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Leave My Father Alone
By Rowland Jide Macaulay
My father, Professor Augustus Olakunle Macaulay, recently celebrated his 74th birthday in London with many of his children, grandchildren and well wishers around him and we had a joyful time for which we give thanks to God. For many things, his long life and his achievements and for how he has handled many of life's challenges.
|Photo: Andrew Esiebo 2011
An achiever in a secular profession as the first automobile engineer in Nigeria, who “road tested” the first assembled Peugeot 404 in 1977, he is not new to making headlines.
Recently, the headlines are about him and his family and especially as a very “bad” father who raised a homosexual son.
In 2008 the reality of this hatred in the media stemmed from my work with House Of Rainbow Fellowship, an inclusive Christian ministry that is open and welcoming to all people and especially to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.
I was trained in theology by my father at United Bible University in Lagos, Nigeria and our relationship grew and blossomed, but the difficulties and test of our relationship was to come when he discovered that after three years of heterosexual marriage, I had divorced my ex-wife and “come out” as gay in 1994. It was not until later that he finally knew the full account of the separation.
My father first discovered I was gay in 2003 and the issue of my sexuality spiralled into misunderstanding, strange behaviours and for three years we did not exchange many words, except a few hurtful letters that he wrote to me. Now I understand that many parents will first experience shock at understanding that a child is gay. Many years later my father has become an advocate for families who have gay and lesbian children. In his spare time both in Nigeria and when he visits the United Kingdom he will meet with gay and lesbian people who wish to talk and be counselled about dealing with “coming out" as gay or lesbian to their families, and especially their parents. I find this extremely valuable that it is coming from him and that the evidence of his love is not chaotic but genuine.
Often families suffer when a member of their family is known to be gay or lesbian and more so when they are seen as defiant, against tradition, well adjusted and well known for the cause of people’s rights.
I believe that the prejudice against me and my family is not that I am gay but also that I am black, Nigerian and an outspoken Christian leader. My father being a Community and National Leader in Nigeria and a representative of Christian ethics, morals and theology makes him a greater target of hate and debate. It saddens me that often and most violently he has had to fight back to repair his name, organisational reputation and his public image.
Whilst Nigerian society at home and abroad believes the media, and the media want the society to believe that our relationship is broken, it is quite the opposite. We are stronger in our faith and love beyond measure.
My father understands me very well and I understand his positions. His several takes on homosexuality and genuine heartfelt discussions were in private. Whilst he is not a “major” on the issues, to allow it makes him a star and a better role model to me. He is careful to listen to me and watch my surroundings. My father considers same gender lovers human, and for an average Nigerian Yoruba man in high office, he is well learned and heavily connected.
Since the outbreak and headlines dating to early 2007, the Nigerian media caused him injuries, to his ego, the rhetoric of society and the questioning of his parenting skills. Many times he has fought back. He has consequentially met numerous lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex people both at home and abroad. However it is still shocking the fear he harbours about taking part in public debates and speeches, and any public association with events such as the House Of Rainbow meetings.
He did agree to develop a theological insight and research, not just because I am his son and gay but also for the betterment of the understanding of African theology, theologians and politicians. He has said many times that “if you have a church with lots of prostitutes, this does not make it a ‘Church of Prostitutes’ and the same when we have a gathering of homosexuals does not make it a ‘Church of Homosexuals” but a ‘Church of God’, wherever people gather in fellowship”.
House Of Rainbow invited him to a meeting in London in August 2011, whilst the meeting was well scheduled and notified, word of his participation had travelled across the world and I was not surprised that he gently pulled out 24 hours before the date. He decided not to speak at our meeting. This was due to extreme prejudices and unnecessary fear.
When quizzed about his withdrawal, he narrated, “when a child cuts a large tree, he does not calculate the impact of its fall, but the elders know precisely where the tree will fall”. Whilst I agreed with him at the time I cannot fail to note the pain that the Nigerian media and gossips in particular has cost him. His work as a leading theologian, public face of Christian education and moral leader is very much at stake.
He is a strong man, a gentle man, a caring father and community leader. At least we agreed that homosexuals cannot be compared to thieves, prostitutes, drunkards and robbers, but to dwarfs and people with physically disability. Homosexuality cannot be quantified, these are genetic traits of people’s sexual orientations and for this progress I am extremely grateful.
Nigeria in my opinion is a society of sympathetic people and often at times the media sensationalised headlines on homosexuality making it difficult for ordinary people and families to deal with the situation, dramatising stigma and deep-rooted hatred. I am not surprised that many LGBTI Nigerians seek refuge in the UK and other foreign countries.
I say "leave my father alone", because he has done nothing wrong. He is a great dad and marvellous grandfather. He is delighted in the success of his children and grandchildren. He has many more adopted children and those that he truly cares about. Some are gay and some are successful. I cherish and love my father, not just for his stand on issues that affect me but for many uncountable issues that he faces and deals with everyday, his energy and his goals and I could not wish for a better friend.
Rowland Jide Macaulay is the founding Pastor of House Of Rainbow Fellowship London. The primary vision of the fellowship is to reach out to sexual minorities. British-Nigerian born in London, an ordained minister since 1998, Jide is an author, poet, pastor and preacher. He holds a degree in law and a masters degree in ministerial theology.
Jide's work focuses on inclusion and reconciliation of sexuality, spirituality and human rights. He writes for various Christian and secular Journals. Has won several awards including the 2003 and 2007 Black LGBT Community Award for "Man of the Year" for his work helping people of faith.