Tag Archives: gay

My gay voice

A new documentary on the concept of “sounding gay” has been making waves in the media, and among gay men. Do I Sound Gay? investigates whether there is such a thing as “gay voice” – when it comes to men, of course – and, if so, how do we get it?

I became aware my voice was more ‘girly’ than other boys’ at a very early age. I seemed to have so many ‘tells’ when I was a child that it was difficult to rein them all in. I could just about walk into a room and sit down without it becoming obvious but the voice – oh the voice – it always let me down. I was never any good at impressions and booming out like a bullfrog wasn’t really going to fly for a seven-year-old, so instead I reverted to silence.

I stopped answering questions in the classroom, would avoid shouting out – whether in joy or misery – in the playground and would pretend I was ‘shy’ in front of grown-ups I didn’t know. And if I ever forgot myself, perhaps giving a yelp of delight or saying a word with lots of  ‘s’ sounds in it, I’d see their faces change and know I’d gone too far. A slight twist of their mouth, their attention suddenly all mine, a quizzical look across their brow, maybe. I’d failed. They knew.

Of course you can’t stay quiet for ever and by the time I got to grammar school I had at least come to accept the way I spoke. I couldn’t do much about the tone and so I kept to short statements, avoiding using too many long words, even they were bursting to get out. I effectively dumbed down in an effort not to fit in – that never interested me – but not to stand out. A ghost. Continue reading My gay voice

Why being 39 ruined going to the hairdresser for me

I used to love going to the hairdresser. And, yes, I mean the hairdresser – a salon.

Gleaming floor tiles, with sparkly bits. Asymmetric-haired (and faced) receptionists alternating between flicking through copies of Vogue and leaflets on chlamydia. Shelf upon shelf of brightly coloured product that would “change my life”, destined to make me part with north of £40 and to lie unused and unloved in my bathroom cabinet after two or three disappointing washes.

Going to get my hair styled was an event. I have never been one for pampering because I don’t understand it – it seems like a lot of nenetting around covered in goo to me, and if I wanted a sauna like that I hear Chariots is still going. And yet getting my hair “did”, to use culturally appropriated vernacular popular on social media, was my one concession to luxury. Money was no object – and certainly left my wallet swiftly enough – and having my hair pawed by good-looking people while I sipped a complimentary glass of “fizz” was one of my very favourite ways to spend time in my twenties and early thirties.

I didn’t have haircuts, I had styles. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t try, any scissor-wielding or treatment I would shy away from. I had it relaxed, lines shaved in the side, a series of unfortunate mullets that have ruined every photo of me in existence from 2004–2006. As someone who is, at best, average-looking and at worst a genuine milk-curdler, my hair was always my crowning glory. Thick and bountiful and able to grow at an alarming rate, my hair bravery lifted me from a “meh” to a “mmmmmaybe” and that was enough for me. Continue reading Why being 39 ruined going to the hairdresser for me

Gay’s the word

Last night my boyfriend and I were on a train coming back from a few drinks with a friend. At one stop, a group of younger people got on. They were in their twenties, I guess. They had been to some sort of concert and were wearing various items of band merchandise. I suppose 10 years ago we’d have said they were “emo” – nobody says that any more, do they?

There were four of them. One looked like an artist’s impression of Guido Fawkes, there were two more devastatingly ordinary boys and then a girl, who was very excitable and babbled about gigs she’d been to and made up loads of transparent lies about things that had happened to her at them. So far, so normal.

And then, in the middle of a really weird story about some metal band dipping their hands in ramekins filled with blood (no idea) she said “I know that sounds really gay, but…” and then continued. None of her acolytes batted an eyelid, but I, a middle-aged gay man staring into the abyss of our future hope, flinched and I felt ill and I couldn’t hear anything else they said because that word was ringing in my ears.

I thought we had done this. I thought it was over. Using “gay” as a pejorative term to mean something was inferior or unattractive, I had previously thought, was dying out. It enjoyed a brief power surge a few years ago but thanks to a largely appalled reaction, it had faded into obscurity. What a naive moron I felt. Continue reading Gay’s the word

Is sexual orientation nature or nurture? Am I wrong not to care?

Nature, nurture, lifestyle choice, whatever. The world seems obsessed with finding out what makes the gays gay.

Every time it crops up, as it has today in the Guardian, I find myself puzzling over the fascination with unravelling this big secret. It’s just something that happens; why can’t we be satisfied with that? But, no, curious minds continue to peer through the dirty net curtains and into gay society for some kind of solution. And when the code is deciphered, then what? When all the research has been done, genes examined and endless, dull, wittering studies analysed and crosschecked, what happens next? Will it lead to society truly understanding and accepting homosexuality and its ‘practitioners’? Or will we be firmly on the path to extinguishing it altogether? Continue reading Is sexual orientation nature or nurture? Am I wrong not to care?

Coming out isn’t a one-off event – you’ll do it day after day for ever

Did you come out on National Coming Out Day? And how was it for you?

What people never seem to tell you about coming out is that it’s not restricted to one day – it’s a never-ending event. See those closet doors? They’re revolving. Day after day, you will find yourself – directly and indirectly – coming out to a host of people, even total strangers. The coming out never stops.

Think you have everybody covered? Relatives, friends, key people at work – check. However, you’re not out of the woods yet. We live in a world where there may be equality in law, but socially, we’ve still a long way to go.

Even a simple trip to the doctor, or a casual chat with a colleague, and having to say that dreariest, laborious word “partner”, like you’re in love with a law firm, is an act of coming out. It still feels strange on the tongue, let alone in the head, having to explain yourself.

You never know whether the news you’re gay will get you a shrug, a hug or a punch in the mouth. You wonder whether sitting next to that straight guy on the bus will make him think you fancy him, because he can tell, right? He knows you’re gay.

Will that drunk woman who caught you steal a glance at her boyfriend laugh it off or get in your face and throw a drink over you, calling you a “poof” and warning you to keep your eyes to yourself.? Welcome to the worst lottery ever.

Perhaps one day it will be no big deal and there’ll be no need for a lurching stomach or a mild stutter as you get the words out, wondering what the reaction will be. Here’s hoping. But despite all that, coming out is worth it. It really is.

I have already documented how I broke the news to my parents 14 years ago, and while I thought my work was done, about a month ago I realised there were two other people who’d remained blissfully ignorant over the years – my siblings.

I have a 17-year-old brother who I don’t see very often. He’s never really asked me about relationships or anything like that – teenagers tend to have their own stuff going on – but it niggled at me that he was in the dark.

I never had to tell my 18-year-old sister, to whom I’m very close. I suggested to Mum I should reveal all, but she said there was no need. Looking back, she was right. While it took her a few years to work it out, the fact she had her very own gay best friend at school helped her realise that I wouldn’t one day be bringing home a blushing bride.

Despite it never being explicitly said, she never questioned it,  instead accepted it without so much as a shrug – how disappointing for my inner dramatist – and my sexuality has become just another drab fact of life.

She may have had her suspicions about where my ‘flatmate’ and I slept in our one-bedroom flat but she never voiced them. We have settled into our relationship as grown-ups brilliantly. In her own words: “I didn’t really notice.” Perfect.

My brother was a different proposition. How do you tell a sporty 17-year-old just discovering girls that his big brother, who for some bizarre reason he looks up to, can never really join in on the whole lady appreciation thing? How do you prepare yourself to be a disappointment?

Well, the way I did it is spend the entire weekend with him and not say anything about it, before going home and telling him in a language he would understand – on Facebook Messenger.

In the middle of a conversation about a gig I was going to – Kylie! Of course – I decided now was the time to drop the bombshell, or gayshell, if you like. I decided not to make it too emotive – the slightest hint of sentiment can send even the most sensitive of teenagers reeling and heading under the nearest Xbox. I kept it matter-of-fact:

“It’s just occurred to me that you may not be aware – my partner is a bloke. I’m gay. Hope you’re cool with that. I should’ve mentioned it before, I guess. It’s a difficult one to drop into conversation. If you need a bit of time to think that one over, I understand. I should’ve said at the weekend really. Anyway, now you know.”

So now he knew. I awaited his reply with the kind of feeling you get when you know your electricity bill is due – crippled by inevitability. I was also kind of excited. Something was about to change. Finally, some drama.

Hours dragged. Then: a tick appeared by his message. He’d seen it. I closed Facebook and went into another room and pretended to tidy up. Any distraction welcome. Finally, I scraped myself off the ceiling and opened Facebook again. And like a beam of light, his reply shone:

“I can imagine you would’ve found it very hard to put that into conversation!
But yeah.
As long as you’re happy bro I’m really happy for you!
I have the utmost respect for you, it must be really difficult sometimes.”

Whether it’s a blatant acceptance like my brother’s, or a  marvellously unspoken one like my sister’s, never underestimate its power. And even though I have come out a thousand times to a million faces, the feeling of being accepted, that good reaction, never, ever gets old.

If you have come out to friends or family this weekend, I hope they reacted as brilliantly as my most excellent siblings.