The damnation of homosexuality has been something that has been engrained deeply into the roots of culture and religion, seemingly becoming a fundamental feature of a what a ‘normal family’ should believe.
For as long as humans have walked the earth we have been governed by gender and sexuality norms which have suffocated the lives of many who have had to conform to such principles. In spite of law changes and a wider range of knowledge and information available on the matter, individuals in the LGBTQ community face the most painful scrutiny from the very people they seek acceptance from – family.
I was the last born of 6 siblings. You could say we were a relatively big family, 4 brothers, 3 sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles and the ones you don’t know but are still obligated to call them auntie or uncle (that probably is just an African thing).
Of all my family, I had one ever had a real bond with my sister who was practically my second mother when I was growing up, and my older brother – Paul. It’s been quite a while since I’ve said his name anywhere other than in my head. My family are not what you would consider explicitly old-fashioned, but the elders do have very backwards views on a lot of things.
‘Eccentric and unapologetically loving’
I was maybe 7 or 8 when he left, I can’t really pin point the exact age because he’d always leave for some time and come back, so the day I came to the conclusion that he probably wasn’t coming back was tough.
He’d always been so eccentric and unapologetically loving, I admired him on every level. I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice he was nothing really like the rest of the men in the family. For starters he was his own style icon, (as stylish as you can get in 2007/8 anyway). He wasn’t shy about wearing red or purple skinny jeans or sport a low cut scoop neck t-shirt, gay or not I have to say this should never have been a fashion statement.
None of this made him less of a man at all, but I could tell my mum kind of resented it. I didn’t get why, maybe it’s because I was the last child born in the UK and with all the diversity I had grown up in, I had become indifferent to any concept of what type of appearance or behaviour was unacceptable for a specific gender. But a man like Paul, in a traditionally African household? A Muslim household? Do I need to say more?
My last distinctive memory of him was maybe on my 7th birthday. By then my family had grown long tired of throwing parties so I probably had a small meal instead – I don’t really remember so it probably wasn’t anything extravagant. I hadn’t really expected or wanted anything in particular for my birthday so I didn’t get any big presents except a scooter which I probably only used about 3 times.
By the end of the day I’d felt pretty disheartened since my favourite sibling hadn’t gifted me anything. That was until he walked through the living room door with a little plastic bag, I don’t think I’d ever been more excited in my life. Inside the bag was a DVD copy of Bratz: The Movie (an all time favourite of mine) and a Camp Rock shirt I swore was an absolute look with my tired bootcut jeans! Till this day I still think of that moment and chuckle, I’ve been strictly opposed to skinny jeans ever since. Writing it down it doesn’t sound like much but I thought the absolute world of it for some reason and it wasn’t till now that I realised it was probably the universe telling me that would be the last time I would see him for a while. I say ‘a while’ as if I’ve seen him since. I haven’t.
I do remember my sister telling me he’d come out to her, and I was so pleased but heartbroken that he hadn’t confided in me, despite how young I was. I often sit and ponder on the fact that he walked away from our family feeling like I wouldn’t accept him. I ponder on the fact that my mother goes through life everyday not knowing where her son is, how he’s doing, if he’s thinking of us. That’s the small trauma I live with compared to the heartache he must have felt.
Hitherto, my constant fear of rejection had kept me from trying to contact him somehow. I fear he’d think he’s been shunned by the whole family, that certainly is not the case.
Making my voice heard
The years following his desertion I became the world most exasperating activist in my household. On one occasion, my brother and I got caught up in a debate on how being gay was the upmost sin against God and I lashed out, only to be broken down when he remarked “why do you think Paul left? He knew it was wrong.” I also remember feeling like I was suffocating when I would hear my family discussing their distaste for the LGBTQ community, wishing death on them etc, and I was too fearful of them to say a thing but it killed me inside, and often does to this day.
I can only hope and pray that he is well and is achieving all the success he deserves and maybe even found his soul mate by now. I do intend to seek contact with him sometime soon now that I am grown and a lot more independent and outspoken than my 8-year-old self was. I have started to try, but my search ended at a whole load of failed Facebook searches. If this was one of those sad sob movies he’d find this story somehow, somewhere, and we’d rekindle. I haven’t given up on that fairy-tale.
My point is it’s very easy to stand by your views up until you’re directly faced with a situation that challenges them. We shouldn’t be able to sit in a world where people are alienated because of some idealistic fallacies. I sat in that world for far too long and it cost me a brother.
But it is also vital that we reflect on what a progressive era we are living in. If everyone, including myself, took the right progressive methods to integrate everyone in society together we would all benefit from the fruits of a cohesive community. Indeed, it is a very optimistic image, however with all the changes happening in the world today – I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. What are we here for if not to pave the way for change?
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