Growing up Gay in South West England
The challenges of growing up gay in different countries…
In Darren Edwards’ series of interviews on how gay guys grew up all over the world, he chatted with Oscar, a 20 year old, about growing up gay in West Sussex, UK.
How easy was it to be gay in the place you grew up? Is there a gay scene?
I have to admit I found it very isolating. Not really having any exposure to gay culture, I had no idea it was normal, accepted or celebrated in places. I also had to deal with a small amount of teasing. After all I was a pretty easy target “the gay fat kid!”
The area itself had nothing for LGBTQ people either, the closest gay club was around an hour and a half commute on the train and the closest LGBTQ youth group was the same distance (I also lived miles from the station).
I found that the majority of the local gay scene consisted of married older men looking to experiment, all of which lead to the feeling of isolation I mentioned earlier.
I would say my saving grace in my mid-to-late teens was finding a Brighton based charity called ‘AllSorts Youth Project’ who offered some really fantastic facilities, including an all inclusive weekly meet up, regular sex and health educating & free counselling.
What are the laws on LGBTQ people in your country, e.g. age of consent, same sex marriage etc?
Currently England has relatively positive LGBTQ laws, in my life time we’ve seen the lift of the laws banning gay & lesbian people from serving in the army, the equalisation of the age of consent for LGBTQ people & marriage equality (to name a few).
However conversion therapy is still legal in the UK (although not available via any government supported or public health schemes).
How old were you when you realized you were gay? And when did you realize there was a LGTBQ world out there.
I’m not exactly sure when it was I first realised, I suppose it was something I had always known but didn’t quite understand. It’s very hard to know you’re gay when you don’t know what gay is! I would say I actually first realised what it was when I was about 12 or 13 and scarily that was by watching porn.
I first became aware of the LGTBQ world around me at the same sort of time I came out, and that was due to my parents making sure I really found myself. I also found the internet a huge help by joining forums ad also using online games like habbo.
When did you come out? And how did your family react?
I came out to my family when I was 14, starting with my parents. My parents had a relatively positive reaction. They also had very little exposure to the LGBTQ world and they admitted it was all a little odd for them, but together we worked through the (very few) negative views they had previously had! That year my parents took me to my first pride parade and helped spray paint my hair rainbow.
The rest of my family also accepted this with open arms, admittedly I’m pretty sure the fact I used to love doing my Mum’s hair and make up gave it away! However out of a misguided place of love one relative did buy me a book about how to turn straight, this featured fantastic advice such as:
“Ping yourself with an elastic band whenever you have a gay thought”, however this never really worked for me because there aren’t enough elastic bands in the world.
Have you ever had any issues with being gay at work or out in public?
I have been called some very hurtful things walking in the street with guys I’ve been with, or when I’ve been dressed up for a night out, it’s the reason why I have made some subtle attempts to “butch” up my appearance at times.
Even last week I was walking down the road holding hands with a guy and we where honked at twice by different cars. I also realise that people often confuse my friendliness as coming onto them, which a few guys have reacted badly to.
Working in the plumbing industry I do recognise some homophobia, although I’ve never had anyone be actively nasty to me. I just know there are a few customers who won’t deal with me for undisclosed reasons.
Do you have a partner? What was your longest relationship?
I’m currently seeing a guy but we’re in the very early stages of a relationship. My longest relationship was with a guy and lasted about half a year which ended as I was going through a very rough time with my mental health, he wanted nothing to do with it. I don’t blame him, I must have been super boring.
Oh, actually you could include my year long relationship with a girl to try and prove I was straight, but we didn’t even get as far as a kiss!
What are your views on open relationships?
I do understand why people would be involved in an open relationship, but I think I’m far too jealous! I realise that monogamy as a concept is actually something we have only adapted to in “modern” history and is arguably not part of human nature.
If I was with a guy who was looking at an open relationship, it’s something I’d really have to consider, however the other people better be prepared for me to wear a paper bag with my face printed on it.
Do you remember what your first sexual experience was like?
Not really! I remember my first romantic sexual encounter which was your standard vanilla time in a bedroom with a sample packet of lube ‘ouch’ but my first experience was the good old NSA fun, it was nothing to write home about.
Who is in charge in the bedroom?
Oh Honey, not my gay ass.
Do you use Grindr? If so, what’s the dirtiest thing someone said to you?
I don’t use Grindr anymore as I’m seeing someone, however even when I was single, I was very rarely using it because I found it pretty damaging to my self-esteem.
For that reason, I never really got that far for people to say really dirty things to me. I was offered money for sex pretty regularly (I wish I had taken the opportunity to find a sugar daddy to be fair).
I’m also not one into kink, shame but I was once offered £100 to give a guy three times my age a piggy back.