What Happened Last Summer

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This post has been incredibly hard to write, and I’ve gone back and forth about posting it a million times, but as its now been one year since everything happened, it feels like the right time to put my side out there, get my story across, and release the poison, no matter how vulnerable it makes me feel.

In June last year my entire life got flipped on its head, and I’m not being hyperbolic. My life got flipped by two things; one being one of the most meaningful things I will ever do in my career, and the other being one of the stupidest errors in judgement I’ve ever made. Let me give you some background so this isn’t all so out of left field.

In 2014, I started working at a national children’s charity. It was a temp marketing job to help me out whilst I was unemployed. I had no interest in working for a children’s charity, but the work sounded like it could help further my career, and it was offered so I thought why not. Up until then I’d been doing PR for celebs and brands, and was really enjoying that world, but this felt like a good way to learn some new things. When I first started, I said to my manager at the time that if I were to stay there I would want to join the Celebrity and Talent team, as that’s where my interest and previous career leant toward. Like a lot of people that work in head offices of charities, the cause wasn’t a factor to me being there – it was just a job – so the right job would make it more appealing. That started to change for me during my 4 years there, and by the time I left, I really cared about the cause, especially after I became an uncle. I finally got a job opportunity in the celeb team team in November 2018, and I was beyond thrilled, and that’s where this story starts. 

The team I joined were great, I immediately got on with my colleagues and boss, and started to show my worth quickly. I recruited amazing talent to support campaigns and attend events, and my ideas of people outside of our normal scope were taken on board. The charity decided that we should dedicate the months of April, May and June 2019, to talking about LGBTQ+ issues to coincide with Pride month in June, and London Pride at the beginning of July. As the only queer person in our team, I took on the responsibility for getting LGBTQ+ talent to support this, and quite frankly smashed it. I got various LGBTQ+ household names like Rylan and Michelle Visage to support on social, and recruited arguably the foremost voice in trans issues in this country – Munroe Bergdorf – to create a series of videos to help children with gender issues and worries. The videos created with Munroe were fantastic, they answered questions’ and gave ideas of how to deal with gender issues, both for those struggling, and for their friends/school mates to be effective allies. In no way did they ‘promote transgenderism’ or tell kids they should question their gender,  but merely said to kids that are questioning, ‘we hear you you, and here is some info that might help.’ The charity’s helpline had received something like a 150% increase in contacts by kids struggling with gender identity in the previous year alone, so clearly there were children out there that needed this information and support. So bare that in mind because once again I need to go back and give some context to the other side of this story.

When I was around 10/11 – maybe even younger – I realised I was inexplicably fascinated by people in skin tight wetsuits. I have no idea why, I grew up in central Essex, so its not like I was surrounded by surfers on a daily basis. I remember going on holiday to places like Yarmouth and being fascinated by people in their wetsuits walking by, and being transfixed whenever I saw someone wearing one on the TV. When I was around 13, and google image search was getting going, I did the natural thing and searched for wetsuit pictures. I guess I’d started to realise maybe what I felt was a sexual thing, but at that age, there is no education for that side to sexuality, so I was in the woods firmly alone. Searching for that lead me to discovering fetish sites dedicated to it, and then discovering rubber/latex clothing websites, and as I looked around and researched, I realised maybe what I had was a fetish, and realised it was really just men in those rubber suits that got me ticking. 

At around 14/15 I joined a couple of ‘dating’ sites and started talking to some guys that had rubber fetishes. They often tried to get me to meet them for some fun to give me my first rubber experience – most were usually fully aware of my age – and at that time those teenage hormones just really wanted to have sex for the first time. As an educated adult I can fully see that I was being groomed, but at that age I just didn’t care. I hooked up with a guy for the first time when I was 15, and he was fully ware that I was 15. It was fully consensual, but I realise now that my age was a huge factor in why he wanted to hook up with me as he went mysteriously quiet once I turned 16. When I look at that experience now it makes me feel physically sick to think that I put myself in that position. I usually tell people I lost my virginity on holiday the same year because I’m so ashamed that I even did that. 

As I got older and turned 18, I started to go out on the fetish scene, and meeting people, and the scene has subsequently become a huge part of my life. I love the fetish scene, and the people in it. There are people from all walks of life, and everyone is liberated to enjoy the (legal) things they find sexual. Fetishes have been studied millions of times, and there is seemingly no rhyme or reason as to why someone is sexually attracted to one thing over another, so to my mind – even as a teenager – I thought I might as well embrace it rather than try to fight it. Also, as gay men, sex is very much at the forefront of our culture; something that is sometimes strange to straight people that have been raised to think that sex should be a secretive thing between two people in love. In the gay world before legalisation, the only way to meet guys was at underground clubs and bathhouses, and they almost always had an area just for sex, as it was the only place gay men could indulge in that part of their lives. Remember, that most of these men were living closeted, heterosexual lifestyles day to day too, so it really was the only option. Thanks to this, sex – and fetish – was put very much front and centre of gay culture, thus meaning we have far less hang ups about it than our straight counterparts. You can see this in a lot in the stereotypes of gay men, as well as the popularity of personal porn sites such as OnlyFans, and how open relationships, polyamory, and alternative fetish lifestyles are much more common place in the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve actually written more about that here.

My rubber fetish is as integral to my being, as me having a ginger tinged beard, or that fact that I sometimes snort when I laugh. Over the years I’ve become very involved in Europe’s gay rubber scene. I run a community group and club night for rubbermen in London, I help produce the Mister Rubber Europe and Mister Rubber UK contests, and I have used my position in the scene to talk about body shaming, discrimination, and safe sex issues. It’s become such a part of my life that its sometimes hard to separate the two, but I do, and that separation is – or was – important to me.

With these two bits of context laid out, we are ready to discuss the events of June 2019 that nearly destroyed me. 

When Munroe’s first video for the charity went live; the usual TERFs (trans exclusionary, radical, ‘feminists’) started attacking her on twitter, calling her a pornstar, and say that she must be a pedophile because she is trans. The attacks were disgusting, they mocked up fake images of her, said she had done pornography, and suggested that tweets that encouraged children struggling with their gender to message her were sinister in nature. None of which is true. It’s also totally hypocritical, since none of these TERFs have an issue with the charity working with various cis-gender celebrities that have engaged in public sex, have had sex scandals, or have fully frontal nude imagery freely available, but when its a trans woman who is not ashamed of her sexuality, its suddenly an issue. The attacks led to the charity’s board of trustees deciding to axe any ties with Munroe effective immediately. I wasn’t even allowed to talk to her directly before the official statement went out (She was asleep because of the stress from the transphobic attacks she’d bombarded by that day). The statement itself was vile and defamatory, and you can read more about that just by googling it. The staff were outraged, as were the mainstream press, and the millions of LGBTQ+ people (and allies) that supported and worked with us. Thanks to this huge spotlight on the situation, the TERF trolls searched into the organisation and found out through my LinkedIn that I was the one that had recruited Munroe. This then lead to them hunting into anything they could find about me on the internet. Somehow (there are false claims that it was linked to my LinkedIn – it wasn’t) they managed to find my fetish life and content. I have an Instagram and Facebook (and perviously a twitter account that was deleted 8 months before any of this) dedicated to my rubber fetish that I use to keep in contact with fetish friends and events, and share the odd picture of myself looking a bit sexy in some rubber gear. These accounts are all under a pseudonym, and never mention my work place. I’ve always wanted to maintain some autonomy on who knows about my fetish life, and because the internet is such a vast place, I was able to do this for years with no issues. Friends, family, and colleagues knew about my involvement in the fetish scene as it is something I take huge pride in, but anything that was shared was always PG13…mostly…

Remember what I said earlier about how the gay world is a lot more upfront with sex than the straight world? Well this upfront-ness lead me to feel pretty safe in uploading some very amateur ‘adult’ videos to well known adult porn sharing site Xtube. They were all uploaded under yet another pseudonym and made zero reference to my actual life. For those that know anything about the porn landscape (98% of men, and 73% on woman watch porn regularly according to psychologytoday.com) you’ll know that certain things get more traction than others, one of those things is exhibitionism. So in my infinite wisdom, I captioned one of my videos to say it was filmed ‘in the toilets at work’, and that another in a hotel was filmed on a work trip. For the record; they weren’t. I put that because people find that kind of exhibitionism sexy and dangerous. It only takes one quick search to find the millions of videos that do the same thing, and let’s face it, we all know that most porn isn’t real anyway. I can categorically say that putting that in the captions of those videos will go down in my personal history as the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.

When the TERF trolls searched into me, somehow – and I genuinely cannot work out how – they found these videos, and started sharing them on twitter. The fact videos of me masturbating were shared was humiliating enough, but the thing that stung most was the narrative these trolls had built around it. I had people calling me a pedophile and a danger to children, just because I had a wank in a rubber suit and said it was at an unspecified work place. Trust me, I can see the error in my judgement, but I felt secure that no one could ever have made the link between those videos and my career. So this unspecified workplace, suddenly got linked to a children’s charity and boom, people assume that’s WHY I was having a wank, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The abuse on twitter involved two camps. There were some that were genuinely concerned that my conduct went against the organisations values. Then there was the camp that took the stance the because I’m a gay man with fetishes, I must be a pedophile and predator. I have no issues with the first camp to be honest, I get it. The charity does campaign to have accessible porn removed from the web, and I directly contravened that, so yeah, I get it. The second camp – which I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to find out were the most vocal, I take issue with. To call someone a pedophile is the single worst thing I think you could call someone. Historically, anti-gay campaigners have said that gay men are pedophiles and are a danger to children, and thanks to society progressing, this is now rightfully and outdated notion, so these vile people used the fact I was a self-proclaimed pervert to call me one instead. We have all seen those stories about female teachers that have some sexual thing in their background that has come to light, and never are they called a pedophile. At worst they are called a whore, and at best a ‘Mrs Robinson’ type. Straight men get it when it’s a teacher/student situation, but otherwise they are a ‘stud’ our something equally inoffensive. This disparity is unequivocally homophobic. LGBTQ people – and frankly anyone – should be able to enjoy their sex life in any way they want, and as long as they aren’t engaging in illegal acts, or hurting un-consenting others, there should be no repercussions into their life for enjoying it. 

The twitter abuse was beyond painful, I broke down in my kitchen; full on sank to the floor crying uncontrollably with my flatmate looking on in shock. I’m not outwardly that emotional, so for me to break like that shocked him. He tried to comfort me but to be honest there was no helping. It seemed like my career was ruined, and with it, my reputation. What if my friends and family decided to listen to these trolls and decide I was a danger to children? It doesn’t take much more than the very suggestion of it to create a black cloud over some people. I’d worked for 4 years raising literal millions (around £4.5m across the products I’d managed at the charity, not including the value of awareness) to help children who were victims of this kind of abuse and now I was being accused of being a perpetrator on the back of vile false narratives? I couldn’t comprehend it, it destroyed me. And still does, and probably always will. I don’t think someone can get over false accusations like that. 

The thing that made it doubly painful for me, is that I am a survivor of a sexual assault myself. When I was 20, I was fooling around with a guy, and he clamped his hand over my mouth so I couldn’t breathe properly, he wouldn’t remove his hand and proceeded to fuck me aggressively whilst I struggled, he chocked me, and wouldn’t let me go until he’d finished. I didn’t recognise it as rape until many years later, but it formed a lot of the basis for my campaigning for safe sex practices within the fetish community. I haven’t told many people about it, because its an intensely private thing, and I’m not looking for sympathy – I’ve come to terms with it, and dealt with it – but maybe it can provide some context as to how hard I took these kinds of false allegations. 

I carried on going to work that week which was tough as hell. My colleagues were massively supportive, and I felt real love coming from the people I’d worked with across those 4 years. Then on the Friday morning that changed. I was pulled into a meeting to be told that a few major newspapers were sniffing around to make it a story. I crumbled. I had never cried like that in front of other people. Not when my grand-parents died, not when my parents divorced, never, and here I was, a mess, in front of my department director and my boss. My director put me on immediate compassionate leave for two weeks, and put me in a cab home. I had to get a cab as apparently one major press outlet had sent a photographer to get pictures of me at the office. I sobbed all the way home. When I got home I’d stopped sobbing and just felt numb. I called my mum who just so happened to be in Essex, and explained what had happened, and that I needed her, I cried my heart out again. It doesn’t matter how old you are, sometimes you just need a hug from your mum. She came to get me and whisked me away to her house in the rural countryside for two weeks.

No story ran that Saturday thankfully, but I was told a story would be running that Sunday in 3 of the biggest papers in the country, potentially on the front page of one of them. That terrified me. I imagined my grand-parents buying their Sunday papers, and seeing their grandchild on the front page. I imagined my family having to field questions from their friends about me. I imagined becoming the gossip of the village I grew up in. I imagined my once supportive colleagues turning on me. I imagined my life falling apart, and could see the career that I’d worked so hard for turn to ashes in front of me. My mum did her best to distract me. We went for a walk, we went to the pub, and it helped a bit, but my resolve shattered that night when I was getting ready for bed. I accidentally knocked off and smashed a glass on the windowsill of my bedroom, and for some reason it unleashed this tidal wave of emotion. I could barely see through the tears. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t do it anymore. My life was ruined, what was there to live for? I stumbled into the bathroom looking for something to end it with, I picked up a razor and caught my reflection in the mirror. I looked myself square in the eye, and realised this wasn’t right. How could I do that to my mum? How could I do something like that and put her through having to find me bled out on her bathroom floor? As quickly as the thought had come, it subsided again. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to suicide, and I never want to go there again. I put the razor down and tried to control my crying. I had a shower and sobbed. I then went and asked my mum for a dustpan to tidy up, I started crying again whilst I swept the glass shards away, my mum heard and came and comforted me. I haven’t cried like that with her since I was a child. If I hadn’t been there with her, and been able to have her envelope me in a cuddle only a mother can give, I honestly don’t know if I would have survived that night. 

After effectively crying myself into exhaustion, I slept properly for the first time in a week. After that it all became easier to deal with. That night I hit a rock bottom I didn’t think I could ever hit, so everything afterwards was an uphill climb. Those two weeks were the most difficult of my life. Every other day there was one newspaper or another that was threatening to run the story. But there were moments that helped me though, my best friends were incredible checking up on me, and they, as well as some of my other close friends, effectively galvanised the fetish community to come to my aid by reporting trolls saying vile things on twitter, and fighting back with actual, logical rhetoric. To find that the community I love and work so hard for would come to my aid in that way was an incredible feeling, and I will be forever grateful to anyone that came to my defence throughout this entire situation.

Eventually the story did run in The Mirror online, and they kindly didn’t include my name and picture, which was a huge relief. After that it became easier. Thanks to my incredible friends I got my shit together, and started to try and work out how to move on with my life. An investigation had started at work, and I went back to London to deal with that. I’m not going to go into the investigation details as that is between the charity and I, but they did agree that at no point was there any evidence that I was a danger to children, and that those allegations were cruel and completely unfounded, which to be honest, was all I cared about. Throughout the entire investigation process I was forthcoming in acknowledging my fault, and the stupid decisions I’d made. I asked to resign a multiple times but wasn’t allowed. I didn’t want to drag anything out, and didn’t want to cause an organisation I’d worked so hard for to have to deal with this shit any longer than necessary.  They ended up dismissing me, and I went to an appeal. When I appealed the dismissal decision, I didn’t do it to get a pay out, or anything like that. I did it to ensure a fair reference so my career wouldn’t be over. Multiple people told me I should seek a payout – both friends and lawyers – but I had no interest in taking money from the charity. I wouldn’t have been taking money from some fat cat executive, I would have been taking money away from children that need resources and help.

In October, another story ran, this time about the dismissal. This time they did use my name. The trolls were galvanised again demanding an apology from the organisation for being ignored and being called bullies, and those two camps I mentioned before were back at it. Unfortunately for one camp, they are the bullies and the organisation didn’t bend to them. 

Twitter is a hateful place. A place where everyone is given a voice, and hate is backed up with affirmation, and hardly ever reprimanded. I just wish people would be more thoughtful about who is on the receiving end of their tirades. I think this was quite clearly summed up but looking at the tragic story around Caroline Flack. The way the public and press treated her was vile, and that directly lead to her feeling the only way out was to end her life. Understandably this was triggering for me. But it was the public outrage afterwards the got to me more. People that had directly contributed to the bullying of her – and of me – that took to their Twitter to say how bullying is awful and they would never do that. The hypocrisy was staggering, and I think shows that people don’t even realise their own actions are bullying or damaging. We all need to be more aware of the opinions we put out on the internet, especially when it relates to an individual. No one is immune to the hurt you feel when you see someone you don’t know passing damning judgements on you with no facts. People talk about others online as though they are an abstract thing, but we aren’t. Behind my name is a real person. I’m not some statistic, or mythical creature. I’m a real person with my own emotions, and issues. I can’t be reduced to some ‘toilet wanker’, or ‘narcissistic pervert’. There is more to me than those things. I campaign for equality in how we perceive mens body image, and for awareness of mens body image and mental health issues. I raise money for LGBTQ and HIV charities. I am a proud feminist and advocate for the rights of ALL women. I support my queer sisters, brothers, and others, no matter where they fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I am educating myself to be a stronger ally to people of colour. I am a loyal friend and fierce protector. I’m a brother, a son, a cousin, a nephew, a grand-child, and the proudest uncle in the world. I’m a drag fan, a musicals fan, and a genuinely unashamed proud gay man. I am a multifaceted human being, just like you, and everyone else. So all I ask of anyone reading this is to not judge me based in one stupid thing I’ve done. We have all made stupid mistakes in our lives, and we all have things that if they became public, could result in a lot of embarrassment or even a situation like mine. 

This entire situation has changed my life in ways I never could have foreseen, in both good and bad ways. The bad; I’m basically unemployable, and I’m so broke I can barely afford my rent, let alone my bills. The good; I’ve realised a lot more of who I am and what is important to me. I’ve dropped that ‘bitchy gay’ persona that so many of us carry around. I noticed that I was using acerbic humour to assert some sort of dominance, and deflect people from the real me. The real me that is actually really sensitive and loving. I have no interest in being ‘the shady one’ anymore, and realised that showing that I can be loving and sensitive isn’t weak. It also showed me which friends are there in the hard times, and which aren’t. And most importantly perhaps, it has galvanised me to speak out more about the issues and topics I care about. 

I’m never going to be able to change some people’s opinions of me, and to be honest, I don’t care  about doing that anymore. I’m going to continue to fight the fights I care about, and carry on attempting to build myself into a strong human being that can make some real change in the world. Because I am a good person, I am a talented person, and I deserve a good life, despite the stupid mistakes I’ve made. 


Edit: As this whole thing started with trying to help give trans kids resources and a voice, I just wanted to highlight Mermaids. Mermaids are a charity dedicated to helping young trans people, their families, and professionals navigate this journey. If you have a bit of spare change, donate to them here as they are a small charity that relies on donations to carry on their important work, Thanks. James x

Why does everyone hate sex?

Recently there seems to have been a resurgence of an archaic, Victorian mindset to sex in the western world. I’ve seen multiple articles and twitter rants about how sex – particularly gay sex and fetishes – are disgusting and dangerous, and should be kept hidden and secretive. There has been articles about how fetish events such as Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington DC should be stopped, and that fetish men should be banned from Pride parades because children seeing men in leather and rubber is apparently damaging to them. There is also frequent public lynching on Twitter and in the press because someone does/has done porn or put ‘home movies’ on the internet (I have direct experience of this one), as well as councils waging war on venues with sex licences and so much more. 

An example of the attitudes gay fetish men are faced with even from our own wider community. Full article here: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dcs-degenerate-leather-weekend-annihilates-gay-progress

What I can’t get my head around is why there is this attitude towards anything sexual being dangerous and/or having any baring on the rest of your life. Sex is the one thing all humans have in common no matter where they are from. Practically everyone has had sex, or is the product of sexual intercourse. It is as integral to the human experience as breathing, eating, or sleeping. So why do so many people still look at it as thought its some terrible thing to enjoy it?

Take porn stars and sex workers for example, both should be considered legitimate career paths – porn is one of the biggest industries in the world, and sex work has been around since the dawn of time – yet both are still treated as shameful professions. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen press stories about people who’s porn past has been exposed by the press or twitter trolls, resulting in them losing their jobs and being shamed across the media. And its even more ferocious if they are a teacher, or in some other public facing profession. Why does it matter if someone is a teacher, and also does sex work? What difference does it make? Does it mean they aren’t a kind person? No. Does it mean they are unprofessional? No. Does it put the children in their care at risk? Absolutely not. So why do they still get persecuted in the way they do? 

A classic example of the kind of headline this kind of thing causes. Also, i would never normally promote reading the sun, but the article shows some prime examples of totally unwarranted outrage from parents. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5871291/maths-teacher-porn-star-aaron-cage/

Similar arguments get levelled at men – like myself – that are open about their fetishes. Every single year, people take to social media to decry that fetish men shouldn’t be allowed at Pride parades because of the effect it might have on children watching. Firstly, Pride isn’t for children and families. Pride is for people across the LGBTQI+ spectrum and their allies to celebrate what makes us us, and to protest to be seen and heard for who we are and the contributions we make to society. If you want to come down with your family; incredible, but you are stepping into our space, so be respectful of the different facets of our community and culture, one of which, is the fetish community. The fetish-men were right alongside the trans-women at the Stonewall riots, and it was the gay biker groups that spearheaded a lot of gay pride marches and protests across the USA. Secondly, when a child sees a man in a full rubber suit at a Pride parade, they don’t think its a sexual thing. I have friends that have had incredible experiences at Pride parades and such where a child has been captivated by their rubber or leather – why wouldn’t they be, its soft and shiny – and they almost always ask if they are a superhero. Children don’t have the knowledge to know that it might be sexual, those thoughts are put in their heads by parents that seem intent on sexualising everything rather than just seeing things from an innocent child’s perspective.

Its also interesting to note, that often, people with BDSM fetishes are far more in touch with their sexuality and their sex life, as is often evidenced in studies around sex. People who enjoy BDSM relationships and practises statistically poll higher than those with vanilla sex lives when it comes to sexual satisfaction, understanding of consent and limits, and safety practices in general. Frankly, if I had to entrust my nephew to someone, I would rather choose someone with that has explored their own sexuality and has a grip on it, than someone who has repressed their urges. The people at higher risk of abusing children are those that suppress their sexual desires – hence why it is statistically predominately straight heteronormative living people that are the perpetrators of this kind of abuse to children. 

(Linked to the above, and the false stereotype of gay men being more likely to be abusers has been researched by fellows at the University of California, and makes for an interesting, if slightly upsetting and infuriating read. Check it out here: https://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html)

As gay men we hold a unique place in the LGBTQI+ spectrum for being both the most visible, but also one of the most maligned sexuality groups (I’m not including trans or other gender non-conforming individuals in this, as their issues are centred around gender not sexuality). For example, in the UK, it has never been illegal to be lesbian or bisexual, in fact there has never even been an age on consent set on lesbianism. It has of course been illegal to be gay, and to practise gay sex, and when it eventually was legalised, the age of consent was much higher than for heterosexuals. It also took decades to get marriage equality, and only in the last couple of years have public health bodies and governments finally started to acknowledge the homophobia that lead to the AIDS crisis that robbed us of a generation of gay men, as well as the antiquated rules that still hold to that belief, such as the restrictions around gay men giving blood. 

As a symptom of this unique oppression gay men faced, we had to find covert ways to meet up and be ourselves. This was often at underground bars, bathhouses – and for those with a penchant for leather – motorbiking clubs. These clubs were also often the only places gay men could have sex with each other, owing to the fact many had to lead heterosexual lifestyles to ensure they stayed in the closet. This helped put sex front and centre of gay culture. Over the years gay men had to shed the oppressive heterosexual views of sex, thus leading to a group in society that functioned free of those societal hang ups. You can see that quite clearly in how open relationships and polyamory are much more common in gay relationships, as well as how gay men are far less prudish than our straight counterparts when it comes to talking about sex, and expressing ourselves sexually (hi OnlyFans). 

This, as well as systemic homophobia, has lead to gay men often being called out and harassed when their sex lives and work lives collide. For example, last year a video of me having a wank, that I’d uploaded to the amateur porn sharing site XTube, surfaced on twitter. The video in question was in a nondescript, white toilet cubicle, so I’d stupidly captioned it saying it was ‘at work’ – obviously not saying where I worked (at the time I worked in the head office a children’s charity) – to play into the exhibitionist fantasy – a fantasy by the way, that 39% of people actually do on a regular basis. The abuse on Twitter was astounding. I was called every name under the sun. I was called a danger to children and a pedophile. I was called a narcissistic pervert (which is kind of true), and told that I didn’t deserve to ever work again. People made up narratives that I did it BECAUSE of where I worked, and that that is what made it a turn on. It was sick, and highly upsetting. I had hate sites talking about me, It was in a national paper, and eventually I ended up loosing my job. And since then (this happened last summer) I have struggled to get another job because of it. Now, I’m not an idiot, it was incredibly stupid to caption the video saying it was filmed at work when it wasn’t, and I don’t blame the organisation for dismissing me, but it shouldn’t effect how good I am at my job, what I am like as a person, and any future career prospects. Which bring me round to my initial point. Why do we care about other people’s sex lives so much? As long as someone can do the job, is a decent person, and hasn’t done anything illegal, why do people seem so intent of bringing them down when there is an element of their life that is sexual?

The article The Mirror published after I was dismissed last year. This was the second article they had published about my situation, but they had kept me anonymous previously. This, and hate articles by trolls, are what comes up when you google me now, rather than the good work I’ve done around body positivity, which is really upsetting to me.

When people attack others for their sex lives, they often seem to forget there is a fully rounded person underneath it. That flight attended that got fired for being an escort? He might spend all his free time raising money for HIV charities. That teacher that parents bullied into quitting because he did porn in his 20s? He might have been the teacher to help a suicidal teen keep fighting. And that charity worker that had his sex life exposed on twitter, and then lost his career because he advocated for trans visibility? He wanted to make a better world for all the kids in this country that are victims of abuse and oppression. And I know, because that last one is me. 

One day I’ll publish something in depth about the situation last year, and the severe toll it has taken on my life and my mental health, but I’m not ready just yet. I just felt as though I needed to use it to highlight this question around attitudes to sex because its something that is really important to me. 

I would love to live in a world where everyone is free to explore their sexuality and sexual desires freely and without shame or oppression – legally of course. A world where someone can be an escort and not be maligned by society for it. A world where kids aren’t raised to think sex is some dirty thing, but to be educated to the fact its one of the most natural and beautiful things humans can experience together. I truly believe that if we could get to a place like that, the world would be better for everyone. Sex crimes would reduce significantly, sex workers wouldn’t be getting murdered, people wouldn’t be committing suicide because they can’t handle the sexual feelings inside of them, and everyone would be getting much more sex, and frankly, that can’t be a bad thing can it?

I Am

I am by no means a poet, but I felt inspired to express my thoughts on my body in a new way so I wrote this little poem, backed by a photo of myself showing off all my lumps, bumps, and imperfections.

Even when influencers and activists talk about body positivity, we tend to show the most flattering images and angles, and only really highlight the positive parts of our journeys, so I wanted to show that the perceived negatives can actually be positives.

The response when I posted on instagram was insane. It was shared so many times by lots of influencers and bopo activists, and it means a lot that people see can see their own selves in my content and story.

Lets Gay To Know You

In 2019 the lovely Morgan Defre asked me to take part in his brand new YouTube series called ‘Lets Gay To Know You’. We chatted back and forth chat about my life and experiences, especially around mens body image, and coming out, and of course RuPaul’s Drag Race! It was such a pleasure to take part, and it got me thinking about doing my own YouTube channel! Go and check out my video below, but also check out the rest of them too. Morgan chats with various people in the LGBTQ+ scene such as news anchor India Willoughby and Drag Race UK star Vinegar Strokes.

Self Love Brings Beauty takeover

Kicking off 2020, I was asked to do a takeover of the Self Love Brings Beauty instagram account. Self Love Brings Beauty was started by curve supermodel Felicity Hayward to promote self worth and acceptance of varying body image standards.

The takeover consisted of answering a few questions around self love, and my own experiences with my body positivity.

“What does self love mean to you?”

To me, self love is allowing myself to be exactly who I am, in an authentic way. Whether that’s embracing my body as it is, exploring and enjoying my sexuality, or playing with fashion to represent who I am on the outside.

“What do you love about yourself?”

When it comes to what I love about myself, I would say I love how I’ve worked so hard on my own perception of body image to get to a place where I can see my body as amazing in it own way. Also I have great tits!

“What practical things help you practise self love?”

I find the best way to help me practise self love, is believing I’m worthy of it. I know that sounds blah, but the power of the mind is surprising, and you’d be amazing what you can achieve just by telling yourself something.

“What do you put in place to safeguard self love?”

I try and safeguard my own self-love, by surrounding myself with positive examples and people I can learn from, whether that’s other plus size people, or people with other lived experiences such as trans/non-binary individuals, or people of colour. There are principles and learnings to be made from everyone, whether they have the same life experiences as you or not.

“How do you get yourself out of a negative head space, and how cope with down days?”

One thing that really bothers me is if I’m having a down day, and I mention it to people, so often they don’t listen, they just throw back the positive messages I’ve said myself. I truly believe that sometimes its healthy to be down on myself and have those non-positive days as it helps me gain perspective. Not one said we have to be 100% in live with ourselves everyday, but if the majority of your days are full of self love, then you’re on the right path.

Men of Manual campaign

Men of Manual was a campaign by mens wellness website Manual.co to highlight mens body image issues and mens mental health. The campaign consisted of 8 men of differing ages, body shapes and races. We all discussed our journey with our bodies, and the stories behind them.

The campaign was a huge success being picked up by multiple worldwide press outlets, as well as being covered on ITV and Channel 5 News, where myself and another were interviewed.

London Queer Fashion Show

In 2019 I took part in the London Queer Fashion Show at the V&A Museum of Childhood. LQFS is an incredible fashion show designed to highlight queer designers, models, and performers. I was paired with ELLI$E, a super artistic, and incredibly talented streetwear designer. LQFS was my first ever runway, and I had a blast.

I first cam across LQFS a few years ago, and fell in love with the concept, but didn’t think it was something i could be a part of. I have always been outwardly a very typical, cig-gender, white gay man. My friendship circles are predominantly made up of guys like me, and I didn’t have much influence of those outside my own experience. After I started on this journey of self discovery, and changed the influences I consumed on social media, I realised that identifying queer doesn’t necessarily have to mean being completely gender non-conforming and sexually ambiguous. The fact that I am a gay men that is deeply involved in the fetish world, is my mark of queerness. Off the back of that, and after booking a few modelling jobs and succumbing to friends convincing me to do it, I applied to model in the 2019 show. I didn’t expect to hear anything back, and didn’t for ages. I’d just decided I would be happy just attending and supporting, when I got an email asking me if I still wanted to take part.

The whole experience was incredible, and opened my eyes to the beauty of the queer world in a way they hadn’t been before. Standing in the hectic backstage area, getting ready and looking around at all the people from every end of every spectrum living their best damn lives was amazing and has definitely had an impact on how I live my life since. On the run up to our turn to walk, the nerves started kicking in, but the incredible group of models I was in kept each other hyped and excited right up to the edge. Those few seconds before walking out were agonising, but as soon as I stepped on the runway and received that cheer from the crowd, I was in it. On watching the video back, my walk was tragic, but the response from the audience was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced. The surge of adrenaline after getting off the runway made me feel like I could accomplish anything, and all I wanted to dow as get back out there!

The event really is an amazing celebration of queer culture, and I am so honoured that I was chosen to take part. When 2020’s show rolls around, you can bet I’ll be applying to model again, and will be telling everyone I know to buy tickets and support the organisation and the incredible designers it showcases. Well done to the entire team that puts the show together, its a really vital and important thing you’re doing, and the queer community needs it, especially in this

Goodnight Angel

If you’ve ever had a dog you’ll know how much a part of the family they really are. They are always so happy to see you, and the love truly is unconditional.

We rescued Angel from Battersea dogs home 13 years ago. We’d looked at loads of dogs whilst we were there, but none really suited our family life. The woman suggested we might really love this young dog they had who was in the kennels out the back. She hadn’t been there long, so wasn’t “on display” yet. We went into a room and she bought in Angel. She was a quivering wreck. Tail between her legs, shaking like a leaf. Mum, Katie, Richie and I all looked at each other as if to say “really?, this dog?”, not at all convinced she was the one. Eventually she relaxed a little bit and started playing with the ball we had. We saw glimpses of the crazy, funny dog she was and we quickly fell in love with her. We took her for a walk in Battersea Park and knew she was actually the one.

We went back, signed the papers and suddenly had a new dog. On the way home she promptly vomited all over the boot and back seats of the car, leading us all to question what the fuck we’d done.

After that she was a dream – a crazy, scatty, over-excited dream. None of us were a big fan of the name Angel, but despite Aunty Becky’s best efforts to change her name to Poppy, it’s what she answered to, so we had to make our peace with it. Obviously we mostly call her stupid variants of Angel, predominantly Shpangel.

The past 13 years with her as our dog have been incredible. When I moved out I felt so bad that I was abandoning her, that she didn’t know where I’d gone and that I’d just up and left her one day. I was so scared that she would forget me, but thankfully every time I saw her she would get so excited, and I would make a big fuss of her.

But now at the ripe old age of 14 (98 in human years) like any old girl, her body has started to give up on her. She’s loosing control of her bladder and her back legs are starting to go. It’s a slippery slope from her that will only mean her quality of life will get worse, and that’s not fair on her. Unfortunately my mum has had to make the really tough decision to have her put to sleep today. She’s taking her for a fun walk before hand, and is going to let her jump about in the river and do whatever makes her happy one last time.

Neither my sister or I can be there due to the fact my mum lives a long distance away from both of us, but I know we are both there it’s her in her heart.

I’m not religious person, but I do really hope there is a doggy heaven that she is on her way to. A place she can hang with all the other dogs and have everything that makes her happy for the rest of time.

So Angel, I love you and will miss you tonnes. Thank you for all the love and the wonderful memories I have of you. Thank you for all the walks we went on and all the pictures I tried to get you to pose for. Thank you for all the times you got covered in fox shit, and the time you somehow managed to get stuck in Aunty Becky’s bra.

Sleep well, and make sure you find Dolly Dog, I know you two will be best dog pals.

X

Why is Gay Pride Still relevant in 2016?

In 2016 it is easy to think that gay rights are pretty sorted. It’s easy to assume that being gay isn’t an issue anymore, and that because we can get married, the fight is over. Unfortunately this is not the case. Homosexual people may have many of the same legal rights as heterosexual people, but legal rights are not day to day realities.

Many gay people are often asked why gay pride still exists, and the answer is not a simple one.  Sure, a massive part of gay pride is the party, the colours, the music and the drag queens, but we should never forget the history and the message behind it.

Gay Pride as a movement effectively started with the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. Many people came together to oppose the undue harassment of gay people by the police. Since then, pride parades have been held annually across the world. Pride events generally take place in June and July to pay homage to the riots. The parades are traditionally led by a drag queen to acknowledge that it was drag queen Marsha P. Johnson who threw the first brick in the riots.

There are still 74 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. In 13 of them, it is still punishable by death.

One of the main reasons for pride in the UK nowadays is to show support for gay and transgender people in those 74 countries (homosexuality was only decriminalised in the UK in 1980.) It is also hugely important that we educate the younger generation on gay rights and equality from a young age. No one is born prejudiced or with any kind of hate in their heart, and thankfully here at the NSPCC, we are in a position to help educate the children of today, and hopefully, stamp out homophobia.

Research carried out by LGBT Foundation’s Exceeding Expectations programme in Manchester schools found that;

  • 95% of pupils hear the word ‘gay’ being used as an insult for something they don’t like
  • Only 9% of pupils thought that a pupil or member of staff would feel safe telling people they were LGBT in schools
  • Over half of pupils had witnessed homophobic bullying in school
  • 75% of staff had witnessed homophobic bullying in school
  • 58% did not feel that their school was a safe and welcoming place for lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils
  • 28% of pupils felt that homophobic language or bullying was dealt with well in school
  • 13% said that reporting bullying actually resulted in anything being done about it
  • 21% of pupils said they would report homophobic bullying or stand up for a pupil who was being bullied.

These stats show that something needs to change, and thankfully it is. 95% of young people polled by EndAbuse support the change to include attacks on sexual orientation and gender identity as hate crimes.

Our children, and all future generations, will ‘hopefully’ grow up in more open and more accepting society, but the risk is never far away. The horrific attack in Orlando in June is a prime example of that. It was not only the highest death toll of any LGBT attack in history, but also the highest death toll of any mass shooting in US history. This was an attack specifically on the LGBT community by someone who hadn’t been educated in dealing with that part of themselves. Last year Childline handled 5,257 counselling sessions about sexuality and gender identity – an 11 per cent increase from 2013/14. There were also 1,299 counselling sessions where the young person mentioned either gender dysphoria or transgenderism – a 22% increase from 2013/14. After Orlando, Childline saw a marked increase in contacts relating to sexuality and gender, and this information will be available in the Childline annual review in September.

So why do we need pride in 2016?

We need pride in 2016 so that our kids, and their kids after them, can walk down the street holding hands with whomever they love without having to glance around to make sure they aren’t going to get attacked. So they can get married and raise children without snide comments or barriers. So they can be who they are and not feel ashamed or scared by it. But mostly so they can love without fear just like everyone else.

Things I’ve learnt

I have lived in London for two years now. It feels like yesterday that I packed my stuff up in over 12 bags and suitcases, loaded my stuff into my Mum’s car and drove to my new start in the big smoke. In that time, I’ve had 4 jobs, been on countless dates, had one boyfriend, made loads of new friends and lost a couple too.  I was trying to think of highlights but in honesty all the experiences I’ve had, both good and bad, have added up to make these past two years the best of my life. The main thing that strikes me is how much I have learnt within the past two years. I think it goes without saying that moving out changes you, but no-one really tells you how much you’ll learn.

So these are some of the things I’ve learnt…

  • I can smoke less than 10 fags in one day
  • Being large and in charge is much more fun than being a gym going obsessive
  • Beer is just as important as food
  • That being myself is my unique selling point
  • Someone can fall for me just the way I am
  • I do actually love Taylor Swift
  • I can fake confidence to such a level I start to believe it
  • I am ambitious, and can learn how to succeed in anything I try
  • I’ve made peace with the fact that friendships come to an end
  • Sending a stroppy email to a supplier is one of the best vents of frustration ever
  • Celebrities are regular people
  • Cyclists in London are the absolute worst
  • No, people who talk into headphones on the bus are the worst
  • Or people who refuse to take their massive backpack off on busy public transport
  • I don’t exclusively fancy bears as much as I thought I did, and a twinky-type can turn my head
  • The London skyline seen from Waterloo Bridge at night, is the skyline seen for the first time
  • I can just about live on just my wage
  • I adore Manchester
  • Embracing your fetish publically is liberating, but it does lose some of its naughtiness appeal
  • Just because someone is incredibly attractive, doesn’t mean they know they are
  • Hating someone takes up far too much time and energy
  • Sharing one thing on social media a year ago, can shape someone’s opinion of you indefinitely
  • Anyone who judges someone’s whole character on a political opinion is a tosser
  • Gender and sexuality are not mutually exclusive, and no-one is just one of either
  • If I actually cared that much about being overweight, I would do something about it
  • Not having your family around so much sucks
  • Everyone is a bitch, some people are just more upfront about it
  • You don’t have to see someone a lot for them to still be one of your best friends
  • And you don’t have to have known someone for that long for them to mean a lot to you
  • Drag Queens are the ultimate artists and performers, and I would make an amazing one
  • Unrequited feelings are annoying
  • Meat Market in Covent Garden is hangover heaven
  • Sunday Pubbing is basically a sport
  • Talking about hot men in the office is also a sport
  • Parks & Recreation, Game of Thrones and RuPaul’s Drag Race are the best shows ever
  • Instagram is highly addictive
  • Riding on the back of a motorbike is equal parts fun and terrifying
  • Beards can make almost anyone hotter
  • There is always something to do that you’ve never done before
  • When you have a manager that treats you like an equal you can flourish
  • Having a proper photoshoot is a massive ego boost
  • You can have too much Domino’s Pizza
  • Most of the stereotypes about different types of Londoners are totally correct
  • London is surprisingly small, and you will bump into people and start to recognise strangers
  • Having good friends around you makes life worth living