by GAVIN FERNANDO
Coming out is an emotional ordeal. Coming out to your family is the most nerve-wrecking, unsettling of the lot. Coming out when your father is a Sri Lankan Catholic ex-priest would make a great motion picture.
To this day, ‘gay’ is incomprehensible in Sri Lanka. Gay men do not exist. They’re hushed, swept under the rug, hurriedly forced into marrying that nice but ugly girl who didn’t use enough Fair & Lovely to enter the market, and nothing more is said on the matter.
My dad grew up in a strict Sinhalese 1950s household, with an education that was no exception: masturbation causes blindness, pleasure is sin and homosexuals are – well – spawns of the devil who seek to corrupt children and spread disease.
So when he finally inquired about why I seemed suspiciously as keen on the Backstreet Boys as my older sister back in 1998, I was expecting a dramatic ethnic showdown.
“I thought so! That’s why we bought you that Spice World DVD when you were five. You were too in love with Scary Spice not to be gay.”
Wait, what? Really? No pious, preachy lecture on my sinful lifestyle choice and its one-way route to hell?
“But always use a condom. You can’t trust everyone you meet.”
Now my head was reeling. The gay talk, the sex talk and the protection talk all in one?
“And know that I love you.”
Well, that was anticlimactic.
People don’t get it. Their jaws drop when I calmly state that I’m a practising (albeit progressive) Catholic today. They can’t understand how my father and I have any sort of relationship, let alone a brilliant one. It’s become so engrained in popular culture that religion and homosexuality can’t coincide; that to be one is to judge and loathe the other.
Ironically, in later years my dad said he wouldn’t have made sense of it without religion.
“God says don’t judge. If he has made you, you’re as natural as anyone else. Everyone needs to love, everyone needs to be loved. F*** what the Pope thinks. He seriously doesn’t expect your mother and I to have sex for pleasure?!”
Yeah okay dad, too much information.
The point is, religion is not all bad. Religious texts are so contradictory and out of context that one has no choice but to interpret them. Some, like the ACL or the ill-begotten Westboro Baptist Church (with their charming ‘God hates fags’ signs and funeral protests) will dominate media coverage and succeed in insulting just about everybody; others, like my father, will use them to foster an incredible peace with the world. Religion is neither required nor to be rejected to achieve either of these things.
But to me, hearing members of the gay community go on and on stating, “Urgh, religion hates me so I hate it!” is as prejudiced and hypocritical as members of religious communities lampooning them for acting on natural, uncontrollable desires. A reconciliation between the two is not unreasonable; it just goes back to separating religion from extremism, the minority from the masses, the psychotic media whores from the average human being.
Hell, even Obama justified his endorsement of same-sex marriage in the name of his faith.
It’s like this, gays: if Jesus were alive today, I doubt he’d protest against your marriage rights. He’d happily orchestrate the ceremony, eat your wedding cake and beg you to take him shopping for some shiny new sandals. So if anyone attempts to belittle your value and worth as a human being, don’t blame an entire belief system. Blame them for being an arsehole.
Gavin Fernando is a wannabe-journalist and theatre critic. He lives vicariously through Carrie Bradshaw, but is secretly more of a Charlotte. Follow him on Twitter @GavinDFernando
Do you have different views on homosexuality or other emotive issues to other members of your family? How has that played out for you?