As part of the #BeYourself campaign we have reached out to various members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community and asked people to share their personal stories. By sharing our voices we hope to inspire, lift and support each other as a community. Phil shares his story below for the #BeYourself campaign.
“Boys don’t wear things like that” my mother told me after I had asked for culottes like the ones Frida from Abba was wearing in photoshoot I had seen. I was 7 or 8 and it hadn’t occurred to me that this was a strange request. All my friends wanted to be the Six Million Dollar Man or a footballer or a super hero. I wanted to be Frida from Abba.
After my realisation at a young age that I was different, my childhood progressed in two parallel lines. One, was the boy who tinkered with cars and built hide-outs in the woods with my friends, the other was the one that knew all the harmonies to Knowing Me Knowing You, that thought Debbie Harry was a god and that desperately wanted to grow his hair like Phil Oakey from the Human League.
The press was unsympathetic to ‘homosexuals’ in the seventies and eighties and just as I felt I had resolved the feelings of shame and accepted that actually, there was nothing wrong with me, along came a TV information film picturing a Tombstone with the message AIDS – don’t die of ignorance. It wasn’t great time to come out but at 17 I took the plunge and as my school and college friends disappeared, a whole new set of people, friends and peers appeared and showed me that it was OK to be myself.
The clubs and bars of the late 80’s and early nineties still had a sense of camaraderie and it enabled me to slowly gain confidence that if I was ‘liked and accepted’ it wasn’t wholly dependant on my sexuality. In fact, I believe that if you are loved or hated, it is rarely because of your sexuality – it’s just easier to use that against you. We are more easily wounded by the thing we are most sensitive about.
It took until I was in my early 30’s, after moving to Dallas, Texas to begin to feel that I could be proud of who I was and to believe it. Proud who I was as a gay man, knowing that it was only one part of what made me a person I could be proud of, for the first time in my life I felt attractive. I am now a married man in my mid 40’s with a wonderful husband and live a life without the need for parallel lines. I still like to tinker with cars, I love a good DIY project and I still know all the harmonies to Knowing Me Knowing You… and Yes, I STILL want to be Frida from ABBA (but without the culottes).
What I would tell my 8 year old self or my 17 year old self is this: Be Yourself, Be Proud of who you are and don’t be scared of the journey.
Phil lives with his husband David and dog Tegan in Kilmainham, Dublin.