On Friday I had the genuine honour of accepting an Attitude Magazineaward in recognition for my work in breaking the silence of the sexual abuse, rape and exploitation of boys and men, especially within the LGBT+ community.
The award ceremony itself was the end of a month long silence for me and the other 11 winners as we had been 'sworn to secrecy' and it had only been revealed on Wednesday who we were when the actual magazine hit the shops and there we all were, on the front cover!
Sitting at a table in the beautiful Grovensor House Hotel Ballroom surrounded by media types, celebrities, musicians, actors, writers, and the great and the good of the LGBT+ community, I thought about the idea of heroes and pride, after all that was the whole point and theme of the evening, and what those two words mean to me.
Its timely pondering this, its 46 years to the day that the Stonewall Riots happened in New York - seen as the birthplace of the gay civil rights movement; despite the fact that 5 years prior to this in my very own hometown of Manchester, Alan Horsfall had started the Homosexual Law Reform Society.
But as I sat eating my awards dinner (a posh version of a roast chicken dinner, followed by a posh egg custard), I looked around the room and saw my fellow cover girls and boys and I felt an incredible sense of pride. This wasn't excitement or giddiness. This was absolutely pure, unadulterated pride (my eyes have just got wetter even now just typing this).
I wanted to speak to every single one of them and tell them how genuinely proud I felt to share a stage with them. I wanted to tell Christian and Emmanuel that if they are the model of young LGBT+ people then the future is absolutely safe; I wanted to say to Alya and Asifa that I find their fight to be who they want to be truly inspiring; I want to say to Matthew and Moud that their determination to highlight religious and cultural hatred takes my breath away; I wanted to tell Toni, Jonny and Mena that the work they are doing is saving lives and as someone whose been directed affected, I know and thank you for doing that at grass roots; and I wanted to say to George and Jonathan, thank you for paving the way which has allowed me to be freer and safer.
Then as Katie Piper, a hero (heroine??) of mine, walked on to the stage I realised it was my time to get up and collect my award and those uncomfortable feelings come back and the thoughts... "you dont deserve this", "there's better people than you", "they just feel sorry for you"... but looking at Katie Piper, she epitomises for me how not to let what happened define you and how to be brave, I felt calmer.
Coming off the stage after possibly turning the air a bit blue with my acceptance speech (keep it real I thought!), lots of people were coming up to me to say thanks and tell me how inspiring my speech was, heaping praise on me and generally saying lovely things - now this is something I find incredibly difficult to accept. Call me names, tell me how rubbish I am or say negative and cutting stuff about me... I can handle that really easy, but tell me something that nice that is aimed directly at me and I just don't know what to do, I turn into Mr Uncomfortable. I'm trying hard to kill this lasting legacy issue of being sexually abused which is all about self worth and self value but its hard and takes time!
Having the likes of Holly Johnson (another personal hero) coming over to congratulate me nearly pushed me over the edge of understanding, but that was nothing compared to the kind words spoke to me by my fellow winners.
One peer in particular said a few very personal things that made me realise something, I should be proud of myself because the cover, the photo and the interview I have give to Paul Flynn (amazing by the way Paul) has enabled silent survivors speak out.
So here goes, the next step in my healing from abuse... I am proud to accept this award from Attitude Magazine. I'd like to thank Matthew Todd and his team for recognising us; thank my husband Wes and my best friends Michael, Julian and Christos, for keeping me grounded; say a huge thanks to my amazing team and board at Survivors Manchester for making my dream a reality and helping the hundreds of men that come through our door each year; and tell boys and men that take a chance on us in the hope that we might be able to help that they continue to inspire me and make me proud.
My name is Duncan Craig, I am one of my heroes and I am standing up to say yes, I really am proud of me.