The words of my mother stayed with me for a long time.
“I don’t want a bent son” she had said when I was twelve years old.
She wasn’t referring to me, much to my relief at the time, but to my younger brother who had done something to incur this comment. I forget what.
Well, she did have a bent son.
I think she had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that one of her sons was gay and I don’t blame her for this. She was a product of the baby boomer generation when the only visible gay people were them likes of Charles Hawtrey and Larry Grayson. They were the definition of what it was to be ‘bent’ or ‘queer’ or a ‘poof’.
I couldn’t have been further removed from that.
I was a fat kid and quite strong, there was no effeminacy about me at all.
But as she made the comment I sat on the sofa, still in my school uniform and munching on some cereal, I remember thinking, “But you have got a bent son.”
I remember growing up in the working classes of Birmingham, knowing I was very different, I was not the ‘norm’. My early teenage years were filled with crush after crush, always on the men around never a fellow pupil or friend. I attended a boys school and if anything was going on I was not privy to it. I remember I had a strong crush on my Science teacher, a big bear of a man with thick legs and a lopsided grin. I didn’t learn much science, I whiled away the lessons imagining being with him, in his arms or lying on his chest the way I had seen women in films and on TV. Sex was an abstract concept, the though of it felt good but I hadn’t yet discovered the mechanics of it.
My attraction to big guys has never wained, perhaps part of the reason that I am a big guy myself.
Looking back, the whole of my teenage years were stifling and I really did not become my own person until the day I left home. I was surrounded by warring parents that included a step father who was constantly being unfaithful to my mother and a father who was nowhere to be seen. Even though he only lived 12 or so miles away he had chosen his new life and children over myself and brother. I would take the bus to school and then later to college, always fantasising about a life that seemed to be out of reach.
When I eventually moved out and moved to London, my life started to change. I suddenly had a few boyfriends and although each one was short lived I was learning how to be with another man both sexually and on an emotional level.
There never was any great coming out moment with my mother. I was living with a guy and she came to visit and over dinner she realised what the living arrangements were. And she cried. Quietly to herself she cried. I don’t know what or for whom she was shedding tears and I have never asked her.
Maybe she was forced to question and challenge her own prejudices, prejudices that had been forced upon her. If that was the case she won. Years later when her gay son got married to another man in front of 60 or 70 family friends, her pride was as immense as her love for them both.