El-Bacha: "Coming out" of arranged marriage

WHEN he was 19, Michael El-Bacha left his Guildford home for Lebanon to wed his 16-year-old cousin in a marriage which had been arranged by his family.

Now 39, divorced and out of the closet, Mr Bacha has released a book called Oh My God! Am I Alright? about growing up the gay child of conservative Christian Lebanese parents who married him off young.

"The 31st of July 1994 was my wedding day," Mr El-Bacha said.

"Watching the video, it was green fabric and '90s music, and I was a lost soul standing there waiting for her to arrive.

"There was not one smile, I couldn't look at her at all."

Coming out: Michael El-Bacha at Guildford Park, a location featured in Oh My God! Am I Alright? Picture: Geoff Jones

Coming out: Michael El-Bacha at Guildford Park, a location featured in Oh My God! Am I Alright? Picture: Geoff Jones

After the wedding, when the marriage was not consummated, Michael and his new wife, Afra, were scolded by the family and given an hour to do the deed.

By the time he was 21, they were living at Guildford and Afra had given birth to a boy.

But within another two years, he'd left his wife to finally face his sexuality.

"I left when my son was an infant and went straight to Oxford Street, to a men's sauna.

"I'd had thoughts of men growing up, and I'd knock my head with my hands.

"I was trying to knock them out of my thoughts."

When he spoke to the Sun, the father-of-one said he hoped his book would help light the way for people growing up in similar situations.

Although he now has the full support of his family, he said he finds the goal of "cultural acceptance" of homosexuality "unrealistic".

"Therefore, I aim to raise awareness among families," he said.

"You need to know there is support out there — and your family will eventually come around."

■ For support, contact LifeLine on 13 11 14.

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