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Fear of being found out meant I lost myself

May 30, 2010 , , , , , , ,

First of all, let me start by telling you I’m gay. OK, it’s not a massive revelation, I’ve been out to friends, and most of my family for about 10 years. It wasn’t an easy time when I told my parents. Well, actually, it wasn’t my choice to come out to them at all. But at least I wasn’t outed by the Daily Telegraph.

We all now know that David Laws resigned his position as Chief Secretary to the Treasury for wrongly claiming £40,000 in expenses and, arguably, unwittingly outed himself in the process. He claimed the MP’s second home allowance, as he was entitled, but his landlord was someone with whom he had a close relationship. After 2006 this situation was against the rules, but he continued claiming until August 2009.

It’s likely that Mr Laws was well aware of the deception and carried on claiming. But he was using one deception to cover another. That deception was to hide his sexuality from his family and friends. He was scared of what those closest to him might say or think about him.

But fear is an irrational emotion and can affect the most intelligent and level headed.

David Laws and I were both 14 in 1979. We never knew each other, I grew up in north Wales, he grew up in the south east. But in 1979 I was personally moved by another story of a high profile politician who was hounded by the press over his sexuality. Jeremy Thorpe was a Liberal MP accused of conspiring to murder a man he was alleged to have had an affair with. At the end of the trial Thorpe was found not guilty – and he never publicly confirmed, or denied, the accusations concerning his sexual orientation.

As a teenager in the 80s, my political education began with what I saw as the unfair society created by the Tory Thatcherite government. It motivated me enough to want a career in politics. I was too scared to take that desire further, partly because of how Thorpe was treated in the press. And by my parents and friends reactions to the story.

Looking back, I knew I was gay. It was a painful realisation and I was scared and repulsed by my own sexuality. To act straight I became a master of deception. I convinced myself I was straight a lot of the time, but being a randy teenager, you are constantly battling to suppress your natural urges. I managed it, in a way. But what I discovered about myself is that I would camouflage myself. I just disappeared into the background. The fear of being found out meant I lost myself. Who knows if I would have made something of myself if I’d allowed myself to follow my dream? Maybe I’m kidding myself, I’ll probably never know.

I don’t agree with Laws’ politics and I don’t think what he did should go unpunished. He broke the rules and I have no doubt he feels he is paying for it. But I sincerely hope he decides to remain an MP, and I hope he comes back to a high profile governement role.

And I not only wish that for him. I wish it for the talented fourteen year old gay person out there watching how society reacts to Mr Laws. One day that young person could be a fantastic inspiration to us all.

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