Paul | 34 | Nottingham, UK | Complaint Manager
I spent a lot of my childhood travelling as my parents were both in the armed forces. By the time I hit my early teens, my parents had decided to settle in an old miner’s town in Nottinghamshire where some of my other relatives lived. At school, I was very quickly seen as the “outsider”. I didn’t realise it at the time, but, people in this area generally were born and bred and stayed put. The fact my accent was completely different was picked up very quickly. I was seen as the posh boy and labelled as “gay” from about 13 onwards.
The term gay in my household was frowned upon. Parents from an armed forces background, my father was the “alpha male”. The fact we had moved to an old miner’s town also meant a lot of people weren’t very forward in moving with the times. As such I kept my thoughts to myself. I always knew from a young age I could look at women and men and think “she look’s good” or “he look’s good”. I don’t know whether the “anti-gay” thing stopped me exploring these thoughts further or not looking back. In fact, these thought slipped away from me…
As part of being one of the “outsiders” at school, I became really close to another girl called Liz. I don’t know whether it was the situation we were in that brought us closer or if it was just meant to be. We would hang out at school and after school, and pretty much before I knew it, we were dating. Any thought of “she looks good, he looks good” was taken away and I was focused on Liz and I. As we left school, a lot of our peers went to university, and we both end up in full time employment.
"Very quickly we made the decision to move in together. At the age of 19 we became engaged and within six months were married. A year later a son came along and a year after that a daughter. At the grand old age of 21 my life was in a position some people wait a lifetime for."
The “she looks good, he looks good” thoughts never crept in, I was happy and settled and things seemed perfect.
It all started to go wrong when financially things took a turn for the worst. Myself and Liz were falling out a lot, and I was working all the hours I could. I was tired all the time and I would come home to Liz being stressed with two young children trying her patience. The slightest thing would tip us both over the edge. Very quickly the Liz I knew at school became someone I didn’t really know anymore and we drifted.
I made the decision to move out for a few days for us to evaluate the relationship and also rid the atmosphere in house for the children. This became a week, two weeks, a month and before I knew it three months had passed. The relationship wasn’t repairable.
I had moved job roles and became close to a new group of people. I was working all the hours I could to support my ex and kids still and very much my life became work and sleep. Within my new role, I became close to a guy called Andrew. Andrew was 10 years older than me and had been married and divorced and had 2 kids. His reason for the divorce? He realised he was gay.
"I would sit for hours and listen to his life story and the similarities between his and mine. Very quickly I found myself looking at him thinking, 'he looks good'."
A work night out was arranged and it became apparent in the office, people were talking about myself and Andrew as being more than friends. I heard stories of how could he; he’s married and has kids. The truth was nothing had happened… yet. I don’t know whether it was the gossip or the alcohol or just my attraction to Andrew that led to us sharing a kiss on this night out. I was left the next day with feelings of “when can I see him again” and not "what have I done, what does this mean??”.
My feelings were becoming more and more focused toward Andrew and not my wife who I was separated from. I decided to explore these feelings further and a date, turned into 2, 3, 4 and 5. I soon realised I was actually seeing a man and it felt great. I knew I had to tackle my old relationship head on.
I knew I had to tackle my old relationship head on. We were separated and we both knew there was no going back. I sat her down and told her that we weren’t going to ever get back together. I confessed to her I felt I was actually gay. At this point, there was no shouting, no questions.
"Liz took her wedding ring off and cuddled me. She said she already knew."
Liz told me since we had been separated she had done a lot of thinking. Her feeling was us getting married so young, the gay name taunting at school, my parents anti-gay approach had suppressed any feelings I may have had. She hit the nail on the head.
Telling my parents was harder than telling my wife and Liz realised this. I still don’t know how to this day, but she came with me to tell them! My mum was home alone. I sat her down. “Mum, Liz and I are never getting back together because actually I’m gay”. I don’t know how the words came out, but they did. My mum’s reaction? She laughed at first. A distant cousin of mine had just announced she was a lesbian and had been married like myself. Her reaction was pretty much along the lines of “well it’s a family thing then!!” My dad came home shortly after. My mum did the talking. His reaction was muted to say the least. He stood up, said nothing, went upstairs and never came back down. Mum said I should leave and he would come around.
I kept in contact with my mum, but the contact went from please come over and see me, to give it more time. No contact from my dad. My relationship with Andrew went from strength to strength and Liz and I were getting on and I was seeing the kids a couple times a week. A decision was made to get divorced so Liz could move on and I signed the house over to her for the kids' future. It felt like although I was 24 my life was entering a second chapter.
Ten years later and I’m civil-partnered! Not to Andrew, but to an amazing guy called Daniel. A lot has happened in this time and unfortunately my relationship with my parents has stayed the same. I rarely speak to my mum and my dad refuses to talk to me. He apparently refuses to accept that I had been married, had children and then entered a gay relationship.
My ex wife has moved on and is in a relationship herself. We aren’t as close as we used to be, but times change. The children, they are 12 and 13 now. I see them, not as often as I would like, but kids these days have such social life’s it’s something I can accept. Having them in my life and showing them they have two parents who are happy is better than not at all. Incidentally, the gay thing with them, they never battered an eye lid. I wonder now, looking back, how society has changed since I was at school. I feel sad my parents have never been there for me but it’s made me stronger, being a parent myself and letting them know they can be whoever they want to be.
As for Daniel, my civil partner, I helped him come out to his family at the age of 25! Their response? Nothing but love and support.
"I now feel I have the family life I should have had and I’m not looking back."
Follow Paul on Twitter - @PaulVick1978