As a young teenager who had begun to explore the possibility that I was gay, I found myself angry and disappointed at the notion. I did not want to be associated with campiness, rainbows, drag queens, promiscuity and other similar stereotypes. Growing up my only experience of the word “gay” was negative. At age 10 my family moved to Sale in Manchester just in time for me to start Year 6 of Primary School. I had never experienced bullying before I moved to Manchester – having had a fairly cheerful few school years spread across North Yorkshire, Blackburn and County Durham beforehand. This was to change and thus began the first year of my life that I could truly call miserable.
It was during my first few weeks at this new school that I began to learn new words such as “gay”, “queer” and “faggot” in the worst way possible. Kids can be cruel – we all know that; these kids were vicious. I was far too young and innocent to know what words like this meant. All I could associate them with were people in TV – Dale Winton, Graham Norton, Boy George, Julian Clary (to name but a few) – people whose campiness I found cringe worthy to watch; therefore coming to a conclusion that being gay was a bad thing that I should be ashamed about.
I’m drifting away from my point somewhat, but I did break the silence and confided in my lovely mum. She rightly said it could not go on and arranged to meet with my teacher to see what he could do to try to help. Things did settle down (until high school…), but looking back now I can probably say it was a bit cruel of the class teacher to cast me as Julian Clary in the Year 6 End-of-Year Production (Tudor Mr & Mrs with Henry VIII and his 6 wives)…
Essentially, my struggle was not so much about the sexual side of homosexuality, more about the stigma attached to it. Did I have to start liking the colour pink? Did I have to have blonde streaks put in my fringe? Did I have to develop a feminine voice or a flamboyant walk? Did I have to know the words to every song in Madonna’s back catalogue? Did I need to become an expert in fashion and trends? Looking back I think it’s absolutely terrible that these were the things that caused me the most distress, so now I try where possible to fight for true equality for LGBT.
Fighting for true equality does not mean parading dressed as drag queens flying rainbow flags to Dolly Parton anthems trying to be as different and unequal as is humanly possible. To me, this only reinforces negative stereotypes. I absolutely hate it. People still to this day assume that because I’m gay, I must be attending the next “Gay Pride” event. All I can say is that I wish events like that didn’t exist. They do absolutely nothing positive for people like myself other than isolating us further from society, segregating heterosexuality from homosexuality and giving people the impression that gay equals camp. If I was homophobic, seeing this sort of thing wouldn’t quash my fears – it’d make me dislike gay people more – acceptance of the sexuality is not being addressed whatsoever. It promotes the idea to impressionable minds that gay people are different, when in fact we are just the same as anybody else. Sexuality shouldn’t define anybody. I don’t feel the need to announce to people I meet that I’m gay, just in the same way that a straight person doesn’t announce to people that they’re straight.
Instead of these ridiculous pride marches, I would rather that the efforts involved went into putting more “people who happen to be gay” into the public eye as opposed to “gay people”. Kids growing up these days are a lot luckier than I was, and even more luckier than people older than me. They have role models such as (but not limited to) Russell Tovey, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, Scott Mills, Derren Brown, Ian McKellen and Jane Lynch. These people probably weren’t in the public eye so much 15 years ago but they’re such wonderful examples of how being gay is normal and doesn’t define a person.
I think one of the reasons I wanted to make this blog post was because I felt that some people may have misunderstood me in the past. I’m not a homophobic homosexual; I just fight for true equality, representation and not feeding fires with false ‘equality’. Some people may not understand what I’m trying to say – perhaps you like the rainbow, campy thing – that’s fine, I just personally don’t and neither does my partner. I need to make a point that I don’t dislike camp people – infact I absolutely love watching Alan Carr, for example. I just want to see as wide a variety of gay people in the public eye as there is a variety of straight people – to represent us as real people rather than paint a picture that each and every one of us is the same.
On an end note, this June will mark 10 years since I wrote a letter to my parents apologising that I will never be able to give them grandchildren, never be able to be a normal son marrying a woman and living happily ever after. It seemed easier to be able to write everything I needed to say down and present it once, and not give myself an opportunity to chicken out after a few words. I cried in my bed as my mother sat next to me reading the note. She cried too – likely because it hurt her that I felt that way, and not because she would ‘never have grandchildren’. I’m one of the lucky ones whose parents love their child regardless of sexuality. I hope as time goes on, more and more parents come to love their children unconditionally. No young person should have to feel ashamed of who they are – especially when they have as much choice about their sexuality as they do their skin colour.
How do you feel on the subject of equality? Do you disagree with my comments, or perhaps have something to add? I’d love to discuss it with you.