One the biggest regrets of my life is that I never sat down with my Mother and told her that I’m gay. I chose, instead, the easy option of writing to her and telling her that her oldest son was a homosexual.
Facing Mum for the first time, after writing that letter, I was very nervous as I travelled to where she lived. I hesitated several times before walking up to the front door, ringing the doorbell, and announcing my arrival. What a shock I got when she came towards me with open arms and, as she gave me one of her wonderful hugs, hearing her whisper the words “I always knew you were gay, I don’t know why it took you so long to tell me.”
Not all my family were like mum, though. Some told me they were having difficulty in accepting what I was because it wasn’t the sort of thing that happened to men in the area we came from. Hurtful words, but I already knew that the best thing I could do was to keep away from those who were upset by the life I was given and to allow them to live their lives as they wanted. Over the years, I regained contact with some of those family members and, thankfully, have the changing face of society to thank for bringing us back together.
The fact that, in the past, there had been a few other men in the family who had never married, never seemed to raise any suspicions that the family had gay people as a part of it. It may have been talked about, but never while I was in the room. I don’t know if any of those men ever came out, probably not, but it must have been difficult for those that were gay, at the time they lived, and this only made me more determined to live my life how I wanted.
Moving to work and live in London, in 1986, was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. Although the city acted as a wall which seemed to protect gay people, I was still finding it difficult to come out. It was a strange situation because the first two jobs I took in London were in industries where other openly gay people were employees. When I took my next job, which would last 23-years, it took me six years to come out, and that was only when I heard the words “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” Of course, nobody cared that I was gay, yet for all those years I had been terrified what some of my work colleagues would think about me had I come out on my first day.
Fast forward to today, and being gay is something much of society accepts. When we moved to our current home in South Wales, both my partner and I were a little hesitant that people would accept us. There are fewer people down here than where we had lived for over 30 years. We were coming back to that place I’d been told that ‘being gay didn’t happen to men’. We couldn’t have been more wrong. People have been so welcoming, and we’re as part of the community as anyone else. Strange, though, that every now and again when I meet somebody for the first time and they ask me who the other guy was, walking our dog Toby, the other day, that I find myself hesitating before saying “that was John, my partner.”
Maybe some of the scars from our past never heal?
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