Friday, 31 December 2010

Independent: Living a double life
30.12.2010? by Martina Vella

Mark* looks at me expectantly, ready to share his story. He is very easy to talk to and immediately opens up, albeit it being the first time we have ever met each other. Yet there is a dark shadow persistently hovering in Mark’s life. He hides a secret from his parents that might lead to very upsetting consequences once revealed. “I realised I was different at around age 12 but I had no idea what was going on” he tells me. Naïve about the feelings he was experiencing, the possibility that he might be gay didn’t cross his mind. Nonetheless, the signs were there. At school he stayed with a group of girls and never took part in any typical boy activities such as football.

As he got older he became more aware of his sexuality. He was attracted to boys but at around age 13 he went through a straight phase. He suddenly liked girls but laughingly he adds that “that ended quickly”. He is quick to point out that the straight phase just happened naturally. He didn’t make himself like girls in order to change. By that time in his life he was well aware that he might be gay and nothing could change that. At secondary school things couldn’t get any worse. “It was a horrible, horrible period” he contemplates solemnly. He hadn’t told anybody he was gay but people were quick to tag and bully based on assumption. “I didn’t have a name at one point but I just sat there and took it.” He was a quiet boy with a squeaky voice. A well-mannered student who never caused trouble and was friends with foreigners. He believes that all these factors might have led to the bullying. The fact that it was an all boys’ school and quite a rough environment didn’t help matters. The bullying was so constant, “I was actually having dreams about it at one point” he tells me. Ironically in his class there were two guys who were gay as well but they were not picked on and joined in on the bullying-Mark brigade. “And now we are friends! The world works in funny ways” he laughs.

Through all of this his parents were kept in the dark, oblivious to what was happening to their son. He was not ready to tell them he was gay. Even when, at 17, he started telling his friends, the thought of coming out to his mum and dad seemed highly unlikely. As he became more open with his friends and comfortable being himself, the relationship with his parents became increasingly distant and strained until they had no idea who their son was. Yet he keeps his sexuality a secret from them not because he is ashamed. His fear stems from a situation that happened very close to home and affected him deeply. His older sister is a lesbian. When she came out to her parents, Mark’s hope in opening up to them was sabotaged and crushed to pieces. So angry was his father that for the past year or so he has not spoken to his daughter and completely disowned her. After all the arguments Mark witnessed between his parents and sister, how could he bring himself to tell them he was gay? How could he give them another blow after what they had just been through? “I sat there. I watched. I heard my parents fight over it” he says constantly thinking “Oh Dear Lord why is this happening to my life?” So Mark did not come out to his parents that day or the months that followed. He lives a double life. He lies to his parents constantly, from his whereabouts to the people he hangs out with.

“Sometimes you just need your parents growing up…and I didn’t and that was my own choice,” he says. There was a time when he was closer to his mum but it now seems like a distant memory.” I had to pull back and lie and cover everything,” he tells me regretfully. He admits that he will eventually tell his mum but not his dad as she is more open-minded although “she will still freak out because no one wants a gay kid.”

“In a year so much has happened,” he says, recalling the first time he told his friends he was gay. “I was very close to bursting to tears because the first time you tell someone it’s like a big deal. But once you start you can’t really stop!” he adds, recalling the relief and happiness he felt when his friends accepted him and opened a new chapter in his life. Now he is living the gay scene and loving every minute of it. “I live a very gay life on the weekends and my parents don’t know about my lifestyle but it hasn’t held me back!” he laughingly reassures me. He mainly hangs out with lesbians on nights out as he mischievously tells me that gay guys are “horrible, judgmental people but I’m the special type!” He tells me he is currently dating someone and has been in a few relationships although right now he is just enjoying life and being a teenager just like any other.

I advise him that there is a very big chance of his parents finding out since Malta is so small. He agrees with me completely as he once had a close run in with a relative. “I know what’s going to happen, that’s why I’m more scared to do it” he says, going back to his sister’s predicament. Yet he ends our interview on a positive note saying that through all of this he knows he has his sister’s support when the time comes for him to come out to his parents. “It took me about two or three years to actually tell my sister and I have opened up a lot with her. I am really close to her and we are lucky to have each other,” he says, the love and pride for his sister clearly evident.

With that, the interview ends and I leave hoping that in time, Mark will confide to his parents. Although it will be a rocky road, they will eventually provide him with the love and support he truly deserves.

Although Mark has friends who love and respect him and has a positive outlook on life, he also went through a dark period. He was a victim of bullying and to this day he still hasn’t told his parents about his sexuality since the discrimination against sexual orientation is still persistent. Under pressure to conform to social norms, Mark’s parents were not able to accept that their daughter is a lesbian. How they will react to Mark’s sexual orientation I do not know but I am sure it will not be pleasant. I chose to write this article because there are a lot of people like Mark who need to open up. They desperately want to confide to their parents but are scared to do so because according to society they are not normal. This way of thinking has to stop. The European Commission has created an inspirational campaign called “For Diversity. Against Discrimination.” A campaign that is aimed at showing the beauty of diversity and at breaking down stereotypes still present in such a modern world. People who are gay, old, of a different race or follow a different religion or belief have a right to voice their opinion and this campaign will hopefully make people become aware that the world is beautiful because it is different. Discrimination is evil and it needs to end now.

Martina Vella is a 2nd Year Communications student at the University of Malta. She is currently reading Basic Reporting and Intercultural Communications with Psychology

No comments:

Post a Comment