Gay? | Cassandra Voices

In the insular, it felt like it at times, enforced statelet of Northern Ireland, sexual repression was a thing. (And probably still is.) 

Faggot. Queer. Bent. Gayboy. Bender. Fruit. OOOOooooooooo like an effeminate caricature: going around, mincing, limp-wristed, and nothing but a bum-watching, bumboy. These were some of the names I heard levied at me when I was eighteen and on into my twenties.

At the time, my mental health was on skid row. I had depression, was low on self-confidence; suffered terrible social anxiety, and an alcoholic experimenting with harmful drugs . I did not realise at the time that I was in pain due to my background. Yes, family and subsequent cognitive development. Impaired. Yes. Immaturity. And I was unwell. Really. I did not stand up for myself. I had no response to these verbal demarcations.

They used to say, ‘Burnsy, why haven’t you got a girlfriend then?’ And I would take – as the colloquialism goes – a reddener. Pure scarlet. Flustered and embarrassed and already a wreck. I started to think maybe I was. One of them, and I was struggling with my sexual identity. My gayness was trying to come up to the surface and out. But I was suppressing it.

Image: Daniele Idini.

I can recall some twenty years later, sitting in a working-class bar, one Saturday afternoon two decades ago, in Belfast, alone at a table with a drink, and coming to the end of the line on the subject – asking myself: ‘Am I gay? Do I really want to be in a relationship with a man?’

I knew that this situation had become a neurosis in my mind. And I had to venture out there to find out. I went online and looked at Transexual escorts in Belfast. I picked one. Of an Asian background. I went to a hotel the next week and found out that I was not gay after all. The physicality of what is a man’s frame/body and the presentation gender of a man, was, is, something that I was not attracted to. At all. And that’s fine.

My sexual identity had very little bearing on my mind’s stunted growth. It was all familial.

Image: Marina Azzaro

There was the time whilst I was living in Dublin that I went along to a reading group after being asked by a guy who is gay. I knew he was gay and did not have an issue with it. I did not have a secret fantasy or agenda to get better acquainted. During the reading, he tried to play footsie, or, leggsy, rather, under the table with me and I did not reciprocate. From then on, he has given me the old round around and does not converse or communicate and I thought that was rather selfish, but there you are.

Indoctrinated media draws very clear lines on the subject of sexuality: binary codes, definitions and stereotypes.

I do wonder about the repression back home, though, the religious doctrines and institutions which repressed people and silenced others. The subsequent abuses.

I did wonder for a long time about homophobia and innate homosexuality and violence meted out in manifest self-anger as one reads and hears so often about attacks on gay men. Gay women. Gay people.

People are people they have their preferences and proclivities.

I went on a trip to Berlin a couple of years ago to visit the museums and check out the city. Cut to a Friday evening; there was slight drizzle and when I was walking down through Rosa Luxemburg-Platz, I saw a man in full-make-up, a pink latex jacket, leather biker’s hat, a black mesh over his face, black leather trousers, and black boots, and to me, he looked happy. Free. I was happy for his freedom and thought to myself, ‘You wouldn’t see that in certain areas of Belfast on a Friday night. Sadly.’

You just don’t know the great struggles people have in their lives.

Live and let live.

Feature Image: Felipe Lopes


About Author

Neil Burns is forty-four years old. He has been busy with learning. Some travel. Hiking. Writing. Reading. He is originally from Northern Ireland but has since moved away to grow.

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