So earlier this week, I stumbled on a blogpost entitled ‘What’s wrong with being gay‘. I was taken by the content of the post and left a comment. The author, Demola Rewaju, got in touch and we had a chat…….. here is the subsequent blog he wrote……
Since Tuesday when I wrote the article titled “What’s Wrong With Being Gay?” (Demola Today – What’s Wrong With Being Gay? and took a position I thought was charitable and questioning, I’ve faced quite some criticism for being homophobic, a word I was familiar with but had to do more research to understand what it means and yes, to a certain level, I admit I’m homophobic but only by religion.
That article generated a lot of comments but I was struck by the one posted by ‘OutTales’. I sent him an email and struck up conversations with him. We agreed to chat and during the Arsenal game last night for close to two hours, we had an interesting chat after which I read up his blog and came away with one feeling, that nothing is ever just black and white. There are many grey areas in humanity. Excerpts from the chat are published here and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
OutTales: hello there
Demola: How’s your day been?
OutTales: My day has been okay….. not as productive as I would have liked it, but I’m feeling rested… urs?
Demola: Pretty good and quite productive
Demola: Thanks for talking to me
OutTales: No worries….. hope my story touches someone
Demola: Yep…So tell me about life growing up…
OutTales: Well, I was born in London and moved to Nigeria when I was 6 with my parents. Came back to London when I was 19. I knew I was different from my male friends when I was around 14, and thought I was just going through a phase…..actually probably younger, but at 14 I knew for sure…
Demola: Ok. Let’s rewind: how spiritual was your family?
OutTales: My parents were born into a devout muslim family. My mum converted to Christianity and in my teens I went to a Celestial church. I went with her for a few years, then went to Deeper Life for a few years and when I came to London, I went to KICC.
Demola: When you were younger, did you have any of those sexually curious adventures with any girl? I know I did…
OutTales: …. when I was around 7, one of my dad’s sisters fooled around with me, naked games and stuff; and when I was around 11 similar stuff with some boys in the neighbourhood…
Demola: Looking back, do you think either of both encounters affected your sexuality in any way?
OutTales: No, I dont think so. When I was around 6, I remember staying over at my uncle’s place and waking up in the night to see him asleep naked and being hypnotized by his nakedness…nothing sexual, I was just fascinated by it…. and it was the same in secondary school, I was more fascinated by the guys but it was not sexual, it felt deeper than that…. an emotional connection…. I never felt that with girls/women
Demola: You never had a girlfriend growing up?
Demola: Ok. At 14, How exactly did you know you were different?
OutTales: My friends would talk about girls and about wanting to be with them…. I tried with one of the girls in the neighbourhood, but nothing happened. I was more into the guys and wanted to be with them but nothing happened there either!
Demola: I’d really love to hear about how you tried with that girl…:) What you did, how far you went…
OutTales: Oh! she was just someone who lived in our building and I asked whether she wanted to have sex but I could not make it happen And then there was another girl in our building who wanted to do it with me, but again I always resisted….actually now that I think about it, there were a few girls who were interested in me….but I simply wanted to be friends…..
Demola: You’re telling me you’ve never had heterosexual sex before?
OutTales: Only once… when I was 21…. with an older family friend
Demola: Please share with me how it felt…
OutTales: Actually, that was the first person I had sex with…. it was at a stage when I really hoped that I was not gay and wished that I could be like everyone else…. and not gay…. she came on to me and asked whether I’d like to have sex, I said ‘yes’ and we did…. never happened again….
Demola: And your first encounter with a guy, when and how did it happen?
OutTales: I was 27…. he was the brother of a friend of mine, we had been out dancing, we started making out in the club and he came back to mine…. and then it happened…..
Demola: Up until this time, nobody knew you were gay?
OutTales: My mum had asked me in the past, because my uncle had suspected as they had never seen me with a girl… but I had always denied it…. I had always denied it when friends asked me as well….
Demola: Were you certain at the time that you were gay or you still weren’t sure?
OutTales: I was very sure…but was so afraid of rejection by family and friends that I hid it. I was also very much into church (KICC) and up until then thought that maybe I could just live as a celibate…..
Demola: Lemme get this right: you knew at a certain point that you were gay but you never had a gay experience until you were 27, do I understand that correctly?
OutTales: Yes! I was living a life of denial…. shame….. and a fear of rejection…..
Demola: How much did your spirituality help at the time you were facing the denial, shame and fear of rejection? Did it make you feel condemned in any way?
OutTales: Yes, it made me feel very condenmed. I felt it was a sin and an abomination and I would go to hell. I would feel guilty and full of remorse whenever I masturbated. In the church I went to most Sundays, the pastor would talk about how being homosexual was an abomination and yet I kept on going back to the church…. I have come to learn that this was ‘internalised homophobia’ (a form of self loathing and shame). Eventually I left the chuch as to keep going was a form of self abuse and I was tired of that…..
Demola: At the time you left, were you in a relationship?
OutTales: No, was single…. (when you have a moment, you can have a read on my piece about my journey on the issue of spirituality here – https://outtalesaroundthefire.com/2011/09/07/wrestling-with-shadows-whilst-searching-for-god-part-1/)
Demola: When did you accept your sexuality? (I definitely will read that)
OutTales: It was an ongoing and gradual process…. when I had sex with that guy at 27, it was a first step. I came out to my mother the year after and that was another step. The ultimate step was really learning to love myself and believe that there is nothing wrong with me…. that came much much later. I guess that was one of the reasons your blog struck a chord with me: I know there are a number of gay men who are still navigating self love and simply want people to know they are not flawed and when many of them read a blogpost like what you posted, it simply shouts at them “there is something wrong with you!” In your blog you said you are a curious person…and that to me would mean keeping an open mind and trying not to be judgemental. It does not mean you have to agree, but it can mean “I dont understand”, but keep an open mind….
Demola: (Ok. We’ll get to that) What was the reaction from your mother and where was your dad at this point?
OutTales: (My dad died when I was 26). Mum took it badly, I am her only child so she was devastated….. as you can imagine, knowing the Nigerian culture…. but I felt I had to live my life. (here is a blog I wrote about never coming out to my dad – https://outtalesaroundthefire.com/2012/05/01/coming-out-to-my-father/)
OutTales: Living an authentic life and the highest expression of my Life is something I aspire to daily…..
Demola: Ok. Have you ever been physically assaulted on account of your sexuality in Nigeria or elsewhere?
OutTales: No…. thank God…..
Demola: Stuff like I posted though, does it affect you emotionally on any level?
OutTales: A little hurt and irritated (even though we have never met) because I can imagine my own family holding those thoughts too and I also felt for the many who still struggle to find acceptance. At the end of the day we all as human beings simply want to be loved as we are…. and not feel like we have to be different in order to be accepted and affirmed….. when I was young my family struggled with me being left handed and I was forced to use my other hand to no avail… I could not change it…. same as I cannot change being gay….
Demola: I had the lefthanded experience too and it definitely wasn’t my intention to hurt you or anyone. I guess that’s why you and some others (from the comments you sent in your email earlier) say I’m homophobic…
OutTales: Hey, as Maya Angelou says “when we know better, we do better”
Demola: Yea…I read your blog earlier about the encounter with a Pastor here in Nigeria and other family members. Any thoughts yet as regard childbearing? Do you think about that?
OutTales: At this pont in time, I have no desire to be a parent (who knows what the future holds) but regardless will not be doing the ‘getting married to a woman’ thing….
Demola: If you get the chance, will you get married to a man? Or perhaps I should ask if you’re presently in a civil partnership or a relationship with a man…
OutTales: I’m in a relationship and we live together….. (He’s sat next to me now, watching his detective show on TV)
Demola: A lot of times, I think the sexual aspect of a gay relationship is overemphasised. Can you tell me about the emotional side of it?
OutTales: That is such a good question.. and you are so right. Sadly popular media culture also plays into that streotype and therefore to many its all sex, sex, sex…. with a dosage of HIV/AIDS. The emotional side is not different from that of a straight person…take tonight for instance…. I made dinner and my partner and I sat down to have dinner and chat whilst catching up on our day: regular stuff that straight people do. We have all the stuggles and joys…. ups and downs as straight people; only difference is that we are attracted to people of the same gender…..
Demola: I think it’s the same with gay people too: some of you project your sexuality first and that gives people a strange reaction. I think if people get to know you as a person first, your sexuality wouldn’t be much of a problem…Like your comment on my blog: I read it with an open mind not knowing you were gay until the last line when you mentioned it…your intellect reflected in your comment formed my judgement of you, not your sexuality…
OutTales: I agree…. the thing is for a number of gay men, that is what we see and hear when we are growing up, so for many of us… it then becomes all about sex…. no one is there to teach us that there is more to being gay than sex so we have to learn as we go on. For straight people, there are so many images that you observe growing up, but for us there is nothing…very few postive images…which is why I think someone like you can be such a strong straight advocate, by getting people to look beneath the surface of these matters…although sexuality, is very much a male issue too….. if you speak to most women, they would say the same thing about straight men always putting their sexuality/desire for sex first…..
Demola: …But you believe I’m homophobic…
OutTales: I thought your comments were homopobic…. I dont know you well enough to say you are homophobic….. although the fact that you touched base with me, leads me to say you are not…. I think it was just perhaps a lack of understanding…..
Demola: Ok. In your opinion, do you think the gay rights movement is comparable to movements such as for black rights and womens’ rights?
OutTales: I think they are all human rights….. and for me its not about are they comparable… its simply that they are human rights…. I am a man, black and gay….. all need to be acknowledged and none left behind… each form a part of my human experience…. each one is important in its own unique way…..
Demola: I understand
Demola: Thanks for talking to me
OutTales: cool… thanks for the questions….. look forward to reading the piece….
Demola: I look forward to publishing it.