It was just after July of this year that I decided to really take control of my own life. I learned that a national tabloid was going to publish a story about me, detailing the challenge I was making against my employer on the grounds of race & sexual orientation discrimination. As a consequence of the journalist seeing fit to make public my sexuality (which was never a secret by any stretch of the imagination) and my current mental illness, I took the decision to fully come out the closet on my terms, as you may have gathered.
Just twelve months earlier, my life changed dramatically when I was diagnosed with severe depression, caused as a reaction to my experiences of racism and homophobia in the workplace. It manifested itself into extreme stomach pains and headaches. This led me to hospital – my body’s way of telling me enough was enough. An uncontrollable chain of events began leading me to the position I find myself in today – trying to beat depression whilst fighting for my rights. This was not a fight I wanted to have and certainly not in such a public way as the newspaper intended. But, there comes a point in your life when you have to stand up and be counted.
When I found out the article was going to be published and that it was going to try and discredit me, I knew I had to do all I could to stop the lies from being printed. The intention of the person who contacted the newspaper was to hurt me and it did. At this same point, something changed in me. I realised that no one person should have power over another, especially when the playing field isn’t level. Bullies only bully if you let them. I thought depression didn’t happen to someone like me, but it did. It brought shame and embarrassment in a way I hadn’t expected and which I now know is wrong, but I have been fortunate to have the love of my partner and the support of my GP and counsellor.
On Black Pride…
I recently wrote an article on UK Black Pride for Pink News, after reading negative comments made by LGBT people about the need for such an event. My article generated similar reaction, which given my own experiences, did not surprise me. As LGBT people, we cannot fight for equality on one hand and discriminate on the other. We cannot celebrate Prides, but disagree with Black Pride and its need. We should be looking at ways we can better understand black culture and one way is during October’s Black History Month. Integration is key to a successful society, but we first need to know the fears of black people. Many have strong influences of religion and heritage, which prevent this. Other factors like high unemployment creates low self-esteem too. The recent story of John Amaechi being refused admission into a gay bar shows it doesn’t matter who you are sometimes when you’re black. We should all play our part in fighting discrimination of all forms wherever it exists. It gives greater integrity to the wider LGBT cause. You can follow ‘Racism Ruins Lives’ on Facebook.
On Gay Marriage…
I attended a friend’s Civil Partnership in September and she joked with me afterwards that it wasn’t like my ‘proper’ marriage, which made me think. It shouldn’t have taken Alex and I earlier this year to cross the Atlantic to marry in Toronto, Canada. Commitment to another is important to LGBT people and the sooner we have full marriage equality in Britain, the better. On a plus, we did get to buy our rings at Tiffany’s New York rather than Elizabeth Duke!
The Pope’s recent visit to the UK caused controversy. I was raised a Catholic, but the upbringing I was provided with by my tireless widowed mum (I’m the 11th child) was such that your religion was a private matter, which was not put upon others. You can believe in your faith, but still hold true your own personal opinions. The church’s view on homosexuality, the use of condoms and the ordaining of women I do not agree with, like many Catholics. This is the same as not all gays listen to Kylie and drink cocktails as it was recently suggested!
Barack Obama has to be my HOMO HERO. His presidency has inspired me as a black person and his inauguration speech was passionate mentioning the rights of gay people. Bullies are my HOMO ZEROS. I’m currently writing a memoir detailing the racist and homophobic experiences, which led to my breakdown to help raise awareness.
To sum up, as gay people; black, white or in-between, we are constantly fighting prejudice and preconceptions. We all need to have the courage to stand up for ourselves and be heard, it’s the only way things will change. I’m in no way an activist and have been loyal to my Country as a public servant, but it’s important when things are not fair, that we challenge this and empower ourselves.
Published by Outnorthwest magazine on 5 October 2010.
© 2010 Kevin Maxwell Media & Performance