Most biographies are written by public figures, not everyday people. So who exactly is Trevor Kleinhans? This unknown, 49-year-old, gay, Durban-born businessman has rather presumptuously taken it upon himself to write and publish a book about his life.
It sounds very much like one of those vanity projects that no-one, other than the author’s family and friends, would ever read or pretend to read.
You’ll be pleased to hear that Trevor’s book, Secrets Make You Sick, is so much more than this. His often harrowing story is one that makes for an interesting, moving and at times enlightening read.
It recounts Trevor’s journey; from a young boy to the long-term consequences that sexual abuse within his home had on his relationships and choices – right into his forties.
In many ways, the latter part of Trevor’s life has been the Western gay clichÃ© –travelling around the world, drug use, promiscuity, clubbing, cruising online, sexual experimentation, plastic surgery and young good-looking boyfriends.
The sheen of apparent glamour and seductive desirability, however, ultimately give way to the extremes of self-loathing, emotional abuse, drug addiction and becoming infected with HIV. Then there is the drive towards redemption as Trevor struggles to hold on to his life and overcome his addiction; a feat managed by only three percent of crack cocaine addicts.
It could all be titillating, tawdry, melodramatic or tediously weepy, but it is not. Trevor is straightforward in his narrative – telling it like it is, with no holds barred and, thankfully, without becoming preachy
It’s clear that he is not the greatest writer in the traditional sense and the book could have done with the help of a strong editor. Despite the clunky writing on occasion, Trevor manages to tell his story in a very readable and engaging style and, very importantly, in his own voice. A little humour would have been welcome; Trevor seem to take himself very seriously and the book reflects that.
Secrets Make You Sick, is in my experience, a unique book. However much it represents a very narrow “white” take on gay life in South Africa, with all the problematic perspectives that this brings, it is a story – spanning forty odd years – that has rarely been told. Ultimately, it is Trevor’s story, not everyone’s else’s, and I respect it for that.
Why should you read this book? Some may find value in its caution on the excesses of ‘the gay lifestyle’ while others may be inspired by the book’s motivational ambitions; in essence asserting that without dealing with your past baggage you can never move forward.
As for me, I read most of the book in one sitting. After struggling a little to come to grips with where he was going, I fell for Trevor’s humanity and humility and felt moved that I was able to experience parts of his life’s journey. Yes, I even shed a tear. It was the Jack Russell that got me.
Secrets Make You Sick is available at all major book stores (Exclusive Books, CNA, Adams). For more information go to www.secretsmakeyousick.com.
EXTRACT: THE PREFACE FROM SECRETS MAKE YOU SICK by Trevor Kleinhans
My life has been a journey; I have visited the devil’s den and landed in the enchanted magical garden. This is a story that will capture your imagination, as I take you through the life of a gay man living in South Africa in the early 1980s and enduring arrest. I had a childhood of living with an alcoholic father and with a sibling that sexually molested me over a six-year period. I was forced to complete two years of National Service in apartheid South Africa and witnessed horrific events in the townships whilst doing compulsory military camps along the way.
I entered into a nine-year emotionally abusive gay relationship, which made me focus instead on a successful career path. At 39 years old I was a successful businessman who never drank alcohol, or smoked cigarettes and was totally against drugs.
When I reached my forties, all this changed. I was faced with huge challenges in my career, ended my nine-year abusive relationship, found drugs, and became HIV positive. By the age of 43, I was a crack cocaine addict and came face to face with the devil; I was on the verge of losing everything, including my life. With a 3% chance of success, I entered rehabilitation clinging to the belief that I would be one of those 3 out every 100 crack cocaine addicts who triumph over their addiction. I had to believe that I could conquer this drug whose addicts are referred to in the drug world as having stooped as low as sucking the devil’s cock.
Thanks to the amazing people I had surrounded myself with, including friends and family, I managed to enter rehabilitation, and found a counselling therapist that I visited weekly over a five-year period. This biography explains the psychological journey I went through, as my counsellor helped me empty my emotional tank and rid myself of emotions that I had not been equipped to deal with as a child.
I hope to help people that are experiencing or have experienced life in a similar way. I also believe this book will help the families and friends of people experimenting with drugs, or dealing with HIV.
After everything I have been through there is not one thing I would change, as long as I know I would end up where I am at present.