Coming Out

Today, I’ve decided to come out.

I was raised as a gentleman. My primary influences in this were my choices of reading materials; Batman comics and The Adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. That’s not to say I’ve been a gentleman all my life. I’ve played a little loose with the hearts of others but for the most part I’ve been kind, generous, compassionate, brave, trustworthy and loyal. Again, not perfect by any means and I’ve made mistakes that I remember (though I try not to regret).

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Family

My family has gone through it’s share of adversity (detailed previously) but right now I’ll just mention two people. My Mum, Helen and my Sister, Marianne. They are, without a doubt, the best humans I have ever encountered. I love them dearly because when the shit hit the pan, twice now, they have supported me, forgiven me, taken me in, bailed me out and generally been exactly what family should do. And I’ve fallen far short of my own expectations of my responsibilities.

All that’s good in me pales in comparison to Helen and Marianne. They have forgiven enemies, trusted implicitly, been strong for others when they needed all their strength just to keep their own heads afloat. They’ve made homes and futures in the face of terrible adversity. They are actually unbreakable. They make the men in our family look like delicate flowers.

I am committed to helping my son become a compassionate and kind gentleman and my daughter an empowered 21st Century woman. I may have to stop calling her “Princess” and I’m not sure how she will feel about that.

Lovers

I’ve loved many and trusted all of them. I broke a few hearts over the years and I’m sorry for that and I would fix things if I could though in all honesty I think all of them are in a better place. I’ve had my heart broken a few times and I’m not sorry about that. It goes with the territory. We love who we love, we trust who we trust. I miss the sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

I’m not ashamed of my past. I have happy memories. And not all of the names above loved me back because some barely knew I existed. And yes, some of them hate me for a number of reasons. But these mattered. These matter. Love is thinking about and hoping for the best for someone, even if they don’t love you back. By that measure, I have loved and been loved and I am lucky.

In an earlier draft of this post, I listed the first names of everyone I loved from age 5 until now. That was vanity. They know who they are. I resolve to be more careful with my heart and therefore more careful with the hearts of others.

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Friends

I’m a sort of an armchair activist when it comes to causes. I don’t often reveal myself beyond the tirades on social media and I was content to be a linker, a concentrator, a communicator and a coward. As it happened, just shouting about injustice wasn’t enough. Injustice happens anyway even if you shout and, truth be told, even if you act there is plenty of injustice still left in the world. This isn’t about comparative injustice; we have people sleeping on the streets and yet I’m upset because someone broke my heart. No, I’m talking about injustice in the wider sense. I reckon that if we address one injustice then that’s one person whose day is a little better.

I did try to do something. Misguided as it was, standing for election and having my face rubbed in the dirt was an experience I won’t forget. I could blame the ‘situation’, the spat between the two party leaders, the scandals, the horrendous mismanagement of campaigns, the personal cost, the lack of support from my partner, and the re-designation but really I was going to lose because I was destined to lose. I didn’t walk enough (it’s tough working a job and beating the street on your own). I didn’t commit enough (though as it happens, I committed everything).

I am resolved to do better. I care about equality, abortion rights, homelessness, blood donation, the environment. I’m resolved to mumble less and shout more about the things that matter to me. We don’t have abortion clinics here in Northern Ireland, to my knowledge, but I would without hesitation volunteer to accompany anyone who needed to attend one.

I have loads of friends who are women and every day I don’t do enough for them, I’m letting them down.

…and Sausage Rolls

I cant lie about this; Ashers Sausage Rolls are amazing. I’d never had one before the “gay cake” thing but I decided to try them. Believe me when I say that I’m totally confused about how that whole row should have gone down as it seems both sides are at fault. What I will add is that it doesn’t matter how angry one community is over it, the workers at Ashers deserve to make a living too. They’re damn good bakers and I suspect many of them just want to get through the day and get home to their families.

I mean, if you think about it, equal marriage doesn’t have anything to do with my life. I’m a heterosexual, white male who has so far managed to be married twice (both unsuccessfully, depending on your definition, but you have to admit I appear as an optimist). The issue with it is bullies. I loathe bullies (and by that I admit to having been one at several points in my life – I try to be kind, I admit to falling short of my own expectations).

I’ve always been led by my feelings and it’s usually gotten me into trouble. Even today I’m debating quitting my job and going on a 4 week sailing expedition. Because I can find another job (how’s that for exercising my male privilege) but I don’t know if this opportunity would come along again. I can post all of the pithy slogans you can find about taking chances and just going for it….but I’ve never really done that. I’ve never lived outside of Northern Ireland. I’ve always taken the safe and sensible route. Even my risk-taking has been calculated.

I resolve to be braver.

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So, as of today, I’ve decided to come out as a Feminist.

I’ve always shirked away from the name as it seems by nature to imply that it’s anti-men. I’ve chickened out by saying that I’m a humanist and all humans should be equal. But that’s not getting us anywhere. It’s like being outraged by something on Twitter. It goes nowhere. I owe this to my sisters, I owe this to my mother and I owe it to my daughter. And I owe it to my ex-lovers. I owe it to the pretty barista whose smile doesn’t mean anything other than “Thank you for making today go pass pleasantly or at least in a way I can ignore”. I owe it to the woman who emails me in the middle of the night seeking help with interview questions or investment pitch grilling. I owe it to every woman who has ever watched me blether on stage (ha, talk about the patriarchy!) and I owe it to any woman who has ever named me as someone who helped them.