Early on in my “Coming Out” process I received a huge lift when I not only found out that Nigel Hawthorne was gay but, after writing to him to thank him for putting forward his story in the Sunday papers, he actually wrote back to me to thank me! It made me feel so special. Somebody else, outside of my immediate circle, cared….someone understood what I was feeling….someone else had lived through exactly what I was experiencing.
Now, some 15 years later, Nigel has sadly gone but I’ve finally got round to reading his book “Straight Face” and I wish I had done so ages ago. Nevertheless it feels really fresh and it is taking me back to those early years in which I struggled to come to terms with my sexuality and I’m finding out how very similar we are in so many ways. Being brought up in an idylic colonial lifestyle (mine was in the tropics of Ceylon as it then was), with my very Victorian father and hugely inspirational mother. Being dragged back to the grey, damp gloom of England in the 1970’s! But how inspirational his story is. And how determined he was to succeed when it could so easily have felt (and often did it appears) that everything was against him.
I love this bit in the book:-
“In later years, when I began my life with Trevor (Bentham), I realised how wonderfully proud I was of our relationship. It gave me huge pleasure to show him off to my family and friends. I lost the embarrassment I’d felt before…. We were sharing our lives in a way I’d always wanted but had never achieved, so I could afford to be open and not skulk around thinking up ways to put people off the scent. I still didn’t really want them to get too nosey about us, but that was, I presume, partly because of the way I had been brought up, partly because of the times in which I lived, where relationships between people of the same sex were considered taboo. Trevor was another matter – ours was a happy time,….”
I love this photo of Nigel Hawthorne and Trevor Bentham as it reminds me so much of the photos of Rex and I, and for that matter those with my previous partners who are sadly no longer with us. There is something really special that the camera seems to capture when two people are at one with each other. I wish this could be experienced by everyone at some stage in their lives but it sadly eludes a lot of people. What a wonderful place the world would be if we were all as happy as this!