Stepping Out of The Closet — The Big Deal

Generally, I avoid talking about when I came out of the closet to my parents. I avoid it because I’m not sure that I ever did. It’s not so special to me, anyway. For one or other reason though, people’s faces light up at any hint of a saucy story. To meet those expectations, I normally embellish the story and come up with a very colourful biryani. Naturally, the story ends differently every time – and, in reality, mind you, the story never ends because ‘coming out’ is a continuum. I don’t hesitate to spice up my ‘coming out’ moments. In fact, I snigger as people gobble it up.

My older brother yanked me out of the closet. He has always had that special skill of saying what everyone else is thinking and then excuse his blabber with his quick loss of temper. He is a hot-head. He made sure that everyone in the vicinity could hear his juicy announcement. I silently stood there; unclothed by the announcement and unable to retort as I should have. He beat me to it and I wondered whether he hadn’t done me a favour

I was fourteen going on fifteen and bit cheeky, having picked up a thing or two from my girlfriends on how to shrug off an annoying boy. I rolled my eyes at him and gave him the “buzz-off –hand” when he tried to teach me how to use my fists to defend myself from being bullied in my early high school years. It was as though I had told him that he wouldn’t get supper that day, he lost it and spat fire incessantly. At an adjoining passage where our sessions would have taken place, he cut me with his words in front of my family. Like the sissy, he referred to me as. I sunk onto the floor and sobbed.

I cried because it was a normal thing to do when this sort of things happen. If I had to get people to feel sorry for me, I had to put up a bit of a show too and forge gushing waterfalls. After all, what kind of a gay person would I be if I didn’t incite drama in my very own ‘coming out’ ceremony? I was disappointed to learn that only my mother fell for it, no one else. I suppose my family had long since gotten used to my melodramatic tendencies. They were bored of these unwarranted over-the-top episodes that I borrowed from my adolescent years. I think my mother understood that that was the moment in which I needed someone to show me that they were on my side, to say the right things and offer an embrace. I think she cried with me that day because she was embarrassed for me. The cat was out of the bag, prowling amongst us. No one could put it back in. She was real at that moment and I needed to see someone that really cared so I could drop my childish tantrums and come to terms with what just happened.

Your family looks at you funny after you’re out of the closet. Before then, only your little gay toes peep out while the hinges of the closet door are busy falling off, one-by-one. Everything is still somewhat hidden and your gay mannerisms can be ignored or shushed down. Soon after, people suddenly remembered that I skipped the rope better than all the girls in my neighbourhood; that when I played house, I wore an apron and prepared a meal for ‘the man of the house’; uduva and upuca were lame without me in the squad. All that my family had chosen to push aside to await a better man-like me, were collective signs towards this. They saw me in a different light, suddenly. One looks at you and thinks: Oh f**k, my son is gay, where will I now take him!? The other has genuine concern as to what life will mean for this sweet child who has this peculiar interest. Other siblings seem to find such thrill to have one up on mother’s favourite child. The rest simply couldn’t be bothered.

From the dinner table discussions; to the introduction of their person to the parents – the stories all sound the same. Some stories may even sound like mine, spiced up or not. They all have one message: I’m gay.

Building up the courage to tell is what separates the big dogs from the puppies; the consequences of telling shapes us to who and what we are today. Oh, and how I love that silly brother of mine for stealing THAT thunder!

Writer:  Sipelelo Lityi      Photographer: Leeroy Jason