“How to overcome Homosexuality!” A book my father wrote in the early 80s.
Born in 1972 and started High school in 1985. In high school, I knew I was different from all my school friends. I just couldn’t see myself holding hands with girls nor dating them. A very odd feeling for a “jong man” in the 80s.“What you’re feeling inside you is just wrong! You just can’t like the same sex”, was preached to everyone. My father, a minister in the church made this even worse. G.A.Y. was a dirty word and I felt dirty! It was a sin that would make me fry in Hell for falling in love with someone. How can you go to hell for love?
In High School, my father worked as a minister in Klerksdorp, a small mining town in the North West of SA. It was very different to Pretoria where I was born. It was very butch and being gay there was very foreign and not on.
Freddie Mercury got sick in the 80s and Aids was the thing you would get for being this sin on earth. Aids freaked me out more the than being Gay. Now I had to face life with a curse hanging over me. All I wanted to do in high school was to fit in like my classmates. They took girls out but I wasn’t given the opportunity to fall in love. My love was a sin and I thought I would go to hell with Aids for making these bad choices.
Having a father in the ministry made it worse. Everyone in the church keeps an eye on the children of a pastor. We were not even allowed to go to the movies because it was seen as a sin. School dances was also a sin. My inner me was a sin before I even started life.
The army was interesting, I had no choice. It made me a bit stronger than I was as a schoolboy, but my feelings for men also got stronger. After the military, I started my adult life in 1992 and was at last free to be me. I moved back to Pretoria and out of the church’s eye. I felt free at last. Little did I know that being gay wasn’t free. Society didn’t approve of our kind of love. Our love was not acceptable.
There was one gay club in Pretoria and two in Johannesburg. Pretoria was a lot more butch than Johannesburg. Straight men used to go out and wait for us outside the club for a punch or 10. Johannesburg was more accepting of us. A club in Joburg called ‘Champions’ was the place where I mingled and had the most memorable times.
I met a few interesting and wonderful people and hoped to find the ‘One’. I started the dating game to see what soul I could connect with. Over weekends we attended events and had the overwhelming time of our lives.
I met a mysterious French businessman at a dinner party I got invited to. He was awesome, entertaining and we started seeing each other more. I landed up in bed with him and went on my first European trip. Turning 21 that was the most amazing feeling, seeing Europe for the first time.
After the holiday I went out to ‘Champions’ again, a few weeks later. Arriving in Johannesburg was always awesome because it just felt different. A friend took me outside and asked me a very disturbing question… Did you and that Frenchman sleep together? I didn’t know what was going to follow next! I was then informed that the Frenchman had a boyfriend that died of Aids just before he met me. My life fell apart in seconds. 25 years ago that shock was like drowning in poison. I thought I had four years to live and NO antidote!
To cancel your retirement plan at 21 is enough to make anyone crazy! But there I was hitting the curse the Church and my father spoke of all my life!
I lived life like there was no tomorrow from then on. Running away from truly living and planning any future. That one mistake I made to get into bed with someone, not knowing that it could’ve taken my life! Hardly anyone scratches around in their new partner’s previous sex life.
For 25 years I lost contact with this mysterious Frenchman and thought he must have died. Then on the 17 December 2017 he appeared on my Facebook page. Small world indeed! We both survived all these years. I had grown up a lot and was not that little 21-year old he met and left behind.
A few months ago I went to Ivan Toms the Health4Men in Cape Town for my medical check-up. I met up with an old friend there and saw something wasn’t right with him. He was sad about a best friend that committed suicide a year ago on that day. Then I heard this guy had also slept with this mysterious Frenchman for years. I myself had been through six suicide attempts after the shock of learning my status. I tried every concoction that I thought would kill me, but luckily my time on earth was not up.
The society with their HIV and STI stigma can be very cruel and unexpected when you first find out you have this condition. I identified with how low a person’s self-worth can deteriorate and eventually lead to suicide.
I feel for the Frenchman with all these losses around him. How he must feel must also not be easy. I stayed single for a long time for fear I would have to attend the funerals of my partners.
With all the latest medical findings I don’t find that stigma is quite as bad as it was 30 years ago. I met an awesome man and for the first time, I knew that his soul was compatible with mine. Closing myself off from any emotional connection wasn’t easy but there was always alcohol, uppers and downers and all the other things that I used to cope. For the first time I could connect with a soul, sober and this was awesome and new for me. He made me wake up from a deep long sleep. I now had a future to plan and build my own retirement village in the process with him. God kept me alive and prepared me for a bigger purpose than that scared little 21-year-old I used to be though my future would be.
After the church and my father’s views of Homosexuality, I ran a mile from church and actually God as well. Sad that humans can crush a relationship with God because of their own limited beliefs.
Let me tell you a secret, there is a God!!!
Just before my 7th suicide attempt, he sent me a real flesh and blood angel and with a surname, only God could instigate with my church background. I never knew that there was a surname such as “BLESS”. That was like God threw an ice bucket over me from above. After being crushed by the church for being wrong, God stepped in between and shuffled a Blessing in to make things right!
This time God came through in a way to BLESS a church ministry castaway son with something only God himself could inspire and instigate and seal with a fitting surname to prove that only God can Bless a curse away. As much as I would like to go to church, that will not happen. They take 10 percent of your salary but do 90 percent damage. I would rather give 90 percent of myself to those who need me outside those judgemental places known as Church.
My father wrote an anti-gay book in the early 80s. What was going on in his head to actually make his perception public? Now that it is proven that gay is genetic and NOT a choice. Some men and women are created to breed but humans were too quick with names for everything. Splitting people up into groups became a norm in our society. In the animal kingdom it is also the same. Just Google and it’s there. I saw two male lions together and was finished to see we are not the only species that like the same sex. Technology brought all these facts to us today.
All those Church hands that pointed fingers had three fingers pointing right back at themselves. A lot changed since the 80s luckily for the next generation. Churches showed their true colours and can’t change their actions to suddenly attract us again. The damage is done. I lived in a church home and experienced everything first hand. Every day till I could move out of that toxic place.
Overall, my father is an awesome man. Very creative, as the son he made. I see a lot of myself in him. Actually, I see myself more like a replica of him now that I’m older and wiser. He did good in his life to always try to help everyone. Like a church father should.
His father had one child. One son to produce a family and I was the little boy to get my grandfather’s name. Being gay in my father’s time was even more of a big NO!
Shame, my father was probably crushed by my butch grandfather for being too artistic. And being the only male child it was impossible for him to be that different. My mother, who was in fashion design was an excellent choice as a partner, with his artistic flair. The two single beds in their bedroom were always odd to me. The church never went into that bedroom. They even moved into retirement with those same two single beds.
Now he’s in his 70s talking about “guilty feelings” He must be riddled with guilt in his old age about what he preached to the public. He changed my mother’s cell phone number twice in the past so I couldn’t reach her. To lose contact with your mother is horrible.
What I went through as an adult wasn’t easy but my mother remained my best friend. Although, she wasn’t strong enough to handle all the trauma I went through. Giving up on life at 21 wasn’t a thing she could understand. The Frenchman was just the last straw on the back of that 21-year-old man that I used to be. I admire what the Frenchman accomplished in his life but sadly he was also cursed. All that money couldn’t make up for the pain he must have gone through. It took me 25 years to put myself in his shoes.
Nicohan Combrink is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute.