About 20 months ago when my life began to collapse! Just to recap, I was married with 3 sons, now all in their 20’s. I was also a Vicar!
Looking back I recognise that I must have been gay from before puberty, although I didn’t know what it was in those days. It was the boys I went to school with that I fancied, not the girls who went to the next door school!
But that was in the 1960’s and whilst, for many, it was an era of tolerance and liberty, it certainly didn’t stretch to those of questionable heterosexuality. I sought advice and was told it was a phase I was passing through: get married, have kids, be happy and never tell your wife!
I was married at 22. I loved her and, in so many ways, still do. I did what was required in the bedroom but have to admit that it wasn’t really for me. We had three wonderful sons and I didn’t look at a man for the first 20 years of our marriage. But our Silver Wedding Anniversary was a milestone. I stood there at the party in our garden to celebrate and thought to myself “can I never be me? Have I got to go on pretending for another 25 years?”
It was then that the urge took hold to become the man God created me to be.
A year or so later, I met a guy and experienced a love I never knew existed. I was blissfully happy in his presence – and miserable and as guilty as hell when out of it. I was a married man! How could I do this! Warmth and affection had never been part of my wife’s make-up, but I cannot complain, she was like that when I proposed to her. But I needed warmth and affection, to be loved, cuddled, held etc. The marriage began to crumble around the edges and I started the long slip into depression.
I had lost 6 stones in weight and had made 2 attempts on my life before my wife insisted I tell her what was wrong. I had always vowed that I would never tell her I was gay but if she asked, I would not lie. That day, she asked. I told.
To begin with, she forgave, but forgiving meant ignoring the problem, not addressing it. She insisted I was not gay and that I must never have any gay contact, either in person or on the internet. Her concept of homosexuality is buggery, wearing women’s clothing and little boys. She would never talk about it if I tried to broach the subject. Six months later of trying to go on pretending that I was a happily-married, straight man, I made another attempt on my life. The doctor took over at that stage.
My wife refused to accept that I was gay and insisted that if I did not deny it then we would have to separate. Sadly, that is what we did. The night I gathered my sons together to tell them their parents were separating after 27 years of marriage was the same night I told them I was gay. The next day I rang my parents and gave them the same news. Tough for all of them but if I was going to be honest with myself, the rest of my life started there.
My sons and parents accepted and have been wonderfully supportive. I had already told the man who I had met that I was married and there was no way we could have a relationship so that had ended months before.
So there I was, in a large Vicarage, all by myself but at last being me. Soon after, I was promoted to a significant parish in London and (I hoped) a new life would begin.
After my wife had left me, I had met a guy on gay.com in December 1999. We met 3 or 4 times and I thought initially he was a really nice guy but things did not turn out as we would like and I felt it only right to be honest with him. Unfortunately he would not take “no” for an answer and made my life hell for months: silent phone calls at all hours of the night, threatening letters, emails to my sons etc. It all culminated when he started sending anonymous faxes to my Parish Office. Someone in the parish went to the press and the rest is history.
I received no support from the Church in general although the Bishop himself was wonderful. Several members of the parish wanted me to stay but the big guns were out and, after being pursued by the Press for months, I eventually had to resign after spending some time in hospital following a major breakdown. It was a rough time. For a while I had no where to go, the homes of my parents and sons were besieged by the Press and I found myself sleeping in the back of my car in some woods somewhere in order to get some peace. There is a lighter side. One night I felt I had to have a decent night’s sleep and a good clean-up. I checked into a Post House – only for a fire to begin at midnight. So I spent the next four hours shivering in the car park while the Fire Brigade did their thing!
It’s not nice seeing your picture plastered across the dailies and Sundays day after day but, as someone said to me, if you have to have your picture on the front page of a newspaper, what better than The Times! The Mail on Sunday was the worst. They pursued my friends and me at the Family Court, the hospital, etc posing as Customs and Excise, distressed family, Parcel Force deliveries and so on. All this of course delighted the guy in question, for the Church and the Press were achieving what he had sought all along. All for being gay! “The love that dare not speak its name”.
Needless to say, when I resigned, I not only lost my job but my home so for a time I was unemployed and homeless. A friend took me in and he has been marvellous. I was staggered about the size of the mailbag I eventually received. Must have been over 500 letters of support! But it was too late, the damage had been done and my mental health was harmed. The Metropolitan Police were wonderful in all their support at the time. Grossly understaffed, the unit dealing with the harassment and fraud (oh yes, £5,500 was stolen from my credit cards as well!) continue to give me support. In fact, I went on the Gay Police Canal Cruise in September – well more like a booze cruise – but it was great!
Well, there is no secret now that I am gay that’s for sure!
My two youngest sons coped well and, more recently, my eldest son has come back to me. It is wonderful being a Dad again. And they accept that I am gay. My wife (we are still not divorced although she has had a field day with the financial division) keeps the occasional contact. It will be 2 years come 18 December since she left. I have to say I am a lot happier now. OK, so I can have a gin when I want to and go on holiday to where I want to now. The being “home alone” still takes a bit of getting used to but I’m coping.
I miss the Church but still find it difficult to understand the institutionalised homophobia and how some behaved given that quite a few of its clergy are gay.
I’m actually writing a book about my experiences of being a gay priest and church homophobia. Sounds deadly dull but I promise you there are many light moments in it. I’m not going to give everything away; you’ll have to buy it! In the meantime, I am preparing a series of articles for the Gay Times together with the Metropolitan Police Lesbian and Gay Group on homophobia in the Police and Church.
I live alone now. I’d like there to be a man in my life but there isn’t. But I no longer have to pretend and I can be ME for the first time in my life.
I’m 51 and feeling new born!!