeling so alone in so many cities and countries far away from home. That I had decided to assume this aspect of my life fully and live an authentic life under any circumstances. After all, we are born alone and definitely die alone. And I told her I have been dating a guy for more than a year now. Above all, I told her I would keep on fighting as she had taught to do during these many years. And that I would wait for her to be ready to talk and express our views and feelings.

And Sunday arrived. She read it. Together with my brother, cousin and her current partner.

The first feedback was from my 26 year-old brother saying me: Incredible, but mum is well alive after reading your letter. We love you and will always be here to walk together. Be calm.

Mum cried deeply and then went to bed. My cousin called my other auntie from a closer city with cries, frightening her with no answers. In turn, she called me to get a hint on what was going wrong at home. I said nothing.

Other’s feedback were not so supportive. Auntie and cousin, two young women (46 and 32 respectively) came to my house to confirm the content of my letter face to face. There were cries, yellings, threats, emotional blackmailing, and beggings. They said it was all mental problem; that if I wanted I could really change and be ‘normal’, with a wife and children. They were in shock when I told them I had always been like that since I was a child, back in Africa. I challenged them too try and change theirselves to become lesbians. And asked them when did they chose to become straight. They kept saying it was some ‘bad influence from white friends’. Yeah, they think I ‘became’ gay by associating and assimilating too much to Spanish lifestyle. After a heated argument they left.  Well, after all it was not so bad, right?

wait. On next day, I my break from work, I received a call by my other auntie from Paris. After confirming what she had heard from her sisters, she started yelling at me. She basically threatened my with telling my grandma and making me responsible for her possible heart attack. That she would tell her daughters, my beloved little cousins with whom I am really close and treat as my nieces. They also blackmailed me as being a bad example for them and all the kids of the family. But she specially cared what other relatives would say, what people would say about a gay heir in their family, what a shame and curse! If I did not abandoned that life and found a wife and have kids, then I must forget about her and her children, said. They children I has been helping to raise and taken care of since the death of her husband some 8 years ago. Yes, those kids who love me so much. Well, I said it was her decision, not mine. She kept yelling and I hanged up.

My other 26-year-old cousin living in Paris gave me total support. And my current step-father, my mother’s partner, said nothing as always. He remained indifferent and told the other he already knew, but did not want to interfere in others’ business, which made my mother really mad.

Mum remained silent and depressed.  A week after, she came to my house on my request so that we could talk. Maybe I was impatient. And worried. I needed her to say something. And so she came.

She started crying and saying she felt deeply desappointed and sad not because I was gay, but because I did not trust her. That she had been worried about me for a long time and could not imagine what was wrong. She also thought about me being gay, but did not have clear reasons to think so, and was confused. But she also said something I never expected. She told that, she too, had had feelings for same-sex partners. And had tried and then repulsed that part of herself. She had prefered to live a heterosexual life and ‘eliminate’ that orientation. Because it was not the life she wanted, what she saw around her and also because being married to a man was her only choice to survive from a really poor family. And she was happy with her choice.

I first thought it was just teenager sexual curiosity. But she said that even today she felt attracted to beautiful women, but just chose not to speak loudly and change her mind. She also liked men, but they  needed to be special and very virile.

I was totally out of my breath. I felt so sorry for her. But she said she was happy this way. And also that I was not the first or last person to feel this way in the family. Many grandparents had sex with other men, but married to women and kept a traditional family. For generations. And she suggested that I should maybe do the same, although she would not try to convince me. She would respect my decision although she thought this was not feasable back in Africa with all the family members. And that I should try to have kids anyways, regardless of my chosen partner.

All of a sudden I felt as if I had been living in a family of hypocrites. When grandparents can be gays but it’s okay if they marry a women and have children. Everything for the lineage and the reputation.

After the cries and drama, she wanted to make sure I wasn’t just impotent with women. That I had actually tried with more than one woman and so on. I said no. I am sorry but at this age I have made all the tests before 20. Many years ago.

She left asking me to think about my life plans, regarding family and kids.

And that was it. And know I wonder how do gay Africans who live in the continent cope with this? Please if you read me and you are in this situation, share your experience.

They say being gay in Africa is dangerous and acceptable. All I see is denial and hypocrisy. I could well abide and marry a lesbian woman in the same situation and have kids, but I want this social fake to end. I want the next generations to be happy no matter what society says. This is the kind of family I want, not the one I heard.

I am sure it doesn’t matter as long as you are married and have some social power and influence. And I do not intend to give up my continent for this reason. I need to read about other peoples experiences in similar situations in ther countries. How did they succeed?

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