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I was very scared of being judged

I think this is the first time I’ve put my story down in writing, after having recounted it countless times in person to others. I was “happily” married for 11 years, had a lovely wife, 2 beautiful children, nice house, a successful career and a life that looked outwardly not far from ideal.

Throughout my marriage, indeed my through out my life, I had tried very hard to be “straight” but always had to find some outlet or another to meet my basic needs. I did come out in my mid 20s, but went running back into my closet and firmly bolted the door. I see now that I was unable to cope with my perception of how I would be accepted by society. I was just starting a new career, I was shy and lacking confidence and I was very scared of being judged.

In common with many gay married men, there was an illicit and secret aspect to my life, one that only I knew of. The actual behaviour would vary over the years but was characterised by secrecy and shame. This was a central aspect of my coping strategy, one in which I separated intimacy and sex. This worked well for a long time until I realised the hurt I was starting to cause and it caused my world to fall apart. It also made it very hard for me to accept my new life once I had moved on.

I sailed to bit too close to the wind on occasions and my wife was a bit suspicious of my behaviour. After one incident which I could not satisfactorily explain, we self referred to a psychosexual counselor. At this stage I was clutching at straws and would prefer to admit anything other than the fact I was gay! We went to the counselor as I had decided I was suffering from sexual addiction. My level of denial was immense, and now makes no sense to me whatsoever. After four months I came out to myself and within a day, to my wife.

This was the beginning of the most painful period of my life. It started a frantic roller coaster of emotion, fear (more like terror at times), worry, hope, elation and acceptance. The difficulty was that for the first 6 month I had no idea if I was about to rise to a great height or plummet into an abyss. The most painful day was telling the children we were separating. This was a bolt from the blue for them and they sobbed for hours
I struggled immensely with coming out as I really did not want to be gay. I did not want to kiss a man, cuddle up in bed or anything intimate. I had internalised homophobic attitudes as part of my way of coping. I had to accept that I preferred men and that I couldn’t suppress this feeling, yet I desperately didn’t want to be this way. I’d been a devoted husband and father, had worked hard to build my life and support my family. I was now going to throw away all the things I valued and had worked so hard to build…for something I did not want yet had to accept.

At this stage I lost my wife, thought I would lose my children, my home, my dignity, privacy, self esteem. It also nearly cost me my life as I just couldn’t cope with the intensity and one thing after another coming at me. The thought of my childrens’ faces were the only things that have kept me on this Earth.

Coming back home to find the police at my house having gone through what little I did still have in terms of private belongings to look for clues as to where I may have gone and to provide a scent for the dogs was probably the lowest point. That and being referred to social work as a vulnerable person crushed what little spirit I had retained. I was then thrown out of the house.

This was a turning point as I started to see how kind people were, and how understanding. I was lucky in terms of the person who put me up for a few months. I honestly do not think fate could have worked any better in throwing together three people who had issues in their lives. We all supported each other without really realising it and I have no doubt that this accelerated my journey to where I am now.

Two months after coming out, I discovered that there were rumours circulating in the community (including my wife’s and my own places of work) about me, lies with a kernel of truth. This again nearly pushed me over the edge as I was still filled with shame at being gay and had told all of six people. I took a pro-active approach and started coming out to more people to establish the reality and counter the lies. I also received cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help me cope with the difficulties I was having in terms of accepting myself.

The one constant theme once I started being open with people is how wonderful they are, without exception. I accept I am fortunate that I work in an educated, inclusive and tolerant environment, I appreciate this is not the case for others. I survived on kindness and goodwill from so many people who reached out for me as my life fell apart.

After 8 months, I came out to my children (then aged 11 and 9). We knew what their attitude was to gay people after the Stonewall campaign on homophobic bullying. Their thoughts were that “…just because people think it should be a man and a woman, if it’s a man and a man or a woman and a woman, it doesn’t matter. You should let people live their lives as long as they are happy”. Coming out to the kids was the final step in accepting myself.

At the time of writing I have been out for 16 months. I am openly gay to my family, friends and colleagues, I have a new circle of friends, my own house, pride in who I am, a confidence that I have never had before and a sense of inner contentment. I am also broke, have a house that is worse than the flat I bought as a student and furnishings that would not look out of place in Steptoe’s yard!

I have a very different perspective on life now, one I think is healthier. I wouldn’t wish the first eight months after coming out on my worst enemy, but they have made me a much wiser and stronger person. I have respect from so many people for doing something incredibly brave (though I thought it was incredibly stupid at times) when I was expecting to be castigated and rejected. From speaking to others I think I have been very fortunate in terms of the short period of time it has taken to get my life back on an even keel.

To anyone who is living in that closet, looking over your shoulder all the time, living the life that you think others expect you too, trying to suppress who you really are-for me the journey was really hard, but short lived and the destination was worth every tear I shed. I have never been happier and as contented in my life as I am now. My kids still love me and have no problems with a gay dad…life really is good.

A Traveller's tale
Tom's story
I knew that already Dad
Turning my world upside down
Living in two houses

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