Stand Up With PrideI’ve never been one to shout about my sexuality or my rights as a Gay person so I find it ironic that here I am, quite literally writing a whole new chapter of my life as someone who calls for action against homophobia and for acceptance and equality.

I’ve only been out of the closet for about 9 years so it seems quite ridiculous that I suddenly feel I need to make a stand and find my voice. I’ve always been happy to let other people march and fight on my behalf, sitting in the shadows, sharing the wins thankfully and quietly.

I’m now 43 and certainly in the last few years I have questioned my purpose. A lot of this is due to my own insecurities and fear that one day I will look back on my life and think ‘what did I achieve?’ I don’t have a problem with getting older – in many ways I am far more at ease with who I am now than I ever have been before. Or rather, I’ve attained a level of acceptance about it and know I can’t change the fundamental being that is me. That doesn’t mean I’m altogether happy with who or what I am, so I’m sure my search for real purpose is born out of that need to be truly happy with the person I see in the mirror every day. A desire to find myself, coupled with a want to do good and make a difference, I feel the need to become a reluctant activist.

We hear so much about the carbon footprint we leave on the world and how we should all reduce journeys and ‘tread lightly’. What about increasing the emotional footprint we leave. Who’s lives do we touch and how are we making a difference.

Modern society encourages us to strive for more and I’ve certainly played that game. In the words of Freddie Mercury, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now. I’ve aspired to be more than I am at work and earn more money which I have enjoyed spending on things and entertainment. I’ve enjoyed the materialism of the 90’s and had a good old time along the way. Oh I’ve dabbled with charity work before at various points in my life – I did a couple of sponsored half marathons, organised a charity concert and acted as the chairman of a local charity fundraising committee for a while and two years ago I became a voluntary bereavement counsellor. Probably more than a lot of people have done. But is it enough? Have I earned my pass into heaven?

As an agnostic, I’d like to believe in the concept of heaven and therefore God, but something in my brain prevents me in believing in something without proof. I’d love to have a divine experience so I could face death (and life) in the knowledge that there is more to come. Surely this life can’t be all there is?

I’ve tried so hard in the past to find religion. I was a cathedral chorister for many years attending church 3 times a week but hated the hypocrisy I saw from people who called themselves Christian and then bad mouthed each other behind their backs. I even joined a trendy religious group in my teens where people held hands and sang songs praising Him, and I so desperately wanted to believe. But it all just felt empty and uncomfortable to me. I don’t blame God. It’s most definitely my issue. I love the thought of an after life, even one where we face judgement for the life we have led before. But I just won’t believe it til I see it, which might just be a bit too late. Even if there is a heaven, if I believe a lot of the devout people who know and understand the scriptures better than me, I won’t be allowed to go there anyway. And if that’s truly the case, something is a little bit wrong anyway…

In many ways I do consider myself a ‘Christian’. My parents brought me up to treat others the way I would want to be treated, to believe in the good within people and to think of others before myself. But I don’t pray and I don’t go to church and I just can’t bring myself to trust something with blind faith. I really do wish I could. In some ways I guess my quest for a purpose is somewhat spiritual. I want to make sure I’m giving more than I’m getting. That it’s worth me being here. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So this is why I’ve started HH4E, so I really can make a difference. But making a difference means standing up and being counted, being one of those people who fights for something without a thought of the personal cost. Tomorrow I will attend my first Pride event and more than that, I will be marching in the parade with the HH4E banner to promote our campaign and hold hands for equality. It’s coming out in the most public way imaginable. (Admittedly with a sympathetic audience of supporters thank goodness. I’m definitely not ready to lay myself bare in front of homophobes!)

logoThe thought of marching tomorrow at Portsmouth Pride (and at London Pride the following weekend) gives me all sorts of conflicted thoughts. On one hand, I know that I am who am because of what I am, and I should be proud of everything that makes me, me. But on the other hand, the thought of opening myself up in public and not just from behind a laptop in cyberspace sends a chill through me. I’m opening myself up to possible threats, abuse and even violence – remember there are 100 LGBT hate crimes recorded each week in the UK, but it’s a risk I have to take for the sake of my own fulfillment and the betterdom of equality and acceptance for myself and others like me. Deep down I know this is the right thing to do and I will be surrounded by people who care about me and what we are standing for. We have to shout loud to quell the voices of hatred and intolerance.