John is the manager and Charlie is the owner. They are the conveners of this meeting- a Gay Icebreakers Group- offering support to men like me.
I’m 20 years old and the law says it’s illegal for me to have sex with a man until I’m 21. My parents, my teachers, my church, my friends have made it clear to me that sexual attraction to men at any age is shamefully unacceptable. Years of conditioning have trained me to fear and stifle the public expression of my authentic self.
Here, for the first time in my life I’m in the presence of men bravely bearing witness to another way of being. They talk about the political importance of ‘coming out’ by making my sexual self visible. I’m full of arguments about why that would be impossible for me. My parents would disown me. My friends would shun me. I’m a medical student- what would my colleagues say? How would my patients react?
They chide me from my intellectual defenses by appealing to my hungrily aching animal urges: “Well maybe what you need to do is just have lots and lots and lots of sex with men”
A few months later I will bump into one of the men in the lift lobby at the hospital. He’s visiting his boyfriend who is seriously ill in the Intensive Care Unit. It turns out that this is the first identified case of AIDS in the UK. A few months later he’s dead and I’m in a lecture theatre hearing from his doctor about this new disease spreading like wild-fire among gay men.
It was tough back then. I was marginalized by my differentness and felt isolated and alone. I didn’t realize at the time that what I perceived as my misfortune was, in fact, a blessing in disguise. The blessing of meta-positioning. The gift of a powerful drive to question and confront the received wisdom of my culture. The recognition of my unique purpose. The chance to become consciously aware of how powerful influences could operate within my secular consumer society to veer me away from my true nature- not just with regard to my sexuality but also in respect of my gender identity, my animalistic self and even the sense of my spiritual self.
With gay emancipation and hetero-normative assimilation comes a loss of the social criminal’s unifying ‘outsider’ perspective. As a gay man maybe I have a twinge of nostalgia for this but then again as a Queer Faerie Spirit Warrior maybe not!