Pride 2014: I'm glad I was born gay

It can be tough, but being gay allows you the freedom to be the architect of your own life


This weekend all of LGBT London - and Sinitta - will come together to celebrate Pride. It's easy to be dismissive of any event where 5 per cent of the participants will be wearing gimp masks, but for many, Pride festivals represent the one day of the year where they are free to enjoy privileges that straight people take for granted, like holding hands with a partner or walking down the street un-harassed.

Even in 2014, being gay can be tricky to navigate. LGBT youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide, and it's not hard to see why. It's impossible to have engaged with the equal marriage debate and not come away with the depressing impression that there are still large swathes of society that find gay people distinctly distasteful. And recently there have been several violent homophobic attacks in London. So perhaps it's unusual that I've always considered myself glad to have been born gay.

I'm not alone. There's a wonderful quote from author Alan Hollinghurst who admits, "It has always struck me as a great stroke of luck to be gay". Just like him, I've always felt quietly smug that I belong to a pedigree that includes everyone from Alan Turing to George Michael. I’m aware that it doesn't make any logical sense to bask in the warm glow of other's achievements just because we share the same sexuality. But then, it doesn't make much more sense to be proud of a country just because you were born there, and yet during the World Cup patriotism seems to have been alive and well.

Obviously my sense of pride was helped by the fact that I wasn't born in one of the many countries where I'd have been nailed to a tree the second I expressed a vague interest in other boys, or to a family that responded to my coming out by performing an exorcism. But I did grow up in a rural village where teachers would routinely mimic effeminate boys, and I was once told by a family member that I wasn't 'really gay, probably just asexual.' Fortunately, by accident or design, I always preferred myself to my detractors.

Designer Tom Ford, who grew up in America's Bible belt as a gay boy obsessed with fashion, was once asked by GQ magazine whether he felt like a freak there. He responded, "I thought I was fabulous and everyone else was stupid." Obnoxious as it might make me, I identify strongly with his sentiment. I didn't care that there were boys at school who didn't like me, because I always knew that we'd lead very different lives - and thank God for that. In my more self-indulgent moments, I visit the Facebook pages of my former contemporaries and cackle at how the ones who were most homophobic at school have had the hardest time adjusting to life in the real world. Invariably they stayed put, terrified to venture outside their comfort zone and forced to copulate with an ever-decreasing pond of people that they wouldn’t look at twice were they not trapped in the same postcode. I’m making a sweeping generalization here, but being predisposed to unhappy childhoods does seem to give the average gay the gumption to get out and expand their horizons.

In some ways, rightly or wrongly, being gay also allows you greater freedom to be the architect of your own life. In supposedly liberal pockets of society, a gay man who wants children is now considered less of an anomaly than a straight woman who emphatically does not. In the UK, gay people now have the right to marry, but nobody is going to bat an eyelid if you choose not to. After all, living in sin is small fry after having been referred to as an abomination by the Church for thousands of years.

The struggles of gay adolescence (variable as they may be) force you to grow up at an accelerated rate. While that's not a walk in the park, it does mean that many gay people growing up today will have accepted themselves on their own terms before some of their straight mates have even decided whether they prefer Suarez or Messi.

I'm coming at this from a privileged perspective. As a gay man living in London and working in the media, I've been welcomed with open arms, which would not have been the case in countless other professions. As such, I can even afford to dwell on the cosmetic advantages of being gay, like being able to share clothes with my boyfriend (mostly his). If my Haribo habit ever gets out of hand, I can double in size safe in the knowledge that a large cross-section of the gay population would still be open to the idea of dating me (thanks, bears). And this weekend, I get to enjoy the questionable honour of witnessing Sinitta's come-back performance. Because, while gays may not inherit the Earth, we will definitely inherit Sinitta.

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