I was looking for an expression to best define family and stumbled across one by Jim Butcher that met that need – “When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.”
The search for that piece didn’t just up and go one moment. I had been going through my Facebook timeline that Sunday evening when I stumbled on an update about a Michael Jr. who had hung himself. In the belief that he would find acceptance from his family, he had come out gay to them. I imagine the shocker of his life, the broken trust, when his ‘family’ rejected him because of this ‘abnormality’. The report had gone on to state that judging from posts on his Facebook Timeline, his brother, in a screen-grabbed chat, had told him emphatically that he chose to be gay while his mother more or less poisoned the minds of his siblings against him.
As someone who has had countless battles with depression and the terror discovery of my sexual orientation will cost me every day, I was struck by a profound sadness at the loss of another life due to ignorance, mainstream bias and irrational homophobia. This was a 22 year old who had a whole life ahead of him. He should have been happy. He should not have had to carry that weight of familial betrayal on his young shoulders
This is perhaps the same scenarios most gay Nigerians experience. The discovery of our oddities, the self-loathing, the desperate need to be normal, resignation to a bleak future of hiding from relatives and neighbors, and for a few, the disgrace of being yanked out of their closets by hook-ups gone wrong, ridiculed, publicly disgraced and perhaps disowned by family, culminating to taking the easy way out by suiciding.
Before you reach that terminal point, deciding to take what you think as your worthless life, you need to stop and think about a few things.
Contrary to what anyone tells you about homosexuals not existing, you need to know that you are not the only one. As inaccurate and inconclusive as studies have been to estimate the gay population worldwide, percentages fall between, as low as 1% and as high as 26%. This is something the hetero-population may deny, but face it – depending on where you are, you can be as many as one gay fella in four persons or as low as one queer dude in a hundred persons. Yes. Even in staunch ‘religious’ places, there are gay people. Some are only better at hiding it than you are.
The people who are most vocal in their hate for your ‘absurd’ lifestyle, may actually be closet homosexuals as recent researches conducted in Germany, the UK and US have shown. Prof Richard Ryan of the University at Rochester in New York reported that homophobia may be a result of manifestations of repressed sexual desires and your living free in your truth threatens the wall they have built around themselves. When they come for you, pity them. You have transcended the normalcy they crave.
Armed with this knowledge, you need to find like-minded individuals. Depression is a disease of loneliness. Thankfully, the internet has made the world a more compact place. In the corner of your room, you can make 1001 friends. Join Gay awareness fora. They brighten your world; chase the shadows that fears bring. They provide tips to safe gay living in homophobic environments. Ignore the cattiness and perceived negativity on these fora. They are the family you can ever have, and what family is without its trials? They love you and cannot wish you evil.
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You also need to talk to that someone. A person who understands you, who makes you happy. Surround yourself with these kind of people. Michael had a friend who knew and understood him, but he held back. With these people, never hold back. They are the anchors tethering you to the sanity that peace brings. The strength in your adversity. However, living in a country like ours, be careful who you out yourself to. This, to the eternal regret of people who were yanked out of their closets, is what they wished they knew. Do not come out to people who will use that knowledge as a dagger and stab you, further drowning you in depression.
If you are a loner, as a lot of us have been made to become, there are a lot of outlets for pent-up feelings. It is a thing of pride to say that we as gay people are some of the most artistic. Channel that feeling into creativity. You have the potential.
We haven’t gotten to the point where we can live out in the open, but we must not cower in fear.
Written By *Yomi*
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