Shaun Phillip Naylor
Over the Rainbow
So, if you didn’t already know, I identify as gay. I am an out and proud gay man. I have been since I was 18.
Some people say they have always known that I was gay. As a gay man this is something that frustrates me. You can sense the tone when people say this sort of thing to you, like they require some sort of reward or acknowledgement because they knew your sexuality before you did. But all they are actually doing is identifying how and why you are different. It’s almost as if they feel like they are outing you all over again and to anyone who has struggled with their sexuality this behaviour is more hurtful than helpful. “Oh I knew you were gay when I first met you.” Oh, well done Jane! I get it, I’m not the most masculine of men. Who gives a shit? I am me. But seriously, if you have ever been like Jane, now is the time to stop it. Don’t say things like that to people, it’s not helpful.
For as long as I can remember I have found men attractive. I remember being very young and seeing Tom Cruise in Far and Away. In the scene when he was naked and laying on the bed after Nicole Kidman had stabbed his thigh with a that hay fork thing. He’s all naked and unconscious with only a bowl covering his junk and she takes a peek. I remember thinking that I would totally peek too. That was one of the first times I knew I was attracted to men. Thanks Tom Cruise.
I knew that I had a desire for men but I never really felt like it was wrong because I also found women attractive. When I got a bit older I felt the pressure society puts on us to be ‘normal’. I always knew I was different, and I always knew what it was that made me different. I liked boys but I could never say that out loud. Other kids at school knew I was different too. When I was little I was picked on because I was different, but thankfully back then none of the kids were being mean because of sexuality, that would come later. I was a sensitive little boy and I loved all the toys, but little boys should be playing with toy guns, cars and climbing trees. As much as I loved climbing the occasional tree I much preferred the company of girls, they were allowed talk about feelings. They were encouraged to be sensitive and talk about their feelings, but being friends with girls just made me a bigger target. Playing with dolls didn’t help much either. I never understood why the girls could play with cars and toy guns and not be told off but if I wanted to play barbie or my little pony it was wrong. To mini Shaun’s credit, I continued to play my way.
i mean, my mum did this to me. it’s like she wanted me to be gay
As I got older and all the boys my age were getting girlfriends I too found myself with girlfriends. This wasn’t so bad because it allowed me to be friends with girls but with less ridicule. In high school I had my high school girlfriend Laura. Laura was/is a lovely human being. We had similar interests and we always had a great time. I felt safe around Laura. However, the bullying continued and in high school it was different. In high school my differences, sensitivity and affiliation with girls translated to me being a ‘faggot’. This word remains the most offensive thing you can ever say to me. By this point in my life I had been conditioned to believe that being gay was wrong. I knew that I was gay but I really didn’t want to be.
2nd row, 3rd from the right 😦
I tried everything to repress my inner homo and to throw the bullies off the scent but they were relentless. I never did anything to warrant the damage and hurt they caused me. I never did anything to them… ever! I just existed and apparently that was enough for them to torture me, for years. All for something that is completely out of anyone’s control. For those who say people choose to be gay, We don’t! I am at peace with who I am now but back then I couldn’t see the rainbow through the storm and I just wanted to be like everyone else.
As time went on I couldn’t deny myself the feelings I had for men. I did think about repressing them, settling down with Laura and having a few kids together. But I couldn’t do that to her. She deserved to be loved by someone who could love her properly. Although I never told her, Laura played a huge part in me coming out. She was kind, loving and accepting of people. She silently helped give me the inner strength to be myself. Thank you Laura. I decided that I couldn’t pretend with girls anymore. High school was coming to an end, Laura was off to uni and it felt like the right time to call it quits, so we did.
A few months went by and I knew I had to be myself, and that the people I loved deserved to know the real me. I was terrified. I had the conversations in my head over and over and over again. Every time I thought about telling my mum that I was gay, (in my head) it always ended with her disowning me, me disappointing her and her kicking me out. Every scenario would end badly. I scared myself right back into that closet. At this point I was off to meet Mr Tumnus in Narnia. (Any gay worth their salt will always play a Narnia card when talking about being in the closet.)
A small shimmer of hope came around the time of my cousin Natalie’s birthday. Up until this point of my life I didn’t know any gay people. Sure, a few kids in high school who were trail blazers for us kids in denial but I didn’t know any gay people who were out, proud and had some life experience under their belts. Natalie has a half brother on her father’s side named Sasha. I knew that Sasha was gay. I didn’t really have any memories of Sasha and I didn’t even really know what he looked like but I knew he was going to be at Nat’s birthday party. So I thought I might be able to corner him and ask for some advice.
The night of the party I was so nervous. This was going to be the very first time that I spoke the words. This was me on the edge, about to step into my life. There was no excitement just shear terror. I sat around drinking a coke, trying to find my courage and waiting for my moment. Sasha went to the toilet and I thought now is my chance. I “accidentally” ran into him in the hallway near the toilets and asked if I could talk to him. He was kind. I stumbled on my words a bit but I said it. ‘I think I’m gay, and I don’t know how to tell my mum.’ Sasha told me, how when he was younger he thought my mum was really cool and that if anyone was going to be ok with it it would be her. We spoke in that corridor for a while before my uncle Colin came passed heading for the toilet. As he walked passed us I was mortified. Here I am talking to a gay man at a party and now my uncle will think I am gay by association. As Colin came out from the toilets (he had obviously heard some of the conversation, or had put two and two together.) He put his hand on my shoulder and said something to the effect of, “make sure you tell your mum, she’ll love you no matter what” and then he just walked off. Moments later a similar interaction happened with my aunt Carole. What was this? No one was disowning me? But then again I hadn’t actually come out and mum didn’t know yet, so it could still go wrong. I thanked Sasha for his advice and we got on with the night.
Over the next few days I still didn’t have the courage to tell my mum. I was digging deep but it wasn’t there. Then one night, I was going to do it. But my mums favourite soap were airing their first ever gay kiss. This was big news and big steps in the right direction for equality and LGBT visibility. I also figured that I would be able to gauge how mum would react to me being gay. The kiss was coming and I was uncomfortable. I left the room to go to the loo but really I was listening at the door. When the kiss came there were lots of squeamish responses from my mum and sister. Fuck! They will never love me again. So I disappeared to my room.
Coronation St first gay kiss
A day or so passed by and I was feeling like I had to say something. It was eating me up inside. I’ve always been a bit of a mummy’s boy and right now I was feeling alone and I wanted my mum. I remember mum had a bit of a cold and she was going to bed early. I was pacing around my tiny bedroom. She put herself to bed and I knocked on her door. “Mum i need to tell you something.” “What is it, I’m going to bed.” She said with a blocked nose. “I find women attractive, but I’m also attracted to men.” I cant really remember her response, but I did it, it was out there! I remember there being a bit of a pause before she spoke and I remember we hugged and she said she loved me, and she went to bed. A few minutes later there was a knock at my door. It was my stepdad Brian! Oh no! I opened the door with teary eyes. “Your mum just told me, and I want you to know that this doesn’t change anything. We love you.” That possibly meant the most to me. Getting approval from a Male role model.Wow. I had only just told my mum, I hadn’t even thought about telling my dad yet! Then came the coming out to my sister. A much less gracious response from Kim…. a slow hand clap! Not helpful but thanks.
Now you may have noticed that I told mum I like both men and women. There is a truth there, I think women are beautiful, I find them very attractive but truth be told I am just gay. I guess I thought that by implying I was bisexual it would be more like easing us all in and testing the water. Eventually we just slid into the realm of gay and that is where I am most comfortable with my sexuality. I love being a guy and I love other guys.
I consider myself very lucky to have a very supportive and accepting family around me. I remember my mum and I driving to pick my sister up one night and the subject about being gay came up. Mum said to me that life is hard enough and she didn’t want my life to be harder just because of who I am. I think about that conversation often, more so with the older I get. I look at the path that was in front of that 18 year old boy and I reflect on how far he has come. Life is so hard at times, for all of us. However, I can honestly say that my life has not been made harder because I am gay. Sure conceiving a child is much harder but not impossible. The world has come so far in the last 16 years since I came out. Sure, we still have a long way to go before we reach true equality but we are on the right path.
If I could tell my 18 year old self anything it would be.. love yourself because you are worth loving. Be yourself because you are someone worth sharing with the world and to be true and honest to yourself and those around you, because you are important to so many people, you are loved now and always will be. Be Brave!
Go get em kiddo. X SPN
a bright future a head of him
A final thought, if you haven’t seen the movie Love Simon. Go see it, it’s an important film for LGBTQ+ youth. Click the link below