Foreign Policy Magazine’s 2015 100 Global Thinkers Event Takes Place In Washington

tumblr_nyqvppkxeq1rar94xo1_1280The Foreign Policy Magazine’s 2015 100 Global Thinkers event took place on Tuesday, December 1 in Washington. Coming before the Foreign Policy’s annual 100 Global Thinkers issue, the event surrounded a panel discussion entitled, “The Fourth Unsolvable Problem: The Future of Activism”.

Global Thinkers on the panel included supermodel Andreja Pejic, WITNESS’ Associate Director of Communications and Engagement Matisse Bustos-Hawkes, activist Jim Obergefell, rapper Sonita Alizadeh, photographer Robin Hammond, artist Adejoke Tugbiyele and co-founder and executive chairman of GiveDirectly Michael Faye.

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Scott

Name: Scott
Location: Manchester
Age: 34

At what age did you first realise that you were gay?

When I was 6 I had the first memory of thinking a passing man was attractive but it wasn’t until I was 10 that I first told my mum.

Have your family and friends always been supportive?

Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to only have people around me who have been accepting and supportive. I never had a huge group of friends at school but those I had were close and I suspect that anyone who was close, knew before I told them.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

I had a couple of people growing up, older friends who have helped give me confidence in my sexuality. I’ve always associated with older people and I benefited from their experience and wisdom and that helped me a a great deal but there’s never been ONE specific person.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in life because of your sexuality?

Yes, I have been forced out of two jobs for being gay. Solicitors have commented that it was clearly because I was gay that the employers took a dislike to me yet they were very careful not to say as much. At the same time though, it has been beneficial. Many companies appreciate gay staff because they’re so good with customers, they care and generally work better in customer service environments.

Do you think that the world have become more accepting and welcoming to gay people in more modern times or do you feel that there is still a long way to go?

Definitely. Even since I was young, the attitudes have changed immensely. It has now become in the UK at least, almost a trophy to be gay. People will often be proud to say they have a gay best friend or groups of friends will almost always have a ‘token gay’ guy amongst them because it’s seen as being fashionable. If you don’t know or like gay people, you are almost frowned upon by other groups in society now. That said, there is a LONG way to go before things are equal and there is no discrimination but I am proud of the way society is headed.

What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with their own sexuality or coming out or who is been bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

I would urge them to be strong, find people like them and try to establish connections with people who think they same as they do. Spend some time in gay areas like the Village in Manchester, Soho in London, you will be able to realise that it’s OK to be gay and that people are all around us in the same situation. Above all, you need to know yourself and be strong enough to stand for what and who you are. Don’t let people smother you and if they are, move, find other people who want to be around the real you.

Are you religious? What do you think of the Church’s attitude towards gay people?

No, I’m not religious. The church in my opinion are extremely hypercritical. Many ministers have been known to be gay, have abused boys in the past and I dare say that many use the Church as a means to cover their sexuality. They don’t marry and claim the church is their wife as an easy way to cover their true feelings. That could be wrong but I suspect there are many gay chuch folk out there too scared to be themselves. The Church is responsible for a lot of hatred and discrimination and of all people you’d expect to be supportive and loving, they can be the worst.

Are you political? If so, is there any organisations whose work you particularly admire?

No, I’m not political but I do have views on current events such as the break up of the UK with Scotland wanting to leave the union. I also have views on immigration, unemployment etc. I do feel that all politicians are truly in it for themselves, there are very few politicians in power who are the ‘common man’ and who have the power to change things for the greater good of ‘Joe Public’. 

That said, there are organisations like Stonewall, The British Heart Foundation and many others who all play important roles in trying to make life better for people.

Have you ever been in love?
Many times. I am now. I love my long term partner and I have loved many times before. I’m currently coming to terms with the death of someone I loved very much. I firmly believe you can love more than one person and each love is unique and does not belittle the love you have for another.

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not would you like to get married someday?

No we’re not. I often think about it but my partner is scared that if we were to marry, we would affect our 14-year relationship and we don’t want anything to change. We’re happy how we are.

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not would you like to be a father someday?

No but I would love to be. My partner says he hates kids but he doesn’t. He loves my nephews like they are his own, as do I. I doubt I will ever be a father but I would very much to have children. Who knows?

Interview: Justice

Name: Justice

Location: SE1 – Bankside

Age: 29

At what age did you first realise that you were gay?

I would say first when I was about 6 years old. Then when I was about 8 I realised what it was. Growing up I always saw myself marrying a man. I must say.

Have your family and friends always been supportive?

I’ve had it easy ‘cos I’m very black and white so it’s how I presented it. You in? Or you out? I’m happy either way! My background is Jamaican, and over there they use religion and hate to almost use homophobic abuse as a sport. Once I was armed with my friends approval it made it easy to get the family’s. This is me I said! You in?

Are you involved in political activism? Is there any organisations whose work you particularly admire?

No I don’t. But I have plans to. They are a group of gays living in a storm drain in Jamaica, after being forced out of a swart. It moved me to see the length people have to go to, to be themselves. I have plans to get involved.

Are you religious? What do you think of the Church’s attitude towards gay people?

Well religion is always a messy one. I consider myself spiritual and can respect others’ choices. I just think people need to be aware of what religion really is! And that all the power is with inside of you. I believe most religions are there to control people, they can’t control us with it, so they demonise us with it, while open to recruiting us telling us we can change! They way I see it is this! What ever gives you comfort! Go for it! But not at the expense of others, in an unhealthy way.

Do you think that the world have become more accepting and welcoming to gay people in more modern times or do you feel that there is still a long way to go?

It’s a hard one! Yes we still have a way to go. But! We wasn’t going away! And now with the birth of reality tv it just would not work without us . From behind the scenes to in front of the camera. Most of all! Everyone using our lingo from our forefathers. #hastagedat! Lol

Music and fashion are bringing lots of people together, and gays are at the heart of that melting pot! It’s a great time to be gay! Lol. Nobody is shocked anymore! Next stop bearded ladies! Lol

Have you ever experienced discrimination in your life because of your sexuality?

Oh gosh, not since late 90s but it would be people saying as you walk past. But yes everyday! In entertainment business it can hinder or when you come across a closet or some with issues! They can offload their insecurities on you. Nowadays days they know that we are the makers of cool! Lol

What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with their own sexuality or coming out or who is been bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

Gosh! I would say it gets better! Once you have made peace with it! Know no one on the earth can get in your way! As gay people we get to choose our family ( in my Ru Paul voice) so there is love ready and waiting for you. Being yourself is the best feeling in the world.

Growing up did you find it easy to meet other gay people?

It was hard, but saying that! It’s like we can smell it on each other! You just know! Sometimes it’s in our eyes! Gay eyes! Lol. I remember sniffing out the others and the girls who are down with us. Others not so lucky! No!

Have you ever been in love?

Yes I have. But it’s hard not to dedicate your whole life to it, as you have seen people in love for years and wondered, when’s it my turn?! I used to be obsessed with love, being older I now know better.

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not would you like to get married someday?

My Fave question, I’m not married but I have been planning my wedding since I was 6. I used to play weddings by wrapping myself around a duvet, to make a wedding dress. And marry a man of course! I would say my husband when asked! Lol. It’s one of my life goals, to be fulfilled before 35 for sure.

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not would you like to be a father someday?

In my first relationship, we had a plan to have kids. We were on a mission to be fathers, but now I feel too busy making my career happen! But when I’m married if my husband wants kids I’m up for that.

Interview: Diab

Name: Diab

Location: New South Wales

Age: 27

At what age did you first realise that you were androgynous?

From as young as I can remember I have always gravitated to elements of both genders. I never understood why, and still don’t, that certain characteristics are labelled as male and the others as female. I don’t understand why the western world seems to be the most progressive, but in in other ways most rapidly regressive when it comes to gender, gender roles and gender definitions.

Have your family and friends always been supportive?

No. I hold no animosity as I am aware of the circumstances to which I grew up. There is not many, if any, and certainly not in the 80’s and 90’s, figureheads of normality within this “androgynous” world. It can be closely related to sexuality in the sense that it is not a choice, you are being who you are without thought and reason. To the outside it seems weird and almost as an attack on others. When everyone realised I was simply being myself and never intended harm, they have become my greatest defenders.

How has your past shaped who you are today?

I am one of those rare cases where I think that it hasn’t. I am incredibly blessed to simply not care what others think. As someone who is bullied daily for simply being who I am, you would be shocked to find I am probably the happiest person you will meet. I do recall jumping to the defence of others in my teen years so that I could take the brunt of the attack to protect those without as strong a will, as quite simply, words can’t harm me. Perhaps it has made me empathise with others.

Do you think that the world have become more accepting and welcoming to androgynous people in more modern times or do you feel that there is still a long way to go?

There is a MASSIVE way to go but sadly, only in my late 20’s have I noticed a change. I am happy that when I am out I don’t see queer youth being bullied as readily as I did when I was younger and I would like to think that in some small way, I helped in desensitising the world to the obscure and allowed people to see others for who they are and not their shell.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in your life because of your androgyny?

Every day. People simply don’t understand. To be honest I truly pity them. Those who seek pleasure through the pain of others are the true victim. Their inner turmoil is far worse than any attack they can inflict on another.

Who was your favourite character to play in your acting career and why

His name was James. It was actually an awareness piece to raise money for aged care and the living conditions of the elderly. Two “troubled” teens were paired up with senior citizens to help them become more productive members of society. Whilst one of the teens was troubled, James was simply a queer teen who liked colour and eyeliner. He was a happy-go-lucky kid with a thirst for knowledge and loved all those who crossed his path. I was left bouncing off the walls after playing him from the sheer energy he left with me. He also highlighted how youth who are different, even slightly, are “troubled”, when perhaps all they need is an ear to listen; only then will you see that you are the one who is truly troubled for seeing any difference in them.

You have been approached by gay youth looking for advice. What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with their own sexuality or coming out as gay or androgynous or who is been bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

ALL THE TIME! I am actually glad that they came to me as I function without judgement. Too many times have I witnessed destructive behaviour within the queer community when one is reaching for support. Unfortunately this ideal of being a “bitch” and “fierce” is prevalent within the community and only harms all involved as it breeds a new generation of homophobia, even seen within the community. What I would say is just be yourself, as long as you are not harming yourself or others. Sure some might get angry, but it is their issues coming to the fore. Take your time and explore, find who you really are as often too many follow a cookie cutter image of what a “role” is supposed to be and lose any sense of who they really are. Time is also an important factor to those in your life and you need to be sensitive to their issues and concerns as you would hope them to be with yours. Rather than rocking up in “drag” one day for example, ease them into the role, or invite them to a performance or social gathering, let them see it is who you are and that you are truly happy. Where you expect respect, you need to give it to receive it and not demand it. Life is here to be lived, you only get one so you should be true to yourself and remember, words can’t hurt you, you only allow them to. And for those who wish to debate that point, if I punched you in the face that would hurt without choice, I am living, breathing proof that you and only you allow words to cause you harm. Others have opinions and they are entitled to them, so really, leave it with them and let them harm themselves with negativity.

Has your journey affected your relationships? In what way?

No. If anything I have more respect for them as they grew and accepted me. I come from a very open world but in many ways it has been closed. I have unconditional love from people who would have initially hated others who are like me. Now they see that our shell does not dictate the person within. They changed who they are to accommodate who I am and in turn others. How can that not be a good thing and how can I not be grateful?

Have you ever been in love?

Yes. The love I have felt is the deepest, unconditional love in the world from those who have truly seen me as who I am. Even if it took some time.

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not would you like to get married someday?

I like to think that I will, but even as a teen I never saw it happening… I have a fascination with divorce! Let your first marriage set you up for the rest! In all seriousness I think dedicating yourself to one being for the rest of your life is one of the most beautiful things that we as a soul can do. Do I see it happening for me in a marital sense? I’m not sure.

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not would you like to be a father someday?

I’m an uncle and I can honestly say I have taken the ideals I would as a father and placed them on my kids (to which I refer to them). I know because of people like me, that they will enter a world free of judgement and I say that as I have grown with them when they have experienced the conflict of what “boys and girls are meant to do”. Sure it might not be completely dissolved, but it is one step to a better world in which we are meant to live; Embracing the differences in us all as we are all unique, no matter how hard we try to conform, and we can all learn so much from every person we meet.

Interview: Billy

Name: Billy

Location: Lincoln, originally from Scotland

Age: 19

At what age did you first realise that you were gay?

I knew from quite a young age as I realised I wasn’t quite like the other boys in school as I found myself noticing them noticing girls at the age of around 10 and I quickly convinced myself that wasn’t right.

Have your family and friends always been supportive?

Once they found out they where more than supportive and helped me through a lot of hard times, however my parent whom I lived with prior to moving in with my mother were very nonchalant about such delicate matters such as throwing the words ‘poofter’ and ‘pansy’  and a few more I’m reluctant to mention around without a care.

Were you comfortable openly been yourself growing up? For example in school? When was the first time you felt truly comfortable been yourself?

I was far from comfortable, I grew up in a very backwards town in the west of Scotland where any kind of difference was noticed and chastised, I may sound somewhat barbaric and this may seem like an exaggeration but to me it was hell where I was trapped to be something I just wasn’t. All the boys in my family loved cars, trucks and getting dirty outside while I much preferred the comfort of the indoors with some pencils and paper.
Wimp, poof, gayboy and queer where just some of the names I would hear slip out of the mouths of my family.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in work because of your sexuality?

I work for Tesco and they have a non-tolerance to discrimination of any kind, they even have a colleague social site for lgbt people called outattesco.com

Do you think that the world have become more accepting and welcoming to gay people in more modern times or do you feel that there is still a long way to go?

The world has made leaps and bounds as of late in the topic of equality but there are still far too many close minded bigoted people in the world who are breeding hate in the next generation and I can only hope, like so many of my generation, they grow up independently of their parents’ bigoted opinions.

What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with their own sexuality or coming out or who is been bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

If you aren’t comfortable being you then find somewhere that you will be, no matter how long you wait there will always be somewhere in the end that will be your place to be you, it gets easier and better and those who don’t support you are not worth fretting over. Trust me I learnt that the hard way.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

My mother without a doubt. Without her I could never have gotten to where I am today. Her constant support gave me the strength to leave behind my wretched life and start a new one with her in England with her husband and my sister and im now off to UNI to study fine art and live my life.

Are you political? Is there any organisations whose work you particularly admire?

I’m not political – I don’t see why the morality of my sexuality that’s unique to me should be decided by anyone but myself.

Have you ever been in love?

Oh god ‘love’. I do believe I have been in love and nothing felt better and it was innocent and pure before the world weaved in and warped our minds and twisted them into adulthood. People may say we could never be in love at 15 but I know for sure that we were and it’s four years later. One thing to be said though, be prepared as nothing stings more than the first love lost.

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not would you like to get married someday?

I would love to be married one day. To be with that one person who makes me feel perfect and to make them feel the same.

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not would you like to be a father someday?

I would like to be a father one day not anytime soon but when I can afford to give a child the best start in life.

Interview: Darren

Name: Darren

Location: Manchester

Age: 48

At what age did you first realise that you were gay?

This isn’t as simple an answer as it seems. I never had any other thoughts than I was heterosexual my whole life as far back as I can remember. I always had girlfriends at school and female partners after that. I started to query my sexuality around the age of 33 when my existing world, at that time, was imploding following my divorce. I left my wife and family for another woman so there was no indication at that point. I started to cross dress around the age of 34. I progressed to transvestitism proper around the age of 35. That carried on for about 5-6 years. During that time I also had bisexual encounters, some with an existing female partner. It wasn’t until about the age of 41 that I believed myself to be gay. Some could argue I am bisexual, but I have only had sex with men since I was 41 so I always categorise myself as gay now. I don’t particularly like labels, but it is difficult to work with this question without them!

Have your family and friends always been supportive?

My sister has always been gay, but I was the last to know! It even took my parents telling me for me to realise! But it was far more common for women to share flats without anything else being suggested so it never occurred to me. As a result the subject had already been broached within our family. Because of my mental health at the time, having had to leave my children, it became common knowledge to my immediate family that I was cross dressing, fully by that time, although I never dressed in front of them. They knew, but never mentioned it at all that I recall. Even my sister was not particularly accepting and I thought she would understand the most. I suppose it was difficult to understand when I had been married with four children. All I really remember hearing was “those poor kids” and “I wish you could pull yourself together!” The last phrase I have always hated and it is probably the worst thing you can say to anyone with a mental illness, although I tried to write the matter off to my parents being from a different generation where you didn’t discuss such things. When I accepted and classified myself as gay my sister was again the least accepting, contrary to what I had expected. My parents, who by this point were separated, listened but didn’t comment at all. They go on about how nice one or other of my past female partners had been, although they had never expressed their feelings or preferences at the time I was seeing these women! My sister was again pre-occupied with my children. They had grown up knowing that their Aunt preferred women, so it was not an area they were completely unfamiliar with, even if it was now in relation to their Dad. I have never directly told the children myself. I haven’t seen them since before I came out as gay for a whole host of reasons I won’t go into here. All I will say is that they were being used as pawns in attempts to get back at me by their mother. I wasn’t prepared for that to happen so the best thing for them in the long term was not to see me. It wasn’t an easy decision I can tell you, but I had to put them first. I thought I was putting them first. Because of some of the hurtful things I have discovered that my sister has done in my past, I presume she has told them about my sexuality. I don’t know for certain either way though.

When I have told old school friends about being gay they haven’t batted an eyelid to be honest. I think they were a little shocked as they knew I had been married and had children. Thankfully, I never got the comment, “how could you not know, we knew for years!” One friend, who had been my Best Man when I got married, said, “[he] wasn’t into that sort of thing”, and I said that I was telling him that I was gay, not that I had bad taste by trying to hit on him! Again, he is someone who doesn’t mention it, but we are still friends in a different sort of way now to what had previously been the case. I sometimes find myself being who I was when he knew me before in what I now call “another life”, more out of making things easier for him than me. I don’t hide who I am, but I don’t ram it down people’s throats either. I don’t act or sound very much different to how I did before, which is terribly annoying for some people. Everyone expects you to be a screaming Queen, camp as a row of tents and swish while you walk. I am still a masculine figure and many people find that hard to process. I seem to have chosen friends who are similar to that too, but it hasn’t been a conscious decision. Quite a few of my friends have been married before and some have also had children as well.

All my close friends are either gay or have gay friends so it isn’t a problem at all now. I find that I have collected a completely different group of friends to what I had before, but part of that has been the result of moving homes and areas too. In the same way Manchester has a Gay Village I think many gay people feel happier amongst other gay people. It can be less hassle in some ways and you are not watching what you say or what you do the whole time. I now find it slightly weird going into non-gay venues and have to check myself. It’s odd really to think I did it all the time in the past without a second thought!

How has your past shaped who you are today?

This is a tough question! I was always adamant I wouldn’t be like my parents and would be better with my children. I like to think I was, but then leaving them most certainly undid all of that. I didn’t want them to witness problems between their mother and me like I had to witness as a child, so I suppose I also saved them from that. I was always planning and living for tomorrow when I was married and on the other side of the tracks. I never lived in the here and now very much. I rarely took many risks because of the responsibilities I had and I was always worried too much about what others thought. When I felt that my life couldn’t become any messier than it already was, I stopped worrying so much. I also think I had a slightly self-destructive nature at this point, so trying anything and everything wasn’t as daunting or scary as it would or at times should have been! Being what others wanted me to be in the past made me want to rebel slightly and it just seemed the right time to explore and find out who I really was. I like to think I am roughly the same person I used to be, with the same morals and standards, etc. I am far more adventurous now than I ever was, less a prisoner of convention.

This part never goes down well in the Gay Community, but I believe that my sexuality changed following Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) that I had for my Depression. The key changes in my perceived sexuality occurred in the months or years after sessions of this treatment. The more I had the more it seems to have changed my sexuality. I don’t agree that ECT can make you straight at all. In my case I think if you scramble things up enough you will change who people are, but there is no formula that equates to set states or conditions. Maybe my brain was re-wired to be wired the way gay people are at birth? It is totally random in that respect though, like when you throw a pile of sticks there can be infinitesimal permutations or combinations. When the music stopped that was just where I ended up!

I think this as I had a very ordinary upbringing. I never fancied boys or was in the slightest bit interested in them other than as friends. All my what I call ”life-gay” friends, tell stories about peeks in the showers at school and encounters in their youth. I always had girlfriends at school and afterwards. I was very sexually aware, if not active for my age and fascinated by the subject when I was younger. If you wanted porn at school, you came to see me in the Boys loo at break time!

Do you think that the world has become more accepting and welcoming to gay people in modern times or do you feel that there is still a long way to go?

I know politicians and the media like to say that the world is more accepting and welcoming to gay people, but I don’t believe that to be the case. Gay people, based upon heterosexual criteria, have become more accepting to the world in certain geographical locations. It is still a crime in far too many countries and in some punishable by death! Gay people are still being bullied and beaten just because of who they are. Recent examples have been the situation in Russia surrounding the Winter Olympics, imprisonment and hangings in African countries and murders and assaults in the US and here in the UK too.

On television today it seems that being gay is almost a prerequisite to hosting chat shows. I do get frustrated when acceptable “gay icons” are the screaming, outrageously camp ones, agreed as acceptable by heterosexual standards as they are perceived as non-threatening and fun and every house should have one. This whole stereotypical view of gay people is perfectly acceptable, but to use a phrase from Vince’s mum (Karen Black) in Queer As Folk, “Don’t mention the arse thing. People tend not to like the arse thing”.

Until we are not having to gloss over anything and gay people are no longer being bullied, beaten or killed for who they are then my answer will always be no to this question. Yes things here in the UK are considerably “better”, but still not ideal.
Have you ever experienced discrimination in your life because of your sexuality?
As a late starter I always felt that a lot of the hard work surrounding this subject had been done for me by those activists of the past. Because I am not someone who walks down the street and it is immediately obvious that I am gay I didn’t experience any discrimination for some time. Being into the gay fetish scene this changed things somewhat. At times when I have been dressed differently I have encountered discrimination. After getting over the initial shock, as I had no inbuilt defence to this having not had to deal with it before, I was quite glad it had happened so I could understand others and felt a greater sense of belonging to the Gay Community as a whole. I encountered more when I used to cross dress, receiving the usual “freak” comments. As a Transvestite I am also sad to say that I received a lot of discrimination from the gay community itself. This was also true when I was bisexual. I felt they thought I either couldn’t make up my mind or I wanted to have my cake and eat it! I have experienced far more discrimination regarding my HIV status an equal amount coming from the Gay Community as well as general society, including the medical profession. As the question is regarding sexuality I won’t elaborate, but if I didn’t really get a huge amount of discrimination for my sexuality this area has made up for it!

Tell us about your experience with transvestism/transgenderism? Have you ever experienced any discrimination because of your transvestism/transgenderism?

Initially it was a stress releaser for me to pretend to be someone else and the feeling of the clothes was completely different to my “norm”. It helped that in the beginning my partner’s clothes and shoes were my size. I mostly wore underwear with stockings and shoes at first. Sometimes I would meet other men who were into the same things. Over time my urges grew and it became more important to me to complete the look and feel like and be seen as a woman. I have probably covered a lot of this ground in some of my other answers so I won’t repeat it all again here. I have experienced discrimination though. My transgender experience has covered everything from just underwear to wanting to pass fully as a woman. Because of my height and my preference for high heels this didn’t happen very often, but I don’t have much of a pronounced Adam’s apple as an easy give away!

What would you say to someone out there who is struggling with their own sexuality or coming out or who is being bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

Above all you have to do what feels right under your circumstances. There will always be a balance to strike surrounding where you live, where you work, and your circumstances and so on. It shouldn’t be that way and in a perfect world, like Sir Ian McKellen says, it is always best to come out for the peace of your soul. A lesson I have learned from disclosing my HIV status is that once the information is out there you can’t put it back in the box. Consequently, you have to be totally sure about disclosure and be totally comfortable with that.

Has your journey affected your relationships? In what way?

My journey first impacted on my relationships when the woman I left my wife for made me choose between her and carrying on to investigate my sexuality and orientation regarding the Transvestism. Initially she had found it a novelty and while she felt in control of it, it didn’t become a problem. When she realised how often it was happening and to what extent it did become a problem. The subsequent relationship began with my partner knowing that I fully dressed and that I very occasionally met men while dressed. She thought it was wonderful at first, having a partner, a best friend and someone to shop with who rarely got bored of it! We often went to bed together in women’s night things and we went out sometimes together as women. We did occasionally have sex with me dressed, but it was mostly with me as a man. While I occasionally saw men when dressed she handled this by accepting it was something we didn’t do and so they were not taking away something that she perceived was hers. Because of the time it took me to get ready, with lots of input from her to help me, there began to be times where seeing guys for a short period it seemed a wasted effort. Slowly I met guys in just the underwear they liked. This she then saw as encroaching upon what she saw as hers, namely the male me. Towards the end I tried to have threesomes with bisexual men who could also have sex with her in an attempt to keep things together as I really loved her and I was trying desperately to keep us together. At first I thought she was happy with this. Then one time she said she didn’t like doing it and had only been doing it to please me and she got nothing from it. I did it because I thought I was getting something I couldn’t from here and she got a change from me and hopefully a bit of excitement. This revelation made me feel terrible and I would have rather her told me this at the beginning.
Again it eventually came down to a choice between her and me pursuing where I thought my sexuality journey was taking me. I felt I couldn’t lie and just forget about it all like some hobby or passing fancy. I had to be true to myself. Subsequently I also visited a Gender Transformation Clinic. The Consultant there said he hadn’t encountered someone like me before. This didn’t make me feel anything other than a freak! He was used to dealing with men who felt they were only a woman trapped in a male body. I felt that I was both in one body. It is still difficult for me to explain. After another year or so I realised that I didn’t have to present as a woman to be with a man. I think this was ingrained in me because I had come from a heterosexual background. If I liked men then surely I was a woman right?

Have you ever been in love?

Yes, several times. I was in love twice before marrying the third love. I was in love twice more after that. All of these were women. Since changing preferences of partner I have only been in love twice including my current partner. In the same way I love my children equally but differently each of these has been in a different way.

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not would you like to get married someday?

I was married to my wife from 1990-1998. The wedding was a huge affair due to the size of our families. There were 250 people to the Day Reception and 450 to the Evening Reception. It was hugely expensive, despite me not wanting it to be, it seemed to spiral out of control, but I wanted her to have the occasion she wanted. It later transpired that our parents had gone into significant debt to facilitate it with us. I was furious and had stated I didn’t want this from the outset. Now I feel rather stupid and so naïve, but I was totally in love with who I thought she was. I believed everything she told me. There was a lot of competition because of her sisters’ weddings and also those within my relatives’ families too.
In the end she had the dress she wanted, the wedding car she wanted, bridesmaids dresses, wedding rings, church and venue, etc. We were so broke by the end of the day I only had one £20 note in my pocket and that was to pay for the large Mercedes (to fit her dress in) that took us to the hotel. We couldn’t have a honeymoon as the wedding had cost so much. I think we had a day in Scarborough a few weeks later when I had been paid again!
I have had my big wedding I guess and now feel the event is less important than result. That is easy for me to say having had it. I would much prefer a Civil Ceremony now if I got married again, but I would have to take my partner’s views into account as well. I fully understand those who want to have a same sex marriage, particularly on religious grounds. Many people highlight equal rights, but I like to celebrate the differences of my sexuality more now and there are differences. I quite liked the fact that we had Civil Ceremonies instead that better allowed us to express ourselves. I found my wedding experience very restricted. No photographs or video in the church, no this no that and you must attend 4 weeks of pre-marriage counselling!

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not would you like to be a father someday?

I am a father to four children (Boy 23, Girl 20, Boy 20, and Girl 18) from my marriage in 1990. Following my divorce in 1998, my now ex-wife was extremely bitter and determined to make my life a complete misery. Between 1998 and 2005 I tried the best I could to see my children and be as involved as I could with them. I wanted to be the best parent to them I could be. I had left their mother, not them, in my mind. It was just that for them to stay there was the best option for their education and support. This was at a time when I was being hounded by the Child Support Agency, their mother and still trying to balance my career, additional work and current relationships. On top of this came my increasing uncertainty surrounding my sexuality. All this combined lead to significant Mental Health problems involving numerous self-harm and suicide attempts.
My ex-wife would continually use the children as pawns in her game of retribution and this lead to arguments between me and my current partner on the subject. I would arrive to collect the children for my weekend and there would be nobody at home. I would pick them up and then find out she hadn’t sent a change of clothes for them, which meant additional expense to purchase clothes they hardly wore before growing out of them. I would return them to her house to find she was out and I couldn’t leave them alone. This was usually when she knew I would be on my way to work and meant I had to arrive late to work, having made alternative arrangements or, if work would allow, take the time off as holiday. Ultimately, the people suffering most as a result of all of this were my children, who would be in tears. Eventually I had to make the extremely difficult decision to not allow my ex-wife to use them in this way. This meant not seeing them any more so she couldn’t play these games. This may sound like an easy way out for me. I can assure you it wasn’t and has been the cause of many more suicide attempts and periods of self-harm.
It was heart breaking for the children in the short-term, but ultimately better for them medium to long term. It has been a constant heartache for me. I left their mother as our relationship had broken down and she wasn’t the person I thought she was when we married. We didn’t split up because of any change in my sexuality at that point as I had two further serious relationships with women after her. I was adamant that I wouldn’t put my children in the situation where they would be affected by their parents constantly arguing or worse as I had been as a child.
Because of the constant unreasonable behaviour of the Child Support Agency, I was left with no money to live on at all. I was paying, quite rightly, for my children, but an exorbitant amount of my salary. I was still paying for items to do with the home that I had left behind, because the agreements were solely in my name. I was left with no funds to rent somewhere to live, to eat and everything else that comes with life. I had to use Credit Cards to survive and over time the intense pressure of this debt, coupled with a partner disappearing with money put aside for my tax bill when I was self-employed I was forced into bankruptcy. As a result of all of the external pressure they would now receive absolutely nothing! I am nothing like the parent I had hoped to be. I have had to watch from afar and via my parents. The hardest point for me was when my eldest son studied 2 miles away at Manchester University for 3 years and I never saw or heard from him once! I had to watch his graduation via a remote video link on the internet. That was a very hurtful experience. I feel I have had my life on hold for almost 10 years, not wanting to pressure them, as I have always had full access rights, and not wanting to be unavailable should they want to get in touch again. Now they are all over 18 I believe I have been hard enough on myself for what happened. Now, should they want to get in touch it will have to be on my terms and they will have to accept me for who I am now and where I am in life. I haven’t written off any contact in the future, but as time passes, it seems to be less and less likely to me. I thought this wouldn’t bother me, but the older I get the worse I feel about it all! Because of the battles of the past I am certainly not in a position to offer any help to them financially any more. I can’t pay for any weddings or other similar life events for them. I don’t even feel the girls would ask me to give them away if they married. I think they will have one of their brothers fulfil this role. This is very upsetting to me, but probably what they feel I deserve. Writing this has been very difficult but necessary to explain my answer to these questions.

Interview: Frankco

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Name: Frankco

Location: London, originally from Bermuda

Age: 30

When did you realise that you were gay?

I never really properly consider myself as gay or bi or straight. I don’t believe in any of these terms. I believe they are all socially constructed. However, I knew that I was attracted to men from a very young age. I was around about 6 or 7 when I had my first feelings towards other boys.

Have you ever experienced any discrimination because of your sexuality in your life?

I was born in a very rough part of Bermuda that was very much populate by Jamaicans and had a serious culture of homophobia passed down through the Reggae and Bashment music. All I knew was discrimination up until I started to fight back when I was about 16. Fights upon fight and verbal slanging at every corner. 

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

That would MR. Julian Hall. He was one of the greatest barristers to ever live in Bermuda. He was highly intelligent, but sort of a tortured soul of sorts for various reasons. He took me under his wing and we travelled around the world a bit. I worked with him and smoozed and boozed with him. He was my father, lover and best friend with really being none of those except my best friend. He past away a few years back and I have felt an empty void in my life ever since. 

Do you think that the world has become more welcoming to gay people in more modern times or do you think there is still s long way to go?

Absolutely the world is opening up a bit a lot in comparison to my times growing up, but we still have a long way to go. Ignorance is passed down through generations, only when we step out of this idea that it is ok to dictate who is acceptable to love regardless of religious or cultural norms will we move forward properly. 

Were your family and friends always supportive?

I told my mom and she said she loves me and I will always be her “Lilly”. The last person as far as I was concerned to let know was my father. It wasn’t easy but once I did that I left the family home and Bermuda and truly did not care what the rest of my family thought. However I have a funny, strong and dynamic family on both sides so although some may have not liked it at first(or even still now) they love me. Although I am almost certain that they know I don’t care. Lol

What would you say to someone who is struggling with their own sexuality or with coming out that they are gay or who is been bullied or discriminated against because of who they are?

I will say although we were born into a family of humans or indeed from human parents, when we come into this world we come alone and we go alone. So NOBODY in the world irrespective of who they are or what relation they have to you should tell you how you MUST live your life and who you can and can not love. Respect people around you and in your life however, do not do this to the point that you forget to respect yourself and your true feelings. Stand up for your rights and love who you want. There is a lot of support out there these days. If you feel alone you are not! Be blessed and be encouraged.   🙂

Are you religious? What do you think of the Church’s attitude towards gay people?

I hate the term “religious”. People throw this word around because it suits them or their opinion. I am deeply spiritual and in fact do consider myself a Christian. Does this confuse people and do I get grief for this being “gay”, yes. Do I care, no. I find it funny that most people religiously go to the bar every week to get a drink, religiously watch their TV programmes and religiously call up their drug dealers being slaves to those masters. Probably more than I ever get to go to church in the same span of time. But this is ok? I just don’t care for people’s opinion about my faith. I hate that the religious zealots and idiots who are causing war around the world. But this is not the problem of religion it is HUMANS, their egos and ideologies. I’ll end here because I can go on forever. I don’t stuff my faith down people’s throat. I think the church has it’s place but I tend not to follow the “church” I worship there. But in the end they re a group of humans with human/holyish minds. End of story really.

Are you political? If so, is there any organisations whose work you particularly admire?

Politics and politicians make me itch nowadays. I rage against the machine. Although I once wanted to be a politician, I can not be a puppet and my mouth is sometimes too unfiltered. 

Have you ever been in love?

I actually been in love truly once maybe about 14 years ago. It broke me apart when it fell apart. When I think about it I have had close encounters and have felt serious love for people since then but still have not been in love like that since. 

Are you married? If so, what was your wedding day like? If not, would you like to get married someday?

I am married to myself and my music career at the moment, but OMG yes I want to get married. I believe in that union of two people. I want a huge wedding or whatever my partner wants as well really. 

Are you a father? If so, what does fatherhood mean to you? If not, would you like to be a father someday?

I am not a father, but would like to be some day. Only when I am mentally and financially prepared to deal with that responsibility. I think I will start with a dog first though then progress to child.(with my partner of course).