I'd finished my weekly piece for the Huff, and sent it off. I'd had dinner, drunk a bottle of wine, was halfway through a brandy, and I got an email from my editor.
'Apologies for short notice. We've noticed it's Coming Out Day tomorrow. Wondering if you'd like to write something for it.'
'Well no, actually, I wouldn't. I'd like to go to bed.'
Which I did.
But once there I couldn't get to sleep. I went from hating the subject to thinking how good it was. From wanting to have nothing to do with maudlin gay reminiscences, to thinking, 'Perhaps I should.'
Age 18, I went to America intending to become a famous jazz player. At school I'd had sex with boys, but I'd never connected that with being gay. And since leaving I'd never had sex with anyone. For two years, working as a musician, I suffered all the problems an unaware gay normally suffers - pressured to go out and find girls, pretending to fancy them. But finally I gave up on the whole thing and came back to London.
For my 21st birthday I got £50 from my parents. I went to Spain where I rented a room in Fuengirola, then a tiny fishing village with only two other non-Spanish residents. I'd taken a bunch of books - everything I ought to read and never had - Tolstoy, Balzac, Faulkner, Joyce - my goodness, it was hard going.
The two other English-speakers were young homosexuals. A Canadian called Gerald, probably 25, and Sascha, an 18-year-old who'd deserted from the German army. When I sat on the beach reading they'd come and tell me I was obviously gay, why didn't I admit it.
'Absolute rubbish.' I said. And I think I believed it.
Then one evening Sascha came knocking on my door in tears. 'Gerald's drowned'.
I went to his house and talked all evening. With wine.
Eventually he started saying things like, 'If you're not gay, why do you look at me like that'. And I'd say, 'Like what?'
We ended up in bed and I couldn't even get a hard on. Which pleased me a lot. It meant at last I knew - I AM NOT GAY.
I went back to my room feeling most satisfied. But next morning I woke up in love.
I rushed to his house but he wasn't there. He'd left me a note. 'Gerald didn't drown. He just called me. He swum out too far and a boat picked him up. They're taking him to London. I'm flying there to meet him. Use the house if you want.'
I did, and lived in lovesick solitude for a month. Then he sent me a postcard with an address in London and I left at once on the train.
Three days later I rang the bell at an address in Portland Square and found myself in a nest of queens. And me suntanned and 21, fresh from the beach. 'Well, darling, what have we here? Come in, ple-e-e-e-e-ase.'
Sascha wasn't there. He'd moved on days ago. But I was stuck. Penniless, pretty and prey to a bunch of old predators. But it wasn't too bad and I soon found out what I really was.
A year later I was enjoying London gay society circa 1961. I had a boyfriend with whom I shared a bed-sit, a good job, and a busy social life. BUT... I hadn't done the one thing I knew I had to do. Tell my parents.
It wasn't quick. I went for Sunday lunch every week, and endlessly planned to get my father alone in the sitting-room. But after a year I still hadn't managed it.
Then it happened. We were in the sitting-room. Lunch was over. My mother was washing up, the others had gone into the garden. 'I've got to tell you something,' I said. 'I've been trying to for a year. It's, it's, it's... well I'm homosexual. I like boys, not girls. I'm queer.'
He was shocked. And very silent. 'Are you sure?'
I got annoyed. 'Of course I'm bloody sure. I've been waiting a year to tell you. You think I'm not sure? I've got a boyfriend. We live together. I'm homosexual - queer - gay - a pansy - a nancy boy. Do you understand?'
He looked at me very strangely. Then suddenly smiled. 'Well, that's good,' he said. 'I was afraid you were turning out a bit boring.'
The next day he took cigars to the office and told everyone one. 'It's fantastic - I've got a daughter, and a son, and a gay son. All three different. What a pity I didn't have another daughter. She could have been a lesbian. I'd have had one of everything.'
So I just want to say. There's no question about it - my father's wonderfully supportive attitude....
OH GOD! That sounds S-O-O tedious! Try again...
THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT IT...
MY FATHER'S ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE, TOTAL DELIGHT at having a son who was gay was the greatest support I could have been given.
More:Simon Napier Bell
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