Written by Peter Ngatia Tuesday, 27 March 2012 09:02
I thought I would share my recent coming out to my parents. It has a happy ending — or perhaps a new beginning). I have been out to myself and to friends for three years. Most of the reasons I chose to come out to my parents are evident in the letter below. I also realized by telling one's parents, one only risks losing them, and by not telling them, one loses them anyway.
The reason for sending a letter was because I am 500 km away in Mombasa and because I don't think I could have handled the dynamics of telling them on the phone or in person. A letter allowed me to word things carefully and say everything I wanted to say without the possibility of the conversation being derailed by outbursts or questions.
Here is the letter:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I want to share something about my life that is important because I love you. I am gay. I have known this about myself since I was 15. In the years that have passed, keeping this a secret from you has become a burden. It has also placed an invisible wall between us in that I cannot share with you much of what goes on in my life, something that straight children take for granted. I could neither share the excitement of dating somebody new nor the pain when things didn't work out. I have spent many nights crying with a broken heart, alone, unable to call you for support. I know that you may be feeling shocked, confused, angry, and sad. You also might feel like perhaps somewhere along the way, you have failed as parents. From what I have read, these are common reactions. You have not failed as parents — you have both been wonderful. Nobody chooses to be gay and I accept myself and I am happy with whom I am. My friends have known for some time and they accept me as well. I hope that you will be happy for me.
Part of me thinks that you might have suspected for some time that I am gay since I never brought home girls while in school and I never talk about dating or women. On the other hand, my being gay may have come, as a surprise to you and you may need to take some time to get used to the idea. Hopefully, a few years from now, our relationship will be closer than it has been in the past. This is part of the reason I am coming out to you — to tear down the wall between us. When we speak on the phone and you ask me what is going on in my life and I say: “Nothing,” I have been lying. I haven't been trying to deceive you, I could not tell you the truth. This lying has been eating at me for some time now and I am tired of it. This was the choice I had to make — either keep lying or allow us to grow even farther apart, or tell the truth and hopefully have a better relationship in the long run. I know you have always loved me very much. It was very hard to mail this letter for fear of losing that love. I have cried several times while writing it. You may not understand about being gay, but I hope that you still love me now. I am the same person now as I was before you read this letter; you just know one more thing about me. I am still John Maina*. When you are ready, you are welcome to call me so we can talk about this more.
John Maina, your son.
PS: I have also mailed you a book written by parents of gay children to help other parents come to terms with having a gay child. You should receive it a few days after you this letter. Please read the book for the sake of our family.
I took Thursday and Friday off since I was upset. My mind is reeling with all the possible reactions my parents could have. I wrote this letter a week back and my parents have not called me yet or given me any feedback yet. All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope all goes well. I work in Mombasa as an accountant, while my parents leave in Nairobi where they both work.
*John Maina is not my real name for confidentiality reasons
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