I love talking about the relationship with my dad. We have gone from rejection to acceptance, ignorance to understanding, fear to boldness; and with the impact of love and growth in self-worth, there is no doubt that each higher level sets new challenges and much more for our relationship..
I am very grateful to my dad and it is with his love that I am able to be most of who I am. He has on numerous times explained to me the concept of pioneering, as he is no stranger to fighting for what is right and necessary, even for the sanctity of Christian education and African theological preservation – there is therefore inherence on my path, to fight for what is right for me and for many others. I am also conscious that the relationship I have with my father is mired with envy, jealousy and sometimes outright evil from within and external forces of life.
As I open up on new an issue in our relationship, that is both engaging and interesting, you will recognise the extent of my growth with my father, as a gay son.
Is my house too gay? I asked myself one afternoon. In the first quarter of this year, my father decided to spend his summer in London with me. I had ample warning to make myself available and to “de-gay” my flat. However unlike 2003, when I took down wall paintings, portraits, hid books and brushed all my gayness under the carpet, I was more comfortable with who I am now in 2011.
I had grown into a full and robust awareness of my queerness, that it no longer mattered to hide gay magazines, artefacts and murals. A few weeks after he arrived, he told me that my flat was too gay and spoke about how he felt very uncomfortable. He seemed to have forgotten that it is my space, my comfort zone – afteral “an English man’s home is his castle!”. As a Nigerian abroad, I get the sense that there are no rules of privacy. This takes me back to our homes in Africa, where they are more or less community centres, everyone comes in and out of the people’s homes. But I am sorry folks, I make my home as comfortable first for Me. I will invite you to my home, only if I decide to open my home to the public and even then I will make some areas more public and some more private – perhaps like Buckingham Palace!
Now back to the question of my father’s insecurity around my home. My front room was certainly too gay; a large book with photos of men dating back to the 15th Century took a prime spot on the coffee table, with a few gay magazines in the paper rack. In my kitchen/dinning area, a large poster hung on the wall with a list of countries where Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) people are persecuted, discriminated against, and criminalised – a reminder to anyone that we live in a dangerous and awful world and of course for me, a constant reminder of my work and challenges with human rights activism, but for my father it is just too gay!My favourite was a poster from the World Out Games that says “Get your Ass Over to Copenhagen” with a few portraits of people in suggestive modes and positions – a classic metro-sexual depiction. Down the corridor was a poster about homophobic domestic violence, then on the landing to my garden was a poster that read, “Unconditional Love for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People in Africa”, now how could this be in bad taste, I queried! And finally, in my room was a photograph of a naked man laying on a bed, with his backside for a good view!
I asked myself, was my House too gay? For me certainly not, it is a place of pleasure. After a long hard day, I need a new focus and place that makes me smile and feel welcomed. I needed my form of art and choice of decor to help me with a sense and assurance of my purpose.
I was concerned that my father wanted me to be closeted again. ‘Never again’, I assured myself, the pain of that dark dungeon is enough for a lifetime. Another thought that wade through my mind was that had I been in a relationship with a lovely man, (surely I will), and we had a large portrait of the two of us hanging beautifully on the lounge wall, would he ask us to bring it down? Let me not go there for now, hopefully I will have a story to tell when we get to that stage.
Many of the conversations with my father, day-to-day life, theology, people, television shows always eventually enter into the gay arena. He watched a UK soap, “Eastenders”, with me that depicted an Asian family, who were struggling with their gay son. We also watched “Prayer for Bobby”, a true story about a Christian mother who drove her gay son to commit suicide, because of her harshness and inaccurate interpretation of the Bible.
In the time we spent together in London this summer, we had many times when we studied together, read books, and searched online articles about the genetics of Homosexuality. I must admit that this was good for both of us and very engaging for the tireless mind of my father who is always looking for more to convince him. I enjoyed all of these experiences, as I know that many people are unable to even have a conversation, let alone spend such quality time with their parent.
I am learning that whilst my home is my home, it is also a place of comfort for those who visit me and I cannot be too irrational with my homosexuality. I also want people to feel welcome and not be too direct. I also felt for my father, as he is caught between a traditional view of what people’s home should be and the need for a personal and private space.
I gave my dad a book called the “Children Are Free by Jeff Miner” – the book re-examines the evidence of same-sex in the bible. He read it and said to me “this book is for babies”, I agreed (because of the simple approach on the matter, I recommended this book to anyone that wanted to understand the evidence). Then I got him another book “What the Bible really says about Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak” a Professor of Systematic Theology, after reading this my father took notes. His response the second time, is that “how can the church and the Christian community respond to homosexuality?”. This is a better place than the arguments about exclusion and sin, and I am determined not stop until we have both fully learned. I believe that the dynamics of our relationship is breaking the code of the taboo around homosexuality.
At the end of his stay in London this summer, he enjoyed and preferred the comfort of my home, serenity of the neighbourhood, the lengthy leafy garden. He also delighted in the delicacies of all the chosen and carefully prepared meals, from Italian to Nigerian dishes, English breakfast to barbecued meals. After nearly three months in London, I waved goodbye to my dad as he returned to Nigeria, I want to agree that he is on a journey and I pray that he will continue to reason deeply, as we come to a better understanding of humanity, including Same Sex relationship.
Finally, I decided not to argue or debate the level of gayness in my home with my father. I also respected his wish to bring all the posters, books and artefacts down for one day only, as I honestly and joyfully played host for his 74th birthday – now they are back up and we are all happy!
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