“The Day I Decided to Stop Being Gay”

Fascinating piece in today’s London Times. Not a hint of Jesus either. Very interesting…

A minor incident in a barber’s shop last week has helped me to realise that I may no longer be gay. Not a fully fledged homo, anyway; perhaps not even a part-timer who helps the team out when it’s busy. It appears I may be going straight.

I was in Tenterden, the Kentish village where I was brought up and to which I have lately returned, working at a nearby aerodrome as a helicopter pilot. I was waiting my turn for a chatty Latvian to apply the hot towels and razor.

A handsome young dad entered with a small, fair-haired boy at his side. The man took a seat and hoisted the wide-eyed child proudly on to his knee. The first haircut, I speculated inwardly, as an unfamiliar fatherly glow and feeling of mild envy swept over me. I could not tear my attention away from the mirrored reflections.

From time to time, the dad leant forward as they waited and whispered close to his son’s ear, tenderly kissing his fair head. Touching stuff.

But then my eyes lowered and I became transfixed by the sight of the boy’s tiny pink fingers gripping his father’s huge, workman-like fist. And I almost wanted to burst into song.

I think my life changed at that moment.

That’s love, folks. Simple really. A proud dad, an adored little boy and a beautiful display of dependence and responsibility. It was the epiphany I had needed and I emerged with a dashing new haircut and a desire to procreate.

Gays have children these days, of course they do, and not always to accessorise an outfit. Some gay couples adopt; others follow twisting paths to biological parenthood, often quite expensively, with the involvement of test tubes and cash changing hands. It is, really, a sort of snook to the system of nature. Shooting for the net without the chore of running with the ball. It’s just not for me.

And lately I have, almost imperceptibly, been laying the groundwork to make parenthood happen in the old-fashioned way. I have been flirting with someone at my local pub, thinking about her at odd times, making excuses to call her and wondering if she likes me. It’s rather strange.

This will come as a shock to — among others — my male former partner of ten years, gay pals from my former media career, my rabidly heterosexual chums in the aviation industry and, not least, my family (who rather hoped I was going through a phase — albeit for about 20 years). Well, it’s come as a shock to me, too.

I once attended the nuptials of a gay male friend to a girl with whom he had unexpectedly fallen head over heels in love. It was a curious affair: the wedding party was peopled with his ex-lovers — including me, the best man and even the vicar. There is a risk that a wedding guest list of mine could have the same casting issues.

My sexuality was formed behind bike sheds and in school dormitories, a most unimaginatively clichéd pattern of pubescent fumbling. This propelled me into a lifestyle, reinforced by a social milieu of flamboyant media gays. At the BBC, where I worked for seven years, homosexuality was very nearly compulsory.

At these tidings, my sceptical buddies will splutter, “You what?! Miss Patsy, trouser-chaser extraordinaire, has decided she’s now dancing at the other end of the ballroom? Pur-leeeeeeeze!” They have seen little evidence of an interest in the opposite sex during my adult life, nor asked why. And that’s the clincher.

If there had been an interest, it became eclipsed by other more instant, carnal and deliciously taboo temptations, so it never gained light to grow. For 20 years, my life took a track that stifled the fragile stems of a family man that wanted to emerge.

So I will have to face down a tidal wave of doubt as I’m coming out in public. People will look at me strangely now — though I doubt they’ll mutter, “Well, of course, we always wondered. After all, he is interested in real ale and piston engines.”

For it is true: I quite like girls. But there is no pink meteor shower for this announcement; no glittered cabaret or niche community willing to clutch me to its bosom and claim me as a sister. Just a little whiff of suspicion.

Some will dismiss it as heresy. I have long argued that homosexuality is natural but abnormal, to a torrent of hostility from gay friends who refuse to acknowledge that what you are and what stake you hold in society are not the same.

Loving your own sex occurs in nature, without artificial triggers. But it is still not average behaviour. Homosexuality is an aberration; a natural aberration. Gays are a minority and minorities, though sometimes vocal, do not hold sway.

A 12th-century chronicler, quoted by the historian Christopher Hibbert in his History of England, wrote of the homosexual king William Rufus: “All things that are loathsome to God and to earnest men were customary in this land in his time.” In modern times, we have become accustomed to abnormality again.

But two decades of cavorting with my own sex has delivered little that is memorable, except one super-sized sexless friendship with the aforementioned ex-boyf, with whom I spent a decade of my life; numerous hours of internet dating; a dizzying number of casual couplings and a few trips to genitourinary medicine clinics.

I will spare you tales of exploits in the gloaming world of fast gay encounters. You would simply not believe what I have seen and done. You would not want to know.

I can however disclose that I was once pursued in a subterranean gay haunt by the homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Scantily clad, he was quite resistible. Like Oscar Wilde, I have “feasted with panthers”. And survived.

In novels such as E. M. Forster’s Maurice, a seminal work of gay literature, the message was tolerance. It was never a charter for parity. Civil partnerships really are little more than theatrical shams involving men making a point in matching wedding cravats, of embarrassed grandparents and monstrously camp multi-tier cakes.

I wince when gays describe boyfriends as “husbands”, subverting a solemn institution created to provide stability for child-rearing. Besides, it seems highly perverse that gays should fight for freedom from the bonds of heterosexual morality and then set to copying their oppressors by creating similar contracts of their own.

I was never convinced of my sexuality. True, I never liked football or fighting and I do make a beautifully light Victoria sponge when the need arises. But I shamble like a bloke, I burp and fart without shame and I’ve never really got Barbra Streisand. There was a little voice, lost long ago in the drowning din of my homosexuality, that still called quietly; the smothered, smaller voice of a boy who liked girls.

And then, two summers ago, I met Olga. She was a knockout-looking Ukrainian, washed ashore as a waitress in a breakfast bar in Ocean City, Maryland, on the East Coast of America. I was working locally as a pilot. A group of aviators slouched in each morning for coffee, eggs and grits. She took a particular interest in my chopper.

We began an e-mail exchange and she would send me numerous pictures of the industrial city of Cherkassy, her hometown, where people who swim in its river find that they glow at night. I liked Olga. She was pretty. Nothing happened, though — I wanted more than a passport-hunter and children whose presence would send Geiger counters into a frenzy.

Pilots have a habit of attracting female attention, as the numerous airline captain/stewardess couplings attest. The phenomenon even has a name: pilotitis. So, when I became a helicopter instructor, I was ready for dilated pupils and blushes when I took female students skywards. OK, I must admit, I am still waiting . . .

But for the first time in my life, I’ve been getting to know girls. It’s been a blast. As a teacher, I find them naturally adept at flying helicopters. They listen and they are good at multi-tasking. They are fun to be around and sometimes they’re pretty.

I had a girlfriend once, 24 years ago, when I was in my late teens. It really wasn’t a great success, as the two decades of uninterrupted homosexuality that followed it possibly demonstrate. We lived together briefly and “did it”. But she wore striped pyjamas and it was confusing. What I’m saying is, I’m ready for another go. No pyjamas, though, this time.

I want a wife to love and a child to protect. And I want to look at them both and know that they are mine and I am needed by both and I can be like the workman’s fist, clutched tightly by the little pink fingers in the barber shop. The rock of the family.

Does this mean that I no longer like men? No, of course not, and I won’t pretend. But in the streets and avenues of this country there must be many husbands whose interests are divided but whose choices are determined not by sexuality but emotionality.

Would I be a good husband? I hope so. Would I keep faith? Well, I would try. The same siren voices to stray call to all men, all the time. I would be no different.

The late jazz singer, art critic and gay-straight convert George Melly was the first celebrity I interviewed as a young radio reporter in my previous career who told me about his Damascene transformation. He was 30 years old, on a country bicycle ride with a group of friends, when it happened. Floridly gay, he suddenly noticed that he was staring at the girls, rather than theboys, and declared to himself, “Oooh, you’re heterosexual now, dearie.” He went on to enjoy a long and happy marriage.

So anything is possible. With the right kind of understanding girl, who loves me and possesses pragmatism and patience, I can picture myself as a good husband and dad.

Next month, I will be embarking on the first step of catch-up, to acquire parenting skills by volunteering as a befriender for children in care via a local charity. After vetting, there is special training and then a two-year commitment to visit and take out a child who needs a friend and a new perspective on adults.

This may be time-consuming, thankless and possibly distressing on the one hand. On the other, I will get free entry to various local zoos and the fabulous children’s JCB digger driving centre near Maidstone — without looking like a weirdo.

How good will it feel to see a smile break across an unhappy child’s face? That is my goal. Surely that is the magic that only parents usually know. And one day perhaps I will see that smile on my own offspring’s face and it will be heaven-sent.

So there was symmetry in rediscovering myself last week in a barber shop in the village of my childhood, the place of my innocence, before life’s twisting turns. As the last line of The Great Gatsby says: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Sometimes, in the past, we rediscover ourselves and new paths to our futures.

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  • http://www.collegejay.blogspot.com Jay

    Interesting, but sad and slightly offensive in some ways as well. At the very least, he does admit that his desires are actually for women at this point, and that he hasn’t really gone through any kind of dangerous therapy in order to “turn straight.” It simply happened. Also, the lack of religious motivations or threats might make things more natural and stress-free. Very odd piece.

  • sue

    Well, he strikes me as a bisexual guy, one who is mainly attracted to men but is also is attracted to women. He does say ” I was never convinced of my sexuality” and that another voice “always liked girls.”

    Well, as you know I have no problem with bisexuality! but if you are offering this article as some kind of “proof” that absolutely anyone can switch their sexuality on and off and suddenly choose not to be gay or straight – I don’t agree.

    My concern about the author is that he doesn’t sound wholeheartedly convinced about his capacity to love and be faithful to a woman, forsaking all – er – men.

    He writes,
    Would I keep faith? Well, I would try.

    It sounds a little half hearted, even before the marriage has started!

    He also wants ” the right kind of understanding girl, who loves me and possesses pragmatism and patience.”
    “Pragmatism” – now that’s an interesting quality to yearn for in your partner! Why doesn’t he want someone he would fall in love with? A soulmate to love, desire and cherish for the rest of his life?

    In my experience women can be very understanding and pragmatic, but not about the fact that their husband spends a lot of time cruising or cottaging -or even about the fact that their husband might lust over other men.

    I also worry that his focus seems to be more on what a child could bring him than what he has to offer a wife or child. I hope he does one day “bring a smile to an unhappy child’s face” , not that he ends up wrecking the life of a spouse and children.

    Marriage and parenthood are serious matters, not to be entered on at a whim. You take the life and happiness of others in hand when you embark upon that state and you owe it to them to be absolutely sure you can put their needs before your own, not just in the fantasy land of “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little boy who adores me and a wife who is-pragmatic” but in the real world, which is always going to pan out differently than your imaginings.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      but if you are offering this article as some kind of “proof” that absolutely anyone can switch their sexuality on and off and suddenly choose not to be gay or straight – I don’t agree.
      I would hope you’d been reading me long enough to know that the answer to that question is “no”.

  • William

    Assuming that this is a case of genuine change in sexual orientation – rather than, for instance, simply a regret at not having procreated – then it’s absolutely fine. Such changes do occasionally take place, and in both directions, but only seldom, and there is no means of making them take place. Anyone waiting for it to happen to them is almost certainly going to be disappointed. To use this as “proof” that anyone can change their sexual orientation if they really want to (“See, he did it, and that proves that you can do it too”) would be very wrong and misguided.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      To use this as “proof” that anyone can change their sexual orientation if they really want to (“See, he did it, and that proves that you can do it too”) would be very wrong and misguided.

      As I said to Sue…

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    What if he marries and has children, but they are girls? Will he feel the same way?

    Is this about wanting to be a father, or is that about wanting to be the father or a boy?

    I feel some concern for his potential future wife and his potential future daughters.

  • http://www.rattiganwrites.blogspot.com Dave Rattigan

    Fair play to him if he discovered he is or has become heterosexual, bisexual, Patricksexual, nothingsexual, or whatever.

    (As Jay said, it apparently “simply happened,” and I’ve no problem with that.)

    But my heart dropped to hear him turn in such a way on gays and their relationships. I am not sure what he is trying to convey by describing homosexuality as “abnormal,” a word that I can’t see the point of in this context unless he’s trying to be offensive. It is loaded with far more meaning than just “unusual,” or “not prevalent.” And what a mean attack on civil partnerships. It really saddens me.

    Despite some major differences, this reminds me of Michael Glatze, who became ex-gay and couldn’t just get on with his new life without viciously attacking homosexuals.

    • http://www.collegejay.blogspot.com Jay

      I agree, David. I do know several ex-gay people who have made the switch into heterosexual marriages. I may not agree with some of their religious views, but they seem to be happy. The ones who I think are happiest are the ones who don’t attack their gay friends from their “old lifestyles.” Those are also the ones who I respect the most. After all, if you are ex-gay and you are happy where you are, why feel the need to attack others for where they are, simply because they are different from you?

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        After all, if you are ex-gay and you are happy where you are, why feel the need to attack others for where they are, simply because they are different from you?

        I guess some of it must come down to issues of insecurity. Attack is in a sense a form of defence – if you don’t feel you need to defend yourself you don’t have to attack.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      But my heart dropped to hear him turn in such a way on gays and their relationships. I am not sure what he is trying to convey by describing homosexuality as “abnormal,” a word that I can’t see the point of in this context unless he’s trying to be offensive. It is loaded with far more meaning than just “unusual,” or “not prevalent.” And what a mean attack on civil partnerships. It really saddens me.

      Yes, I think it’s a peculiar observation that many people (men especially) who make a transition from gay to straight have this response to their previous “life” (for want of a better word). Question is, is it purely a defensive mechanism or is it the insight of someone who’s been on both sides of the fence and can honestly comment?

      As for abnormal – the word is technically correct but emotively and pastorally utterly the incorrect thing to say.

    • http://dwhwar.wordpress.com/ Joe S

      Dave,

      He’s only applying a fairly common form of gay sarcasm (aka bitchiness) to gay life itself. A lot gay guys do it. They get bored and delight in being naughty. He doesn’t seem to have strayed too far from the “lifestyle”.

      Good luck to him if there are some genuine feelings behind the oh-so-gay wordplay.

  • David

    As he mentions, Patrick is hardly the first man to find his affections changing – as George Melly’s famously experienced too. I’ve also seen studies (not by campaign groups from either “side”) which showed about 1/3rd of women who identify as lesbian or bi at 20 shifting sexuality within 10 years. Whatever else this all shows, and despite the offense that people take at statements of obvious fact, it indicates that gay rights campaigners were wrong when they base their arguments on the claim that hetero- bi- homo- queer- or non- sexuality are immutable and inate; unlike characteristics such as sex or race.

    He’s a brave man to go public with his apostasy and heretical views – as the vitriol of many of the attacks on him in The Times Online shows!

  • Sue

    I do think he has written this article to be a bit “provocative” though. I am not sure really what it teaches us anyhow, other than that sexuality can be fluid in some people – and I know that anyhow. I also believe the gay and straight people I know who say that they “never have and never could” find the opposite/ same sex attractive.

    I don’t find much evidence that he did find his affections changing in this article! He doesn’t say he went to a hairdressers and saw a woman that made him think “phwoar” ( if that’s how you spell it!)No, he saw a dad and kid and wanted to be like them. I think he is more attracted to the idea of being straight than attracted to women particularly.

    There is also a loathing of being gay – if it is serious- because I think this article is written as a kind of deliberately provocative “heresy” with a journalistic eye, as much as anything.

    If you don’t think it shows us that people can “stop being gay”, what DO you think it has to teach us, Peter?

    • http://dwhwar.wordpress.com/ Joe S

      I didn’t pick out any loathing. He delights in telling us about his trips to GU clinic. Every line is a joke (I thought the bit about radioactive in-laws was funny). It’s a gay version of a lad mag article. Maybe it is a lad mag piece – has anyone checked Nuts or FHM this month?

      See – I’m starting to do it now.

      • sue

        Well, that’s why I said “if he’s being serious” about the loathing. I personally think it is mainly a piece of ironic, provocative gay journalism as well.

        • http://www.rattiganwrites.blogspot.com Dave Rattigan

          That kind of ironic, provocative journalism might not be so bad coming from a self-described gay person, but coming from someone who’s announcing he’s going straight, it just comes across as mean.

          There’s a genuine critique to be made of gay culture/subculture(s), but it’s unlikely to be made from within as long as gays are constantly on the defensive because of attacks like this.

          • sue

            I guess you are right, Dave. I am not defending it, I am just saying I don’t think this article is entirely straight ( no pun intended.) I also wonder if there is a sort of “just cos I’m gay, don’t think I will toe some politically correct party line” element to it?

            I am enjoying your blog, by the way.

          • http://dwhwar.wordpress.com/ Joe S

            It’s the kind of thing that developed from the original version of ‘post-gay’. He’s 41, so he’s part of that (media) generation.

            The words “gay pals from my former media career” and “at the BBC, where I worked for seven years” give the game away. The South Park politically incorrect thing has run it’s course and now there are thousands of forty-something journalists out there who don’t quite know what to replace it with. So what you get is an almost-serious longing for something new (post-irony?) – except they can’t quite give up the old way of talking about it.

  • http://randythomas.org Randy

    I found the article fascinating. He reminds me of an old friend of mine back in the day. He used to say the same type of things and I thought he was crazy. I think of him often.

    I lost touch with him quite a while ago.

    And yes, I do hear stories like this quite often but the crass humor yet poignant insight and lack of religious morals all mixed together reminds me of this particular person. I am going to have to try and find him.

  • Robert Simpson

    “My sexuality was formed behind bike sheds and in school dormitories, a most unimaginatively clichéd pattern of pubescent fumbling. This propelled me into a lifestyle, reinforced by a social milieu of flamboyant media gays. At the BBC, where I worked for seven years, homosexuality was very nearly compulsory.”

    To me this appears to be a sort of mirror image of a gay coming-out story – he seems to be claiming that his attraction was never really to the same sex but he just accepted that it would be because of the environment he “grew up” in, and he tried to behave accordingly, but he was never really happy that way and eventually “saw the light” and realised he wanted something else. Well, fair enough. I am perfectly prepared to accept that it is true, for him (although I suspect he is at least at one level deliberately parodying a coming-out story). But if he means to imply that it would be true of everyone who experiences SSA I think he is wide of the mark. Strictly speaking it doesn’t even prove that underlying sexuality is fluid, since it could fairly easily be taken simply as an example of how someone can be deceived about, or fail to recognise, their own orientation. Which is more likely to happen in one direction but in principle, and presumably in this case in fact, could work the other way too given the right circumstances.

  • http://stroppyrabbit.blogspot.com/ Yewtree

    One bloke who has doubts about whether he is gay does NOT in any way validate the ex-gay movement, or Christian homophobia in general. Besides, as other commenters have suggested, he’s probably bisexual. Also, why does he have to bitch about gay culture?

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Pardon me asking, but what is it with the “He was bisexual in the first place” line that many are coming out with? I get that all the time when I talk about my story and I can assure you, I was *not* in any way attracted to women until my mid to late 20s.

    It sounds a bit like coming from a “He can’t possibly have seen such a change in his sexuality because that would undermine my ideas of non-fluidity of human sexual attraction, so therefore I’m going to give him a different label to fit my own world view” basis.

    Just saying.

    • David

      Obviously I agree with you on this point!

      Maybe gay-rights campaigners should just assert that everyone is bi to some extent.. and that that extent may change over time (in either direction – before anyone blasts me) as people mature, have experiences, make choices, etc etc?

  • William

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t agree with the statement, which I have heard some people make, that “Human sexual attraction is fluid”. That’s an example of making a statement in which “all” is implied, but only “some” is true. It seems pretty clear that some people’s sexual attraction is indeed fluid, probably far more commonly in women than in men. It seems equally clear that most men’s sexual attraction, at any rate, is not.

    Secondly, the fluidity of some people’s sexual attraction does not, as I have also heard suggested, disprove the theory that sexual orientation is biologically determined. (Whether or not it is so determined is, of course, another question, to which we still don’t have a definitive answer one way or the other.) It doesn’t seem at all obvious to me – but I must stress that I speak as a complete non-biologist – that a fluid sexual orientation couldn’t a priori be just as biologically determined as a fixed one.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I think this all means that we have to be realistic with the language we use and clarify the points we’re making.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Even using the word fluid can mean different things. In one case it may mean that someone may be either gender depending on the circumstances while in another case it may mean that the person used to be only attracted to one gender and is now attracted to the other.

    Some studies have shown that men are mostly attracted to one specific gender, while many women are aroused by sexual cues, e.g., the sound of people having sex or the indication that the other person is turned on.

  • TimButt

    It’s simple – he’s become a lesbian!

    (tongue in cheek comment, deliberately a little naughty for the sake of comedy, please don’t erupt in a storm of offence, just thought I’d lighten the tone a bit)

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Behave…

    • Guest

      Peter hates comedy.

  • abby

    this took courage. i am a lesbian and i've been this way for as long as i can remember, i've been out for almost 10 years now. others would be lying if they said that what you wrote about never crossed their minds before. i want to stop being this way because i dream of being a mother and i want a normal life. and to be quite honest, being this way is becoming very exhausting… and i'm tired of getting hurt over and over again. i wish i could find the courage you have but i'm not quite sure as to how people in my life will take it.

  • Carleigh

    Oh yeah I bet he just decided to not be gay
    Yeah
    Okay

  • Bwana Salama

    Dude, I’m glad you had that wonderful realization. Don’t listen to some of these other comments, they’ve got an agenda and would criticize anyone who dissents, even if within they know they’re wrong themselves…

  • Jerry Reiter

    Ironically, all the other sites against gays say that only through their chosen deity can a man be freed of his homosexuality. Of course that argument is dead in the free world now that the leaders of the only world-wide evangelical ex-gay ministry admitted nobody changed from homosexual to heterosexual the past 40 years. Since Exodus International closed, every major national ex-gay ministry from Australia to the US and Europe has either closed or become gay-affirming.

  • Archie Meijer

    You’re right it’s not normal if by normal you mean average but just why should normality be preferred and promoted? If I were just normal all the time how would I know I was truly being myself instead of just pretending in order to get everyone to like me? Weirdness is the only way to truly be an individual.
    Also you say you still like men, then you’re bisexual. Even if you fall in love with a woman and you decide to be monogamous you’re still bisexual just like a celibate straight man is still straight. Nothing wrong with that, but you’re still bisexual.
    A lot of men think they’re gay and then realize they’re really bisexual.

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