(Uplift| Paul C Pritchard) Why I chose not to ‘come out’. We live in an age that is all about exploring diversity. The world is participating in great conversations about the wonderful unique flavours of what it means to be human and how we express gender, sexuality and lifestyle choices. We are opening our minds and hearts and challenging the old paradigm with new fresh ideas and perspectives. The speed at which this is happening in some parts of the world is exhilarating. It seems that, slowly but surely, humanity is returning home to a sweet place of loving compassion and acceptance of difference.
It was not always like this. I was born in England in March 1967 when being gay was illegal. As a newborn baby, I was of course between worlds; mesmerised by the physical world that I found my new senses immersed in and still caught in the echoes of the language-less omnipotence of my divine origin.
When I look into a newborn baby’s eyes, I see the distant far away galaxies and mysteries of Existence reflected in those fathomless windows of the soul. Right there in those glossy portals is the human condition; boundless potential when held and nurtured in the right environment.
I was born into a typical working-class family in Liverpool. The Beatles were riding the wave of pop-hysteria with hits like A Little Help from My Friends and All You Need is Love. Post-war austerity was fading, and a broader more inclusive optimism for a better life was being propagated through radio, television and movie theatres. Things were looking up and in many areas, also out.
If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
– J. F. Kennedy.
Throughout the ’70s I was busy with ABBA, platform shoes, flares, and my chopper bicycle. My elder brother was obsessed with football and my younger sister with dolls and a hairstyling toy called Girl’s World. Mum was training to be a teacher and Dad did a few jobs to keep us in ’70s fashion and provide food and shelter. We had enough and life was, for want of a better word, normal.
Then hormones hit the home life. My two siblings and I are only a year apart. My brother one year older than me and my sister just one year younger than me. How my parents navigated three teenagers in hormone overhaul is beyond me. That time when sexual maturity meets worldly immaturity is jagged. Testosterone rages through the house and devours anything in the fridge. Oestrogen is exquisitely sensitive and ricochets through individuation and fierce independence whilst all the time still needing to be held in a sense of security. I was far too busy trying to work out who I was to notice how mum and dad were steering the stormy helm.
Who I was is who I am
The time came when my siblings and I were interested in boys and girls. Me and my sister interested in boys and my brother into girls. It was clear to me when my unwavering crush on the Bionic Woman (Lyndsey Wagner) vanished when I fell head over heels in love with the Bionic Man (Lee Majors). I knew I was attracted to the same sex. I also felt deep within me that this was my ‘normal.’ I didn’t feel damaged or broken or abnormal until it was reflected back to me from outside sources; bullying, newspapers, TV, and radio, etc. But inside I felt whole. I still felt a connection to my strong sense of belonging to the bigger masterpiece of Existence.
People often ask me what it was like to come out to my parents in the early ’80s in working-class Liverpool. When I tell them that I didn’t come out they always look shocked. ‘You mean they don’t know?’
They know and here’s how … I was so secure in myself about being a spark of consciousness (God, Universe, Existence), of being an expression of the infinite creativity and intelligence of this divine mystery that I knew deep down there was no ‘mistake.’
My elder brother got a girlfriend and he brought her home. My younger sister got a boyfriend and brought him home. I watched all of this and understood the routine. At this time, I was also hearing about the concept of ‘coming out’ and what it meant to be gay. I was a philosophical kid and pondered everything I was asked to believe or accept.
I decided to just be me, rather than define myself as some ‘other.’ Image: Levi Saunders.
This was my unifying philosophy about coming out: I refused to mark myself as ‘different’ by coming out. I was gracefully and undramatically defiant. Without knowing it, I was taking a grand stand for equality. I decided that unless my brother and my sister both came home one day with a serious and perhaps somewhat anxious look on their faces, and sat my mum and dad down and braced them with words like, ‘I have something to tell you…’ Dramatic silence. Inaudible drumroll. Palpable tension in the air. ‘Mum, Dad I’m straight!’ If they didn’t have to go through that, I sure as hell wasn’t going to go through it either! I just brought my boyfriend Chris home and let them figure it out.And figure it out they did. In later years we talked about how they worried for me living in a sometimes homophobic world. My parents never once treated me any different from my brother and sister. It’s still the same today. Which brings me back to my earlier sentence;‘Right there in those glossy portals is the human condition; boundless potential when held and nurtured in the right environment.’
My parents held me in an environment of equality when it came to sexuality. I was lucky. Perhaps exceptionally lucky. I recognise that coming out is a big part of claiming sexual identity and individuating. I support anyone who feels they need to formally come out. I also support anyone who wants to do that organically, with an innate sense of pride in belonging to and being an integral part of the whole fabric of Existence. My faith and curiosity in this divine mystery was all the holding I needed, then and now.
A lifetime of shedding labels
I see this very act of divine defiance as an act of claiming my rightful place in Existence. A mature perspective on identity. I didn’t need a queer identity any more than my brother or sister needed a straight identity. I have spent my whole life dis-identifying with labels and being put into boxes. I understand that as we transition from separation into equality, all of this labelling will fade away.
And I also recognise that there are young, passionate and ignited humans who have already shed their label skins and want to live a full and purposeful life free from restrictive identification. They want to live in Love, Peace and above all Equality as just one member of this diverse and magnificent human experience.
Society is unity in diversity.
– George Herbert Mead
We’d love to hear your reflections about the very personal and often delicate process of expressing your authentic self – specifically how you move into the recognition that you belong here. And in the immortal words of Lady Gaga …
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way …
Much love and support to you always.
You may also like: