So you are now settled in your mind that you are a same-gender loving man or woman. You are happiest loving your fellow man or woman and wouldn’t have it any other way, yes? If you are not yet sure about this aspect, do not come out.
If you are, here are some tips:
First and foremost, you have to know who your important relatives and friends are. The reason this is critical is twofold: the really important relatives in your life are the ones you can afford to offend or take for granted as they will never find another you, or you another them, and they know it.
Friends are trickier because we cultivate them as opposed to being related to them through blood but rarely do we have more than five solid friends the moment we cross the 30-year threshold. Those 5 friends should know sooner than later.
Once you know your important relatives and friends, don’t be two-face around them; live as you feel without talking about your sexuality or throwing it in their faces. If you can’t be yourself around the people who matter most to you, trust me you have far bigger problems than being gay.
Why is this critical? For the simple reason that your committed relatives and friends will never abandon you because they have discovered that you are gay. Never. They will also be perceptive enough to know who you are without too many questions being asked. Let it up creep up on their realization. That is why you must not be fake around them.
Mothers know, always, unless they haven’t raised you. They just pretend not to. Don’t expend valuable time worrying about what they will say as no mother will disown their child on account of their sexuality.
Fathers are often the last to know because men compartmentalize things and even refuse to focus on what’s staring them in the face. It’s why men are more difficult to bring around to their kids being gay. Fathers are also conspicuously uninvolved in the 9-month process that brings children into the world so their attachment to their offspring can be nebulous.
Don’t suffer it as to whether your father knows or not. It makes sense to hide it from him while he is still paying for your education, but once you can look after yourself, ignore his reaction – he will eventually tone down his expectations. If he finds out at a time you still need his financial support, there is nothing you can do but hope he keeps a level head. His reaction is out of your control anyway.
In terms of how to conduct yourself as a gay African, in Africa, please understand that we are all a product of our environment. Ugandans (Africans?) are not a demonstrative people – we thus don’t talk about love; we show it, often through tangential actions.
Therefore, don’t go blurting it out that you are gay to all and sundry. That’s as un-African as it is needless. Never announce that you are gay, not even to people who already know – that is plain bad manners. Unless you wish to embarrass the relatives who matter to you, don’t take on public gay activist roles without coming out to them first.
Avoid public displays of affection. Even straight people take it home in Africa so it is pretentious if not ill-bred to start holding hands in bars or, worse, petting and kissing with everyone looking on. That is simply exhibitionist and you will deserve any opprobrium heaped on you. Take your displays home. If you don’t agree with this, try thinking about what happened to the last relationship of Africans you remember flaunting their affection in public. Precisely.
If you are already independent (read you have left home and pay your way in life however humbly), there is absolutely no reason for you to explain to anyone why you are still single. If you are still living at home, past 25, the reason you are still single is that you are still living at home!
Never, ever, project an apologetic air around those who might wonder aloud why you are single! Ever. Gay boys and girls make the terrible mistake of slinking into the shadows around straight people, perhaps hoping to avoid nagging questions. Yet nosy relatives or friends have things to hide themselves. They are thus always looking out for someone to bully to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings.
The relatives who are quickest to ask you when you getting married tend to be the ones whose marriages didn’t work out, whose spouses left them for someone else, whose children are not successful; people who are disappointed about some aspect of their lives and are now trying to pull anyone they can down with them.
Remember, misery loves its own company. Don’t project the air that you want to join anyone’s pity party. Never, ever, act timid or project the impression that you are vulnerable because of your sexuality. Therefore, don’t sit in the shadows at family gatherings. Calmly stare down anyone who might want to ingratiate themselves into your presence to ask loudly why you are still single. As long as it seems you are miserable there will be someone asking you to marry their dull daughter or to hump someone, anyone, in order to extend the family tree.
Be nice, be polite, but be very firm in the way you carry yourself. “When I am ready to get married, you will be the first to know,” works wonders all the time. Or “Is it really appropriate to ask a grown-up such personal questions, aunty?” Just say it in a tone that leaves no further room for discussion. Another one yours truly likes is to totally ignore a question while, however, making it clear one heard it.
You will always get the horrible aunt who insists on prodding even further after that. Don’t lose your temper with her – just let your attention visibly wander by, for instance, turning your attention to someone on the other side of you. If they continue prattling on, pat them on the arm gently and excuse yourself.
Do not trick unsuspecting women or men into thinking you are straight and are into them. You can have a ‘beard’ for show, but that grows tired once you are past 25 which is when one should have stopped playing silly shadow games with themselves. I still see my gay friends running around with women, and some even getting them pregnant and attempting to settle down with them. It never works of course, and it fools no one – just hurts even more people, makes you totally intolerable as a human being and wastes critical time that you could have used to be happy.
As a gay man or woman, always remember that we should not think only about ourselves. So always look out for others; be a good listener if you have it in you, engage in family events if you like that sort of thing, pay someone’s school fees, give to a deserving charity, donate to a refugee center, do some good without expecting anything back in return. If people see that you are not a selfish, introverted, lofty bastard, they are more likely to accept the gay side of you even though they might never understand it in their lifetimes.
If people ask you directly about gay stuff, it means they already know you are gay. Don’t be a bitch about it. Many times people ask because they genuinely would like to understand so it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just be clear about what you are comfortable discussing with them. Yours truly once fielded a discussion with 10 straight people on the intimate ins and outs of gay sex. But that is yours truly – a unique class act that’s impossible to emulate!
Be knowledgeable about your life and lifestyle. You can’t for instance fail to know that not all gay men indulge in penetrative sex. Knowing that helps one explain to whoever might ask that being gay is not just about sex, but about loving. In so doing, you detract attention away from the more prurient questions you might not want to deal with, while acknowledging that you know about gay life and are not apologizing for it.
Finally, don’t expect everyone to understand why you are gay. So, choose carefully who you discuss it with, who you invite home when your gay friends are around and who you pour your heart out to when your Nth boyfriend dumps you.
Once you are over 30, you are also ready to narrow down the list of friends to the only ones who really matter. Rather than blurt it out at a social gathering , embarrassing everyone in the process, use the tried and tested method: connive with a reliable friend (preferably straight) to “gossip” about your sexuality when you are not around. Yours truly did this years ago with a particular set of friends and it saved him a lot of trouble; the real friends took it in their stride and the superficial ones ran for the hills. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone.
Hope this helps. If not, don’t hesitate to ask, through the inbox (email@example.com) or here, anonymously if you wish.