Tag Archives: acceptance

There is hope…

When my younger brother, John, was three years old, I remember our grandfather bending down to kiss him goodbye.
Three-year-old John took a step back and frowned,
“Mens don’t kiss mens,” he informed Grandfather.

Photo of John

My baby brother 1961

John and Eric

John (left) and Eric (right) relaxing in their garden, 1989

Everyone laughed and Grandfather dutifully gave him his hand to shake, which John did with some aplomb.
I was reminded of John’s innocent statement recently, when reading an article in The Times by Alice Thomson, about the ongoing struggle for gay equality. It beggars belief that we should still have a need for this discussion but we do.
As readers of, “The Boy in the Cowboy Hat,” may remember, my brother John, was gay and died of AIDs in 1993 aged 31. Even he laughed at the irony of the words spoken by his three-year-old self in later years. However, he had merely been putting into words, the presumptions and beliefs of the time, back in 1964. I had thought we had come a long way from that time but perhaps not.
When my own children were young, it was considered ok to be gay but gay marriage was still not possible. My brother would have liked to marry his partner had it been allowed and he never did rule out having children. Sadly, Fate decreed he and his partner die young, long before the law changed to allow either ambition. They were always accepted by family and friends but they still faced religious disapproval and social prejudice from the wider world.
That things have improved legally, cannot be argued. That more change is needed in attitudes and retained prejudice, is certain.
Tom Daley has been in the news recently for wanting a family with his husband and for arranging for a surrogate mother to bear their child. He has received some very hurtful and unwarranted criticism it seems. More horrifying, is the fact that there are so many places in the world where homosexuality is still illegal. It seems that religion and power have much to answer for.
Despite the long road still to be travelled and the prejudices and misconceptions still to be overcome, there is a beacon burning at the end of the tunnel. I see this in the children of today, In particular, I see it in my grandchildren.
My grandchildren are the ones who will grow up wondering what all the fuss was about, much as we grew up wondering why women hadn’t always had the vote. This was brought home to me last year, when one of my grandsons came home from infant school and during a conversation with his equally young cousin, was heard to declare,
“Boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls…” it was said in such a matter of fact way that my heart almost burst. They will grow up without prejudice given the chance.
Although we still have a way to go, that statement alone, shows just how far we have come from that, not so long-ago time, when John declared,
“Mens don’t kiss mens.”
We’ll get there!


Filed under Living Between the Lines

Oh Brother…you have to love Tomato Sauce

I saw a video on Facebook today. Cleverly put together by The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, in essence, it is about a family whose son admits, during a barbeque dinner, that he is in fact, a lover of tomato sauce. His Husband sits next to him, looking uncomfortable and nervous. His father is aghast and goes through the motions of looking disappointed, hurt and angry before leaving the table in an apparent rage, only to compose himself, return and hug the son and his husband.
“A simple difference shouldn’t be a big deal, runs the slogan.

I smiled at this video and applauded its deeper meaning before I remembered my own brother’s “coming out,”.
I was already married with children and had long suspected that John was Gay. He just never told me. He was almost five years younger than I, so our lives ran on different paths once I had married, aged 23. He was still finishing college and about to launch himself into the world of work.
Still, we spent a lot of time together whenever he could make his way down to our Gloucestershire home, a hundred and fifty miles from our home town.
Our second daughter was born at the end of 1982, when we had moved to Andover and we asked my brother to be godfather to her. I remember being in the middle of changing her nappy when the letter fell onto the mat. My first born brought it to me. It was written in John’s handwriting. I was puzzled that he should be writing to me, why not phone?
Pulling the folded sheets of paper from the envelope, I read and re-read them three times before sitting back on my heels.
John would love to be Godfather but thought I might think better of it because he had wanted to tell me something about himself for some time now but had lacked the courage. He was gay. I was horrified that he should think I would not understand and worse, would think of not allowing him to be Godfather to our daughter. I phoned him immediately to reassure him. He was relieved but begged me to be the one to tell my sisters and our mother. He did not think my father would like it and it was agreed we would tell our mother first.
Naturally, our mother said she had always known really, but she did not tell my father.
This did not seem odd back then, in 1983. Dad was quite old fashioned and Mum said she would tell him when she thought it a good time. It never was a good time it seems.
How strange that seems now.
In 1984, John and his partner, Eric, moved into a house of their own having lived in their London flat for a few years. My parents visited them but nothing was ever said about John and Eric being a couple. I was sure my father had guessed by now, but he did not seem to want to admit that he knew.
My brother’s move coincided with my father becoming terminally ill. Sadly, lung cancer robbed him of his deep, baritone voice and his speech was reduced to a whisper. It was just after the boys had moved house that he surprised me, by whispering,
“I suppose we should get them a new-house card, they are like a married couple after all, aren’t they?”
I looked at him and heaved a sigh of relief. I understood.
Ironically, my dad died in 1986 and my brother, far too young, died aged 31, in 1993, from AIDS. *The Boy in the Cowboy Hat
This is sad but through the sadness, it makes me feel good that my father knew and that even then, tomato sauce was acceptable.

*The Boy in a Cowboy Hat was published by Memoir, Issue 11, 2012.


Filed under Living Between the Lines