As a gay man, this is a very important subject and area for me. I feel that in today’s world and society that we should have a voice, that we should be respected like everyone else, and most importantly that we should embrace the diversity of society. There is no place for prejudice – indeed we should not judge. Live and let live is my motto (yes I am borrowing the initial part of the James Bond Film there, ‘Live and Let Die’, though have changed the ending!)
Here I hope to provide discourse on what has been achieved to date, not only in the UK but around the world, along with what hasn’t been done and what we need to change. The 21st century should be one in which great change happens and the narrow minded mindset of others, be challenged, and challenged for the greater good for all humanity.
Before touching upon gay rights, I think it is worthwhile discussing things in a more general sense, and that is what I will attempt to do below, under the next few sub-headings.
GROWING UP GAY!
I would be giving a delusion if I said growing up gay is easy, as that is far from the truth. One day I hope it will be, but at the moment it isn’t. You go through a considerable period of flux, and for some, they have a life plagued by feelings of guilty, worry and panic. You ask questions such as (though not limited to): am I really gay? What is being gay? Why do I feel this way? Am I normal? What’s wrong with me? How do I tell people? How will my friends and family react? Will my friends and family stand by me, or will I be alone? What do, or should I do?
Those are all questions you grow up pondering and thinking. But having gone through it myself, I can assure you it get easiers. You find a way to address things and overall you accept and go on to live a fulfilling and fruitful life (though I am still in my 20’s saying this.)
From my experience being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and family, being gay has a certain taboo. Its wrong, and your made to feel wrong from the religious values we are brought up with. It took me a long time to try and reconcile how I can live my life without hurting people that are close to me. However, to fail to act will only lead to greater problems, as you wont be true to yourself and you will become resentful, and in some extreme situations take fatal or drastic measures. That is what I would like to prevent, and hope what I write in this section will help others.
(a) Growing up with a Roman Catholic upbringing.
From an early age, I was brought up, like many others, to accept that you create a unity with a woman and procreate. You have offspring, and this is something that one is taught continuously and on a regular basis. You have sex education lessons. Taught that a man does this, and a woman does that and ultimately it brings about new life. Sex is a gift, a very special and sacred one that should be used to procreate and not one that should be used for pleasure. This in itself is a fallacy. Sex is not just about procreation, but creating a special link between yourself and another, that you hold and treasure dearly. It is an opportunity to be intimate with that special person to show how much they mean to you. That it why is should not be abused, regardless of whether it is between a person of the opposite, or same sex.
It was through this sexual education that I became lost. I knew what a man is meant to do with a woman. But how does this correlate to being with someone of the same sex. I didn’t have knowledge, and ultimately had to find out my own way through personal experience. This I felt, and continue to feel is a great tragedy. I say this because this education brought me up to feel wrong, and to question deeply my whole life and existence. This is not something that any young and growing up young person should go through. It is not fair and it also, ultimately, leads to inequality. Young people of today should be looking to explore and enjoy life, and not be held back by such issues. It’s not fair for those of us that are gay (both men and women).
(b) Coming to terms for oneself – “Self-acceptance”
Against the background given above, self-acceptance takes time. There are many things to reconcile. Most importantly it takes time. This is especially the case when you are brought up with religious values in which you are made to feel wrong. However, the greatest failure would be to live a lie. You are you and you can’t change that. An example, you have one blood group, its you, you cant change that. You can’t one minute be one blood group and overnight, or next year be another. It cannot be changed. Being gay is the same, despite people saying that it is a choice and you can get re-educated/programmed. It just doesn’t work like that.
Self-acceptance is going yes I am gay. Understanding that the feelings you have for the same sex are real. Once you achieve this, you are on the step to making a positive change, and more in which you can enjoy life to the full. Don’t put your life on hold, you have to live with it.
(c) Acting on those feelings – “The feeling of guilt”
Yes initially acting upon your feelings, you will feel terrible guilt, well in my case I did. You love the feeling, but at the same time, feel as if you cannot give it freely, you cant let it take control. You have to. Being intimate with a person of the same sex, a person that you love and treasure is the most precious and important gift you can have and give to another. Yes you will feel shame, god knows how much I did. You start thinking: this is wrong, this is wicked, this is evil. How will people view me? That shouldn’t be the issue. Providing you can look in the mirror and accept who you are, and want to make yourself happy, that is what you should do. Otherwise you are not being true.
Acting on those feelings with another person, a person that is also gay is so rewarding and helps you greatly. You understand and appreciate that yes you can be gay, and yes you are loved. That indeed, you are treasured by another and no, you will not end up being alone. If you fail to accept, and fail to move on that is how you will end up alone. It is not that being gay means you will be alone; that truly is not the case.
(d) Telling someone – “Gaining acceptance – sounding out others”
When I first came out, it wasn’t a case of going hey, look at me. I am gay. As I didn’t. I waited until I had just finished my law degree. That summer, I took one of my closest and dearest friends out for lunch in Liverpool at HaHa, an appropriately named place I think! We conversed on things.
Your probably wondering, how did I come out to him. Well I didn’t, well not fully anyways. I said to him that I have feelings towards people of the same sex, but didn’t rule out that I didn’t have the same feelings for people of the opposite sex. He then just went on to say that he has many gay friends, and why should it make a difference in how I would be treated as a friend, when ultimately, I am me and what they have known about me wont change. That I had a wonderful personality and that is why I was friend’s with them.
(e) Telling parents & friends – “Oh my God, how can I do this?”
The most important thing you have to remember here is: It is my life, not theirs, and no one else’s. I have to make myself happy. I have to be me, and no, I cannot let myself have regrets.
Telling my parents, if I am honest, was the last thing I wanted to do at the time. It kind of just happened. I was feeling miserable, I was down and I had to say something to change things. If I continued to live a life otherwise, would have had greater consequences for me later. I told my mum, and I panicked after I did as she was completely shocked and devastated. It was an awful feeling. A feeling that I had personally let her down by being the way I am. However, over time, that all has changed. I have a wonderful relationship with my mum, keep in contact with her often and always look forward to spending time with her. My mum is my mum, and I wouldn’t want to change her at all.
After telling my mum, I had to tell my father. That was the one thing that worried me the most. It wasn’t that bad at all. He has accepted what I have said, and loves me. Whether he will ever accept me for being gay is another matter, but that isn’t about me per se, its more to do with the label of being gay and how he perceives things. For that, I accept. That’s his right, and his choice and his belief. I have no right to think less of him for holding that belief.
What have I learnt? Well, I have learnt that it isn’t easy to tell your parents and friends. However, ultimately life goes on, and at least your not living a life as a lie. You don’t have to live the life of two different people – your gay life and then a fake life. You can do it, but only do it when you are ready and not when others tell you to do it, or that you should have done it already. It is your life, and it is your choice! Do not, let people sway you from that.
TO BE CONTINUED …
AMERICA HAS SEEN THE LIGHT! THE REPEAL OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL
A historic day arose on Saturday 18 December 2010. The US Senate has finally shown a sign of the times, and progress has finally been signified towards the gay community when it comes to the military. The 17 year old policy of ‘you can serve in the US armed forces if your gay, providing you keep your mouth shut’ has been banished to the scrapheap, and hopefully will remain there till the end of time.
The Republicans have been conquered, and their negativism has been fought against. Progress has been made. It is a very significant change, especially in light of the vote being 65 to 31. Even 8 Republicans joined the Democrats! Small but steady progress is being made in America, as a whole to ensure that the rights of gay men and women are not trampled all over upon, and on this occasion I can say ‘God bless America’ for seeing the light.