TBWA\London, the year 2000, the year my life changed forever.
I was married. He was married. Please refer to the title of this post.
Philip Larkin quote (look it up, but they do)
Growing up in a strict Irish Catholic family can be difficult when you know from a very young age that you’re absolutely, definitely gay but you’re absolutely, definitely not allowed to be gay. When you constantly hear that being gay is wrong, a sin, evil even, it’s obvious what you need to do. Of course, you have to be ‘straight’ - so I captained the 1st XV rugby team, I was the first in my year to get a girlfriend and generally became the unruly ‘jack the lad’. It was the perfect disguise. And it worked. But boy does it come at a price.
Fast forward to 1997 and I find myself in front of an altar on a Saturday, about to marry someone who’d been a very close friend, then a partner and now about to be my wife. I vividly remember feeling the loneliest I’d ever felt in that moment, when I’m sure I should have felt something else. I was doing what I’d been ‘trained’ to do but in equal measure I knew it was wrong and could have terrible consequences, not least for someone I loved, but may not have been in love with. Maybe I should have made an Eastenders style escape in front of a full congregation. Instead I followed what I’d been told to do.
Complete joy (temporary)
6th August 1999 my absolute guardian angel was born. She was perfect (except for her likeness to me) and for a period of time she made my life feel normal. I was doing what was expected of me, my parents were proud, further affirmation that being ‘straight’ was the right choice.
But inside I was slowly falling apart. I was falling deeper and deeper into a lie that I knew was a lie but one I was made to believe was the only option.
We’ll gloss over the detail (that’s for the long version)
TBWA\London 2020, a hot bed of debauchery. As The Sun problem page often says ‘one thing led to another’.
I finally met someone, who was in the same position as me. He was my boss. Please refer to the title of this post.
But for the first time in my life I admitted to another human being that I was gay. And without a hint of euphemism, I always refer to this as - once you’ve squeezed the toothpaste out of the tube, you can’t put it back. I was actually, physically, really gay. And I couldn’t go back.
And that was the most frightening moment of my life.
“All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me.”
OK, it’s probably a bit early for that quote, but let’s go with it, because the ending is good but the middle bit not so much.
We’re on the ‘short version’ so quickly -
Telling your wife you’re gay isn’t easy. But made easier with the words, and I quote ‘this is clearly massively upsetting for you, so let’s deal with you first and then we’ll deal with us’, respect to that lady, who is still a massive part of my life.
Telling your Irish Catholic mother is actually next level and looking back, hilarious. Initially I was just selfish, had tried marriage and got bored and now wanted ‘to try gay’. And then as she mulled it over, of course, it was the orange cardigan that my grandma knitted for me when I was 5 that was to blame.
In between detail (lots more to tell over a pint or two)
Funny highlights, that may not have been funny at the time but are funny now:
When clinical depression finally sets in and the doctors asked me how I’d like to diagnose myself (panel of 5)
Potentially not being here today as I took things into my own hands
When my dad finally told my mother to get a grip (still laugh)
When my daughter’s best friend (7) told the class that I was just ‘showing off because it’s trendy to be gay’
My niece buying herself a t shirt that says ‘my uncle is gay, is yours’
Summary (but ask anything not covered here)
People often ask me, should I have come out earlier. In an ideal world yes, I should have been able to, but if I had, I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughter, who is my best friend, my world, my everything. So no, absolutely not.
She actually made coming out acceptable, she absolutely loves having a gay Dad. And she demonstrates that within a generation where attitudes have already taken a massive leap.
What does Pride mean to me?
Am I proud to be gay, not necessarily (although I’m very happy), I don’t think I’d necessarily be proud if I was straight, I’d just be straight. I’m very proud to be me (and still here following some very dark times).
BUT, I’m very proud that I can be gay.
Maybe I should finally make a start on the long version.