For LGBT+ History Month EC member Jayson-Mark Gill remembers his friend, guide and mentor, Bob.
Growing up in the late 70’s early 80’s wasn’t easy for me. I lost my father at 11 and felt lost. Not only by the passing of someone so close, but also lost as to who I was.
I was bullied throughout most of childhood, mainly name calling “Queer, Poofter," and some even more cruel. I was even asked if my father had died from Aids. I really didn’t know what this meant at the time so kept myself to myself. I felt isolated and lonely and didn’t know who to speak to or even how to have those conversations.
Once I left school and went to college, I started to gain positivity in myself. However I still didn’t feel myself. I tried to fit in to be what I perceived to be normal and dated girls, but it never felt right, but I still didn’t know why. I'd question myself, was there something wrong with me…… it's then that I thought I should try to figure out who the real Jayson was.
After numerous attempts of trying to walk into a gay bar, mostly with me walking straight past and panicking in case I had been seen by someone I was approached by Bob. He had seen me a few times and knew I would never walk into the pub on my own.
He simply said "Hello would you like to walk inside with me…. Its really nothing to worry about." I took a deep breath and agreed, something inside me knew it was the right thing to do. Once inside it really did feel like a massive weight had been lifted and I instantly knew I was with in the right place for me.
This was the start of a great friendship with Bob who introduced me to lots of friends whilst also protecting me as I was still very shy. Bob's background was in teaching, and it showed. He genuinely cared for people and always offered advice… even if you didn’t ask for it.
It was with Bob's friendship and guidance I knew there wasn’t anything wrong with me, that I was just as normal as everyone else, and if others had issues with who I was then the problem was theirs and not mine.
I still wasn’t ready to “come out” publicly and Bob just offered support without any pressure. Over the years our friendship blossomed and I felt I was fully able to be who I was and not hide the real me. It was time to finally say I was a gay man.
With Bob's caring nature he told me I had nothing to worry about and for me he was right. I first told my brother then my Mother. It really was like a new beginning. If it wasn’t for that Thursday night and meeting Bob my life might have been different. Sadly, Bob passed away many years ago but I can honestly say I will never forget how he guided me to become the person I am today.