Shaun Phillip Naylor
Back in August of 1985 I came into the world and I was lucky enough to be born into an incredibly loving and supportive family. This is of course my biological family, my blood relatives and I am grateful for every single one of them. this blog however, is about my Logical family, the family we choose to be a part of.
In my previous blog ‘Over the rainbow’ I touched on my logical family. For me, as is the case with many other LGBT+ individuals, I found a group of misfits who formed my second family. A selection of friends who over time took up residence in my heart, the same way my biological family do. As we know there are so many different types of families out there and I consider myself very blessed to be a part of these two. The idea of a logical family is so important, particularly for people who may not have a biological family present in their lives. People who have been orphaned, adopted or grown up in the ‘system’. We naturally gravitate toward our logical family because… they make sense to us, they understand us, they celebrate us and they accept us, as we also do of them. if we fuck up they can forgive us the way our biological family do. It is a ride or die kind of love and we are there for each other no matter what we go through and no matter the distance. I can vouch for that last one as the majority of both my biological and logical families all live on the other side of the planet.
I met the majority of my band of misfits way back when I was 18 and I first came out as gay. Being a young gay man with practically no gay friends, I was looking for like minded people and friends who could help me understand who I was supposed to be. When I was 18 and fresh on the Leicester Gay scene in England I very boldly took a job as a ‘bar bitch’ in the local gay club ‘Street-life’. It was here where I first met my family. I was a nervous and naive young man who was still figuring out who he was. I was in awe of this new world that had opened up to me and the colourful people who I was now spending time with. There was such a mix of characters. From the very big, very straight, very scary bouncers of the club, to Martin, the manager of the club and mother hen to us, to Nathan, the bar camp bar manager who took a shine to me, all the way to Eryl, the kind, slightly ambiguous and very intriguing staff member who had a mature and grounded presence. I saw Eryl as my first friend in the club and very quickly became friendly with the staff that she had the best relationships with, Nadine and Louise.
As time went on I became a known face on the tiny Leicester gay scene and I would often hang out with the staff before work and on nights off through the week, where we would drink and dance at another gay bar called the Rainbow and Dove. With time the team changed, people left and new faces emerged. Alexandra, a dutch lesbian (who all the ladies loved ) joined the team and we became friends, we also lived in the same apartment building which helped, and provided a great backdrop for our friendship to grow. Emma, a very lovely woman with a very easy presence came on board. Chris, who had been there since I started, managed to score a job for his uni friend Jules. Side note and a funny story. One evening before work I decided it would be cool to bleach my hair, it was a D.I.Y job and went horribly wrong. I desperately needed to fix it and couldn’t find anywhere that was open to buy a brown hair dye and ended up on Jules’ street. I didn’t really know her too well at this point and I knocked on her bedroom window. She opened it and I explained my dramatic hair situation ( which i was hiding underneath a baseball cap) Jules being the funny girl she is refused to help me until I took off the cap. After a lot of persuading I stood in the street, outside her bedroom window exposing my car crash of a dye job that could only be described as canary yellow!! Jules was quick to laugh and say ‘sorry pal, I cant help you.’ That was probably the moment when we became friends, we laughed and she made sure no one was too mean to me at work that night.
2006 was the peak for these friendships, this was when we all came into our own, we found our group dynamic and individual relationships. We worked well together and we played well together. Through Jules we also started spending time with Michelle, Jules University room mate and all round incredible individual and later on Michelle would introduce us to her little sister Emma, who would also become a big part of my life. for some us 2006 was referred to as the summer of love, Jules Alex and I spent so much of our time together. I bought a video camera that summer and we documented most of it. For a time Jules was living with Alex and as i lived 3 floors below it made sense that we would just constantly hang out with each other, the experience wasn’t too dissimilar from the TV show friends. For me, it finally felt like I had met my tribe, I couldn’t imagine my life without these people. Jules started working for a recruitment agency and that lead us to meet Rachel, Rachel is quite the go-getter, very ambitious and damn, that girl knows how to have a good time. Jules eventually moved out of Alex’s apartment and into a house with Emma (from the club) it was during this time that, one by one we slowly started to quit the club. We saw less and less of Alex. Whilst Jules, Eryl (who gained the nickname Flynn) and I started to spend more and more time together. This was (in my opinion) when we stopped being friends and started to become family.
Jules ended up moving once more, this time she moved out of Emma’s place and she and Rachel rented a house together on a street that was affectionately known as Frisbee lane. I pretty much spent every moment I could hanging out with Jules and Rachel, I kind of became their unofficial flatmate. I probably out stayed my welcome more often than not, but I dint’t care because I was so happy with my friends. Flynn would come over and hang out at any opportunity she could and life was pretty fucking awesome. We had money troubles and all the usual life issues but they didn’t seem to pile up like they do as I have gotten older, things always seemed to work out eventually.
For my 21st birthday I only had one wish. To spend it with Flynn and Jules and to go away somewhere. We ended up taking a road trip to stay with Flynn’s parents in Wales. I don’t know if I have ever been happier than I was on that trip. We had so much fun, Walking around the valleys, looking at the stars, it was absolutely perfect, even Flynn stopping to take pictures of all the plants was special. (Just last year I was on a walk here in Australia and I stopped to take a picture of a plant Flynn would have liked and I sent it to her) Flynn’s gorgeous parents even had a cake and bubbles waiting for us after a trek. Flynn’s family accepted her friends in just like they were family. I felt so special that weekend.
It wasn’t too long after we came back from that trip that Jules decided to make the move back home to London. Being a supportive logical family we embraced her decision, even if we didn’t love it. After Jules left I felt a little bit lost. My friend whom I had spent every moment I could with was gone. I would still see Flynn as much as possible and Michelle and her sister Emma were still around. Alex was no longer really around but I would see her every now and again, Emma from the club would meet for coffee and the occasional drink and Chris had become a flight attendant so we would seldom see him. I thought it was a good time for me to move on and move back to Australia. I did, it lasted 6 weeks before some awful shit went down with my dad and I found myself back on a plane back to the UK.
I got back and stayed in the city with an ex for a few days, The first day I was back John went to work and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I knew Flynn was working and I was kind of in a funk, feeling sorry for myself. I ended up getting in touch with Michelle. She seemed pretty excited to hear from me and ended up going for a drink that night. The city felt different. I was only gone for 6 weeks but it felt like the beginning of a new chapter. Michelle and I were sitting at a corner table in the Rainbow & Dove when I spotted a cute guy, Michelle encouraged me to talk to him but I was always awkward and shy, so I didn’t. Eventually the guy and I ended up at the bar at the same time and he very sweetly told me I reminded him of Keith Urban. Nice move Andy! Michelle also saw someone that took her fancy that night, A little cutie to be exact. Like literally, Vicky is a pocket sized Lesbian with a heart as big as anything. Andy and I started dating and everything moved very quickly. Michelle and Vicky also became an item after that night and let me tell you, they are still couple goals! Two successful women, encouraging and supportive of each other, married with the cutest son, Charlie and another on the way! It’s inspiring to witness love grow like that.
I was spending more time with Michelle and Emma, Flynn was working constantly and I was seeing less and less of her at this point, but that was ok because I was back working the gay scene, this time at the Rainbow & Dove and I had Andy. Over the next few months Michelle moved away and charged me with keeping an eye on Emma as she was still relatively new to the city. Sometimes things have a way of working out perfectly and that kind of happened for us. Emma and I were both looking for new places to live and we decided to rent an apartment together, Emma is still the best flatmate anyone could ask for. It worked well for us, we worked opposite shifts a lot, so when we got to hang out together it was great, she got along well with Andy and we were seeing more and more of Flynn, sometimes she would just be there when I got home, just hanging with Emma and that made my heart happy. Again, this was a great time in my life, work was good, home life was great, Jules would come up from time to time, Rachel had moved to Australia with a nanny job, and Facebook was now a thing. making it easier to stay connected.
One afternoon, after attending a funeral, I was walking home, talking on the phone to Flynn. I walked down the ally near the rear of our building and I got a tap on my shoulder, I turned around to see who it was and all I saw was a face in a hood coming at me fast. He headbutted me in the nose and knocked me out. My attacker stole my phone and ran off. When I came to a few minutes later I was surrounded by strangers telling me to stay down, I sat up and it was like someone had turned a tap on from my nose, there was so much blood pouring out over my white shirt. I heard someone say there was an ambulance on the way, as I tried to get up I could feel the weight of people trying to push my shoulders to keep me down whilst we waited for the ambulance. I said to the helpful strangers that I had to go, I had to get ready for work, I was in shock and I wanted to get the hell out of there. Then I heard her voice, It was Flynn, ‘Get out of the way, let me through!’ Hearing her voice made me feel safe, My family knew I was in trouble, she heard the attack over the phone, she knew where I was and she showed up! she rode with me in the ambulance to the hospital, she told my boss I won’t be going to work and she took care of me, like so many times in my life Flynn had made me feel safe and that it was going to be ok, she used her geeky brand of humour to make me smile through the embarrassment of being mugged. Thank you Flynn.
Not long after the mugging my relationship with Andy broke down, Emma decided that she was ready to move away from Leicester, This coupled with my attack and the fact that my mum had recently moved back to Australia I decided it was time for me to move on too. So I did. Emma was living in Peterborough, Michelle and Vicky had moved away, Jules and Chris were in London, It felt right. Before I left Flynn and I took a trip to see Emma so I could say Goodbye, It was a good day but sad. It felt as though the time was right for me to move on now, It seemed as though almost everyone else had. Saying goodbye to Flynn was a hard one, she dropped me off, we got out of her car, we hugged, she kissed my cheek and said ‘I’m not saying goodbye, I’m just going to go’ I nodded through the tears and she got back in her car and drove away.
The first ever picture of Flynn and I
Shortly after, I found myself back in Australia and it was a difficult transition. the way of life here is great but making friends was so hard. I had my family and I love them, but I felt like no one knew me like my Logical family did. I spent years trying to figure out how to be me here, I still am. As time went by I settled down a bit. I started to make friends through work. I will say this, after 10 years of living here I have met only two friends (on my own) who I think understand me, Shauna and Jaclyn. I love those women. I do have a lot of other incredible people in my life, most of whom I have met through my partner Benny. Thanks, B 🙂
One of my jobs saw me having to take business trips to Sydney and here I arranged to meet up wit Rachel. We didn’t miss a beat, it was as though we had just seen each-other a few days earlier, but at this point it had been a few years. My logical family and I kept in touch through social media, but it was also through this forum that I found out Flynn had been diagnosed with cancer. During her battle she would disappear and become uncontactable, I would find myself calling her phone number just to hear her voice on her voicemail. It wasn’t just me though, she had kind of shut out Emma and others too, but it was her battle and she is entitled to fight it however she needed to. As far as I was concerned we were family and when she wanted to get back in touch I would always be here to listen and help with no judgement or prejudice for her silence, that’s love.
Emma came over to visit me in Australia, I had been here for about 5 years at that point and her visit was a much needed reminder of how lucky I am to have people like her in my life. I have been back to England a few times over the years and although some of those major players in my life have moved on, we still keep in touch from time to time. Jules, Flynn, Emma, Michelle and I remain in contact the most, these are my people, these are my logical family, these are the people that no matter what, I will be there for them.
Benny and I took a trip back to the UK in 2017 when we heard that Flynn was having a tough time with her Cancer, It was the first time I had seen Flynn since I moved away, but like with everyone else, when we saw each other it was as if no time had passed. we went back to Wales and created another incredible trip, that I cherish just as much as my 21st.
Rachel moved to New York, got married and has recently moved back to the UK. Michelle and Vicky have a new baby on the way. Jules is falling in love again, and raising her gorgeous little boy, Alfred. Emma is getting married this year and I will be heading over for the wedding in September…
… Unfortunately back in January we lost Flynn. She lost her years long battle with cancer and since then I am feeling the pull to move back to England for a while. I feel like I am missing out on life with my people. I feel the pull to be back with them. Losing Flynn has been difficult for all of us and we are all trying to keep on moving forward the best way we know how. For me, since losing her, I have felt a shift, I no longer feel like I am living the life I am supposed to, something is missing. I feel incomplete. I don’t know if moving back to England will help fill that void I now have inside of me but I know that being with the people who know and understand me more than anyone else, will definitely help. Maybe I am just romanticising an impossible idea, I mean, Everyone is scattered across the country now, so where would I start. either way, what I do know is, above anything else, I am so lucky that my life has given me these incredible people, these incredible experiences and there is so much more to come. X SPN
The last ever picture of Flynn and I.