There are a few of words that I have begun to notice that I use a lot in my conversations. The words come up in a variety of situations, not just with friends but in different personal and professional situations. Those words are ‘congruence’, ‘authentic’ and ‘integrity’.
When I first noticed the regular appearance of these words a few years ago, I came to accept that I was using the words in an aspirational sense and was not really ‘walking the talk’ when it came to the essence of those words. For there were many moments where I was still selling out, compromising, playing small or hiding my True Self. To live a congruent and authentic life, a life of integrity, is something that I certainly aspire to and day-after-day, and I now realise that it is an ongoing process and not necessarily a destination. I love this extract from Wikipedia:
“The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold”
One of the things that I have learnt over the past year is that for me, integrity involves living from a place of self-acceptance, speaking my truth and standing up for my values. I have come to understand that it takes courage to live from that place consistently and that there is a price to be paid, depending on the route taken. The price can range from rejection to freedom… neither route is rosy, butI know that it is a journey worth making – For me, I know that at the end of it all, I want to feel and know that I showed up for my life and did not simply live my life based on others expectations of me.
Last December, I took the decision to unfriend and block, on Facebook, a close family member who posted a homophobic response to the same-sex prohibition bill which was going through the Nigerian parliament at the time on his wall. The post was shortly after I had posted the ‘My Sexuality is a Human Right‘ campaign that I launched on this site and on my Facebook wall. I was really close to this family member during my early childhood and adolescence and still have wonderful memories of that period. We had not seen each other in many years, as I had discovered he was struggling with the fact that I was a gay, which was not in accordance with his faith. We had reconnected on Facebook last summer and I had hoped that this was a new chapter in reconciliation and getting to know each other again. His initial posting was;
“Regardless of our Political Problems, There are some values I derive from being a Nigerian and to some extent very common being a Nigerian. One of them is the recent Laws being passed regarding Gays and Lesbian. I grew up in Lagos. We knows people not to be sexually active, we call them OKOBO. We know it not to be normal that is their sexual preference.
Do not lord it on the rest of the society. The Almighty God that created us all Knows better. Reason he destroyed a whole society. What you engage in that is not the norm; keep it to yourself, in your Bedroom please.
“On the law passed David Mark Senate President said: “It is unfair to tie whatever assistance or aide to Nigeria to the laws we make in the overall interest of our citizens otherwise we are tempted to believe that such assistance comes with ulterior motives. If the assistance is aimed at mortgaging our future, values, custom and ways of life, then they should as well keep their assistance.”
Earlier, the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Dorothee Janetzke-Wenzel requested for stronger economic ties with Nigeria in order to boost the economy of both nations. Janetzke-Wenzel said Europe that was hitherto ravaged by wars has now become a haven for peace, economic and political cooperation for the good of all.”
I debated whether to ignore the post and simply pretend that it did not matter, but I came to the conclusion that saying nothing was simply normalizing what he had written. And so I posted the following comment –
“wow Uncle xxxx, i see you are still homophobic as ever…. such a shame!”
As we engaged in a short email exchange afterwards (details are below), I was reminded of the blog post I wrote a few months ago on ‘Family and the longing for Authentic Validation‘. I was reminded that I was potentially about to find myself walking down that old familiar road of validating the invalid and not coming from a place of integrity.
A few hours after my posting, he sent me this message, copying in another family member;
I saw your comment before going to the Mosque earlier. I wonder what I did to you to get such response. I count your remark insulting. The love I have for you as an Uncle as my Blood, am sure you do not want to jeopardise that. I have never insulted you either in private or public. What ever your sexually is as far as am concern is your personal problem. But now you are intruding into my privacy. Making personal comment to me, and I take offence on this. I will expect you to do the right thing.”
I responded shortly afterwards with –
“Uncle, the comment that you posted was homophobic and i personally found it hurtful that a member of my family, my blood was saying such… you must have known that i would see it.
In terms of you saying that you have never insulted me privately, well that is not what i came to learn… i was told very clearly 15years ago that you did not want to have anything to do with me because you felt i might molest your kids because of my sexuality….. that i found very sad and upsetting for a long time… but time healed that pain…. Regardless of whether you admit that you said this or not, we cannot both say that all is well between us. I have not seen you, xxxxx or my cousins in many many years……
I am touched that you say you love me, because i have certainly not felt that from you for a long time. I am sorry you were insulted by what I said…. i was just so hurt that you put that on facebook, knowing that you have a gay nephew… its tough enough navigating through life and to know that i am not accepted by my own family is not a nice feeling.
A few days after that exchange, I realized that I was longing for him to send me a response to my last message, in which he would say he was sorry too. But as the days passed no response came. I noticed that he had posted all sorts of updates on his Facebook status, but did not respond to my last contact.
It been a long journey in getting to a place of self-acceptance, speaking my truth and standing up for my values as a black, male, same gender loving person. In fact, the journey is still ongoing and I don’t always live up to those aspirations. Nonetheless, I know that ‘the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step’ and so in responding to that family member, I took another step towards self-acceptance, speaking my truth and standing up for my values. Shortly afterwards, I posted the following on my Facebook wall;
“……i will not stand for homophobia on my wall or similar 3rd party posts that appear on my wall….. so to anyone else connected to me who might find themselves likely to post similar comments – please unfriend me now and save me the trouble of having to do it – its the least you could do!”
Again, this was another ‘single step’ towards that journey of a thousand miles… the journey towards integrity. The post generated a high number of positive comments from allies – straight, lesbian and gay. And for me that was a beautiful reminder that whilst the price of integrity might initially be rejection from some quarters, it’s also leads to acceptance from many other known and unknown quarters.
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