In part three of Scott’s story, which you can read here he tells how, at eighteen, his family found out about his relationship with his boyfriend Joe and permanently grounded him as a result.. His grandfather is so mad that he attempts to strangle him.
Scott: Is this really happening? I thought that I might be dreaming but a sharp stinging feeling in my throat woke me to reality. Although a couple days had passed I still felt my grandpa’s hands around my neck, shaking and choking me like a rag doll.
I didn’t want to believe that my very own family was treating me this way. Like a paedophile, like a criminal, like they didn’t know me. Like I was being quarantined. What were they afraid of? That I’d spread my gayness? My grandpa asked me if I couldn’t be ‘normal’ and settle down with a nice girl. Who me? Yeah right! To my disbelief he was expecting an answer!
My other relatives soon got the memo and they all started dropping by one by one to give me an earful about how my life would be if I ‘chose’ to be this way. Yes, they like most thought that it was a choice. If it wasn’t that, it was ‘God will wipe you out with AIDS’ or some threat to my safety. They told everyone they could possibly think of - my tutor from primary school, family friends, and the neighbours to name a few. It was like breaking news on CNN. I couldn’t be related to these people. I felt like an outsider.
Through all of this I couldn’t stop thinking of Joe. What must be going through his mind, whether he still wanted me or more importantly, whether he was safe. I had to find a way to get in touch with him. Having no cell phone and not being able to leave the house made it near impossible. Then my grandma got a call from a relative abroad telling her that she had sent her a barrel filled with Christmas goodies for the house. This was music to her ears. She hung up and told my grandpa that we needed to go to the container recovery port.
Since I couldn’t be left alone, this meant that I had to tag along. Of course I was pissed at the fact that I couldn’t just stay home in my prison and deal with my shame instead of going out in public. It was part paranoia, part self hatred. I argued my point but they said that if they left me alone in the house, I’d find some way to contact ‘my man’ or run away. They were right for once! I had no choice but to go.
So the next day the three of us went to the port. It usually took a day to get anything done there so I was prepared to sit around day dreaming about Joe all day while we waited. But I spotted a payphone on the way to the waiting area near the bathrooms and I had a few coins in my pocket. I had to play it cool and wait for the right time when they’d least expect me to pull anything.
A couple hours passed and I asked to use the bathroom. Surprisingly they said yes so I calmly walked in the direction of the bathroom. When I felt that I was out of sight, I went to the payphone as fast as I could. I called his cell but it went straight to voicemail. I called his land line and after what felt like a million rings, he answered. My heart skipped a beat and I took a deep breath and say ‘It’s me’. I was expecting him to hang up or give me a piece of his mind for putting him in the middle of this but he did the opposite. He was worried about me but he said that he was thinking of leaving the country for a bit. I told him that I wanted to leave and that I didn’t want to lose him.
He told me that if I was able to get away, he’d find me a safe place to stay. I told him that I’d contact him again once I could leave, said goodbye and hung up. It was good news but I still felt hopeless. My folks didn’t suspect anything so when we got home; I told them that I couldn’t stop being gay or see myself being with a girl. It was fireworks all over again. This time I pulled the mother card. I told them that I wanted to call my mother in Canada. It was a long shot - but it worked. They calmed down but then flipped the script and said that they were gonna let her know her son’s a fag.
I didn’t know how it’d go down with her since we didn’t have much of a relationship but after my grandparents preached the word to her, she asked to speak with me. She wanted to know if it was true and whether I was sure about all this. It was kinda strange talking to her about this but I said yes and told her what happened when I got caught sneaking out. She was shocked (as was I that she cared). I told her I wanted to leave but they wouldn’t let me. She asked to speak with them again. I don’t know what was said but they handed the phone back to me. This time my other grandmother was on the line. She asked me if I had a place to go and money. I said yes to the place to stay and no to the money. She told me that she’d send me a few bucks so I can get my things together and leave. That’s the only time I can remember since coming out that my mother and or anyone on that side of the family did or said anything in my favour.
The task now was leaving. The following day I collected the money that was sent and headed to the mall to get a bag and call Joe to give him the good news. But while walking through the mall, this guy, who I didn’t know but assumed to be gay, came up to me and said that my grandmother was walking around the mall with my picture and telling people not to serve me because I was a ‘bullerman’(gay) planning to run off with a man. I couldn’t believe it. Who was this guy and was my grandmother really doing this to me? I didn’t stick around to find out. I went to the end of the mall and went into a sports store and bought a duffle bag. Then I called Joe. He said that he’d arrange for me to stay at his friends’ place and gave me directions.
I returned home to pack. My grandma wasn’t there so I assumed that she’d followed me to the mall to slow me down. I had no idea she was capable of such spy tactics. When I started throwing my belongings into my newly bought bag, my grandpa walked in and said that I couldn’t take anything that they bought me which was at 18, almost everything! I ended up taking a couple pieces of clothing that I was able to buy myself. I guess I really didn’t need that bag after all! Then my grandmother returned and started yelling and saying things like ‘your father’s probably rolling in his grave’ and ‘you’re making God cry’ etc. I couldn’t care less at that point. I just wanted to leave.
So I made one final sweep of my room, threw my bag over my shoulder and started footing it to hail a taxi. She followed me for half the way ranting and raving. I felt like I was being stoned to death by her words and the glares of passersby as they overheard until she finally gave up.
I’d lost enough self respect and dignity. It was time to regroup and rebuild.
Stay tuned for part 5 for the good and bad of my new found freedom and my first brush with HIV.