As yet another family reunion approaches, I wonder if this is the time to tell my family about my not-so-secret other life. I really don’t want to hear any more about why I’m not married or how that girl I grew up with has turned into such a beauty (“stop winking Mum!”) When I think about coming out, I imagine my mother crying and wondering what she did wrong to deserve such children (my siblings are not gay but are definitely far from innocent), my father just walking out on me for good, my siblings alternating between surprise and extreme laughter/joy/relief because there is nothing they could do that would ever be as bad as this. But I hold myself back all the time: one of the reasons being that I am still attracted to women and was in a relationship with one until very recently (in fact all my relationships except one have been with women). I keep trying to convince myself it’s a phase even though I know it definitely isn’t (denial is a fashionable place to visit this time of year). And I wonder about about how my family would take it. A good friend keeps telling me that I have to be happy and think of myself and cut everyone out who chooses not to accept me. At this point anyway, being gay where I live carries a significant risk of a prison term, not to mention repeated gay-bashing and unemployment. More than all these I think what holds me back really is my family – I don’t mean the nuclear family but rather the extended one.
Talking to people of different backgrounds I have realised that the concept of family is very different for many people. For some, it’s simply a group of people who with more shared genetic material with each other than the guy pumping diesel at the petrol station down the road and who could go years without contact and it’d be okay. I can totally get why anyone wouldn’t think much of cutting people who fall into this group off if they can’t/won’t accept the whole person as he is. But for me, family is a lot more than that. They are sometimes closer than siblings or parents. They are the ones who teach you how to read, how to add and subtract, how to drive, how the stock market works. They are the ones who help you out by paying your rent and paying for your kids school fees without expecting anything back (and would feel insulted if you tried). They are the ones that help you get a job, buy you that car when you’re starting out your life, stock your fridge with home-cooked meals when you’re dead broke and can’t afford to buy a cube of sugar. They are the ones that take care of you when you grow old and can no longer do it for yourself (no nursing homes!) It’s no wonder than in some societies, someone may have a “second mother”, “junior mother”, “little mother”, “junior father” and others.These are not biological or step-parents. These terms are given to show the strength and love within that relationship. In the same vein, the concept of “sibling” is very blurred and it’s not because people don’t know the dictionary definition of brother. It’s simply that the relationship is so strong and tight that calling that specific person “cousin” or “relative” or “that guy I’m related to in some way” just doesn’t cover it.
So I wonder if I can really go on to break all these bonds and if I really can do without them. But as my good friend says “they will love you still whether you are straight or gay if they ever loved you at all”. It sounds nice and positive but I have friends who were outed years ago and still have not been allowed back into their parents houses.
And the ridicule..sometimes people talk about gay men like they are less than human. Well, not less than human as a species but more of a lower caste of beings. Call me proud but to think that some loser would suddenly consider himself better than me just because of his sexual orientation and have this belief validated by our forever macho-adoring society may be more than I can take.
But if people don’t come out, how do we as a society expect that the laws that prohibit same-sex relations will ever be changed? If we don’t become the change we wish to see, how do we expect that we will see any change in out societies?
Maybe I’m over-thinking this coming-out process. I don’t want to be a hero or an activist or even be in the public eye. I just want the freedom to be who I am without fear. But if it means being open about my sexuality though just maybe..
Well this reunion is still months away. Let’s hope I don’t obsess myself into a nervous breakdown by the time this event arrives.