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.