Pardon Me!

Joel Grey1Grey gays are in the news right now. For a start, Joel Grey, the actor who found fame as the camp Emcee from Cabaret, came out publicly at the grand old age of 82. His revelation prompted a conversation about the point of coming out so late in life, as if sexuality only preoccupies the young. For me, coming out at any age is better than never coming out at all. I guess that’s easy for me to say but I’m saying it anyway. A story I recently heard on the radio illustrates my point. A carer used to visit an elderly man. One day he unburdened his ‘dark secret’ and confessed to her that he was gay – but his shame stopped him from ever acting on his feelings. He died as he had lived. Alone.

And then there’s the Royal Pardon granted to Alan Turing. This was the man who cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats in World War Two and who many historians believe shortened the conflict by two years. Alan Turing was gay. Shortly after the war, he was convicted of gross indecency (a crime that only applied to gay men) and was chemically castrated. A fine reward from a grateful nation. He committed suicide soon after.

Imitation Game1

Following a determined campaign by his family, Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013, nine years after the offence of gross indecency was itself finally repealed. Last year, a film about his life was released, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the mathematical genius. And now, the success of the Imitation Game has encouraged a new campaign, this time to pardon all 49,000 men convicted of gross indecency. Most of these men would have had their lives torn apart by this nasty little law. Some will be still be alive. Benedict Cumberbatch, the lovely lovey with the glorious name, has signed an open letter to the British Government in support of the campaign. There’s a petition. Please sign it if you can. I think it’s the least we can do.

The Petition

I’ll finish off with my own little story about coming out in old age. Liam and I were having a bottle of red in our local when we overheard a conversation by a couple of old codgers standing next to us at the bar. It went something like this:

Frank and Stanley

 

You’re never too old for a cuddle. I wonder what the happened in the end?

National Coming Out Day

Coming OutIt’s National Coming Out day today. I highly recommend it. It’s good for the soul. Easy for you to say, you might think. After all, I grew up in metrosexual London not the bible-bashing Prairies or Koran-thumping Steppes. New York may be the city that never sleeps but London is the city that doesn’t give a shit. And, to a certain extent this is true. It was relatively painless for me to trampoline out of the closet, disco dancing to ‘I am what I am,’ (The Village People anthem not the later more famous song from ‘La Cage aux Folles’). Still, it wasn’t quite the walk in the park some might imagine. It was the Seventies and, at the time, few people joined me out in the cold. And anyway, this post isn’t about me. I’m old hat. It’s about those still struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. So to mark National Coming Out Day, I am republishing my classic 2012 hit ‘Letter of Hope to LGBT Teens’. If it helps a bit then I’m glad.

Rainbow Stripe

Dear 15 Year Old Me,

That was Then…

Jack, what the hell are you doing? She’s a nice girl and all that but, really, you know you’ll never get beyond heavy petting. Come on, be true to yourself. You’re leading her down the garden path to frustration and disappointment; she deserves better. Just admit that you don’t like ‘it’. Her pretty bits are all in the wrong places, aren’t they? Okay, it’s 1975, it’s the decade that fashion forgot and you’re only fifteen, but you know you know. It’s not just a phase.

London may well have swung through the Sixties when androgynous men wore makeup and liberated ladies burnt their bras, but it’s not stopped you thinking you’re the only one. Yes, trendy Chelsea is just across the river but it might as well be on a different planet. Pick up a newspaper, any paper, and it’ll scream ‘pervert’ at you. ‘Paedophile’ even. The thing is, you don’t feel like a pervert and you’re certainly not interested in pre-pubescent boys. You’re just different from your brothers and the other boys in your class. Stop beating yourself up and get a grip. It’s okay to be different. Your parents will love you regardless, though I admit the conversation might be awkward, perhaps painful. They won’t like it. There may be tears and recriminations. No parent wants their child to stand out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons. It might be dangerous taking centre stage in a hostile world but you’re strong enough to take the flak. Come on, Jack. You learned real pride and you learned it at your father’s knee.

This is Now…

Jack, what the hell are you doing? Turkey’s a nice place and all that but, really, it’s a Muslim country and you and your partner are living openly as a gay couple. You are 51 and resolutely ‘out’ to everyone, take it or leave it. I hear you got ‘married’ back in 2008, a splendid fanfare of friends and family. So, they came round then? You’ve had a life full of peaks and troughs, good times and bad. This is life as it should be. So, your sexuality is only one of the things that define you but it is one of the important things. You’re a happy, rounded individual. You don’t compromise. You change attitudes just by being you. You see? You did it.

IDAHOT Day 2014

IDAHOTTo help promote and support today’s IDAHOT Day 2014, the marvellous people behind OUT140 invite you to write your own coming out story in 140 characters or less.  Simply tweet your tale to @OUT140, or use the hashtag #OUT140. You never know, it could end up on stage.

You can also follow OUT140 on Faceache, and check out their website here.

This is something I prepared earlier….

OUT140_text_mediumThe Little Book of Coming Out Stories

Tom Daley: Something I Want to Say

tom-daley-speedo

Yesterday, the British champion diver, Tom Daley, posted a simple video message on YouTube to tell the world that he was in a relationship with a man and that he was very happy. Tom was a poster boy for the Olympic Team. His buff, pool-trained torso (naked save for the tiniest and tightest Speedos) was plastered everywhere. Even at the tender age of 19, Tom is clearly well aware of his image and public persona. In our celebrity-obsessed world, I assume that he hopes this will sustain him long after the diving career has dried up. I hope so too. I also assume that this very public confession was his own idea. It was brave but was it also foolish? If his agent/manager/PR team had known in advance, I have no doubt they would have cautioned him against it. The revelation has unleashed a tidal wave of poison from the tweeting pond life. This was to be expected. Personally, I applaud his candour and rather think that his popularity will be enhanced by it.  His disclosure sends out a message of hope to young people everywhere that it’s ok to be gay. And for this, Tom deserves a pot of gold medals.

Tom Daley in his own words…

The Little Book of Coming Out Stories

The Little Book of Coming Out Stories

The Little Book of Coming Out Stories‘The Little Book of Coming Out Stories’ must in the running for the smallest book in print. Like me and gift boxes from Cartier, the best things come in pocket-sized packages. The book may be small in size but it’s big in ambition – 140 stories in 140 characters (or less) for £1.40. It’s a coming out textbook for the Twitter age. Compiled and produced by filmmaker/trainer Shelly Telly and poet/artist Vince Laws, the book is packed with abbreviated anecdotes that amuse, shock, sadden and liberate. Bravo to the people who shared their stories. Two tales, in particular, caught my eye:

My mother has Alzheimers so I have to keep coming out. Doesn’t get any easier!

I came out to my friends and family. My friends have been very supportive. My parents don’t talk to me. Water is thicker than blood.

The book is available to borrow from any Norfolk library or to buy from the Book Hive, the Greenhouse Shop or direct from Shelley (email shell@shellytelly.co.uk).

Now what would be my own coming out short?

I bounced out of the closet from a trampoline. The overcrowded cupboard was giving me claustrophobia. I don’t do orgies.