Letter to my Queer Self
*Trigger warning: suicide
Today, I want to take the time to acknowledge the emotionally eventful three months you had to endure at the expense of my experiences and decisions. ‘Emotionally eventful’ is an expression I feel describes the past three months perfectly. They have been filled with laughter, joy, at times, but mostly, disappointment, sadness, depression, stomach-turning frustrations and lots of anger. It is quite recent since I have accepted you, Dear Queer Self. After a long period of confusion and denial, I have finally come to the realization that you were not going anywhere, and to be completely honest, I think in some way, I am a better person with you.
Accepting you, however, has come with its own emotional rollercoaster, to say the least.
I have navigated the last three months with a horrifying awareness of the degree of homophobia characterizing the various spaces I will eventually have to go back to. I have mastered the art of pretending. Pretending to be okay. Pretending to be happy. Pretending that suicide doesn’t occasionally cross my mind. Pretending to be indifferent to the hate many people in my circles unconsciously direct at my very person. I have learned that pretending to find a homophobic comment amusing, even from an elder relative, was actually not that funny. In fact, it is hard; one of the hardest things I keep putting you through, Dear Self.
I have learned how frustrating and saddening it is to pretend to be able to have an unemotionally charged conversation with my mother while she dramatically claims that one of the main lobbies trying to ‘take over’ the world is the ‘homosexual lobby’. I have watched, helpless, people hating and despising me, without even knowing they were doing so. I have regained a little bit of hope as I listened to my mother tell me about her gay colleague. Only to lose all hope and feel like an impostor as I listened to her complain about my little brother’s latest misbehavior. Would she be complaining about me too if she knew? Would she even find the strength and the courage to talk to someone about me being the way I am, if she knew? I have felt like an impostor when, sitting at the dinner table and helping myself to some fried plantains, I laughed at one of my grandma’s comments regarding children: “Ceux que tu aimes le plus la, c’est toujours eux qui te déçoivent le plus”. In other words, “those that you love the most are always the ones to disappoint you in the worse way”. Was that all I would become if they just so happened to know? A big disappointment of a loved and cherished first-born? A waste of love?
That evening, as those thoughts filled my head, I helped myself to more plantains…
To say that this comment did not get to me would be a lie. La preuve: it has been said more than a month ago, during an innocent dinner table conversation that was not at all about me, but the sharpness of every single one of those words still rings in my head. Every time I talk to my girlfriend, every ‘I love you’, every ‘good night, love’, every silly joke and every laughter shared with her has become tainted by the bitterness in my grannie’s voice that evening and the sound of the word ‘disappointment’! My eyes still tear up, and my heart still sinks a little, every time I think about it.
I remember how surprised and a little irritated I was the first week of my internship when the only subject that seemed to interest people was the fact that “my president” had made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S. The fact that I was in no way American did not seem to bother anyone. I remember how uncomfortable, frustrated, angry and impatient I felt when, during a devotional prayer I did not want to attend in the first place, the prayer leader had nothing better than homosexuality to preach about. I remember seeing people nodding in agreement as he proclaimed that “we will not accept this in Ghana”. I remember being pissed and thinking about how I was only there for an internship and did not need that kind of extra stress. I remember having to listen to one of my supervisors praising Robert Mugabe for “asking Obama to marry him” since he was so supportive of same-sex relationships. I have to admit that every time I hear someone, say something homophobic, I secretly pray that one, if not all, of their children turn out gay. And every time, I can hear you, Dear Self, whispering how selfish of a wish it is for me to have. All of this, Dear Self, is what I have been forcing you to go through for the past three months. And God knows how much worse it has been for you in the past.
The more I pretend that you, Dear Self, do not exist, the more painful it becomes to wake up every morning, having to behave in a socially acceptable manner, that is, upper-middle class – like, feminine, and straight, whatever that means. The more I pretend, the less I understand why people insist in going through this masquerade that is life. Then I remember. Theirs isn’t! Only my life is a masquerade. So I keep on going with my masquerade, damaging you, Dear Self, along the way. Somehow, I have managed to convince myself that it was less costly for me to pretend than to be myself. But you, Dear Self, keep nagging me with the same question: ‘how long until freedom? . . .
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