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I know how it feels

An artist in his twenties speaks out on being gay in 2003

Anthony Gillespie

Rejection: “He is no person; just a sicko; no feelings at all” — so many friends and family lost.

Damnation: “Gay, homosexual; straight to hell; do not pass ‘Go’; do not collect R250 and do not defend yourself,” the churches decided.

Insult: “Komposstamper”, “moffie”, “faggot” and “mofgat” are words I still hear.

Suspicion: “Hide your kids; he’s gay — he must be a paedophile.”

Homophobia: “He’s threatening our narrow heterosexual life, let’s go bash him up to show we are better than him, we are men.”

Prosecution: “Sodomists, sexual offenders ... throw them in jail.”

All this is so often part of the choice so many of us have made.

Yes, we are sick, sick not to have denied ourselves and did what was expected; so much easier to get married, be accepted as “normal”, have kids and get divorced in a few years because there is nothing to keep that relationship alive.

We are sick to have decided to be part of a community which is so often rejected by the very people that should know you are still the same person they knew before you came out of the closet, before the word gay made such a difference.

Sick to be in a culture

where hurt and happiness are so much part of you that you sometimes have difficulty separating the two, hiding everything so that nobody can see you squirming inside; where meeting a life-partner often seems as possible as finding gold under the rainbow;
where starting to care for somebody who cannot, or will not, ever feel the same (because of family, friends, work, or just because) is as possible as the sun rising tomorrow, and I know enough to get scared when I start caring about somebody, because I don’t like hurting and missing.

I am mental

because I care about people that don’t give a shit about me;
because it still hurts when they reject and insult me, call me sick, call me names;
because I have found better friends than many other people, not much, but some, because they know what it is like to be mental.

I am probably sick because

I know what it feels like to dance through the night, in the rain, walk around naked in the bushes, to live, to spend time with people that care about one another; I know what it feels like to love somebody, sometimes somebody who doesn’t care;
I know what it feels like to be happy, to be rejected, hurt, insulted, and what it feels like to lose somebody, through sickness, death and more ...
and because I know what it feels like to be angry about all of the above, to be bitter about it and to wish sometimes that I were just normal in every sense, a “normal”, straight guy.

I am sick because being gay is no choice to me, it is me —

it is the only possible way I can connect to people emotionally; it is the only way I can ever share my life with somebody of my own gender; mental because I often get emotionally attached to somebody when I know better, when I know the chances are so slim of its lasting; because I know what and who I like sexually and what and who not, and because I know relationships are not just about sex.

I might be sick, a mental case, so many things, but I would rather be a mental case than be a pretender for the rest of my life.

Anthony Gillespie (28) is a graphic artist for a newspaper in Johannesburg. His poetry has appeared in anthologies like Sands of time, Under African skies and Party van ons: Die Homeros Leesboek 2001, and in various American publications.

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