I’m From Axminster, Devon, England

by bill drayton

On November 6th, 2011, I arrived back at the local railway station at the end of my trip to Charleston, South Carolina, jet lagged and exhausted. That day was going to be the turning point in my life.

During the time I was away, Sara, my wife of 24 years, read a book about a married man in his 60’s (like me!) coming as gay, and as she read through it, she suddenly realized that this could easily be my story. There had been plenty of “clues” throughout our time together of me not being quite the husband she expected. Increasingly (although I had given no hint of this, or least I think I hadn’t!) I felt trapped in the marriage.

Also since June 1994 I had “committed my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour” – the terminology used by evangelical Christians, whose view on scripture is hard-line as far as homosexuality is concerned. So there I was agreeing to a theology whilst denying my true identity – which I had done all my life. I was in fact hiding a “dark secret” and behaving in a homophobic way whenever I felt threatened.

I grew up in a traditional, conservative, Anglican family, where churchgoing was the done thing but you never discussed religion, unless you were a zealot (which was frowned upon!). In fact, any subject which was deemed awkward or unhealthy was just swept under the carpet. I do remember my father once saying that if he had his way, he would line up those “queers” against a wall and shoot the lot of them. He was and still is the archetypal male, who is incapable of showing love nor of expressing it. The only emotion he has showed to me was that of anger when he lost his temper. Only occasionally and that almost by accident there are hints of some kind of feeling with him, but it is just as though he is in a prison of his own making. I feel sorry for him, especially when I think that his own parents were probably not demonstrative in their love for him.

Between the ages of 8 and 17 I went to single-sex boarding schools – firstly to a preparatory school and then to “public” school. “Public” is in inverted commas, because it was far from being a state school. It was one of the top private schools in the country. I remember the first time I had a crush on a boy. It was my first school. We were just kicking a football around and I was somehow drawn to him – not understanding what that attraction meant. When we went to separate public schools, we did write letters to each other, but it petered out. At “public” school homosexuality was rife. Everyone took part, but this was at a time when it was illegal. I felt ashamed and guilty that I had been drawn into something which I secretly wanted. That was when I tried to “keep a lid on things” but not always successfully. When my aunt asked me when I had the first inkling I was different, I told her about the incident at prep school. Oh you were just going through a phase! was her reply. Well, I am still going through it!!

Having spent a miserable time as a pupil at school, being bullied for being a “sissy”, especially by my younger brother, I took the ridiculous decision to become a teacher in secondary schools. I thought that since my subjects were foreign languages, that was all I could do. I lasted 20 years, at the end of which I had a nervous breakdown and took early retirement, but not before I had had a crush on a boy at my last school. I thank God I did nothing about it. So I was hiding my secret then, and again living a life of hell.

During my career as a teacher, I spent two separate years teaching English in Germany. In my first year I got friendly with another young British male teacher, who had a fiancee back in the UK and who was sexually active. One time, when she had gone back, and I was feeling particularly lonely, I asked him whether I could share his bed. At that moment our friendship was killed stone-dead.

And then just before meeting Sara for the first time, I was involved in a disastrous relationship with a woman who had three sons. I had a crush on her eldest, and told her so. He was 16 at the time, and was acting as the man of the house. I was the weakling and the intruder. That is how I felt. When Sara and I met, I gave her the wrong impression about this incident – that he was coming on to me – not the other way around! She said that if I had told her the truth, we would never have got married.

So now we come to that day in November 2011. Sara, being the astute woman she is, decided to ask me when I was exhausted whether I was gay or bisexual. When I said yes, it felt as though a great weight had lifted off my shoulders and I was free to be the person I was always meant to be. Why did I wait so long to “come clean”? Simply, because I was terrified of other people’s reactions – especially my family’s. As it has turned out, my father, who will be 90 in September, and his sister say that no-one is interested in me being gay (although they do not use the word gay!). What they mean is that they do not want to know, because they are so embarrassed and ashamed.

Since the time I came out in November, I have grown in confidence and now know where I am going. Also, if others do not like the way I am, then it is their problem, not mine! And that includes my family! Recently I went through some excellent counselling. What I learned is that we need to take control of our relationships, not allow others to dictate them. Especially family members. And I have found that it works.

Fortunately my best friend is my wife. She knows me best of all, and she has accepted me as I am. Since November 2011, it has felt like being on a rollercoaster ride for the two of us. Twice I left her to go to see my then boyfriend in Malaysia. That did not work out, in part because of the homophobic atmosphere in the country. He was having to do what I had done for 50 years, and I was not prepared to go on doing it, hiding who I really was. I now have a boyfriend in the Philippines. I will be seeing him in October and November. He wants to be friends with Sara. As he says, she is an important part of my life. Eventually she and I will divorce in 2016, so I can live with my partner, but we intend to remain friends. Sara knows that one day I will leave and she knows that she will be sad when that happens, but that this is meant to be. She wouldn’t want me to go on living a lie!


  1. Hi Bill, I think what Stuart means is ‘Way to go Bill’, as in ‘well done, good on you Bill’.

    That’s how i read it anyway :)

  2. Thnaks for both comments. I’m actually with my boyfriend in the Philippines right now. I return to the UK in February in order to find an apartment to rent. Alby will continue his studies here.

  3. Nice to meet you at the airport cafe Bill! You’re right, you were mad to become a teacher!
    Good luck with everything, Sue and Jack

  4. It’s never too late to be who you are. What matters more is that you have people who care about you as the way you are. And you can love as the way you wanted. You can live the way you wanted. And it’s really wonderful Sara still loves you as a best friend and you didn’t waste a single day being unloved. What’s different now is that you stopped living in lies and new life starts.

  5. Thank you so much for your comments, Sue and Henry. Yes, it was an unwise move to become a teacher, although to regret what has happened in the past means you regret where you are now, because the past leads up to this moment. Henry, you are quite right. To thy own self be true! Shakespeare was right. In 10 days’ time I shall be moving to the Philippines to start my new with my boyfriend. I will get a divorce in two years’ time and Sara has a boyfriend. I am very pleased for them both. As I said to him recently, “in the short time you have known each other, you have made her happier than I ever did in all our years of married life.” I would like to thank the founder of this website for enabling all of us to tell our stories and to share them so that others could be encouraged as they face the challenges of coming out in often hostile environments. It is so important that we in the lgbt community support one another.

  6. I’m now in the Philippines and on my own. I had to tell my ex to leave, because he proved to be totally untrustworthy. I am single for the first time in decades, and beginning to get used to the life. I will make friends and this time take things very gently and not rush into a deep relationship.

  7. Also I have left the marital home for good. Hopefully Sara and I can remain friends. It may be a rocky road up to our divorce, but that is our aim. She now has a boyfriend and I am happy for them both.

    • For the past month or so or is it longer, Kim has been living here with me. We met on line and then at a cafe. He is 31 and is employed as analyst at the moment, although due to being overstressed at work, is looking elsewhere. He takes his responsibility towards his family – mother, father and nephew especially – very seriously. He and I have come to love each other. Not exactly fallen in love. But a companionable sort of love. We talk on the same wavelength. He is also very caring towards me. So where this all leads I don’t know. He has a strong faith in God as a Catholic, and is helping me to find one as well. I now can see how living with a guy makes far more sense for me than living with a woman ever did. It took me too long to discover that, but I cannot alter what has happened. Just move on and enjoy the ride. Hopefully if everything goes well in the next two years and once my divorce is final, we will get married and move to the UK, unless there is a drastic change of plan.

      • I thought I would give an update on my relationship with Kim. We are still living together in the apartment I rented last June 2014. I have twice been back to the UK for short visits to see family and friends. Kim suggested I write the story of my life in order to help those in similar situations to myself. I have done just that, completing my story so far in 40,000 words. When I return to the UK, I will decide as to whether what I have written is good enough to be published. I have a friend called Steve who has already edited a book of poetry previously for me, and he is willing to do the same this time round. I may self-publish through amazon.com. Another friend in the States may be able to help me with a distributor. I have settled on the title: The Shadows And Then The Light (self-explanatory, perhaps!). I have also changed all the names because I do not wish to hurt anyone unnecessarily, since it is a no holes barred account. I return to the UK permanently in early November, because both my wife and I have already started the process of our divorce this year and the house has been put on the market. Once my divorce is through, I hope to buy a house somewhere in the Northwest of England (Manchester or Liverpool area) for Kim and me to live in through the shared ownership scheme. Those in the UK will know what that is. Then I shall return to the Philippines, and we will present Kim’s fiance visa application complete with as much evidence about our relationship as is needed at the British Embassy in Manila. The process of getting the visa should take up to 4 months. We will then get married at a registry office in the UK, and he will then start looking for a job in the hospitality industry, of which he has already had experience in the Philippines. He has said to me that he will look after me for the rest of my life. He is very mature for his age. He has a deep Catholic faith, which is not dependent on church attendance. He prays a lot. He often asks me difficult questions which I have to think about. Our relationship I can describe as being comfortable. We hug and kiss a lot. Our love for each other runs very very deep.

  8. Bill, thank you for sharing with us your struggles, revelations, and how you have come to love and accept yourself for who you are — a wonderful, loving man. You are a beautiful person! :)

  9. Thank you, Carolyn, for your kind words. This website has been a godsend, I’m sure, for many. At the top, it says: “I’m from Axminster”. As you all know, I’m currently from Dumaguete in the Philippines. Hoping to sell the marital home in the UK, so I can get my divorce and then Kim can apply for his fiance visa for the UK and we can then get married. If you know of anyone who wants to buy a house deep in the Devonshire countryside in a lively village, then go to this website – http://www.rightmove.co.uk. Type in the search box – Membury, Devon. And then set your limit to £350,000. You will see the house advertised at £330,000. The price is definitely negotiable. If the website disappears, just remember rightmove.

  10. Thanks for publishing. I wish my marital breakdown had been as amicable – but then it happened much earlier, for quite different reasons. That enabled me to come out at a much younger age. I then had a wonderful long – term relationship with a man just a few years younger than myself, for almost 20 years, until it fell apart when we moved from South Africa to the UK.

    Twelve years later, I’ve since moved on, and now last year converted my civil partnership of 8 years to formal marriage, and have strong relationships with my two daughters, their husbands, and four grandchildren. (I also have remarkable support and encouragement for my work as a gay Catholic activist, from my local Catholic parish deep in rural Surrey, of all places!).

    Coming out is not always easy, but as Sir Ian McKellan has remarked, nobody ever seems to regret it, once completed. It really does feel like a burden lifted, which is not surprising: it’s a simple matter of honesty and integrity, and as the Bible tells us, “The truth will set you free”.

    All the best for your continuing journey.

    • Terence, I’m afraid to say that my divorce is not going to be amicable. I am in the middle of it now. Unfortunately I do not see any way that my soon to be ex-wife and I can remain on friendly terms after this is all over. There were reasons for the breakdown of the marriage which had little to do with my coming out. What I wrote about my wife in 2011 does not apply now. I have realized how unbalanced the relationship was with her being in charge and me allowing this state of affairs to continue for so long. It is while I have been with Kim, that I have understood what I went through in the marriage.

  11. I think I need to make some remarks with regard to my relationship with my father. I have come to accept that he and I are on different wavelengths. He finds it hard to understand what has happened, but (and for this I give him credit!) despite that, he has never disowned me. I am very grateful to him. My sister who lives close by to him pays him a visit every other weekend, and he is always asking after me. He is of the old school, where you do not show your emotions, ever! In my opinion and experience that can be emotionally destructive, but I have come to accept that we are all different and we react in different ways to events. Sometimes remaining honest even when it is painful, and sometimes concealing what we feel because we have decided that that is the only way we can survive the trauma. For some people this is not a conscious decision, because it is part of their “make-up”, but others can see it. Those of us, who have come out and acknowledged who we are, can appreciate the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and mental health of that act of freedom. Let us show love and respect to those who are not yet experiencing that freedom – whatever that means for them, individually. Let us be there to support and encourage, whatever decisions people make for themselves.

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