People often ask me: “When did your Dad tell you he was Gay?”
He didn’t. And that’s not because he “hid” his sexuality from my sister and I, we were just brought up in two homes by two different loving couples.
I never questioned it, it was our norm. Until I got to school and I realised that to other children’s parents it was an “issue.” So I started to filter myself and I always warned people who came to play at my Dad’s house (those that were allowed) that my Dad lived with his “lodger.”
This lodger facade lasted until senior school when a friend “outted” my family and I. Along came the barrage of homophobic bullying and references to my Dad as a “battyman.”
Then at university it became “cool” that I had a Gay dad although to me he was just my Dad and his partner was just my step-dad.
Things are improving these days but I don’t think that is good enough and neither does my Dad.
Here he explains why we should be thankful but not complacent:
“I recall some years ago as a social worker visiting two older men, John and Trevor (not their real names), who claimed to be brothers. I came to know them both well and supported them through John’s terminal illness. It was only after John’s death, when there were financial matters to be resolved, that Trevor confided in me that they were in fact not brothers but lovers. John and Trevor had been together for over three decades, both having convictions for sexual offences because of previous relationships with other men. John had lost his job as a result of the offences and Trevor had been rejected by his family. The two of them had spent the whole of their lives together hiding the truth of their relationship, constantly living in fear of exposure, telling neighbours and friends and the authorities that they were brothers.
“Last month during LGBT+ History Month and the celebration of 50 years since male homosexuality was decriminalised, the government announced that thousands of gay and bisexual men were to be posthumously pardoned for past sexual offences in England and Wales. The enactment of the so-called ‘Alan Turing’ law cleared around 49,000 men of crimes for which they would be innocent today. Those convicted of the same sexual offences but who are still alive will sadly have to make an application for a pardon – rather than having their convictions automatically quashed and pardons being offered.
“As many will know Alan Turing, the renowned war- time code-breaker, was found guilty of gross indecency after a relationship with another man in 1952. He was subsequently chemically castrated before dying of a cyanide overdose in 1954. Turing eventually received a royal pardon in 2013.
“It might seem churlish to many not to welcome this pardon, and it is arguably another step in the right direction towards greater equality and acceptance. But let’s not forget those many men who went to their graves (some of whom took their own lives) with the shame of carrying the label of ‘sexual offender’ – having, by virtue of loving another man, been found guilty of Gross Indecency. Let’s not forget the families of these convicted men who continued to live with the guilt, shame or stigma associated with having a family member with a conviction for a sexual offence. Let’s not forget those men still alive today who have been made to feel guilty or who have suffered as result of carrying around the knowledge that they have been labelled as a sexual offender and deviant. Let’s not forget those men who underwent inhuman psychiatric treatments to ‘treat’ their homosexuality which at the time was considered a mental illness. And let’s not forget that this country exported its homophobic legislation to those countries it invaded and colonised – where homosexuality in many cases still remains a criminal and punishable offence. And many of those countries, prior to the British invasion and imposition of our laws, had rich, diverse cultures which celebrated different sexualities and identities.
“The ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was only lifted in 2000. My partner who joined the Royal Navy before that time, fortunately for him, left as soon as he acknowledged his sexuality. Had he ‘come out’ as gay whilst still in the forces he could have faced a brutal court martial and dismissal – such a record would not only have impacted on his future work prospects but also I fear on our family life.
“Whilst the Government has been applauded for this long overdue recognition of past ills, it has simultaneously implemented austerity cuts which have led to the closure of many LGBT+ organisations across the country – and placed many others under financial strain and breaking point. Pace in London, which supported LGBT+ people with mental health problems or who were survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, closed its doors in January 2016 due to government cuts. One month later Broken Rainbow in Manchester, which supported LGBT survivors of domestic violence, was forced to close due to the withdrawal of funding by the Home Office. Central government cuts to Local Authority Public Health budgets have received little publicity but have had a huge impact on sexual health service provision across the country and on HIV prevention initiatives for gay and bisexual men – with the potential to fuel an increase in HIV infections.
“That gay and bisexual men have posthumously received a pardon is an inadequate nod to justice. That those gay men still alive with historical sexual offences have to apply for a pardon is unacceptable.
“Government cuts leading to the closure of essential services supporting LGBT+ people, or putting at risk many other LGBT+ organisations, really does make one question the Government’s genuine commitment to LGBT+ rights or indeed to making amends for the the wrongs of the past.”
By Steve Slack, CEO of SayIt (My Dad)