Some of my best friends are gay

Gay pride has come a long way, but Manni Bradshaw wonders if we're truly free to be who we are.

Just when you thought the mother city couldn't get any queerer, along comes Pride; the annual series of gay and gay friendly events that celebrates and embraces the sexual diversity of our beautiful rainbow nation. Time to jump on a float and strut like a queen as we sashay the night away for the boys and girls pink, and who better to party with than the official friends of Dorothy. Cher, ABBA, Gaga-galore, feather boas and half naked hotties parading around in nothing but sequined cowboy hats! Sing it girl! "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"

For the few ignoramuses who still think that a GBLT is just a bacon, lettuce and tomato sub with the added value of gherkins, please stop breeding immediately. The fight for gay, bi, lesbian and transgender equality has come a long way since 2001 with over eleven countries, including South Africa, showing their support for same-sex unions. While the battle for global tolerance is still far from over, it's appropriate to give props to those who paved the way to a more liberal, open minded society where the young could be restless and free to just be.

Despite such progressive innovation, there are still so many young men and women out there who prefer to live their lives in denial. Their freedom silenced by expectation and tradition, by religion and social norms, trapped behind the confines of white picket fences and the comforts of heterosexual marriage. Has our society really progressed that far or is there still some kind of shameful stigma around homosexuality that prevents the repressed from being honest to the people they love? It's much easier for today's youth to snap out the closet, but what about those tortured souls trapped inside a loveless, sexless marriage? What about the life and families they built along the way? Is it perhaps a little too late for them? Just how many women out there were secretly married to gay men?

Kevin was the perfect gentleman; handsome, athletic, well-mannered, well-spoken, tentative, successful, supportive, and the best friend Shelby could have ever asked for. He was the master of entertainment and the kind of husband who'd make you chicken soup and pick up the kids when you were down. He was a great father, a loving husband, and the sole provider to Shelby and her two kids, and even though their sex life had dwindled over the past ten years, Kevin had made up for it in other amazing ways.

On the eve of Kevin's 44th birthday, Shelby received an ominous email from an anonymous source. The subject line read "Do you know this man?" followed by a family photograph that was taken about four Christmas's ago when they had been on vacation in Knysna. The email had a menacing presence about it which was further aggravated by the flickering "click here" blurb flashing furiously across the screen. A part of Shelby knew that what was coming would not be good. What's the worst that can happen to a suburban housewife? An affair? And for a brief moment she thought of hitting delete, but curiosity as it always does, got the better of her.

In an instant, Kevin's sexual and romantic history over the past God-knows-how-long had suddenly come to light. Graphic images of sexual encounters, romantic getaways and a collection of emails between Kevin and a 33 year old man named Trevor who Shelby had met once or twice at the gym. As if things couldn't get any worse, this sordid affair seemed to be more than just sex. It was a genuine love affair, an exchange of feelings between two men who were clearly very much in love with each other.

Shelby had been pinked at the age of 40 and would probably never trust another man again. The divorce was immediate and profitable for Shelby who won sole custody over the kids, the house, the cars and the animals along with all the jewellery she accumulated over the years which she sold for practically nothing at a garage sale along with most of Kevin's possessions. Kevin, at the risk of being himself, lost the perfect life for a less than perfect lifestyle. He was last seen sipping Mai Thai's with his lover and life partner Trevor, and I hear that their ten year anniversary is just around the corner. They couldn't be happier.

Some of my best friends are gay which is why I understand how easy it is to fall in love with them. Some are rugged and deliciously straight acting while others have so much flamboyancy that they could burst into flames. Some are butch enough to strip floors with their bare hands while others could easily win the next Miss World. Society has given gay people a pretty hard time so far and will continue doing so for a long time to come. Fear of the unknown, negative stereotypes perpetuated by people who don't know any better, fear of hurting those around you. Whatever the reason for staying in, lying to yourself will eventually do more harm to yourself than it will unto others.

When it comes to sexual orientation, I couldn't help but wonder, when are we ever really going to be free to be you and me?

Check out Manni Bradshaw's blog here.

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