You see, I’ve struggled with being gay all my life. I was brought up in Penistone (yes, Penis Town – how we laughed), a narrow-minded, good-for-nothing rural town on the outskirts of the Pennines in South Yorkshire. Nobody was gay. I mean, they probably were, but you did not, ever, let anybody get even the slightest incline that’s what you were. I remember one dress down day at school when I wore a vest – anybody would have thought I’d donned a Nazi uniform and started goose-stepping up and down the playground. I never did it again, that is for sure. I once got spat at for about fifteen minutes as I tried to run away from the terrors in the playground, as they name-called and jeered, and laughed at the way I ran. ‘This isn’t for you, Ryan’. ‘Go and sit with the girls, Ryan’. ‘You’re a fucking poof, Ryan’.
A lifetime of that kind of suppression, oppression, whatever, and well, you learn to suppress and oppress yourself, no matter what the occasion. Eve now, today, I could literally be stood on Canal Street and it would never, ever, occur to me to hold another guy’s hand. I can’t bring myself to do it. Sometimes people have said, either honestly or otherwise, that I don’t look or sound particularly gay, and because of that town and its views that I grew up in, I’ve took that as a badge of honour. You see, this stuff is so harmful that those hurling the abuse get you to think that the less of yourself you can be, the more you should feel proud; the layers and layers of abjection are so deep, it’s impossible to see the bottom sometimes.
Roll forward to 2019, and things are a lot better. I surround myself with people who couldn’t give two hoots who or what you are, and I’ve learnt to be myself more and more as the years go by. But, inevitably, that mentality that I’ve harboured, and will likely always harbour, comes back to the fore now and again. It comes out in a form of dark humour a lot: ‘Sometimes I think gay people have been given too many privileges’ is a particular line I drag out after witnessing somebody being particularly ‘gay’. People laugh nervously: oh listen at Ryan being all anti-gay, isn’t that funny with him being gay and all, yet inside, the minute I utter the words, I metaphorically slap myself across the face for being such a fool. That stupid town and its goddamn prejudices have a lot to answer for.
So, as you may have gathered, I have my demons.
Well it's August again, and Manchester has been painted rainbow in antication for its big weekend. Organisations across the city, including our very own Umlaut — you should check out our homepage if you haven't already —, are showing their support for LGBT folks and it's pretty lovely to see, you know.
For me, Manchester is one of the most accepting cities in the world. It has a lot of time for people of all walks of life, and it has done much to harbour and safeguard LGBT peeps in particular. I moved here because of what Manchester stands for, for what it allowed me to be. And despite my own internal struggle with that, I have never felt more alive, more accepted, and more able, than I do when I am in Manchester.
Maybe my past experiences mean I will never truly be me, whatever that is, but I know for a fact that being here in Manchester has given me the ability to get as close as possible, and for that, I am truly thankful.
So go enjoy this weekend. It's a fun time, and it even looks like the weather might hold. My, miracles do happen.