Sexuality and the changing world we live in
We’re celebrating Pride month by elevating the voices and experiences of our friends, colleagues, and peers who have something to say.
As a part of this, Chris Downing, one of our Client Relationship Managers, has kindly penned something he would like to share about his experience of being gay. He chose to talk about being gay in the world today, where he provides an honest account of how things were, and how they can still be today.
“Nowadays when you think of the word ‘gay’, it often conjures up images of bright colours, happy people, smiling faces and laughter – and that is exactly what it should do – but it has not always been that way.
As a child in the 1970s, we did not have any positive gay role models. The camp, effeminate man was always positioned on the TV as someone to laugh at and feel sorry for, and if you showed any signs of being ‘that way’ then you would be ridiculed and ostracised. Even today we have ‘aversion therapy’ where people incur real damage to their minds because their society thinks there is something wrong with them.
Back then, you did what you could to survive, so you pretended to be something you were not to everyone around you. Family and friends just prayed that it was a phase you would eventually grow out of. In my case, I was actually 26 with a mortgage and engaged to be married to a woman before I realised that it was time to face up to who I really was! As scary as that was.
It’s important to remember that not that long ago, people in the LGBTQ+ community were perceived as criminals. Gay-bashing was (and occasionally still is) like a sport for some people, and if it went a bit too far and someone was killed then it was just one less queer to pollute society and molest your children – right? That was the attitude, as stark and as harsh as it may seem. That was what people in my community had to deal with, myself included.
I remember a woman I met during the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s – an awful and traumatising time for so many people. We were at a party and she told me that I was ‘her first gay person’ that she had met, and how surprised she was at how ‘normal’ and ‘nice’ I was. She thought she was being kind to me by saying ‘You know what – if you had AIDS I would visit you in hospital’. Gee, thanks!
Over the years things have changed, and acceptance has steadily grown. My family have always been supportive and I am now very happily married (something that was only made legal in 2013!). I found Mr Right well over 10 years ago and we ‘tied the knot’ in 2017.
Our neighbours, friends and family love us very much, and we are always expected to be the life and soul of the party. Luckily my husband excels in that department and I can sit quietly by – it allows me to be ‘The Boring One’! The thing is, it’s wonderful to be able to be ‘The Boring One’, and it’s kind of the point of living life. You should be allowed to be the boring one, the gay one, the loud one, the funny one, the mysterious one, the tall one… You should be allowed to be YOU, and you should be proud of it. No stereotypes, no assumptions. Just you, whoever that may be.
When it comes to being gay, the workplace has always been an interesting arena. The ‘old school’ or ‘old boys’ clubs that used to exist in management (and sadly still do exist in some places) would always regard me with distrust, and it was difficult to be taken seriously. As the years have gone by, I have seen more acceptance at work, and the ‘dinosaurs’ with archaic attitudes have retired and moved on. The workplace has become more inclusive and supportive, as it should be, and I’m happy to report that at Amba we celebrate differences. It is a good place to be. A place that so many people never expected we even could be all those years ago. Times have changed, and the world is all the better for it.
I can sum up our changing world by saying that all those years ago I would be shocked if someone was accepting of me and who I am. These days I am shocked if someone is not accepting of me, or anyone else, for who we are. That is how the world has changed for me.
That doesn’t mean to say we live in a perfect society, because we still have quite a way to go. There are still unacceptable behaviours and mindsets out there, and we must all do whatever we are able to make sure these attitudes fizzle out for good! The world deserves a population who are proud to be who they are, and that’s exactly what Pride celebrates.
I’ve been luckier than most. The people I have met on life’s journey have been amazing individuals who have taught me more than I could ever teach them. I am accepted, I am loved and I am happy, I am celebrated, I am included…I am gay!”