I had to ponder a bit about what I would like to contribute to this month’s theme on ‘risk’. This is purely because I have shared a lot of personal insights and experiences about my life with all my stories on ‘OutTales around the Fire’, which I have perceived as ‘positive risk’ taking, because despite my anxiety around the positive or negative comments my stories may generate, the sharing of the stories has been an outlet for me and quite cathartic; and I am sharing my stories with people who may have similar experiences; and the audience of the site (I presume) is mainly same gender loving people who are also sharing their stories to provide insight for others in this wide diaspora of same gender loving peoples.
So, selfishly, I have gained from the experience of sharing my stories and reading those of other people. In my own personal circumstances I would not generally deliberately or overtly share my stories to an audience that I know do not accept or agree that same gender loving is acceptable. This to me would be ‘negative risk’ taking, because I know that a lot of responses would be negative, demoralising, hurtful and full of hatred.
However, I took a similar positive risk (in my opinion) and joined (I thought) a progressive Nigerian group for same gender loving people on Facebook. This had a negative impact on my feelings and emotions for a couple of months
The theme on the Facebook group that I contributed too was being gay and wanting to get married to a woman. I shared that I had made this lifestyle choice (being in a heterosexual marriage, although gay) and that I am relatively content with my lot though still having to battle with a number of internal gremlins. I did not state that my lifestyle choice is a correct one, nor did I advocate that this is a choice people have to make. I also made it clear that from my point of view that people make this lifestyle choice for many reasons and pressures – societal acceptance, culture, religion, to have children, progression at work, love for the female partner etc.; but ultimately they have to live with the consequences and with the risks associated with their lifestyle choices; and the negative consequences that may occur.
These negative consequences when they do occur can be overcome and become a defining point for a new phase in both parties’ lives either together or apart. These negative consequences do not always have to occur especially between two consenting adults making informed decisions or if people are adept at managing their conflicting and or disparate lifestyle choices.
In my personal circumstances, I shared that my female partner is aware that I am actively same gender loving but it is not something that we discuss regularly (its rarely discussed now); and I try to be responsible and sensitive about what I do outside the marriage. Both of us come from polygamous backgrounds, this may have informed our respective decisions. Both of us have children together and joint assets. Who knows why two people make the choices that they do? Only them!
The majority of the views espoused were not in favour of and in condemnation of this lifestyle choice, which is okay by me. It is my life! Some people even brought religious viewpoints into the discussion which somewhat surprised me because most religions do not accept same gender loving as an authentic or acceptable lifestyle – so it seemed like the pot calling the kettle black. I was pleasantly surprised that most people that contributed felt that you have to make a choice to either be straight or gay and there is nothing in between! Also quite a few people felt my female partner and children are victims. The latter was the low point for me and rightly or wrongly (who knows what is right and what is wrong) made me feel rotten as a person. Some individuals called me a liar, and quite a lot of negative assertions where made about me as a person and my wife, whom they have not spoken to, hence cannot know her views on the matter.
I strongly believe that people are each unique beings and through my personal experiences I have deduced that tolerance and acceptance is unique to each of us as individuals. In my view our lives are full of ‘opportunity costs’ – the cost of the alternative forgone. This is not only a theoretical economic concept but I believe applies to circumstances we encounter in our lives.
The reason why the views and comments made on the Facebook group impacted on me negatively was that I was hoping for constructive debate (not validation) from a ‘progressive Nigerian group for same gender loving people’. What I experienced was comments personalised at the person who took the ‘risk’ of sharing an insight into their lifestyle choice. My experience to-date is that even same gender loving relationships have no ‘one’ template; and ‘exclusivity’ and ‘monogamy’ within same gender loving people is one of a range of various lifestyle choices made from being in an open relationship to a closed monogamous relationship, just as the same range of lifestyle choices exist in heterosexual relationships.
The point for me is that people should be able to make comments and express views in any democratic forum, but should try not be personally targeting the individual sharing, especially if that is not the basis for which the group was formed. No one has been created as perfect! I joined the group as a ‘positive risk’ taking strategy to share my experiences and also learn about other people’s views and experiences.
Over the years I have learnt that I am just as bigoted and hypocritical in some of my views as those I might judge, but this awareness of my imperfections enables me to reflect deeply and try to be a better person. I suppose taking the positive risk of joining the Facebook group has contributed to this.
Therefore in conclusion, my positive risk-taking approach to do things or experience new things is personally-centred and focuses on me working and developing my strengths; and through experiential learning actively trying to manage my gremlins, grow spiritually and achieve my aspirations. I believe that as well as potentially negative consequences, taking positive risks can have positive benefits for people.
As a result of joining the Facebook group which I since left; and despite the negative impact it had on me (for a short while), I learnt a lot about how my lifestyle choice is perceived by some same gender loving people. I have also made a couple of good friends from the group whom I remain in regular contact with. They add and continue to add value to my life and hopefully I do the same for them. It also enabled me to validate my personal viewpoint that I continually create myself through my experiences and I can only be true to myself no matter what, others think.
Copyright © 2012 Paradox.