Pigs, Chickens and Pride 2018

As Pride Month rolls around, it is my wont to write something a little more serious and considered than the usual ranting, expletive-laden frivolity you’re likely to encounter on my Twitter account. I appreciate I’ve left it a little late this year, but I reckon not dealing with things until you absolutely have to is 2018’s jam, so I should still be ok.

I’m not even sure what this piece will be about, I just felt as though I should write…something. I think, though, I’d like to talk about myself for a while. I know that’s probably going to elicit a few groans, but fuck it: I’m in charge here, not you.

For those of you who don’t know, my situation is a little unusual. It started off fairly typically, I guess: closeted guy gets married, has a family, finally comes out…you know how that one ends. Except it didn’t end that way for me. My wife and I are still together, and not just to keep up appearances or because we have a child, but because we actually want to be together.

In many ways, this is the best outcome I could have hoped for. With the odd (quite understandable) wobble aside, she has been unflinchingly understanding and supportive, and, whilst our relationship has unarguably altered substantially over the past two years, that change has been, to an overwhelming degree, positive. So I had the benefit of being able to be honest about who I am, with none of the upheaval of a messy divorce and all the associated unpleasantness. Great.

But that’s not quite the whole story.

You see, I’ve always struggled with my identity, and that struggle continues to this day. I spent 37 years feeling like I didn’t fit, like I didn’t really belong anywhere. Then I came out, and, for obvious reasons, immediately began to identify as bisexual. That was great at first, but after the initial euphoria of being out had started to abate, I realised that I didn’t really feel bisexual. With the exception of the one with whom I’d spent the past decade and a half of my life, I wasn’t really attracted to women at all. 

So I started to identify as gay. This felt better to me – more honest at least – but it brought with it its own problems. Primary amongst these is the fact that I’ve never really felt accepted by other gay men. I feel like they view me as an outsider, an imposter. Indeed, some have explicitly stated as much to my face. As a result, I started to feel that way about myself, not least of all because, when you look at it objectively, their argument has some merit. So I’d gone from not really fitting in as a straight guy to not really fitting in as a gay guy. I felt like I’d been cast adrift, back into that ocean of not belonging. 

Then there are the questions. Oh, Jesus, the fucking questions:

“Why are you still married?”

“You’re not really gay then, are you?”

“Do you still have sex?”

“How does THAT work?”

Quite aside from the fact that these things are no one’s fucking business but my own, I wonder how many people would presume to ask a straight person they hardly know (or even one they know quite well) why they bother to stay married, or indeed whether they still have sex with their spouse.

These questions began to take their toll because, whilst I’m very open about who I am online, I still wasn’t totally comfortable in real life situations being a queer guy who’s married to a woman. So I found myself reverting to the old habit of ‘passing’ as straight to avoid the funny looks or the probing questions. And I fucking hated it. I’d spent most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and it felt like I was still hiding even after risking everything by coming out.

I’ve attempted to explain my situation a thousand different ways to a thousand different people, but I’m not sure any of them really get it. All I know is that I’ve been through an awful lot of shit over the course of my adult life – some soaring highs and some desperate, crashing lows – and the one person I’ve always known I can rely on to be there, without question, without equivocation, is my wife. 

We laugh a lot. Sometimes we cry. We take the piss out of each other mercilessly. We argue, but not very often. We mourn our departed pets like they’re members of our family because that’s exactly what they are. We celebrate each other’s victories as though they were our own, and commiserate on each other’s failures to an equal degree. We lift each other up during times of hardship, and appreciate the good times all the more for it. We drink wine and go for walks, though not usually at the same time. We share common values and work together to instill them in our son, who we’re certain will one day turn out to be a fine young man. So whereas we might not have ended up together had I had the courage to be honest about who I was when I was 20, I feel like it’s an awful lot to throw away now I’m pushing 40.

I realise I’m rambling now, but I wanted to provide a little context to the statement that this last year has been what you might describe as a little bit really fucking awful for me. On top of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, my son was hospitalised in quite a dramatic and somewhat traumatic fashion in February/March, and I also endured the most stressful house purchase/move it’s possible to imagine shortly after that. There have been times over the past 12 months when it’s fair to say I’ve been in a bit of a state.

I’ve suffered some pretty horrible bouts of depression going back several years, and I waited far too long to seek treatment. When I did eventually decide to get help, I had to battle with the gatekeepers of my local NHS trust’s mental health services in order to be allowed access to even a short course of counselling. I know I’ve said it many times before, and I will no doubt say it again a million times in the future, but fuck every single member of this uniquely fucking evil government.

Anyway, after I had finally secured the treatment I needed, I started having some therapy earlier this year. I don’t feel as though I got the best out of the sessions as my anxiety was off the fucking chart with the house stuff, but it definitely helped. I don’t even think my therapist was particularly amazing at dealing with my particular issues, but just being able to talk to someone impartial was a huge positive for me.

If nothing else, I think the sessions helped me to change the way I think about certain problems. I still struggle with my identity, but I’ve learned not to dwell on it too much. One day I suspect such labels as ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ will be redundant and people will just be attracted to whoever they’re attracted to without worrying about which particular box they fit into. Maybe I was just born a few hundred years too early.

I’ve also learned to be less bothered by the inappropriate questions because, ultimately, they’re not a thing I can control. All I can do is be the best version of myself it’s possible to be, to be open and honest about who I am, and to invite those who don’t like it to go eat a big fucking bucketful of Trump dicks. I am what I am, and all that.

Which brings me neatly back onto Pride Month. This year, as with every other, there have been the usual cries of, “Why do you still need Pride?” from people who really shouldn’t be allowed to operate anything more dangerous than a fucking duvet without professional supervision. There are a whole range of very general answers to this eminently fucking ridiculous question, but I hope this article provides a more specific, personal example. I still need Pride, and I suspect I always will because it’s never gonna be easy being who I am. It is getting easier, though.

I guess sometimes, if you’re really lucky, life works out exactly as you had planned and everything just falls perfectly into place. More often than not, however, we have to play an imperfect hand and try not to lose the farm. Well it’s been a monumental fucking struggle, but I still have my farm and the soil is reasonably fertile and there are even some pigs and chickens wandering around somewhere. It’s doing ok.

15 Comments

  1. ‘One day I suspect such labels as ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ will be redundant and people will just be attracted to whoever they’re attracted to without worrying about which particular box they fit into.’
    Absolutely nails it. You weren’t born 200 years too early, it’s people like you who are helping to make our world a better place for people like my son who is gay and has a much better life than he would have had even 10 years ago. We are all somewhere on the spectrum of sexuality, it’s definitely not binary. As we continue to shake off the shackles of religion and convention we will eventually get to a place where love trumps hate and ‘how you are’ is more important than ‘who you are with’.
    In the big 2 set Venn diagram, I, a straight white middle aged bloke, would choose your circle over the alternative. Thank you for taking the time to share your work.
    @clockworkshaun

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have enormous courage and you have every right to celebrate that courage at Pride with your fellow LBGT community. You face a very unforgiving world. Your personal circumstances make you stand out but don’t make you any less legit. You chose not to run away – don’t let yourself be belittled or feel pressure to ‘conform’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My thoughts… I think you are a fantastically sharp, bright, funny and intelligent individual. Your humanity is in abundance and is plain to see in all your tweets, not despite your colorful language but because of it. I see a passion for fairness and a rage against the injustice and inequalities around us, and that is an admirable trait. Your personal situation is of no concern to others, and those who feel that it is show themselves up to be sad broken individuals. You said that you didn’t feel accepted by some gay men. I suspect there is an element of misogyny there. As with the straight scene, there are men who simply don’t like women, and having been on the receiving end of a spiteful little queen at a dinner party, I know the feeling. I was ostracized from the group purely because of my gender. I suspect your close (and I suppose to some, unusual) association with a woman renders you defective to some emotionally stunted fucknuggets. There are ALWAYS going to be total ass-hats who think they have a right to ask about the fine details of one’s sex life, it still happens to me. Given all you have been through with your identity, the issue with the house sale- one of the top stressful things you’ll encounter, the devastating hospitalization of your son and subsequent knock on effect to your mental health, I think you are doing remarkably well at life. I’m unsure if this response is helpful, what you were looking for, or if you think I’m a sycophantic, peevish, toadying wee fud,
    But I’m glad the farm is thriving.
    Love and light,
    Onwards…
    shasbo.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your story left me more emotional than I ever expected. A lot I can relate to, some empathise with, but mostly I appreciate your candour, honesty, humour and depth.

    I still really love the sweary rants as I find them a cathartic read as you seem to spout what the inner me would like to say but the outer well brought up Scottish bird only does after a few too many gins. I’m glad you shared the parts of you that make you who you are and I reckon you will come through it al strong, happy and fulfilled (and also sweary and funny). I wish it all the best in your life

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for writing that piece, it is no mean feat to put your private life out there. Sadly, there are acceptance deficits in LGBT+ circles as well (and let’s face it, in every larger group of people there’s always a percentage of arseholes and idiots and that goes for LGBT+ peope as well), when you deviate from the perceived norm. Discrimination is not necessarily a one-way street. Wether that’s on how you look or how you live your life. Personally, I’d say I’m mostly into dick but I wouldn’t rule out sex (unless a few snog-n-fumbles counts as sex, then I obvs. can’t rule out sex with a woman) or falling in love with a woman. I have no hang-ups about that and I patently refuse to put a label on my sexuality, other people will gladly do that for you, so no need to slap a label and possibly the constraints that come with it on yourself. I’m 40 and have come to the conclusion that you should do whatever works for you, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If the arrangment you have with your wife satisfies both of you and works for both of you, good for you! Though I can understand that people might be interested in how it works out on the sexual side, it’s none of their business. If they choose to be arsecunts about it, well, they can do the other thing. Personally, I’d dispute that love and sex are attached at the hip and necessarily go together. I think it is perfectly possible to love someone truly, madly and deeply, have a great relationship and still have no sex or have sex with others, as long as the partners are on the same page. We are fortunate to live in societies where we have a great amount of freedom and liberty as to how we live our lives and choosing how you live your private life is, as long as it remains amongst consenting adults of age and capacity, such a blessing, even if it may get you odd looks and daft comments. All the more reason to celebrate Pride and diversity. To quote the great Dr. Alban: It’s your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed reading that. Well done you.
    Truly hope your boy is okay and you all have settled into your new home.

    Much love coming over the ether.
    Marc (Hank Fortune).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We are too hung up on sex. Personal relationships are far more important, as you demonstrate. Loving and caring for othets is what maked us human, or is it “humane” ? 👍

    Like

  8. If anything your marriage expands, enriches what a marriage can be (and not just a public contract to have sex and/or children). If that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

    Like

  9. Dear Tea Spiller. Thank you for your honest, articulate article and thank you for sharing it. I came across your tweets by chance (I still don’t understand Twitter!). My first thoughts were ‘what an angry bloke’ and I would be rather afraid to challenge anything you wrote. Now that I have read your sensitive, open, article I understand the anger better. As a 63 year old ‘straight’ woman you may not imagine that I would identify with much of what you wrote. But you tell a universal story of how we all try and ‘fit’ into someone else’s idea of the world and how it should operate. We still need Pride. We still need the world to accept what it is – a beautiful melting pot of individuals of every gender, colour, race and ideology. Keep being angry until you find your peace, for depression is anger turned inwards. Love your son, your wife and your identity for we need people like you – articulate, honest, loving and struggling for a world that hasn’t caught up with you yet – to shine light on fear, for that is what it is. With love.

    Like

  10. I too found my way here via Twitter, 58 Irish white cishet, and wanted to echo these comments. I really appreciate you opening the door for people like my daughter who last week told me that she probably is not cishet and like you, feels attracted to a spark in a person. and that’s how it should be! I congratulated her, and I hope she finds amazing people along the way that brighten her life and double all enjoyment. But only the people who opened the doors, who were transparent and honest, and often sacrificed even their lives, created the space for people to even think along the lines of what truly makes us happy.

    you’re one of those now 🙂 (just don’t get into any major altercations with Twittler supporters, tho’ we don’t want to test that last one!)

    Like

  11. Hello Max — thanks for this piece. I’m kind of a gay grandfather (age-wise). I rarely attend gay pride celebrations these days, and I’m glad you reminded me that they are still essential rituals for us who’ve been denied our own. I’m a writer of queer stuff, and I must confess that I often read your tweets with the intention of harvesting many of the most valuable insights and insults. They are always attributed (smiling face). Thanks again.

    Like

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