On the surface I'm the kind of gay guy you'd want to introduce to your parents. I'm an easy dinner guest, a fun party person, you could easily share a hotel room with me for a week or more and I'd not be jangling your nerves. I'm a lovely concoction - interesting and interested and quiet when needs be.
You'd never guess what lies below.
Deep down I'm still pissed off I never got to date, flirt and kiss the boys at school. Deep down I'm still upset my parents didn't applaud my difference. Deep down I'm still pissed off I was left floundering in the confusion of my gayness at an age when I didn't even know what gayness meant. I'm sure I am not alone.
I quickly got used to the silence that met my unusual childhood requests for dressing up. I quickly learnt to stay quiet about my fascination with the prince and not the princess, the doll and not the tank. I quickly found secret ways to satisfy my gay ways: hiding, lying, deception and a vivid imagination.
These were the tactics of a child too exhausted by upset to feel it anymore. An excess of tears, distress and anger are followed by resolve. My resolve was: banish pain and seek pleasure. The template of my early adult years was set. I became 'gay' - it was preferable to becoming bitter. And so the pill got coated, the bitterness contained in a crisp veneer of fun and fabulousness.
The 'gay' was met with applause and appreciation. 'Gay' is so much more entertaining, so much easier to swallow than bitter. Aren't gay men 'just the best to be around'? Family, friends, casual acquaintances adored the 'gay'. So creative, so convivial, so fun loving. And sensitive to boot!
Collectively we looked fabulous together - a rainbow collective of waving arms in the air with, yes, 'gay' abandon. Our sting was reserved for the villains - those that persecuted or mocked us. Our anger was channelled into campaigns for equality, respect, representation, drugs. Our anger was tangible, powerful: it saved lives, it tumbled walls, it lit up the White House.
I almost forget how angry and bitter I was. I am. Almost. And below the bitter the sad I almost believed I was ok now. At the weddings, the west end shows, with the policy changes, the PreP. At the family gatherings, the workplace, the cafes and the streets ( some of which I even sometimes choose to hold his hand). And yet, deep down, under the layers of cheer and compliance I am still pissed off, not gay at all.