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This South African Singer’s Open Letter Is So Honest About the Struggle of Coming Out

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals call for an end to inequalities, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, or any other status. Brave people like Craig Lucas raising awareness of the stigma and discrimination that the LGBTQ community all around the world still faces everyday are vital in that effort. You can join us by taking action in support of the Global Goals here

South African LGBTQ activists are calling for parents and relatives to support their children who are coming out — as so many still struggle against stigma, discrimination, and fear.

Craig Lucas, winner of The Voice SA, came out as gay on social media this month by publishing a heartfelt letter to his fans.

And the emotional letter has reiterated the many issues people from all areas of life face when going public with their sexuality. 

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Lucas said since the beginning of 2016, he “had been deeply unhappy for such a long time.” But, by 15 January, 2016, he hit rock bottom. 

“I was at work, thinking about how I nearly flung myself out of the train that morning. I’d been thinking about suicide a lot. It scared me. Suicide and mental illness runs in my family, especially amongst the men,” he wrote.

Lucas’ father died by suicide when he was three years old, and Lucas said the “death of my father planted a seed in my mind. Those seeds had sprouted; flowers over a grave.” 

“I carried my shame and my self-hatred around like a rotting limb,” he wrote. “The rot was spreading and it was killing me.” 

Through bravely sharing his own experiences on such a public forum, Lucas has raised awareness of the concerns that people all over the world have about revealing their true selves — and helped share the conversation about what each of us can do to help end stigma and discrimination. 

LGBTQ activist Jay Matlou told Global Citizen that people don’t owe it to anybody to come out — but not coming out to the self is detrimental to one’s overall wellbeing. 

“Sexual orientation and or gender identity is never a choice, but ‘coming out’ and when one decides to tell someone is [a choice],” he said. 

Matlou, head of programmes at the Thami Dish Foundation, said everyone’s coming out journey or process is unique, and “people shouldn’t feel pressured into doing it as there is almost always a lot at stake.” 

“Some people 'come out' and are faced with loss, such as losing friends, family, work, and even their life,” he said. “Others find solace and almost immediate or eventual acceptance."

But he said that support from loved ones is always vital, as it affirms a sense of belonging and acceptance. 

“There is a dangerous lack of information regarding the diversity of human sexuality and this leads to an increase in discrimination on various levels experienced by the LGBTQ community,” he said.

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Hendrik Baird, activist and station manager at Gay Radio SA, also warned that parents need to be on the lookout for signs at an early stage.

“As an LGBTQ child grows up, he or she may feel different from those around them but may not yet have the words to articulate what about them makes them different,” Baird told Global Citizen.

“This is a very confusing time for a child and whether they develop into well-adjusted human beings, or need to hide aspects of who they depends mainly on how the parents of such children react to the news of their ’otherness’,” Baird explained. 

He said parents who have open and honest discussions with their children about sexuality in an age-appropriate manner will always raise better-adjusted children than parents who find fault, condemn it as a sin, or refuse to talk about it. 

“These children are often left without much support during these confusing years, leading to a higher likelihood of many problems later in life,” Baird said.

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Baird said parents need to empower themselves with the right information regarding the many forms that sexuality and sexual identity can take and instead of being judgemental, they should help guide their children — and themselves — to a better understanding by talking openly and honestly about it.

“Coming out as LGBTQ is a very difficult thing for any human being, and only through love and support can a parent truly help their child,” he said.

Lucas’ letter revealed that it was only when he came out to his family and friends two years that he was able to live his life freely. 

“On January 15 2016, I shared my story with my friends and family,” he wrote. “I was free. I found love for myself again, and love found me.”

But there is so much stigma and discrimination around being LGBTQ in South Africa — in the arts as well — that Lucas was warned “no one will buy your music if they think you’re gay” and “girls are your biggest market, you will alienate them.” 

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“Before I knew it, I was right back in the closet again,” he said, about his journey on the Voice and afterwards. 

“I was wholly depressed,” he continued. “I hated myself. I was wasted every other day… I’d forgotten myself. I’d forgotten that I was smart, talented, funny, and kind. I’d forgotten that I was loved.” 

“I welcome whatever is coming my way with an open heart and an open mind,” he said. “Until then, I have some making up to do with the people who stuck by my side even when I was at my worst.” 

Lucas’ latest single, Hearts Exposed, speaks about finding love and has worked with the 2017 Idols SA winner Paxton on the single, Smother

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.