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Interview 2009: The Challenge of Love

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As part of A Free Man's Interview Project for 2009, the Strange, Dark Gypsy Girl asked me quite a few questions about being gay.  These two put me in a reflective mood.

How do you feel about having come out relatively late in life? Do you feel like you missed out on anything as an outed youth, like you had to make up for lost time?

Coming out late is my biggest single regret.

Taking pleasure, and giving it, feels utterly natural to most people.  But to do this well, and unselfconsciously, means that you’ve mastered a complex skill.  You learn it best when young.  Youth and love go together. 

Learning to love, as an adult, is harder.  For me, love is still a conscious act, not an instinct.

Love teaches us many things; charity, compassion, compromise, wisdom.   It took me a long time to appreciate these values.  And more than most, I struggle to live up to them. 

The heterosexual charade stopped fifteen years ago.  I quickly made up for the lost sex, but haven’t made up for the lost love.  Perhaps I never shall.

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When you came out to family and friends, whose response surprised you the most?

Nobody and everybody.  When I came out, all my friends and family were supportive.   Everyone noticed a calm settle over me, and delighted at my new-found peace of mind.  They spoke with warm and encouraging words. 

So it shocked me when I walked into a glass wall.

For example, a very good, very supportive friend—whom I love very much, and who has many gay and lesbian business colleagues and friends—gave Master Right and I strict instructions when we visited the family beach house.  “I hate to have to ask this, but I want to make it clear.," he said.  "Please, no overt homosexuality in front of the children.”

“OK,” I replied, “But please instruct your son and daughter that there should be no overt childishness in front of the homosexuals.”

“You know what I mean,” he muttered.

Naturally, I reassured him that I knew what he meant.  But I wonder what he expected, exactly.   Enema bags on the clothesline?  Dildoes left among the bath toys?  Fellatio while waiting for the toast to pop?  Doggie–style on the coffee-table? 

Maybe he imagined something more matter-of-fact.   A gentle peck on the cheek to say good morning.  A touch on the shoulder as one spouse asks the other if he wants a cup of coffee.  One man placing his hand on the other’s forearm, as he stops his husband in mid-anecdote, to correct his memory of events.  Or maybe it’s as simple as, in conversation, two men talking about each other as “we”.

This is not an isolated case.

Generally, such concerns evaporate quickly.  My good friend, and other friends like him, came around.  Much as people bandy about the phrase “overt homosexualty”, most sex, straight or gay, is a private affair. 

In the course of a normal life, you can’t hide love.  I was surprised how many friends expected it of me, at least at first.  The idea of homosexual love challenges people far more than the idea of homosexual sex.

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The photos in this post show a quiet evening last February, in and around Old Compton Street, London's gay neighbourhood.

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