Thursday, 6 April 2017

Coming Out

My Uncle Jim and Dena


A woman I know told me that her daughter, who is 16 , recently noted at a family lunch that she was, in fact, asexual.
Another relative, a man in his fifties apparently chirped up with the question " A sexual what?"  And had to be patiently educated by his niece, who calmly explained that she had no sexual attraction to men or women .
I asked what was the family reaction to such news and my friend proudly shared that it was in fact a positive one, as the family apparently accepted the news with some interest coupled with slight indifference.
Perhaps that is a sign of the times....who knows, I am not privy to my friend's family dynamics.

When I was a child my uncle Jim divorced his wife and went to live with a woman from South Yorkshire ! The woman was twenty five years (?) his junior and hailed from a family that was colourfully working class and I remember so vividly just how shamed my grandparents felt at the news as they talked in hushed tones and cried together in the privacy of their bedroom.

I still love my grandparents so very much and it's nearly four decades after they died, but I know that they could not have coped with me being gay, not in the early 1980s. They thought and were shamed by things that shamed and upset people from another era........we don't live in that world anymore .

Having said this, my grandparents eventually came around to my Uncle's new life, much younger wife and bonny baby grandson. They did this because my new aunt was and is a decent woman with a warm personality. My cousin was a delightful little boy and my Uncle was loved so very much.
Loving him, for them, finally out weighed any prejudice they felt.

I would have liked to have come out to my grandparents. I would have liked to have come out to my
mother and father  too, but it was never to be and it was never the right time........ c'est la vie as they say in Frenchland.......

When I told Auntie Gladys that The Prof was my partner ( before we all met up for one of my first Flower Show Meetings)  I was acutely aware that in some small way I was "re-living" a moment I
wanted so much to have had with the matriarchs of my old family all now deceased .
It wasn't rocket science....in homespun psychology terms!
I said the words that I really didn't have to say and waited with winced eyes for the reaction.
Gladys was 86 back then.
"Will he be coming to the meeting too?  " She asked me, her eyes were bright and interested
" I don't think it's his cup of tea" I told her
" Right O  " she said busying herself with a tea towel   " " I'll wrap up some scones for him to have later" 


And she left him scones, tied in a bag to our front door for the next ten years! 

85 comments:

  1. Gladys = wonderful. My first mother-in-law was also a Gladys. She was a good woman too. Her other son, my brother-in-law, never came out to her or his father either. Those were different times, tho' not so long ago.

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    1. I still wish I had been able to do so Nelly

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  2. My youngest child is currently going through gender counselling. with the full support of us, parents and siblings. Different world John and sometimes a difficult one for the ones not actually going through that but still confused.

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    1. Sometimes young people just need time to figure things out

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  3. I didn't find out that my uncle (my mother's brother) was gay until 1986; he died in 1968. SO GLAD evolved persons can be who they are these days! and all the h8ers can STFU and DIAF!

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    1. So you've always been a Faghag my friend xxx

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  4. Nice post John. I never really came out. I presented my friend R to family and I guess at some point it must have clicked for them, although my father kept his head firmly in the sand for many years. But he did accept R as my friend. You have made me think. I don't think my family would have been quite as accepting if R had not been the person he is. Mother is much less accepting of Sister's female partner, but that is more about a clashing of personalities.

    Attitudes towards gays, unmarried mothers, abortion, living together without being married (and in my family, Catholics and European immigrants) in the era you are talking about were truly horrible here.

    I am very pleased to hear your Uncle's 'new' life turned out so well. Time always tells.

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    1. It does Andrew, and you came out in your own way and good for you for doing so !

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  5. Auntie Glad is the BEST! When I came out in 1987, all my grandparents were dead so I didn't have to deal with them. I did, however, come out to my parents who were in their early 60s then. My unreflexively homophobic father pitched a fit apparently, but my Mom brought him to heel immediately and said "none of that." They were troopers about the whole thing and eventually, of course, came to understand that my being lesbian did not make one bit of difference in our family dynamics. And we all lived happily ever after.

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    1. Good for you mum , watta girl!

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    2. Yup, she did right by me.

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  6. I never 'came out' to my mother. It was not because of fear of rejection, it was because I knew she wouldn't be able to 'fit' this into her very narrow religious psyche. Also, I didn't need her approval for me to move on.
    As well with my father....however I did tell him about my marriage to my husband the day after we got married (my mother had passed 7 years earlier). His response was unforgettable..." Oh, I am OK with this. I watch 'Ellen' on TV every day."
    He was 95 at the time.

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    1. Jumbo, I remember the photos of your dad on his birthday
      A gentle funny man by the look of him

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    2. That was supposed to read Jimbo!

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    3. Thank gawd for Ellen, I say. She's changed a lot of people's minds just by being her wonderful and charming self and taking no shit about it.

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  7. Just a lovely aunte.

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  8. Fear of what people would think (about things which were none of their business) was a powerful force. And still is sadly in some areas.

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  9. Really sweet story John. From what I've read here possibly Auntie Gladys was less interested in your home life and more hoping for another volunteer to sell raffle tickets? What a sweet lady.

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  10. Scones should provided whenever somebody plucks up the courage to "come out" - preferably buttered and then lathered with homemade strawberry jam.

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  11. I too, never formally came out to my parents. Being gay was never a big deal for me; and as a determined 'lone wolf', I wasn't interested in a long-term partner anyway. So, the occasional man would come and go, without any comments.

    From 1977 to 1992, my mother and father were much more concerned about my involvement with animal rights groups; especially the Sheffield ALF. Several members of that got sent to prison! (Throughout that period I was also a primary school teacher, and seriously risking my job.)

    By the late '90s a terrible longterm illness had befallen Dad, and my mother was just so grateful that I was willing to care for him, that she didn't care if I was shagging a Martian!(Not that there was any time to do so.)

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    1. Did you eventually settle down?

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    2. Were there available Martians to be shagged, if time permitted? Gay Martians, I suppose, would be best in this case.

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    3. No Martians. After Dad died I 'fell apart' for a long time. Just starting to glue the pieces back together.

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    4. I hope you continue to heal well

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  12. I was deprived of the company of my darling cousin and his partner because his parents didn't want the family to know.
    I met him again after my husband left, thank goodness since there is nothing worse than a gay drama queen except a staight one and they loathed each other. I was the one who held his mother's hand as she died because he could not face it. I lost all those years with him because of irrational prejudice. Mind you, it would have been as bad had one married a Catholic or an Anglican in the early century.

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    1. The things we get bullied into.......

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  13. Although I'm heterosexual, I did have to come out in a way. I came out of the convent after almost twenty years. It was tough and shameful for my parents. Eventually they came around. I regret I didn't do it earlier, however I still was able to create my family.

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    1. Yes....being yourself should always be celebrated me thinks

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  14. And so it was and so it should have been. "Have some scones."
    What else needed to be said?

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  15. Ahh, Auntie Gladys. Is it too late for you to adopt her as your mom? Some people are so sensible, no matter what the social climate of the time, and some are so ... not. I'm glad you had her in your life in a fairly big way. And that she's still around, albeit further away.

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  16. I know Daughter never came out to her father (my x ) because when he walked out on us without a word to any of the children or me, that was the end of the line.
    I just don't think she cares enough about him to tell him. . I assume he knows ?
    As far as I know he is still anti gay. What a frigging jerk.

    Daughter is just the best person and I love her but I am envious of her fabulous pink hair.

    cheers, parsnip

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  17. A nice story about a wonderful woman.

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  18. Times have changed and for the better if you ask me. I wish you could have shared the deepest part of you with your parents also. They must have already known that they raised a fabulous man with a great sense of empathy and deep interest in the human condotion, which is truly way more important than who we love. Isn't it? I don't pretend to know but I am a mom and I care way more about how my kids treat their fellow man than who they share their life with. My job is just to love them no matter what.

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  19. There's a special spot in heaven for angels like Aunty Glad! I have an elderly aunt who is lesbian and has been with her partner for over 40 years. She has never formally "come out" but I have tried to make her comfortable should she care to do so. Her choice always but she is supremely loved.

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  20. Live and let live; some people are so bloody blinkered.

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  21. No, thankfully we don't live in that world anymore. Love is love.

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  22. One of your best posts ever John, I had to catch my breath at the end when I realized I'd held it whilst reading, and Auntie Glad's "Right O", and your last statement, made me smile.

    My mum was a Gladys too - something special about English women with that Welsh name, haha!

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    1. Mary was my grandmother's name

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  23. Oh John, the wisdom of Aunty Glad she demonstrated so effortlessly in conversation. I sense from your lovely stories of Aunty Glad she became more than a neighbor down the lane but an adored, loved family member. There's a special place in Heaven for jewels such as her. She replicated what you had wanted all along. Don't we all want acceptance? My bipolar has closed doors for reasons of fear and fraught and lack of forgiveness. We must carry on, and love the living though.

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  24. My mother never spoke to or of P for 20 years. When she was 80 she was in hospital and he visited her, very brave of him I thought, and helped her in the ward, walked her about and fed her. She later told me how nice he was. I told her I had been trying to tell her that for 20 years although she pretended not to hear. They were firm friends after that until she died a few years later. During all the time she ignored him P never once gave up on her and always said it didn't matter. But it did.

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    1. That was as sweet as it was sad

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  25. God Bless Aunt Glad - she is one in a million isn't she! I lived in a "mixed flat" in 1971, and that nearly sent my parents into orbit! I told them (the truth) that the RC Chaplain to the university had got me the place and so it must be OK and it was 100yds from the main campus. I did, however, kept from them the fact that the four of us consisted of one gay guy (still a dear friend) one straight guy (a complete MCP) a gay woman and me !! This little Catholic girl grew up and learnt the lesson that you Do Not Judge, in about a nanosecond!! Which was probably what the chaplain knew would happen! We had a marvellous time in that flat.

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  26. Thank you for sharing John. From homophobic roots I've raised a child who doesn't bat an eyelid when I introduce him to gay friends. His mates are the same. For the majority in the next generation on from mine, it seems that sexual preference is not an issue at all. We've moved on. Hallelujah! xx

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    1. YES sexuality issues are probably more complicated for the youth of today but they seem not to sweat much about it

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  27. John, of all your posts. This one has moved me the most. My lovely friend 'Came Out' to me one afternoon in my sitting room (like I hadn't guessed). I was a bit stunned when she asked if this would affect our friendship. Of course it wouldn't. I cried buckets later on when she told me that she had driven away from my house and bawled her eyes out. She had thought she would lose my friendship.... Sadly I very rarely see her now as her partner is obsessively jealous. I miss her company and friendship.

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    1. My best friend is a pragmatic Yorkshireman....he just continued to sip his pint and said " does this now mean I have to go to gay bars now?"

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  28. Thank goodness for Aunty Gladys and all of the other Aunty Gladys'

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  29. Aunt Gladys has it spot on .... acceptance and scones. If only everyone were that lovely and un-judgemental, the world would be a happier place 😊

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  30. One of my very dearest friends hadn't come out, but she spoke about her female partner as "we" all the time. She is a hugely private person [she was my room mate at college and my bridesmaid], but I took the risk and wrote to her asking her because I hated the thought that she wouldn't feel that C wasn't welcome in our home. She wrote back calling me a nosey old bat and confirmed that I was correct...she knew I'd ask in the end because all I want for my loved ones is for them to be happy. We've met C loads of times- they are well suited and although my friend has never actually uttered the words C is invited to all the family events. They have been together for many years now. Arilx

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    1. Sometimes the doors just need to be opened

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  31. I love these snippets mentioning Auntie Gladys, "Will he be coming to the meeting too?  " ... classic.

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  32. I probably mentioned aged ago that my brother is gay. He is 65 and has been with Mike since his early 20s I believe. I didn't see much of him in those days and have no idea if he " came out" to our parents. I think I gradually became aware at some point. I think that Dad was " head in sand" and Mum just loved her son anyway. They used to go and stay with bro, but I know that in the early days Mike used to go and stay with his Mum when our folks were there. I shall be seeing them on Saturday....would it be OK to ask my brother how it all went? We have never talked about it, I just accepted , and had no problem with it. I love how Aunty Glad reacted. Sadly not everyone has accepted " gayness". My brother was physically attacked 18 months ago, while walking their dogs ( greyhounds......probably wouldn't have happened if he still had the Dobermans ! ...though they were gentle dogs)

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    1. 18 months ago! How dreadful....did the police help

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    2. Yes. There was a court case! I think the guy got fined.

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  33. I was going to share some of my story here, but your finish about Auntie Glad filled me with such happiness that I've decided not to distract with anything else. How touching and how decent, how loving, and how fortunate you were to have the opportunity to come out to her like that.

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    1. Please share.......I do recognise that even now, in this enlightened age, there are still sad stories of coming out

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  34. It's not as brave as coming out, but when me and the boyfriend, now husband, decided to live together, the person I dreaded telling most was my nan. She was very churchy and didn't approve of "Living over the brush". When I told her she gave my a beady eyed look then said " Shall we go to the Co-op and I'll buy you a bed and a fridge freezer". She then filled the fridge freezer with M&S goodies. God, I miss her.
    When our youngest daughter came out to us, it was a case of finally realising what a good job we had done as parents. Very proud of my gay daughter and my straight daughter x

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    1. Another positive story.......how sweet was that

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  35. Good to come back to you - on a poignant note.

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  36. And wonder of wonders I can leave a comment. Yay!

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    1. It's been a few years has it not?

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  37. Aunty Glad is a wise and generous woman.

    Reading your post I just wonder why anyone would bother "coming out" as asexual but maybe my comment shows ignorance

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    1. It's a "genuine " identity kylie

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  38. I never had the coming out conversation with my parents, I figured when I brought the same guy home of the holidays 3 or 4 years in a row, and then bought a house together they would figure it out. I did tell my father when we got married. The surprising comment was from my middle brother, when my sister told him I was marrying Jay, he said, "you mean he is gay?" - we had lived together for 23 years at that point.

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  39. I chime in with Kylie. Why would anyone "come out" that they are asexual? Why would a mother (of all people) make this public knowledge? It is, after all, of no consequence to anyone else. Anyway, at age sixteen you know zilch about your sexuality. For all we now the girl might turn out a rampant nymphomaniac at age thirty six. Maybe bi, maybe with a penchant for ... I don't know. So?

    A genuine question, and who better to ask than you, John, and I find it difficult to word without, possibly, giving offence: Why is it so important "to come out"? Other than, obviously, being able to hold hands with your beloved without an aunt keeling over at the fact that you are both wearing trousers.

    Having read the comments above I now know a lot about the sexuality of some of your readers, most of whom I recognize by their names having read their contributions many a time over the years. May I say, and please don't take this the wrong way, the fact that I now know who is a lesbian who is gay who is straight neither adds nor takes away anything from who these people are.

    In short: I don't know what the fuss is about. Why is it of any concern to anyone who does what with whom? After all, when you take it to its logical conclusion, there are plenty of sexual practices out there among heterosexuals that they'd be the first to decline to make known.

    U

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  40. I think that " comming out" will eventually be a thing of the past ursula, but it is a vital moment in someone's life when they share the most important thing about themselves with another.
    I disagree with your comments on this girl's asexualitu
    If it was important for her to share that aspect of herself, then it was important....end of!
    Homosexuality was only decriminalized a few years ago, and i know several closseted men that lived in those years and cannot quite let go of the secrecy and shame of those years .
    Can you imagine howmuch pain that causes?

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  41. I like this post, and can understand the need to be clear with your identity.

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  42. Love is love and isn't it so wonderful in so many shapes and forms!

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  43. I too was asexual at 16. Wasn't for the want of trying mind......

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  44. Acceptance is all that many of us want. To be loved and accepted for who we are. x

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  45. Thank you for your swift reply, John. Can I "imagine their pain"? Yes, to the extent that I am familiar with the Oscar Wildes, Tennessee Williams and many others of this world. Quentin Crisp made an art of it. That anyone should be punished for their sexuality (as if it's something we choose off the peg) is not so much outrageous as plain nonsensical.

    I still query though whether, as you put it, our sexuality is "the most important thing about ourselves". To me, my and anyone else's, is of no importance whatsoever. Sex does not a person make. I mean this most sincerely. It is, of course, also why it is so very offensive (shrugging my shoulder) when someone calls you a fag hag. I know precisely (to my knowledge) four gay men (including you). To me these guys are friends, people I am interested in, people I find amusing, one I find annoying but still ... amusing. First and foremost they are who they are - as persons not defined by their sexuality.

    One of my nephews (mid twenties) is currently "battling" with his transgender issue. Battles in as much as he doesn't seem sure. Thing is, no one in the family (not even his two grandmothers) bats an eyelid. Though I personally think they should since the young man is clearly confused, at sea.

    It is a hugely complicated subject, John. Main thing is, and I once lost a gay friend over my questioning, that gay people help heteros to understand the issues that surround something so very private as one's sexuality.

    Still, it's the Aunts Gladys who make sure there are scones for everyone.

    U

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  46. It's amazing how things change over time. I couldn't imagine discussing my sexuality with my grandparents, no way! I imagine it was a huge relief to that girl to be able to declare herself, just to forestall the inevitable questions about dating and boyfriends and that kind of thing. As a gay person, I can remember how awkward it was when I was growing up and someone in the family presumed to mention my eventual wife and children!

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  47. You made me cry, again.
    Sadly, I believe, the more things
    change, the more they stay the same.
    "What the world needs NOW is Love,
    Sweet Love."

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  48. Oh, dang, John! And not a dry eye in the house.

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    1. A good blub does everyone good!
      Thanks everyone

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  49. I think it is difficult to be asexual. All the annoying questions one would have to deal with. "Why don't you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" "How is it that you never date anyone?" "Aren't you interested in getting married and having your own family?" and other nosy parker intrusions. Better that she came out with it so people don't keep bothering her.

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  50. It's hard to understand now why people were so up in arms about homosexuality, as if accepting it would somehow tear the whole society apart. Thank goodness all that hysteria is now a thing of the past.

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  51. WHAT? YOU'RE GAY??? Oh the shame you have brought to blog land! Lol, there was that enough drama for you. Times have really changed, I was at a dinner awhile ago and the people there didn't know about me. They were talking about bumping into an old friend, they spoke about the fact that he is gay and is with another person that they knew. It was a very matter of fact conversation, "we met John, it was great to see him, he is with Mike, they are really nice guys" type of thing. It was interesting that some of the people were as old as in their 80's and yet there was nothing negative about the conversation.

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  52. My attempt at coming out to my mother was an unmitigated disaster, so have kept the rest of her family at arms length quite happily for the most part. Interestingly, her favorite uncle on her dad's side was gay though no-one spoke about it. I wish he was still living as he and I would have things to talk about. Cheers to your lovely Auntie Glad!

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  53. As much as times have changed there is still the struggles of not wanting to hurt those you love sometimes so much...one is willing to for go their own happiness. In all families there are the open loving arms no matter what I love you ones and then there's the staunch you're going to bust hell wide open ones. I know we should not live our lives for anyone else but it just isn't in my DNA to hurt those I love with sharing the truth.

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