LifeSearch staff member "John" has kept his sexuality hidden for most of his life, but is preparing for the day when he will be ready to share his true self openly
June is Pride month, a show of strength for the UK's LGBTQ+ communities and a celebration of the giant leaps made in equality, awareness, tolerance, and acceptance.
But Pride is also about work yet to do. It's about taboos that remain and barriers unbusted. It's highlighting those people still forced to compromise on life for the sake of their sexuality and vice-versa.
Enter LifeSearcher "John". While happily married and out to friends and colleagues, John has always hidden his sexuality from his family.
Yet with he and his husband soon to start the adoption process, John's carefully managed, secret - which he has navigated throughout his adult life - will likely come out.
There are complexities and jarring ideals in his situation, yet John's story contains happiness and hope. Life may be about to change but John's been preparing for this day since his teens.
As in years past, John will celebrate Pride (Covid restrictions permitting) loud and proud near his marital home in Leeds. He's comfortable showing his whole self in Leeds. There he lives as a married man, comfortably out to a close group of friends and his work family.
In the Leeds compartment of his life, John's sexuality is a known non-issue. Down the M1, in his hometown of Sheffield, it's a different story.
Born and raised in Steel City, John was part of a religious community unwavering in their beliefs. Unfortunately, these beliefs don't compute with homosexuality.
Coming out as a gay man will, however unfathomable it is in 2021, pile shame on John's family and probably force him into permanent exile. He says that the timing hasn't ever been right to reveal himself, but soon those calculations will change.
A ‘geeky' child, John says it wasn't until his late teens before he realised he was gay. After a few false starts with the opposite sex, a chance look at some top-shelf magazines made him realise what floated his boat. A boy in drama class later helped him remove any doubt.
That John's religion and his sexuality don't jive is sadly not unique to one faith. In this kind of situation, a lot of LGBTQ+ people are forced to choose one over the other. John recognises this but says, for him, it's less of an either/ or.
John says he's proud of his faith and has no reason to ever turn his back on it. He says his faith teaches him to do the right thing and help others - so there's no conflict in continuing to practice and live up to those ideals.
These internal negotiations, all this compromise, might sound like a heavy burden, yet John says he's always accepted and found peace in his situation. It is what it is. He's a glass-half-full person.
Devastation and liberation
A major shift in John's life began five years ago when he lost his mother. She was an inspiring figure to him and the glue that held the family together. She encouraged John to embrace other cultures, people, and imparted to him such wisdom as "always keep a secret stash of money." Sage words that have served John well.
His mother's death was simultaneously devastating and liberating. John says he couldn't have come out or moved on with his life when mum was alive. He didn't ever want to subject his hero to any shame and embarrassment.
While the aftermath of her death still wasn't the right time to come out as gay, John did feel freer to prepare foundations in the future he wanted.
Cue him moving out, building his career, and marrying his long-term partner. John says his husband is his best friend and, thankfully, his in-laws - who live in a part of Scotland also synonymous with rigid views on homosexuality - are a tremendous support network for the young couple.
Crunch time is looming. If John and his husband are successful in adopting a child, it'll probably spell the end of the secret. The genie will be out of the bottle.
John says that such a moment will be time, finally, to show himself. Until now, living life in two halves has, though tough to navigate at times, been the right decision for all parties. But with his own family in tow, priorities change.
John's resigned to losing people. He expects to be ostracised. His best guess is that he'll become a no-name; never spoken of again. And while he's hopeful he'll keep connections with younger peers and siblings (at present there's an unspoken don't ask me any questions I'll tell you no lies agreement) he's prepared to lose what he loses.
When this day will come is unclear - they're barely at the beginnings of the adoption process. All John knows is that the moment has been on his horizon for 20 years. He's ready for it.
However it shakes out, John says he's comfortable. And he's proud. But his story is a case-in-point for the kind of conflict still facing many in LGBTQ+ communities; where sexuality is a barrier and a problem to those we love and the future we want.
While John hopes to bring what he can from his past into his future, there are going to be casualties. But after 15 years of living in compromise, the time has come, finally, to put himself first.
John's name has been changed for this article at his request.