A gay indie boy living in suburban South West London recounts his trials and tribulations dealing with sex, sexuality, growing up and getting older

Friday, July 06, 2007

Your culture over my nature

Recently, a very sad thing happened to a friend of mine. After she finished university her parents forced her, against her will, to go back to Wolverhampton. They told her her life in London was over, and that they would expect her to go through with her arranged marriage in the coming years.

Being brought up in the West, she thinks of herself as a Westerner and she doesn't want this to happen. In fact, she has a boyfriend who is white, and it would be frowned upon. I empathise with her plight; I know how tough this is.

Of late, my patience has started wearing thin with her. First she tells me she will stay there for 3 months to "sort things out". Okay. Fine. Then she starts calling me everyday telling me how miserable she is back home, so I said "Well, if you've decided you're going to stay there for 3 months, you may as well make the most of it. Why not take a trip to Birmingham? Go for a walk?"

Can't apparently "just because".

Then she tells me that her boyfriend is telling her to make the decision to come back to London for herself because he might not be there one day (which kind of gives me the hint that someone's getting ready to jump ship). So I said "Yes, you two may not be together forever so you have to do it for yourself"

And she said "Yeah, whatever."

So I said "Don't be naive; you could split up and you've made a decision you made for him, and then you'd really be up shit creek"

Now she's pissed off with me.

Why is my patience starting to wear thin? Well, this really isn't a dilemma that quite a few gay men have not gone through, including myself. When I was seeing my first boyfriend, the sheer guilt at having to face my parents and lie about where I had been or who I was with was horrendous. And then every day you would think "Should I tell them? Should I tell them? Should I tell them?"

And then you imagine telling them.

And then you imagine them going mad and your dad beating you up and telling you to get out of the house. So you try and plan carefully where you would go, who you would ask to stay with... Where would you live without your parents? Would you really choose your lifestyle over the care and security of your parents?

For me, the answer was yes.

I did make plans, and I asked my best friend when I was 17 if I could stay at her place if anything went wrong. She said yes, and she even asked her mother if it was okay. I decided to tell my mum first, thinking that she would be okay with it.

She wasn't. She cried for 3 days. She made me feel awful. I'd come downstairs from bed and she would start crying and saying "What did I do wrong?"

And I said, "Being gay isn't a personality flaw"

And she said "No; it's a developmental one"

And that's when I lost patience with my mother. I said, "You can cry all you want; things are the way they are and that's it."

She told me it had to be a dark secret, that no-one could know. She tried to make me feel even more ashamed even though I knew there was nothing wrong with it.

She didn't chuck me out, but it did change my opinion of my her.

So when my friend harps on about the "shame" she would bring to her family because she's Asian and could never date a white guy or live alone, I start to lose my temper. I know what it is to bear the brunt of family "shame", but I still confronted it head on, and I was prepared to do without their love and care. I was prepared to be tossed out into the streets, but I still faced it.

Coincidentally, I defied my mother and told my dad some 3 months later who was perfectly okay with it. To this day, my mother will still not discuss my love life, my boyfriends, my gay friends or confront anything about my sexuality. In fact, I think she partially hopes that if I don't find a girl that I will be a batchelor forever.

Aside from my family, I have had bricks thrown at me, I have been punched in the face and bled and I have still walked with my head high because I am me, and if people don't like what I am then they can deal with it.

I will always be ardently myself at whatever cost.

So you may think I'm harsh, but you can't tell me that you will suffer shame and anguish because of your culture because me and every other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered person out there has also suffered shame and anguish for their cause; for love. And my Asian friend is right; she cannot choose who she falls in love with, but neither can we, and we have fought for our love and will continue to do so

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