In just the space of a couple of days this month, I’ve had to live up to my own standards around what it means to be an out gay man in 2019.
God, that sounds intense.
What I mean is, in the face of the easy way out – going along with the flow of conversation with a stranger who assumes I’m straight – I faced up to the discomfort of being open about my sexuality.
I’ve previously explained that ‘coming out’ isn’t so much an event as an ongoing process. Every official who wants to know the details of your next of kin. Every form looking for your marital status. Every stranger at a party who asks about my ‘wife’.
In fact, every new person I meet represents both the opportunity and challenge of being true to myself. So hurray for coming out parties, but that’s just the start of it.
Over the years, I’ve become quite blasé about these kinds of conversations. Socially, I’m totally open when someone asks, or when I have to correct their assumptions. With clients, I’m slightly more circumspect, but would never lie about my personal circumstances. By now, virtually all my regular clients know I’m married to a man.
That said, in some contexts, I often keep myself to myself. Dealing with taxi drivers is one such context.
In my experience – as someone who is constantly on planes, in trains or trying to get a taxi to one or the other – taxi drivers fall into one of two camps: those who keep their views to themselves and just want to drive you from A to B; and those who revel in having a debate and make sure you know what their core beliefs are.
This month, in Dublin, I had two taxi drivers who challenged my preconceptions. Both times, I found myself getting into their cars pretty tired and just keen to get going. Both were the chatty, opinionated types and we soon got onto the topic of relationships. I wasn’t in the mood and, after letting them refer to my ‘wife and kids’ a couple of times, I corrected them with “Actually, I don’t have kids – and I’m married to a man”.
I wasn’t in the mood for bigotry but nor was I in the mood for a frosty and long journey through rush hour traffic in Dublin. Half expecting a smart-arse response, all I got in each case was a typical Dublin:
- “Fair play. My brother-in-law is gay” and
- “Good man.”
Nothing more than that. The conversations moved on, to Brexit (vomit) and Irish politics respectively. I was all braced for nothing.
On the other hand, they could just as easily have turned on me and given me a hard time, turned their “religious guns” on me or just made the drive a very frosty and uncomfortable one. That’s the thing: you never know.
And that’s what’s tiring. Exhausting even. But so important. So, yeah. I’m gay.
“Don’t you dare attempt to drive me down O’Connell Street. We’ll take the Port Tunnel. I’m no tourist…”