If it wasn't obvious
before, I'm gay. As with a lot of gay men I've had to face a lot of
prejudice, all of it based on either fear or ignorance. I've never
understood why. I still don't understand the hatred that caused me to
be queerbashed three times.
I knew I was different at a very young age (7), but did not realise why until I was 16. I loved reading and around that time I was reading "The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham. The central character is a telepath living in a future post-nuclear holocaust world where mutants are regarded as non-humans and exterminated - at the point in the book where David (the central character) realises that he is a mutant he comes out with the words "what will they do to me, when they find out I'm different?". I read this and the penny dropped with one almighty thud. I'd worked out how I was different by then and from the playground banter, I realised that there were a lot of people who liked to beat up people like me and, because I was unable to defend myself, I was terrified. For the next 14 years I kept up a pretence, never able to drop my guard for a second. Keeping this act up became a strain and eventually something had to give, but by then I was 30. While I was at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, I did try to go to the student Lesbian & Gay society meeting, but got as far as the building before turning round in a panic. I felt miserable, lonely and wretched, I didn't have anybody I could confide in.
The thing that finally started my coming out was the arrival at work in 1985 of a new colleage. I'd been involved with his interview and realised that Tony was also gay. It took me 6 months to actually tell him, which was the most difficult thing I'd ever done in my life, but the sense of relief was as though I'd been released from a cage. Telling the next person wasn't quite as bad and by the Autumn I'd told my closest friends, but not my family. I'd also gone to the Lesbian & Gay Community Centre in Birmingham, where I finally got the support that I'd needed for so long. I still, however, always get nervous on meeting new people as at some point I have to agonise on whether and when to tell them. It was only as recent as mid 2009 after hearing someone describing how he has to come out to new people on Radio 4 that it finally sank in that this is something that straight people never have to do.
As far as telling my family, fate stepped in with a very nasty incident. I was interviewed by a market researcher, who took my phone number (he said they called people at random to confirm the forms were genuine). Then the threatening calls started, I started to jump every time the phone went and after a few days (but it seemed like months) I had to tell my Mum. She was upset at first, but said "whatever happens, I'm always on your side". It was a very emotional moment. What I hadn't realised was that the calls had actually stopped a few days before, fear is a very powerful weapon. To this day, I still refuse to give my phone number to market researchers.
After that, my self confidence recovered and Tony commented that it had been noticed at work how much I'd changed. At the start of 1987, I made my first forays onto the Birmingham gay scene having just met my first serious boyfriend. By the end of the year, I'd joined the local Lesbian & Gay Switchboard, attended my first Gay Pride and come out at work (though that was because I was "outed"). The rest, as they say, is history.
Click here for
photographs of Thatcham or Newbury
Back to personal details (Part 1)
Background is a
1931 Wolverhampton trolleybus, one of these is being restored at
the Black Country Museum in Dudley
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