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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Out and about


Christina Engela - 2011-07-05

Untitled Document

Outing.

How do you feel about it?

I'm referring to the wilful public exposure of individuals against their will, and without regard for their health or well-being. Quite often this is an intentional act of spite – sabotage – intended to ruin the life of the victim. An act of malice, to injure them, sometimes an act of revenge.

On Saturday I heard from a young friend that he had been outed and he was very distressed. It seems a love interest of his had tricked him into holding an intimate conversation via Blackberry messenger, which he then showed to other people as proof that my friend is gay. There was also a phone call in which they discussed intimate details of getting together and formalising their relationship, which had been something of an on-again-off-again thing over the past two years. My friend is 20 and the love interest 21. This guy shared the entire conversation with his mother, who is connected to my friend’s family by way of a second marriage to one of his relatives. Apparently she had also been allowed to listen in on the telephone conversation. My friend told me this woman had been calling all his close family and informing them that he is gay. His sister had called him to inform him of the situation and to ask what was going on. He was left with little choice but to come out to his mother before she received the same phone call.

My friend’s love interest seems by all accounts to be one of those guys who suffers from internalised homophobia and is incapable of accepting his own sexuality. He maintains an overt heterosexual dating life, being all macho and outwardly homophobic, but meanwhile, back at the ranch, he is equally comfortable in the sack with a guy – but just don't tell anyone about it – it is our little secret. It is little wonder, then, that this malicious act leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. Was it some last-ditch attempt to prove to the world, at the expense of another person's dignity and privacy, how "straight" he is?

I know how it has made my friend feel. He really loved this person. For the past year I have heard how much he was hurting, and saw how his face lit up whenever he heard from him. I know how he is hurting now too. He had to tell his mother about his deepest secrets on Saturday afternoon to pre-empt the apparently inevitable. He already faces invasive questioning from his relatives - and now on top of that all, he faces religious brow-bashing from his mother, who is a "reborn Christian", under the false impression that being gay is a sin and gay people go to hell. This aside from the knowledge that he is a pagan. I can only imagine the arguments in that household. Sweet.

One of the things that comes to mind is the sheer irresponsibility of it all. Did that stupid woman ever consider the recklessness of her actions? What about the guy? How does he feel about betraying someone in his own position? Someone who loved him? Does either of them realise that some people actually self-destruct because of the unwanted pressure brought to bear on them because of their sexuality? Does either of them care that some people have such a rough time of it that they choose to end it all? No, I don't think they thought that far. I think they just thought about how much damage they could do out of spite.

It's always news, who is gay or bi. The tabloid rags around the world - and especially in Uganda – make their bread off the persecution and deaths of those they expose to the public. How do the actions of these people make them any better than or different from those monsters who profit from the discomfort, sorrow and persecution of others?

It’s emotional terrorism, that's what it is. My impulse on this issue is to suggest that we don't trust anyone - because if you do, you give them power over your life. But that makes me think a step further: if you don't take that risk, you will be forever alone. You will never know. So to live, we must also risk. And sometimes brutes like this cross our paths and prove themselves unworthy of our trust, and our affections.

Is it anyone's business what your sexuality is? Who you are interested in and what gender that person happens to be? If they stand up to pee, or sit? Is it anyone's business? What right do people think they have to take the life of someone else into their own hands and to judge them and to play god with it? What right do they have to do so? People are murdered every day for their gender and sexuality. People lose their jobs, are bashed or ostracised.

Secrets are kept for a reason.

Are they qualified to judge if they are able to handle the pressure that will come upon them, the scrutiny, the judgement and the attacks that will follow? Who are they exactly? What will be their reaction if something untoward happens, as a result, to their victim later - and what portion of the blame?

It was Newton who said: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." Was he right? Will we ever know?

How does outing make you feel now?