Pride Month has drawn to a close. Corporations prepare to take down their rainbow flags, secretly pleased that they can stop pretending to give a shit about the queers for another year. The Home Office looks forward to removing any trace of inclusivity from its Twitter profile, relieved to be able to return to telling asylum seekers facing torture or death to ‘act less gay’. Pitifully inadequate cis-het dickholes will temporarily cease their incessant, pant-pissing whining about not having a Straight Pride month, and begin laying the all-important groundwork for ‘WHEN IS WHITE HISTORY MONTH?’ month.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I mean, for them it does, obviously, because they’re…just…frightful fucking arseholes, but for you, there’s no reason not to be an effective LGBT+ ally all year round.

Here’s how you can support the queer community throughout the calendar, in the hope that, one day, Barry from Chigwell won’t have to worry about his penis falling off because he encountered a handsome, muscular gentleman in a glittery belly top.

Be visible. Be vocal.

You don’t use the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘a bit shit’? Thanks. You manage to avoid involuntarily shrieking in terror when a butch lesbian enters a public toilet? Awesome. Showing the level of self-discipline necessary not to spend a twelfth of the year standing up in pubs and yelling ‘CHEAP LOUSY FAGGOT’ in time with a lot of other pissed-up straight people? Go you. But maybe you could do more.

Quietly accepting our right to exist is fine, I guess, but in practical terms, it’s not a lot more useful than low-level homophobia. To really make a difference, you need to be seen. You need to be heard.

It’s more or less certain that your place of work, your circle of friends, your school or your social media account contains one or more people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. Being in that position and feeling like you have nowhere to turn is a lonely place to be.

Even those of us who are already out to some extent don’t necessarily feel comfortable being open about who we are in all situations. We might be out at home, but not at work. Open at the gym, closeted at the pub.

We need a reason to come out. We need to know that people exist who will celebrate us for who we are. We need to feel safe and supported to be every bit of ourselves in every given scenario. We need an anchor.

You can be that anchor, but you almost certainly won’t achieve it with passive ‘I don’t make bumsex jokes so what the hell do they want?’ levels of engagement. Being a vocal and visible advocate for LGBT+ equality is probably the single biggest thing you can do to help queer people around you feel comfortable enough with their identity not to have to hide it from all but a selected few.

Talk frequently and openly about your support for LGBT+ rights, your queer friends, and the queer media you have seen and enjoyed. Wear the rainbow lanyard or a Pride watch strap or some other visible sign that you are a person who supports LGBT+ inclusivity.

Call out homophobia or transphobia wherever you see it. Don’t sit quietly by while ‘jokes’ are made at our expense. Don’t allow inappropriate language to be seen as remotely acceptable in your presence, because this is how hate is normalised. If Dave in marketing uses the word ‘poofs’, tell him to stop being such a fucking prick. If Carol in finance says she doesn’t want trans women in the toilets, ask her why she’s concentrating on other bathroom users’ genital arrangements and not on pissing.

We see this stuff. We hear it. It matters to us.

Trans rights are human rights

There is no LGB without the T.

Trans people are a vital, integral part of our community, and they have fought shoulder to shoulder with us as we’ve battled for the rights we currently possess. And, of course, many of them are L, G or B themselves.

Their trans identities, however, are under serious and sustained attack from newspapers, politicians, social media commentators, virulently fucking unpleasant sitcom writers, and even from certain inexplicably shitty elements within the LGBT+ community itself.

It’s up to all of us, queer people and allies alike, to fight back. Trans people are a tiny, vulnerable and marginalised minority, and they can’t do it alone. If you’re the kind of person who speaks out against transphobia in all its forms, and who offers a supportive and understanding ear, shoulder or other body part to trans people, you’re probably already a pretty good ally.

If, however, the extent of your being an ally is attending Pride once a year for a fun, colourful day out dancing to Britney with some white cis gays while you spend the other 364 days looking the other way as trans people are thrown under a seemingly endless line of Craggy Island buses, you’re not a fucking ally. You’re a selfish dickhead who is using the LGBT+ community for their own ends.

Don’t use our identities as insults. Ever.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the following scenario:

Homophobe says/writes something homophobic, ‘ally’ rides in with a truly hilarious riposte about how the homophobe is actually just craving a thick, veiny, glistening, throbbing seven-incher (sorry…drifted off for a moment there) but is just too nervous to say.

This is not helpful.

Yes, sometimes homophobes are closeted gays, obviously, but the majority of closeted gays aren’t homophobic and the majority of people who abuse the LGBT+ community are not closeted gays.

An overwhelmingly large percentage of the vitriol that comes our way is from straight people, and automatically implying that someone who behaves that way must be a repressed homosexual lets straight people off the hook for the pretty unacceptable level of homophobic abuse most of us still have to face.

This lazy trope also reduces queer identities to a frivolous thing we throw at bigots in an attempt to ridicule or humiliate them, and that’s not how an ally behaves. Fucking stop it.

Learn the language

Words are important. What we say and how we say it invariably reflects, in a very direct way, the content of our characters. If you don’t care enough to respect someone’s pronouns, or to understand that the word ‘cis’ is not an insult, how can you possibly claim to be an ally?

Taking the time to learn what terms are acceptable and which are not is the very bare minimum that should be expected of any ally, and it’s really quite easy to do.

Half an hour on Bing (which you can find on Google) will almost certainly yield the majority of the information you need, and if you still don’t understand, you can always fucking ask. Not a single LGBT+ person is going to be irritated or annoyed by someone who genuinely wants to be more supportive of our community asking questions about how they can achieve that. Not even me, and I get irritated by the sound of another person breathing.

Empower the whole community

We are a diverse group.

We are gay, we are lesbian, we are bi, we are trans, we are black, we are brown, we are white, we are Asian, we are asexual, we are gender non-conforming, we are queer, we are intersex, we are butch, we are camp, we are…so many other things.

It’s great that we’re all those things, but not so great that inequality still exists even within the community itself.

Queer people of colour are too readily left behind, bisexual identities too readily erased, feminine gays too readily derided or lampooned, and LGBT+ people on low incomes too readily frozen out of Pride events based on their inability to afford the ridiculous ticket prices necessary to bring in the big name pop diva demanded by white, middle class gays.

An effective ally doesn’t just ask Granny not to say ‘shirt-lifter’ for an hour because Alan’s boyfriend is having tea with us, they understand that different levels of privilege exist in the wide and varied subgroups that make up our community, and actively seek to redress those inequalities. They look outside of their immediate frame of reference and lift up those who would otherwise be forgotten or marginalised, so that the whole community might one day be viewed as equal, both within itself and amongst society at large.

Support LGBT-inclusive education

It’s not ‘inappropriate’ for children to know that queer people exist. It’s not ‘confusing’ for children to learn about families different to their own. No one is getting ‘turned’ into anything they weren’t already as a result of receiving information about LGBT+ identities and relationships.

Section 28 was horrible. Like, really fucking life-threateningly terrible for so many people. And now, these tired old arguments are raising their ugly, intolerant heads again, particularly where trans people are concerned, but also in relation to wider LGBT+ issues, and it’s incumbent on all of us to fight back against it with every bit of force we can muster.

It’s not ‘up to parents’ to decide whether their children get to learn about a simple fact of life, and fuck anyone who says otherwise. This essential knowledge must be given to all children at the earliest possible opportunity so that another generation doesn’t have to grow up isolated, afraid and broken.

This affects you. It affects your children.

Speak to your child’s school today – do it now if you can – and make it clear that you support LGBT-inclusive relationship education right from the word go. The majority of people almost certainly feel this way, but the bigoted cunts who look back on Thatcher’s Britain with a misty-eyed nostalgia boner are shouting a whole lot louder right now.

Let’s drown the fuckers out, and make it so that the next generation of children grow up as natural LGBT+ allies and you no longer have to sit through turgid, rambling shit like this.

 

 

 

We all discover our sexuality at very different ages. It’s not a thing that happens all at once, of course, but an ongoing journey from early childhood, through adolescence and right into our adult lives. At some point on that journey, however, a moment of realisation occurs about who we’re attracted to.

As children, we’re absolutely bombarded with information about relationships. Our own parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. TV, films, books, and other media. All, overwhelmingly, reinforcing the same simple message: the default relationship is one that occurs between a man and a woman.

This is probably fine, of course, if at the aforementioned moment of realisation, you find you’re attracted to people of the opposite sex. Job done. Identity affirmed. Congratulations! You’re normal.

But what if you’re not?

What if you realise, at some stage along that journey of discovery, that you’re a boy who likes boys, or a girl who likes girls? Or what if everyone thinks of you as a girl, but somewhere deep inside you is the knowledge that this is not who you really are? And what if this happens when the only information you’ve received about relationships and identities from the day you were born has been almost exclusively cis-heteronormative?

I’ll tell you what happens, because I was that child. I knew I liked boys before I’d even heard the word ‘gay’, or had any idea what it meant. I had no language to describe my feelings, and no reassurance that what I was experiencing was ok. When I was eventually introduced to the concept of gayness, it was made clear to me that being gay was a Very Bad Thing, so naturally, I began to hide my feelings away.

I was no more than six or seven when I learned that it was wrong to be who I was, and the psychological damage this knowledge inflicts on a child is profound and enduring. It was a mantra that was repeatedly hammered home through what remained of my childhood and into my early adult life, the fallout from which I don’t know if I’ll ever really finish dealing with.

Sadly, this intolerable situation remains the case for so many LGBTQ children today, and there are those who are fighting with every fibre of their being to ensure that another generation of young people continue to be subjected to this gratuitous emotional barbarity.

“Stop sexualising our children!” they scream. “Let kids be kids.”

Bizarrely, they only seem to have this reaction to the suggestion that children should be taught about LGBTQ relationships and identities, and never in response to the constant flow of heteronormative ideas, which tends to make me think they might just be homophobic cunts who don’t actually give the first fuck about protecting children.

They’re perfectly happy, for example, for children to catch up on the escapades of Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, but if a programme existed in which Peppa (or some other character) had two daddies, that would apparently be no better than teaching five-year-olds about the intricacies of glory holes and rimming.

And this gets to the heart of the matter. 

To those who aren’t hateful fucking trash, queer folk are just normal people. We go to work, we pay bills, we watch TV, we go for walks, we enjoy opera or sports or books. We have friendships, relationships, families. We fall in love and we break up and we’re flawed and messy and fragile and damaged and…human. 

To those who want to confine us to the shadows, we’re reduced to mere sex acts. We’re deviants, hell bent on corrupting young minds and ‘turning’ them gay or bi or trans.

Childhood should be the best time of our lives. We should be happy and carefree, unencumbered by day to day grown-up worries about paying the mortgage, buying food, getting a job, raising a family or whether we’re going bald. We are, as it happens.

‘Letting kids be kids’ means preserving this feeling for as long as possible, and how can we possibly hope to achieve that if 5-10% of them have no information to say that who they are is valid and normal, and the other 90-95% aren’t taught to respect, or indeed celebrate, this wonderful diversity that enriches all our lives?

‘Waiting until they get to secondary school’ is like waiting until someone is three months pregnant to teach them about contraception. By the age of 11, the vast majority of children will have experienced an attraction of some sort to one of their peers, and will be beginning to develop an awareness of their gender identity. If all they’ve known about queerness until this point is rooted in hate and negativity, the damage is already done.

And if you’re the kind of blistering fucking arsehole who wants to inflict this psychological cruelty, emotional insecurity, constant bullying and poor mental health on today’s children as it was inflicted on yesterday’s, at least have the courage to cease using those same children as a fig leaf for your repulsive bigotry, and just admit that you don’t like queer people.

Knowing that Josh has two mums will not prevent ‘kids being kids’. Sarah knowing that her crush on Jenny is perfectly normal isn’t ‘sexualising’ anyone. Saying, ‘Last term you used to know this person as Erica, but now he’d like to be known as Eric and please respect his pronouns,’ isn’t going to ‘corrupt young minds’.

No one is getting ‘turned into’ anything they weren’t already. If 30-odd years of believing that being gay was about the worst thing I could be didn’t turn me straight, I’m pretty fucking sure a storybook about a boy with two mums isn’t going to turn a whole generation of children into rampant homosexuals.

All that will happen is that these children will feel safer knowing that LGBTQ identities are just as valid as cis-het identities, that they’ll be given the love and support they need to be who they really are, and that their peers will be more tolerant and accepting of their differences.

That sounds like a pretty fucking great childhood to me.

We don’t get more than one chance at life. The more fortunate among us might get to enjoy eighty birthdays, eighty Christmases, eighty first days of spring, when the smell of the blossom and the gentle warmth of the sun mark the end of the cold, dark winter days and thrill us with the promise of the summer to come. And then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. The world moves on, but we do not. It’s precious and fragile and fleeting.

Imagine, then, if you had to spend the early part of the brief time we have on this Earth feeling alone, afraid and ashamed. Imagine if the very essence of who you are had to be hidden away like a dirty little secret, because who you are is bad, wrong, sinful. Then imagine what it would say about you if your actions were responsible for inflicting this misery on another person, perhaps even your own child.

When I was five, I liked my friend. I’m gonna call him James, because that was his name. He was my best friend and, when we were at school, we did everything together. We sat together in class, we played together at break times, we ate together, giggling and swapping bits of our lunches. 

We held hands. 

I liked holding hands with James. It felt nice. I had neither the emotional maturity nor the linguistic dexterity to describe what I felt for him, but I knew I liked him a whole lot more than my other friends, and that I liked him in a different way.

There was a day in year two when we were on our way to assembly and I took James’ hand, just as I had always done. He pulled it away and held it behind his back. I looked at him, confused.

“We can’t hold hands anymore,” he said. “It’s gay.”

I remember this exchange like it was yesterday. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant, I’d never even heard the word before, but the look on his face told me everything I needed to know: Being ‘gay’ was a Very Bad Thing indeed.

James and I were still friends after that, but it was never the same. For me, anyway. I still feel that loss today, not because relationships are particularly serious or enduring at ages 5 and 6, but because I didn’t only lose James that day, I lost a part of myself. It was the first day I knew that there was something wrong with me, something shameful that I had to hide.

My secondary school was a dark place. Literally and figuratively. Eight or nine dismal blocks of grey concrete full of Section 28-fuelled homophobia and low-level violence. I was routinely hit, kicked and punched, and I spent most of my days there with the words ‘poof’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’ ringing in my ears. I wasn’t out, but that didn’t stop them. They had the weight of the media, the government and their homophobic parents behind them. Fighting the good fight, bashing the queers.

It’s little wonder, then, that by the time I left school, I was so far in the closet that there was the very real possibility I would never make it out. I think at one point I almost managed to convince myself I was straight. I just needed to ignore all the bad feelings, push them right down, and everything would be fine, right?

Needless to say, it wasn’t fine. 

I wasn’t a bad person when I was closeted. I wasn’t violent or abusive. I wasn’t one of those who used homophobia as a defence mechanism, and, whilst I didn’t always get it right, I tried to do right by people. Helped old ladies across the road, that sort of thing. I was still me to a point, but I felt like a faded facsimile of who I was supposed to be.

And I’m the first to admit that, because of this, I wasn’t always particularly pleasant to be around. I was often frustrated and short-tempered, converting every negative emotion to anger rather than admitting to myself what was really causing that sad, empty feeling inside me.

I did make it out of the closet eventually, as you know, but by that point, I was quite irreparably damaged. After the initial euphoria of coming out had subsided, I became profoundly depressed and anxious, mourning those lost years I knew I could never recapture, plagued with what ifs that would remain forever unanswered, and wondering whether I would ever feel truly at peace.

I was fortunate in that my wife and son were extremely supportive, more supportive than I had any right to expect, and that is a thing for which I’ll always be immensely grateful. My extended family were rather less supportive, but you can’t have everything, I guess.

Anyway, with their love and understanding, some therapy, a bucketload of tears and many months of difficulty, I found my way back. I still have bad days, bad weeks, sometimes, but I have ways of coping with the fallout now that I didn’t have before. I’m happy now, overall, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally ok. Three decades of that level of damage is gonna take some rolling back.

So when I look at what’s happening in Birmingham and Manchester, and no doubt other cities across the UK by now, I feel angry. Angry that we’re having to refight battles we’ve already fought, and which belong firmly in the past; angry that narrow-minded people seek to use the protective veil of religious belief to excuse their hateful bigotry and intolerance; and utterly fucking enraged that another generation of children might have to endure what I and so many others like me had to endure some thirty years ago.

Of all the two thousand or so gods man has invented during the ten thousand years of recorded history, I don’t believe in any of them. The idea of a supreme being just doesn’t seem plausible to me. What I do believe is that, if a supreme being were to exist, she wouldn’t be petty, malicious or vindictive enough to describe one human being loving another as a ‘sin’ or an ‘abomination’. Moreover, I don’t believe she would make beings who are attracted to other beings of the same sex, then punish them for acting on that attraction. Because that would be a fucking dick move.

In 2019, more and more Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews are coming around to this way of thinking. Their belief in their chosen scripture, and their interpretation of it, has evolved over time, as is only right and fitting. So just as it’s no longer necessary for proponents of a particular faith to offer rape victims the choice between marrying their attacker or being stoned to death, it’s equally unnecessary for them to behave like a hateful dickhole to LGBT people in order to appease their favourite deity. Being gay isn’t a choice, but using a centuries-old book to justify your intolerance most definitely is.

If your adherence to a particular faith requires you to oppress those who are different to you, you either need to choose a less abhorrent ideology, or consider whether your interpretation of that ideology might be the problem. Your faith doesn’t trump the rights of others to be safe, accepted and supported.

There is a great deal of debate surrounding how many of us are L, G, B or T. Some studies place the figure at around 5% overall, with younger generations showing figures as high as 8 or 9%. And that’s without including those who are still closeted, so the true figure could easily be in excess of 10%.

But even if we take the lower estimate, if you’re standing outside a school of two hundred pupils shouting anti-LGBT hate into a microphone from the back of a flatbed truck, at least ten of the children present will be left feeling hurt, frightened and alone as a direct result of your actions.

If you are successful in your poisonous, spiteful aim of removing any and all LGBT-related education from the curriculum, those children will grow up thinking that who and what they are is fundamentally wrong. It might even be your own child upon whom you inflict this most grievous and unforgivable harm.

They will remember that day. It will stay with them forever. And just as I am able to sit here as a very nearly forty year old man and shed a tear for the innocent little boy whose life changed forever in a single minute one day in 1985, your own child may very well have to look back and relive the instant that broke them thirty-odd years from now. Will you really be able to live with yourself if the face staring back at them is yours?

I wrote this piece for my son about a year ago when I was coming to terms with some stuff, and I think it feels right to share it today in the hope that it will matter to someone else.

“Daniel,

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about writing something just for you, and it’s taken me this long to marshal my thoughts into anything approaching coherence. There’s much I want to say – to you, about you, about me, the world and your place within it. I hope this piece will mean something to you, and that you’ll look back over it one day and remember fondly all the great times we’ve shared, and the many more we have yet to share.

It’s fair to say I was a pretty reluctant father. You know this, we’ve spoken about it before. I guess I always took the pragmatic view: we’re overpopulated as it is, and another child is just another drain on the world’s resources. Nice, huh?

I always say it was your mother’s nagging that made me agree to start a family, but that’s a little disingenuous. And somewhat unfair, as it happens. What’s actually the case is that she needed to have a baby. She needed to be a mother like a fish needs water, and it would have been a travesty to deny her that. So I actually agreed to start a family because I love Mummy so much, which I guess is the best reason of all.

I still remember the night you were born and, until recently, I never really reflected on it to any great extent. Thankfully, I tend to think about things rather more emotionally now than I once did, and I’ve finally learned to appreciate the significance of that night – of being the first person to hold you after you came into the world. It makes me happy to think of that now in a way I perhaps wasn’t capable of before.

That said, I was never particularly enamoured with the whole baby palaver. I loved you fiercely of course, but, as I’m sure you’re aware, babies don’t really do very much. You put food in one end, shit comes out of the other, and sometimes they cry. The first 18 months are pretty much a case of biding your time until it starts to get interesting. Thankfully, it got really interesting.

I loved the toddler bit. So much. The little outfits; the clumsy, unsteady gait; your little hand thrust comfortingly in mine; the amusing mispronunciations; the adoring looks from the little old ladies you would delight with your endearing turn of phrase; I loved it all. I mourned it for a long time after it was over. I didn’t love you any less, but I felt a sense of loss that those days were gone, never to return. That might seem silly to you, and I suppose maybe in some ways it is, but I suspect you’ll understand one day. I’m also sure a time will come in the not too distant future when ‘Daddy’ will give way to ‘Dad’, and maybe I’ll grieve a little then, too.

The way you have matured over the past year or so, however, has given me cause to let go of any residual sadness about the passing of those days. I look at you now and feel an overwhelming sense of pride at the child you’ve grown into, and deep-rooted feelings of excitement and optimism about the man you will become. 

You already have a social conscience and a sense of justice far in advance of most people your age. You refuse to tolerate intolerance, and that’s one of the best qualities a person can have. Never let that go – where you see hate, injustice and victimisation, call it out. It’s easy to hear something offensive and turn a deaf ear, but the world needs people like you to challenge hate in all its forms. As you get older, the world will try to knock your compassion out of you. Don’t let it, because it’s the very essence of who you are.

We’re not here for very long. When you’re ten, it feels like you have forever, but time has a way of running through your fingers like sand. I don’t expect you to grasp that now, but maybe if the grown up you is reading back over this in 30 years’ time, he’ll allow himself a wry smile. The truth is though, that we’re here for a mere fraction of the blink of an eye, so we have to make it count.

That doesn’t mean you have to change the whole world, however. There can only be so many people whose names go down in history as having achieved something magnificent, and even their great accomplishments will ultimately count for nothing. This civilisation will end as all the others have before it, our species will inevitably become extinct (pretty soon if we don’t buck our ideas up), and the universe won’t give even the tiniest of fucks.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that life is futile and there’s no point in even trying to achieve anything, it’s just that, for most people, our accomplishments aren’t particularly important or abiding. At least not on a global scale. But even if you don’t find a cure for cancer, discover life on other planets, or solve the energy crisis that threatens to bring about our untimely demise, you can still leave the world a better place than when you found it. 

Every single day, you touch the lives of others. Think of all the people you have encountered over the course of your ten years so far. Or even just one year. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers who you speak to once in passing: you will have an effect on each and every one of those people. It might be tiny, almost imperceptible, but the sum of these interactions can help to change the world for the better. The more people who extend the hand of kindness, friendship and tolerance to those around them, the more chance there is that one day this will be the norm. 

So in the end, only two things really matter: that you are happy and that you are good to other people. It gives me great comfort to know that, at the time of writing, both of those things are true. I feel sure that the latter will always be true because you’ve inherited your mother’s kind, gentle nature; you radiate the same warmth, the same inner beauty. 

As much as I want you to be happy, however, I want you to know it’s ok to feel sad sometimes. Or worried or anxious or scared or upset. Don’t ever hide from your emotions, they’re what make us human. Cry if you need to. Hug someone if you feel like it (and they’re ok with it). When you shut down some of your emotions, it’s extremely difficult not to shut them all down. The only one that makes it to the surface in those situations tends to be anger. Anger is natural too, sometimes, but it’s rare that anything good ever comes of it. Embrace your other feelings, let them in, get to know them. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to hide them away. So many of society’s problems could be solved by letting boys know it’s ok to cry, and by giving them a hug when they do so rather than telling them to toughen up.

I feel a profound sense of regret that it took me so long to realise this. Before I came out, I fell into precisely the trap I have described above. I didn’t just repress my sexuality, but so many of my other feelings as well. It had a lasting effect, and one that I’m still trying to come to terms with. I feel guilty that, for parts of your early life, I was prone to anger and irritability in a way that surpassed what was normal or healthy. I worry that you’ll remember my behaviour during these important formative years and judge me negatively. I want you to know that I’m sorry for all of it: the shouting, the snapping, the slamming of doors. I hope you can find it within yourself to forgive me.

I feel much better now, and I hope it shows. I do still feel sad sometimes. I cry sometimes, too. Quite a lot, actually. I think I must be making up for lost time. It’s ok though, because allowing myself to feel sad sometimes, means that I get to feel happy nearly all of the time. I don’t think that was the case before.

As well as apologising, I need to say thank you. When I came out almost a year ago, there were only two people in the whole world whose opinions I cared about. Whatever anyone else has said or done in the meantime, your reactions were always the only ones that really mattered. The grace, the maturity, the love and acceptance with which you handled my revelation is something I will always treasure. The manner in which you’ve taken an interest in LGBTQ issues since then, the way you actively support our community, is both beautiful and heart-warming. However you end up identifying in the future, the fact that you were so supportive of me and others like me before you were even able to describe your own sexuality will continue to be a source of great joy to me.

I want to finish by talking a little bit about Mummy. As you go through life, you’ll meet a lot of people. Some of them you’ll like, some not so much. A few of them you’ll love. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find the one person who is everything to you: your best friend; your counsellor; your drinking partner; the one you laugh with; the one you cry with; the one you can sit in silence with and still know exactly what they’re thinking; the first person you think of every morning and the last one you think of every night. When you meet that person, you’ll recognise them, and they will recognise you. And when that recognition hits you, for fuck’s sake grab hold of each other and never let go. That kind of love doesn’t come along too often, and when it does, you owe it to yourself not to let it pass you by.

So many people ask me whether Mummy and I will split up because I’m gay, but I can honestly say that the thought has never entered my head. All too many people still see sexuality as a simple binary choice, but that’s bollocks. The love we share transcends my sexuality, and I feel sorry for the people who don’t get that. Your presence in our lives has served only to strengthen that bond, and as I watch you grow into a person who embodies everything that I adore about your mother, I feel incredibly fortunate to share my life with the two of you. It was always a wonderful feeling knowing that I had my best friend beside me as I faced whatever shit life had to throw at me, but it’s so much better knowing that I now have not one, but two best friends in my corner. 

I guess that’s it for now. I hope it wasn’t too much to take in or too arduous to get through. Maybe I’ll do this again one day when I have more I need to say. Until then, remember that you have my undying love, respect and admiration. None of which means I won’t still tell you when you’re behaving like a little twat. 😘

With all my love,

Daddy.”

Everything’s a bit fucking shit right now, isn’t it? On this side of the Atlantic, our government has decided it’s a better idea to buy every packet of plasters in Boots than it is to simply not cut our own fucking legs off, and on the other side, the animated turd of someone who has eaten nothing but Cheesy Wotsits for a year is trying to destroy the entire fucking planet as though it was a thing as insignificant as a woman’s life. It’s nice, therefore – necessary, even – to stumble across something a bit more uplifting from time to time so we don’t all go completely shitting mad. 

Imagine my relief, then, when the first thing I saw on Twitter this morning was a video of a gay teenager who has been invited to perform his drag act at Brighton Pride next week, after his school had decided it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for their talent show. Now, obviously, it’s a bit depressing that the narrow-minded fuckers running his school have taken this stance in 2018, but it was gratifying to see him being offered the opportunity to perform on a much bigger stage as a result. 

As I watched the video, I shed a few tears. Some were for myself, I won’t lie. I always find myself thinking ‘what if’ when I see something like this, and it always makes me feel a little sad. But a lot of those tears were happy ones that this 14-year-old boy had found the strength to be his most fabulous self, that he refused to hide in the shadows like so many have had to do before him, and that his mother was by his side lifting him up. I felt cheered by the fact that this courageous young man had managed to overcome the short-sightedness of those who are paid to inspire him, and that he would now be looking forward to enjoying what will no doubt be a defining, life-changing moment in a supportive and loving environment.

Then I looked at the replies.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it was a terribly fucking stupid thing to do. Sadly though, like a turd that’s halfway out, there was no taking it back. The best you can do in such circumstances is to nip it off, and by that stage, it’s probably a futile gesture. 

So I read them all. 

As you might already have guessed, my positive mood was very suddenly, very abruptly, soured, like a previously convivial party to which Michael Gove has just arrived. I feel pretty confident in saying that those of you who know me will probably agree that I’m not a totally stupid man, and of course I wasn’t naive enough to expect that all the comments would be supportive. There’ll always be a few arseholes, right? 

Well, on this occasion, it was like a room in which the floor was carpeted entirely in arseholes, there were numerous, quite unpleasant arseholes covering the walls and every piece of furniture was constructed using only dried out, hardened arseholes, which were no less shitty for all their desiccation.

 “The parents want locking up. It’s child abuse.”

“Get up them fucking stairs and don’t come down until you’re normal.”

“Where’s his dad? Probably hanging in the garage after watching that.”

“I’m sure the perverts at Brighton Pride will enjoy having a minor performing at their event.”

That’s just a small selection of the nasty, malicious rhetoric spewed forth by grown adults, who were so enraged by the fact that a young gay boy wanted to sing and dance while wearing a dress that they simply had to take to Twitter to shit out their most pointedly vitriolic abuse. Just imagine the mindset for a second. You have attained the age of legal majority, you have a job, a car, maybe a mortgage, perhaps a wife and children of your own, and yet you choose to spend your Sunday mornings telling a 14-year-old boy, whose only crime is wearing clothes of which you don’t approve, that who he is makes his dad want to kill himself. What sort of desperately fucking worthless piece of shit would do something like that?

This is a drum I bang pretty frequently, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before, but I’m sick to my fucking back teeth of seeing and hearing comments that go something like this:

“Why are you always going on about LGBT equality? We’re fed up of hearing about it. You can get married now, so in what way are you not equal?”

In this way, you unremittingly fucking hateful bastards. 

In the way that a gay schoolboy can’t take part in a branch of the performing arts that gay guys have occupied for decades without being told he’s a freak. In the way that a mother supporting her son to be open about who he is is labelled a child abuser and told she should be in prison. In the way that some vicious, cowardly fucking cunt with an obscured avatar thinks it’s acceptable to imply that a father would feel compelled to hang himself rather than see his son feeling happy and fulfilled as a flamboyant, proud gay. And in the way that gay men are labelled paedophiles again and again, day after day, with no regard for the damage it might cause to the young people who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality.

All the time unedifying shit like this unfolds in response to a perfectly innocent video highlighting a positive aspect of gay culture, we’re not equal. All the time we have to think twice about whether it’s safe to hold hands in public, we’re not equal. All the time we’re yelled at, or spat at, or beaten up because we happen to be attracted to other guys or other girls, we’re not fucking equal.

But one day we will be. And it’s because of boys like Lewis Bailey and all the other Lewis Baileys who have gone before him and all the other Lewis Baileys who have yet to come. Those brave souls who refuse to be cowed by tragic, impotent little trolls whose existence offers nothing to the world but prejudice and hatred. Those who have the courage to say, “This is me. Either love me as I am or stay the fuck out of my life.” Those who stand up to the haters no matter what, and in doing so, give others the strength to do likewise.

These people are truly the best of us, and it is they who will change the world for the better. And if you’re not on board with that, you can fuck off to the edge of the observable universe and spend the rest of your miserable fucking existence eating a never-ending banquet of dicks. 

Not the nice ones, though. We’re keeping those for ourselves.

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.