“I’d always felt different from a young age - not in the sense that I desired to be with members of the same sex, but I felt as if I was living my life in a bubble. I despised anything masculine, finding comfort in more feminine things, such as hanging out with girls or watching TV. As I started to grow up though the realisation dawned on me that I was gay. 

High school was a nightmare. I often felt as if I was stuck in my own head – never truly experiencing life as I ought to, and this made me feel like a failure. 

In 2001 I started to develop an intense sexual attraction toward members of the same sex. I felt so alone and isolated, as if I was the only one going through this. I was confused and afraid of what I was feeling. My mind was in conflict with my Christian beliefs and values and I convinced myself it was just a phase.

While my teenage counterparts made their first forays into the world of romance, I ventured no further than the walls of my painful secret. The high school years started to fly by and I had nobody to turn to.

In 2004 my parents uncovered my “little adventures” of gay chatlines and guys I’d been texting. It couldn't have come at a worse time as it was during my final exams. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I lied and told them I was bisexual and that I was going to be straight. This seemed to console my parents’ troubled minds, but inside I knew I could never be straight.

The past few years have been filled with a lot of unnecessary pain, anger and suffering. I must admit though, that I haven’t always been innocent. Many times I’ve spewed words of hatred towards my parents, often regretting my actions later.

Over the years as I have grown and examined every facet of my life, I’ve realised there’s nothing I could have done differently.

I am not openly gay in the sense that I wear my sexual orientation on my sleeve. I would say that I am comfortable with my identity enough to happily engage with people if the topic arises. I am human first. I just happen to be a gay.

I am in a relationship, only my second after 10 years of being single. I believe that if one can’t be comfortable with one’s own identity as a gay man how then can a same-sex relationship be sustained. You have to love yourself first.

It took my mom and dad many years to accept that my sexuality. They will always have that glimmer of hope that I will change but they respect my choices as an adult and have made progress from chastising me to loving me even more. As I’ve matured as an adult I’ve also grown to understand the pain any parent would feel. Am I making excuses for them? No, I’ve simply moved past the pain.

Being a gay person in South Africa is tricky. Though I believe our country has led the way in the protection and enforcement of gay rights, I also think homophobia will always be present due to conflicting cultural and religious beliefs.

The incidents of corrective rape on lesbian woman in townships, for example, is unacceptable. Those in metropolitan areas experience less homophobia than their counterparts in rural areas.

I think certain openly gay celebrities sometimes only reinforce the cartoonish stereotype of homosexuals and that doesn’t help the situation.

Thinking about all I have been through, I’d like to offer comfort, support and hope to anyone who reads this and finds themselves going through the same thing.

I know of three young men who committed suicide last year alone because of their struggle of being “in the closet”. The fear can be overwhelming, I know, but always seek help.

Speak to someone you trust and prepare your wings to fly. The freedom to accept who you are is the greatest gift and only you can unlock it – but do so only when you’re ready. 

Once those shackles of fear have been removed everything will make sense.”

*Names have been changed

This story was submitted to YOU and has been minimally edited. Do you have a story to tell? Send an email to Pam.Magwaza@you.co.za.