Better stop dreaming of the quiet life, ’cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus ’cause those rosy days are few
And stop apologising for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called malice
It is the 1980’s and I was back from London, where I was studying by day and working on west end shows by night. I was returning for an evening for a friends birthday. The venue was a working men’s club in South Kirkby a village in the community of villages where I grew up.
I remember it was a fun evening catching up with lots of people I had not seen for some time.
At the end of the night walking down the road from the club I heard raised voices behind me, then the words I have never forgotten when they were very close
“that’s him, works in theatre, must be a puff”
There was a boot in my back and I went down, there followed a series of boots to my face (Brave folks these Yorkshire miners, don’t let anyone tell you different) Friends appeared to put a stop to any further damage and the perpetrators ran off.
Needless to say I was taken to hospital and patched-up. I still carry a V shaped scar on the bridge of my nose as a reminder.
I will never know if they were just out for a fight, a common pastime in the villages, or if the thought of me being Gay was reason enough to inflict physical harm.
It was however cause for reflection.
I have talked before about dad’s influence on my upbringing and his basic believe in equality for everyone, however homosexuality never came up in conversation. Dad part 1
I discovered late in life that one of dad’s brothers was Gay. Most likely due to their very strict Catholic upbringing that they had endured he never ‘came out’. He would also have been dissuaded by local cultural thinking. He must have led a pretty lonely life in that village. I only ever met him a handful of times growing up but I wish I had known him better.
He died about 4 years before dad, in his house and it was about 2 weeks before anyone discovered his body. I don’t know if dad knew that his brother was Gay until after his death. But I digress.
I got on with my theatre life back in London, then Manchester and then Northampton with a few minor diversion inbetween.
Incidentally it included an interview at the New Vic Theatre long before I was to settle here and make it my home. I was being interviewed by a panel of people when Peter Cheeseman joined us at the table.
It went very quiet whilst he picked up my CV and glanced at it. You could hear a pin drop.
“25” he shouted, “shouldn’t you be chief electrician at The National by now?”
I smiled and quickly thought I could reply with a similar question however before I could think of a more diplomatic response he spun my CV onto the table, got up and walked away.
Peter did a lot of incredible things for theatre in North Staffordshire, a man that theatre lovers should be very grateful for. However my impression of him that day was somewhat different. In hindsight I do feel honoured to have met him even under those circumstances though.
The Theatre Industry is generally a very welcoming place for everyone regardless of race, gender, class or sexual preference etc and you quickly meet people of all kinds. It doesn’t take long to stop seeing the difference and just get on with what we have in common.
I had over the years attended church services, of all types and denominations including Spiritualist and Scientology, I guess I was always looking for answers to those basic questions.
Regular visits to services in Anglican and Baptist churches ended abruptly when I was invited to witness a friend have a full submersion baptism.
It included a sermon from a visiting pastor who was convinced that all the countries problems were the fault of the ‘Blacks’ and he had no problem in voicing his opinions as the word of God.
Not quite believing what I was hearing I remembered that the Church of England was once a big supporter and benefitted financially from the slave trade. Maybe opinions of things in Stoke on Trent had not caught up yet? I was pretty new here after all. Something I read recently stated that “it’s scriptural truth that’s important and the church should not bend to what society thinks”
I am sure that William Nibb would be turning in his grave, as would all religious leaders who were swimming against the tide on this major issue of their time.
I didn’t step inside a Church again for worship for almost seven years.
It was a chance meeting (that turned out to be not so chance) with a Methodist Minister that got me back into regular church attendance. I liked what I was hearing from this person and his group of friends. I also wished for my very young daughter (I have spoken before about how her birth was a very spiritual occasion for me) to have a church family, the support that can bring and a religious education.
We attended this church for many years, I was there to learn and get something from the experiences and not to use my skills and knowledge to help out in a technical sense, I enjoyed just being a part of the congregation. Due to my involvement though I was to get involved with many other religious events.
I became aware of some very odd beliefs that I mistakingly thought you could only read about in history books, most notably the ‘gay’ debate and the limited role women should play in the role of the church. I struggled with these concepts.
side note: the belief in creationism, which is widely believed in the Stoke area is so ridiculous that I don’t waste any of my time thinking about it.
I did discuss and give my opinion on the LGBT conversations when I felt the need to challenge the opinions when voiced.
It became very clear to me that this always starts as prejudice, then people find and interpret scripture to support their prejudice, in absolutely every case I am aware of, and there are many.
Very similar I would think to the ‘slave’ debate and the churches viewpoint in years gone by.
I was slowly but surely ostracised by some in the church as my opinions became known. The most obvious was when the church was organising a trip to Auschwitz (a bucket list type thing for me) My many e-mails went unanswered and my phone calls ignored until finally I was told the trip was full – sorry!
Terribly disappointed I carried on giving my support including building a networking event to promote the newly built Lottery funded cafe on site, all be-it with much less enthusiasm maybe.
A short time after when the law on same sex marriage changed the application form for a venue to apply to conduct weddings had a new tick box ‘same sex marriage’
The Methodist Church instructed all its churches not to tick this box and ‘my’ church council agreed. This marked the end our regular attendance.
When discussing with Christians phrases I often hear on the subject of homosexuality ranged from
“its an abomination, that’s what the bible says” delivery with wide eyes a red face and a definite air of violence on most occasions
“well I’m very open to ideas but if I was asked directly I would have to refer to scripture”.
At the core of this thinking is a prejudice that they probably learnt as a child, a fear and lack of understanding that they carry inside, not scripture, simple! stop lying to yourself, face the truth.
To put it in terms that my Christian friends will understand (the rest of you can role your eyes as I often find myself doing)
Nobody is interested in your narrow minded prejudices, least of all God, because it gets in the way of God’s plan for you. It places a stain on any good works you do because it is poisoning your soul. You are ‘fishing’ with hate in your heart and toxic bate. Nobody is interested except of course the private members club that you are turning your church into.
I know many people here in my adopted community that call themselves Christian’s and are ‘churched’ in one way or another. I really would be lost without their support over the years and I would count them amongst my close friends – my very closest friends.
I have also many friends that follow different religious paths, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhist as well as agnostics and atheists.
I love and respect them all equally, whatever their beliefs, however we just have to agree to differ on some issues. Giving the impression that all Christians are bad people because they have some ridiculous beliefs would be like saying that all Yorkshire Miners at thugs. Of course that’s not true.
I am well into the addition of Ventoclax stage of treatment now and it only struck home this week that I would be spending a great deal of time at the hospital between Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon as the dose is increased weekly. It really came as a shock this week, its like they think I have nothing better to do!
I have to admit that this caused me to feel a little sorry for myself, focusing on some negative aspects of how my body is reacting, the chronic pain that I am constantly experiencing and my outward appearance. The wide range of thoughts I have been having whilst writing this blog have steered me into remembering the positive. And there is so very much I am grateful for. I have made a list, a private one, at least for now.
If you are interested in learning more about the issues and damage that having a negative culture about LGBTQI issues within a religious context can have I can highly recommend Undivided by Vicky Beeching. Sadly this book is not available in a lot of Christian book stores.
If you want a very quick but powerfully sad insight into the worst case causation of these issues you can see a video by clicking here (you only need to listen to the first minute to get the point)
May see you soon, take care, be kind…