Chesterfield councillor shares his experiences of coming out as gay
It makes no sense when you say to people that you had to ‘come out’, but the very phrase, the reality and the consequential impact reflects the secrecy and trauma involved for so many people across the LGBT+ communities.
For my own part I knew something was different from a very early age, but I also knew the expectation was that I would marry and have children.
To make matters worse, from a very early stage I was interested in family history and with that came the dawning realisation that if I was gay and didn't have children then I was ending my bloodline.
So I went through a series of coming out conversations.
First was with myself and for years I ignored my instincts and buried the reality.
I realise now just how early I knew, but how long it took my to be open about it to myself.
In fact there were a host of people to whom I said nothing until I was 26 and had met a guy.
I realised then I had to say something to a wider group of people, not just to my best mate and sister and a few close gay friends.
I felt I was letting my parents down – in terms of grandchildren at least.
Gradually over those next few years people worked it out, realised and whispered it – but I did feel supported and loved.
But it wasn't until 2013 when my friend Lynne Featherstone MP announced that she would bring forward a bill to enable same sex couples to marry.
At the very minute the bill passed and became an Act of Parliament I went down on one knee outside the Houses of Parliament and we became the first couple in the UK to be engaged to be married.
The records continued to tumble – we placed notice of our engagement in The Times (the first under the new act), the MP for Cambridge congratulated us in the House of Commons getting us into Hansard, and the Deputy Prime Minister tweeted his congratulations to us both.
At this point our relationship changed in the eyes of our friends and family – a wedding involved hats, food, cake and suits.
This was an occasion they could finally be public about and proud of.
Thanks to equality campaigners the Unitarian Church we were able to marry in Rosslyn Hill Chapel, North London, and literally to walk down the aisle.
At that point I guess we ended my story of coming out.
Except, even today, almost every day, it is still necessary.
Two years ago I was asked to leave my husband’s bedside in hospital as it was 'next of kin only and he was married' – I had to point out that he was indeed married, to me...
So to anyone reading this – every experience is different... mine has never been nasty, but it has been cautious, slow, but with friends, family and more besides it has worked for me.
And just to say, this is the first time I have ever written this story.
And that guy I met 24 years ago when he was 18 and I was 26... well I'm still with him, as he’s my first, my last, my everything.
Reader, I married him.