Knowing Martin as a school friend and as a travelling companion during our teenage years, it has to be said that yes, I was certainly taken aback when he told me he was gay.
Martin’s qualities that I knew him to possess and which led us to be friends in the first instance were that of a true, thorough, genuine and solid character. This, therefore, made his revelation more sincere and exact. This is not to say that humour didn’t get us through this time, as it did in our school days. At the time of his disclosure I remember ordering a few more drinks as I let the news take hold.
The following few weeks were strange, I suppose. Many situations in the past now made sense, as Martin recounted these times to me and why they occurred as they did. I felt Martin wanted me not necessarily to ask lots of questions, but he desperately needed me to talk and talk on the subject when in actual fact what I really wanted to do was just let it be.
I think he found that much harder initially than I did, endeavouring to come to terms with the fact of him being gay. Why is it difficult for people to come to terms with the fact that at certain times in life you just need time? Did it take a major effort on my part to prove something, or did I need to mark out what my acceptance criteria was, even though I didn’t even know what that was myself – did I accept it or would I ever?
Inevitably, I wondered how his experiences in life were more than likely going to be different to what I was intending to hopefully experience. Relationships, marriage, children, holidays, socialising, perspectives and overall the path that lay before him as opposed to the one that I assumed he would follow.
We socialised as a mixed-gender group, and maybe to a large extent this made things much easier. The demarcation lines could be more easily drawn because when Martin wanted to be his true self he socialised with a different group, but when he wished to be part of our group he decided to join us. We knew him throughout the years and therefore still treated him exactly the same.
I continued to behave in the same way as I had always done with the acknowledgement that there was a large part of Martin’s life that appeared different through this new revelation. Indeed I had a better understanding of where Martin was coming from and the reasons for many of his viewpoints.
There are decisions in life when we make a choice or decide preference. When someone does not have a choice or is born a certain way, they have to deal with the hand God has dealt them. This can indeed be very tough at times, but isn’t this the courage that should be commended, not condemned? This applies to anybody dealing with a major aspect of their lives contrary to the apparent norm. The perceived image of homosexuality and stereotyping certainly distorts this issue, and to a large extent the relationship you have with a friend to whom this issue pertains.
At the end of it all, I know that Martin desires a companion and partner in life, like many people. Is this what many of us look for and hope that it will lead to greater contentment in life? Yet we may not want this, and still be as contented in life. But these things are our choice. My understanding of being gay, through being a friend of Martin, is that being gay is not.
As a friend of Martin’s, I never knew whether I did the right thing as a friend since he came out, and that is the challenging part. Did I give him enough space, did I try to engage with the idea, did I allow him to show me what his world meant to him, and did I leave him be when he needed it? Where do I draw the line? Where should I draw the line? Is there a line?
These are the grey areas that I probably found difficult throughout the years. The resistance to being open as friends, the barrier Martin would agree he had put up, was that due to a large extent to his sexuality or because that was his way? Subsequently, I found that I avoided discussing the areas that pertained to Martin’s gay world, and I assumed he never wanted to chat to me about them. They were for his newfound friends.
When an aspect such as this is such a part of someone’s life, it inevitably consumes them to a large extent. Socially, emotionally and physically. Where did I or should I stand for that matter? To what degree are you part of their lives, simply because I’ve known him as a friend for so long? Or do I let him have his life aside because his circle is unique?
As life moves on, I think we are more truthful about what is going on in life. I think in the earlier years, so much time for Martin was subsumed with “the scene” and how he fitted into the overall culture.
I knew Martin for about seven years before he came out and, yes, they were the formidable years, but we have continued that friendship for the past 20 years.
Through time and viewing aspects of life in a more CONTEMPLATIVE way, I think many situations develop clarity. I am in a different place in life, and in many ways with different priorities and perspectives. Hindsight is great, of course.
I am saying all this as a friend and, like many things, I think it would be very different as a parent, on whom it has a greater impact to a greater extent because of the innate relationship between parent and child.
At the end of the day, God loves us for being us – my summary of it all and how I genuinely feel is that: “To love, and be loved, is everything”.