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The Only Gay in the Village by Jay Keeler

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Before I came out I one hundred percent felt like I was ‘the only gay in the village’ and here I am many, many years later knowing I am not, but still feeling the same way, so what’s that all about?

When I was growing up, back in the 1980s / 1990s, as far as I was concerned sexuality was a thing other people had. Although I was attracted to various guys, both guys I knew in real life and famous guys, and even though it may sound strange to people today, at the time I did not have a word for this attraction – I did not know the word gay. Part of this was because the shameful lack of any references to different sexualities in my sex education at school, but that is a whole different issue that actually still exists today! Also it was due to the fact that I did not know any other gay people and in fact I did not know of any gay people either. Maybe I lead a sheltered life at that time, but I was absolutely unaware of homosexuality being a thing. I didn’t know of any gay actors or popstars, although I later found out there were many!

I remember the first time I heard the word gay. It was at secondary school and it was used in a derogatory way. Another lad in my year group was accused of looking at one of the other lads in the changing rooms after a P.E. lesson. For him, the rest of his time at that school was dogged by this rumour and for me the term ‘gay’ was seen as being a bad thing, a dirty thing, a thing it was best not to be!

For me, school was a distraction to many issues I had in my home life and so I did not want my time at school to be something that added stress to my life. So, without even realising it, I spent many years denying my sexuality to myself. As I grew up, left school and went to college I still was not addressing this side of myself. I was still ignoring the feelings I was having, even though I had a name for them.

Around this time I remember the seeing the ground breaking ‘gay kiss’ scene in the show Byker Grove, a show which was aimed at an older teenager and young adult audience. The character of Noddy kissed his friend on the cheek in a cinema and the negative reaction of the character of Gary, hurt me. Coupled with the resulting media outrage and the discussions at school meant I did not continue to watch that show, because I did not want to face this negativity of a part of me that I already saw as negative, so I do not know how the storyline played out.

A few years later, around the time I started college, EastEnders aired a gay kiss, which had been reduced from a few seconds in length to less than a second to reduce the shock it would have. I remember watching the characters of Tony and Simon in the scene in question and my heart melting because of the pure joy of seeing two guys not only kissing, but wanting to kiss each other. For me, this was the beginning of a growing acceptance of myself within myself.

However as far as I knew, I was the only gay person at my college so once again I let that particular part of me go to the back of my mind, concentrated on my studies and just carried on with life without a sexual / sexuality part to it.

At the end of my college days came the inevitable end of college night out. Alcohol flowed, for those of us who were over the age of eighteen of course, and with that the lowering of inhibitions. At one point in the evening a female friend, who had at one point made no secret of fancying me, grabbed me and kissed me whilst she was sat on the lap of her then boyfriend. Due to the alcohol I had consumed, I made a comment about her boyfriend looking upset about being left out and kissed him on the lips. Everyone found this hilarious including the guy, luckily for me, and the evening went on with people having a good time. For me though, the tingling I felt when I drunkenly kissed my friend’s boyfriend and the lack of negative responses was a huge moment. Trouble was that the next day, everything was back to how it was before. I was alone and knew no other gay people.

Later that year I went off to university and that was where I found myself. I came out, I went out to gay bars and clubs and I met, befriended and had relationships with other gay guys. I became the me I always wanted to be: fierce, fabulous and just a little bit outrageous and I loved every single second of it.

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All too soon though, my time at university ended and due to a lack of financial stability I returned back to my home town, the place where I did not know any other gay people. However I returned optimistic, I had changed as a person, grown in confidence and a sense of self. I thought, and to a certain extend found, that it was easier to meet fellow gays, in fact I remember distinctly going clubbing with friends a few weeks after being back and almost hooking up with someone, a fact that my friends from home found most intriguing.

Soon after however, my life changed dramatically due to a serious health problem which resulted in a long period of hospital treatment and interruption of my social life!

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Thankfully, after about 4 years, my treatment ended and I began on the road to recovery, something that took time in itself. But the thing was, I had come out the other side of the illness and was ready to restart my social life. What I had not considered was the changes that had occurred in the period I had been receiving m y treatment. The friends whom I used to go out clubbing with were in relationships or married with children, not to mention the fact that I was now in my 30s as opposed to being in my 20s, and no matter what anyone says, going out and meeting friends is harder when you are in your 30s!

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I have tried, don’t get me wrong, I really have, but there is something about being that bit older and trying to make friends that makes it a lot more difficult. I joined a an amateur dramatics group as well as a couple of different exercise classes, places where I thought I might be able to meet some other gay guys and to a certain extent it happened. But the guys I met had friendships groups of their own and they saw me as part of the am-dram group and the cross over into friendships outside of the group never happened.

I have of course also tried my hand at the various apps and websites, but have found that people are for the most part only interested in hook ups (and not with me), not friendships.

So here I find myself, in my mid-late 30s but feeling like someone in their mid-late 20s. Wanting to go out and have fun, but having few people to do it with. Being a singleton, when all around me are couples. Knowing I am not, but feeling like the only gay in the village.

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