I recently gave a talk in partnership with Portland State University on my work with the Gay Men Project. I put a lot of hard work and heart into preparing this talk, so when you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think. It’d mean a lot to me.
“I was born in a small town in the north of England just before the start of the war which is one of my first memories of childhood. Some German bombs fell on our street, a hundred yards from where we lived. My brother and I were shifted around to various schools until my mother who had become a Catholic, had the crazy idea that I had a ‘vocation’ to be a priest and at the age of 13 I was sent to a seminary near Liverpool, the worst six years of my life. There I had a number of crushes on my classmates but as there was no sex education at the time I had no idea of what was going on inside me and nobody to talk to I could trust.
I left when I was 20 and was immediately called to do my military service, two years in the Air Force working as a nursing orderly. There I learned about sex – including ‘homos’ – and discovered a name for what I was feeling. At the time homosexuality was regarded as a criminal offense by the State, a mortal sin by the Church, and a mental disorder by the psychiatrists. There was no such thing as ‘coming out’ and I knew no-one else who was like me. I thought I was the only one.
I finally escaped to London, taking the first job I could get, and there I disovered the strip-clubs and porno theatres in Soho and the ‘rent boys’ hanging around Piccadilly Circus, and wondered if this was ‘it’. I worked for a time on the fringes of showbusiness but was sickened by the attitude that every good looking young actor or pop singers was fair game, someone to take advantage of sexually – and then discard.
By chance I got to know the Homosexual Law Reform Society and worked for them part-time as a volunteer, campaigning to get the law changed (which happened over a decade later). During discreet meetings with members of parliament and lawyers, I learned about men who were being prosecuted just for living together. It stayed like that for another ten years or so, I was always looking for Mr Right but assumed I was not good looking enough to attract anyone. I found relief in becoming a fairly successful businessman. Eventually three people saved my life – all of them non-gay – and slowly became my adopted family, my protectors, my life support system.
They are A, whom I met when he was just 15 and he came to work in my office during his school holidays. I knew his parents and took him with me on business trips all over Europe. He is now the father of three adult sons and we remain close friends after 35 years. The second is B whom I met through work, the father of two married girls, and we have been close friends for over 45 years. The third is C, whom I met much later, when I officially retired and left London for the south of France. We met by chance in a sports shop, he seemed incredibly young (he was just 23) and now 12 years later, he lives with his lovely girlfriend, and he has become ‘the son I never had’. As I approach the age of 80 C worries about my health and has become my official guardian should I eventually become too ga-ga to make my own decisions. There are inevitably some moments of loneliness but I could not ask for anyone more kind and supportive than C. I help him with some of his writing projects. He says I have brought some order into his life.
I am aware that there are places where there is a gay scene, including London of course, though probably not in the small French town where I now live. I have never been comfortable with it. Nor with events such as Gay Pride. I have only one friend who is also gay, we met as university lecturers in London, but being gay has never been the centre of my life. It is not something I feel the need to disclose but will answer to if pressed. It is only a small part of my identity.
Looking back on my early inexperience and confusion, I envy the young people today who are more aware, less restrictive in their choice of partners – though many still face oppression (there is a Refuge in my town which accommodates young gays rejected by their parents), both here and elsewhere in the world. I’d like to do more to combat all kinds of prejudice but feel I am running out of time. I wish I had done more when I was younger. I believe there is a duty of (all) older people to help (all) younger people get their start in life. I hope this contribution to your project helps a little. And a personal thank-you to all the contributors whose stories I have read so far…I found the site by accident and am still working my way through the histories. What an inspiration!”
Jose, in his own words: “Yo soy Jose, tengo 60 años y soy arquitecto.
Mi marido es Miguel, tiene 71 años y es jubilado.
Nos conocimos hace ya 32 años un 7 de febrero.Yo estaba casado y vivía en la ciudad de Córdoba,luego de conocer a Miguel pedí mi divorcio para irme a vivir con el a Buenos Aires y desde entonces estamos juntos.
Primero hicimos la Unión civil en la ciudad de Buenos Aires, que fue un hermoso logro para la comunidad gay de esa ciudad.Nosotros en esa época viviamos alli.
Hace 12 años nos radicamos en una ciudad pequeña, llamada Frías en el interior de la provincia de Santiago del Estero.
El 30 de julio del 2010 y por la nueva ley de matrimonio igualitario, nos casamos aquí en Frías.Por ese hecho fuimos el primer matrimonio igualitario de Latinoamérica.La ciudad de México nos regalo la luna de miel en DF y En Cancún.
Nuestra militancia tiene que ver con el hacer diario de una pareja gay, creemos que si cada gay logra el respeto de su grupo cercano, llegará un momento en que la red será tan densa que abarcará a la sociedad toda.Nuestra lucha entonces, siempre fue insertarnos desde el respeto en la sociedad que nos rodea y lo hemos logrado ampliamente.
Somos un matrimonio de ya casi 6 años, legalmente, pero de 32 años de convivencia ininterrumpida.Somos felices y lo vivimos plenamente día a día.Nos enorgullese escuchar de nuestros allegado que somos una hermosa pareja.Nos enorgullece poder mostrar que los gay podemos formar una familia, diferente, pero familia.Que tenemos sueños que cumplimos y derechos que adquirimos.”
“My name is Jose, I am 60 years and am an architect.
My husband is Miguel, he is 71 years old and retired.
We met 32 years ago on the 7 of February. I was married and lived in the city of Cordoba, after meeting Miguel I asked for my divorce to go live with him in Buenos Aires and we have been together since.
First we did the civil Union in the city of Buenos Aires, which was a beautiful achievement for the gay community in that city. At that time we lived together there.
12 years ago we settled in a small town called Frias within the province of Santiago del Estero.
On July 30, 2010 after the new law on equal marriage, we got married here in Frías. We were the first gay marriage in Mexico City in Latin America. Our honeymoon was in Mexico City and Cancun.
We have been married for almost six years, legally, but 32 years of happy coexistence. Today we live it fully. We are proud to hear from our close friends who are beautiful. We are proud to show that a gay couple can form a family, different, but a familia. That we have dreams that we fulfill and rights we acquire.”