Monday, September 26, 2016

A polite conversation

"So when did you realise that you were gay?" asks F.

I'm at a birthday party, and I'm chatting to a guy called F who I've only just met, so the question seems a little forward. But I'd just told F that I'm with boyfriend K, so it's clear that I don't have anything to hide regarding my sexuality.

"Over twenty-five years ago," I reply.

"Did you have girlfriends before you came out?" asks F.

"No actually," I answer truthfully, "but it took me quite a while to accept that I was gay. Looking back it was pretty obvious, given that I never had girlfriends. Perhaps I was the last person to realise!"

"My ex-wife almost married a gay man when she was living in Asia," says F, "because she loves the company of gay men."

I'd been trying to work out whether F was gay or straight, and I'd been thinking that he was probably straight. Given that he's got an ex-wife, that's settles it.

"I suppose that's part of the reason why we got married," continues F, "because I had a boyfriend before."

I didn't expect that!

"Oh, so I guess you're bi?"

"Well, probably more gay than straight :-). I had a girlfriend when I was a student, but then I switched to guys. But I always wanted to have kids, and I got on very well with this female colleague who also wanted kids, so we ended up getting married. It worked well when the kids were young, but we're divorced now."

"So have you got a boyfriend again now?" I ask.

"No, I had an operation a few years ago and now I can't get fully hard. Penetrative sex isn't possible for me anymore, whether with a man or a woman."

Talking about sexuality and sex with someone who you've only just met isn't what one expects in polite English society! But he's seems like a very genuine guy, so I'm more than happy to have this kind of conversation.

"I've never thought that having a boyfriend was only about the sex," I say, "I think companionship is important too, and indeed, probably more important as one gets older."

"I'm very happy with my own company," answers F, "Perhaps I'll end up as a lonely old man, but for now I'm not looking for a partner of either gender. Don't you get bored, waking up next to the same body every morning?"

"Not at all," I reply, "I hope that I'll be able to wake up with boyfriend K every day for the rest of my life :-)."

"That sounds like a strong commitment," says F, sceptically.

"Well, I ended up splitting up with my first boyfriend because I couldn't keep my trousers up!" I admit, "So I feel I've done the sleeping around thing. These days, I feel very lucky that I've found boyfriend K, because we get on very well together most of the time."

"Anyway," I say, changing the subject, "how many kids do you have?"

"Just two, a boy and a girl, but they're grown up now. Actually my daughter is a lesbian, and she's got a lovely girlfriend :-)."

Another comment that I didn't expect!

"One day, she comes into the room to talk to me," continues F, "She looks at me nervously and says 'Dad, what would you do if I told you I'm going to get a tattoo and that I am gay?'. So I just asked her what kind of tattoo!"

"But why was she nervous coming out to you, given that you've had a boyfriend before? Didn't she know about your former boyfriend?"

"When the kids were growing up my ex-boyfriend used to visit us," says F, "The kids loved him, and treated him like their favourite uncle. They probably guessed that we used to be together."

"But that means 'No', you never told your kids that you're not completely straight," I remark in disbelief. I feel astounded that F has been so open about everything with me in such a short space of time, but that he's never told his grown-up children about his true sexuality.

"What about your son?" I ask, wondering whether there more surprises in store.

"My son's also got a girlfriend, so he's probably straight!"

"Well, you said that you had a girlfriend too when you were young," I say, "and obviously a wife at one point, so you never know!"

"Good point," replies F, "you never know :-)."

Indeed, you never know. I like to think that as a gay man, I'm good at working out whether people are gay or not. But I had no idea what this guy's story was. It just goes to show how dangerous it can be to make assumptions about people's background, and especially about their sexuality!