Fifty years ago homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK. Long before i was even born. What changed after 1967? Did it get better? How far have we come and how far have we still to go?
Can you even think for one minute how you would feel to be thought of being 'ill' for the way you felt about someone? This was a reality, and still is some places in the world.
I knew who i was from a very early age. I found it weird when anyone would say “Ooh is that your girlfriend?” I grew up lucky enough to be who i was happily and free from judgement. Well, from my family, but around school in the late 90's teenagers still used the insults 'faggot', 'poof', 'queer' and would pick out anyone that was 'different'. And nothing was done to support or help these kids at the time unfortunately... including me. Maybe it was the school or those particular teachers. Maybe they just didn't know how to deal with a young boy or girl being gay? I like to think it was them and not a culture-wide issue.
When i was at school you were never told that it's okay, that being gay is fine. We were taught in a very embarrassing class with a very embarrassed teacher who looked like they'd rather be somewhere else, how to have intercourse. That was about it. Yes kids needs to be taught the basics and how to be safe. That is paramount. But what about love? Emotions? Hormones? A huge part of sex education was missing due to Section 28 (the law to not allow promotion of homosexual relationships in schools). I wasn't taught this because this law was only overturned in 2003. Which feels like yesterday to me. Way too late. But ultimately a good step forward nonetheless.
You definitely didn't want to come out at school let alone feel safe to do so. Imagine that. Not being comfortable enough with the people around you to be who you are? I doubt you can really imagine it if you haven't had to worry about that before. I know every teenager goes through identity issues of some sort or just crazy hormones all over the place. But if you fitted into the 'normal' mould then that feeling would've never come into your orbit. Even having a supportive family, you didn't feel 'normal' because in the 90's, yes there were advances, but there still wasn't positive representation of homosexuality on TV. Lesbians were all stereotypes with short hair wearing shirts and gay men were all camp. They were always the humorous character for any show.
I would much rather come out now in 2017 than at any other time in history. From what i see in the media, at the school gates nowadays or from the kids hanging out at the weekend... boys seem so much more tactile these days. Hugging, fist bumping... when i was at school if you so much grazed past another boy you were gay. I couldn't wait to leave school. I was taking my GCSEs in 2000 and i knew that was it. Once they were done, i'd be out. I think i revised for all of five minutes during that time, i couldn't really be assed. I didn't do great in my exams, obviously. I can't even remember what grades i achieved. But i haven't done too badly since then...
I was leaving school to head to college and without knowing, I was going to find out who I really was. I was going to meet like-minded teenagers. Students. Grow together and experience wonderful and long lasting friendships. I’ll never forget that first day. Across the room was the most flamboyant, colourful, hilariously funny guy. We became best friends that first year. It felt amazing.
It was in my second year of college, aged just seventeen, I met my now husband. SEVENTEEN! I was a baby. When I read this back I realise I had only been out of school for a year. I had no way near become a man yet. I was a boy. And I was about to come out. I look back at that story so differently now as a dad. I was with him the night I came out. We were on our first date and he just told me I should do it. So I text my brother (wimpy way out!). I'll never forget it. He called me straight away. He told me he knew and that it was cool. I had NO idea what made me do it… something inside me must’ve thought “I don’t even know this guy but I know that I am gay. That’s not going to change even if I don’t see this guy again…” I asked my brother to tell mum (again, totally wimping out). But it turned out perfect too in it's own weird, little way. And I ended up falling in love with that guy and 9 years later, marrying him. I was lucky and my parents were great. It breaks my heart that isn't the story for everyone when they come out.
I can’t describe how i felt the day I came out and the weeks after. I felt brand new. A different person. Overnight I could just admit who I was. Openly. With the support of my family. It changed my life for the better.
I am writing this for the kid dealing with a struggle or the parent who thinks their child is gay. Not knowing if you fit in or if you’re ‘normal’. There is NO normal. It does get better, trust me! I really want to believe that kids today aren’t subjected to what used to happen. Being treated as second class citizens. I want the gay kids of today to know there is nothing to worry about. If you want to party, you party. If you want to have a family, you can. I am proof of that. The 20,000+ LGBT families in the UK are proof of that. (source)
I think very often about what we, as gay people, have come through. The ones who fought for equality before us. They blazed the trail and we may not be here living our free life today if it weren't for their struggle and their fight. That to me is Pride. I am open with who i am and those before us have a huge part in allowing that to happen. I don't see myself as a different to anyone. I am a guy. I have a job. I'm a dad. Pretty simple really. When you look at other countries, such as Russia and Chechnya, the fear and pain these gay men are put through is terrifying.
I feel unbelievably blessed and so PROUD to be who i am, where i am and be able to love my boys the way i do.