By Tashinga Wazara, Zimbabwe:
Tatenda is in his room. He's standing on a chair and he is shaking slightly. He looks down at the note that he's put on his bed and he clutches the rope that's around his neck. He looks up to see where he's tied the rope on the ceiling. It better be tight enough. This needs to be quick and easy. No mistakes. He's decided he's going to do it and it's too late to turn back now. He doesn't want to do it but he feels he doesn't have a choice. They've pushed him too much and he's taken just as much as he could take. As he stands on the chair he reflects momentarily on the decision that he's made and the same questions keep repeating in his mind: What is life if you spend it constantly sad and miserable? What is life when nobody cares about you and your family treats you like you have some contagious disease? What is life when your father can't even look at you and hasn't said a word to you for over a year yet you live in the same house? As these questions keep running through his mind, he comes to the same conclusion that he's been coming to over the past few days: he would rather be dead.
It all began when Tatenda was fifteen years old and he had gone to Tom, his best friend's house for a play date as he always did. They were play-fighting in Tom's room and as they were play-fighting, Tom got on top of Tatenda, and then he suddenly stopped and leaned down and kissed him. Tatenda was caught so unaware by this that he didn't know how to respond. He just froze. Then Tom leaned in again and kissed Tatenda a second time. This time Tatenda kissed him back. They then started kissing and afterwards lay on the bed holding each other. None of them said a word. Tatenda was in a daze and he couldn't believe what was happening. He had just kissed Tom, and worst of all he had liked it. Did this mean he was gay? Tatenda had never kissed anyone else before, not even another girl and so this was a new experience for him. What was going on? Tatenda was so confused. He had suddenly gotten up and stormed out of Tom's room.
That night he couldn't sleep. He kept thinking about Tom and the moment they had shared that afternoon. Tom and Tatenda never kissed again but over the next few weeks and months Tatenda started looking at boys differently. He was attracted to them more than he was attracted to girls. He felt as if that moment with Tom had unlocked something in him that was already there. Tatenda didn't like girls, he liked boys. He began believing that he was a girl trapped in a boy's body and he started changing how he dressed, wearing tighter clothes and experimenting with make-up.
Tatenda was an only child, and his parents began to notice the changes that were happening with his dressing and mannerisms but they just thought that he was going through some phase as all teenagers do at some point. However, for Tatenda, he had accepted that he was gay and he wasn't ashamed of it. The turning point came about a month before his seventeenth birthday when Tatenda decided to tell his parents that he was gay. He had gotten tired of sneaking around and carrying this secret and it was becoming a burden for him.
He sat his parents down and said, 'Mom, Dad I have something I need to tell you. I'm gay.' He will never forget the look on his father's face when he said that. His father got up and slapped him across the face and yelled, 'What? Homosexual? Not in my house! I want you out of my house now!' His mother had started crying and begged him not to kick their son out and although eventually he agreed not to kick Tatenda out of his house, he seemed to have kicked him out of his heart. Tatenda's father stopped speaking to him and over the next year seemed to avoid him altogether. He was a man's man and to him, being gay was unacceptable, a complete abomination. His mother believed that he was demon possessed and one time even invited her church pastor to come and pray for Tatenda to cast this demon of homosexuality out.
Soon, word of Tatenda's orientation got round to the rest of his family and they all began treating him as if he had some plague. At family gatherings his aunts and uncles would keep their kids away from him lest he touched one of the boys or caused them to become like him. Ever since Tatenda confessed to his parents about being gay he was truly alone in the world. At school, people mocked and tormented him, calling him a faggot and at home he had ceased to be his parents' child. His parents, especially his father, had emotionally disconnected from him and had seemingly disowned him. He had nobody to turn to and was hurt by how he was being treated as if he was less of a human being simply because he was gay. Tatenda started hating his life and that is when he began flirting with the idea of death as the only way out. This is how he wound up standing on a chair in his room with a rope tied round his neck.
As he stands on the chair, his heart begins to beat fast as he readies himself. He tugs at the rope one last time to make sure it's tight enough then he checks the knot around his neck. This would be it. He would finally escape from this world had turned into a nightmare. 'Three, two, one' he counts down as he jumps off the chair, kicking it away. The knot starts getting tighter and tighter around his neck, under the pressure of his weight and his instincts tell him to get back onto the chair but the chair had fallen down as he had kicked it away. He kicks around frantically looking for somewhere to step on to but it's too late now. Eventually his struggle stops and his soul leaves his body.
A few hours later, Tatenda's maid walks into his room to tell him that dinner is ready. As soon as she walks in she screams. Tatenda's father rushes to the room to find out what is going on and he looks on in horror as Tatenda's lifeless body hangs on the rope. He sees a note on his bed and he picks it up and it reads, 'I hope you're happy now.' He falls down on his knees and begins to weep. He looks up again at Tatenda's dead body hanging there and for the first time in a long time he didn't see a disgrace of a child who had dishonored him by choosing to be gay. He saw his son.
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