Why Alan Bennett rejected being ‘labelled gay’: ‘I didn't want to be put in a pigeonhole’

The British playwright explains why he kept details of his personal life a mystery for so long

Writer Alan Bennett says that he kept his sexuality a secret for most of his life because he didn’t want to be pigeonholed.

The British dramatist – who is known for creating The History Boys and The Madness of George III among others – celebrates his 80th birthday on Friday.

“My objection about people knowing more about one's private life was that I didn't want to be put in a pigeonhole,” he explained.

“I didn't want to be labelled as gay and that was it. I just wanted to be my own man, as it were.”

The playwright has always guarded details of love life, although in recent years he has spoken of his civil partnership with Rupert Thomas, editor-in-chief of World of Interiors magazine.

“Looking back on your life, the things you remember are the things that you didn't do,” Bennett told director Sir Nicholas Hytner during a BBC Four interview. “A lot of that will be to do with sex, I suppose.

"It's in my nature to feel somehow that one has missed out. It's my view of my own life except that I've been very, very lucky. I met my partner quite late in life and so the last part of my life is much happier than the first part."

In 1993, it was revealed that he was having a relationship with his housekeeper, Anne Davies. But he has still managed to maintain a level of ambiguity when it comes to his sexuality.

After being asked by Ian McKellen whether he was gay or straight, he replied: "That's a bit like asking a man crawling across the Sahara whether he would prefer Perrier or Malvern water.”

Read more: Why Alan Bennett dislikes contemporary writers

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