Gorgeous landscaper Stefan Joyce opens up about stifling his sexuality for thirty years.
To look at the bronzed, muscle Adonis you see in these stunning pictures, you’d think that 34 year old gorgeous landscaper Stefan Joyce has lived the perfect life. But as they say, never judge a book by its cover. Behind his strong, confident exterior, athletic Stefan spent much of his life stifling his sexuality and continued to date women. However, when he turned 31, the handsome chap found himself plunging into a severe depression which subsequently led to him finally breaking down and telling his girlfriend of the time that he was gay.
Here, in an incredibly frank and emotional interview, Stefan opens up about living in the closet for thirty-three years, how his refusal to accept his sexuality caused havoc with his mind and how he is looking forward to a happy gay life.
Stefan, tell us about growing up…
I grew up in a small market town called Petersfield, in Hampshire. I have one older brother, no grandparents, no aunties, no uncles growing up so a very small family. I had a very colourful childhood involving an abusive alcoholic father who my lovely mother divorced when I was ten. I’ve not seen my father for six years and he doesn’t know I’m gay.
Did you have lots of girlfriends and straight mates?
I’ve had two long term girlfriends and all the friends I had were straight before I came out.
When did you realise you were gay? Did you have moments early on when you thought that you might be gay?
I realised I was gay when I was around 30, shortly before coming out to my girlfriend at the time. I’d always put failed relationships with girls down to not meeting the right person. I genuinely considered the girl I came out to be my soulmate. Everything was perfect, but something just wasn’t right. We bought a home together but I just couldn’t see a future with her in that way. I’d had moments early on but, being very open minded, I’d put it down to curiosity and nothing more. I’d always feel shame after watching anything homoerotic and watching guys kiss made me feel very uncomfortable.
Why do you think previous relationships hadn’t worked?
My first relationship with a girl didn’t work because my family disliked her. Family approval is a huge thing for me when it comes to relationships. I was with her for four years and deep down I knew she wasn’t right for me.
Tell us about your first gay experience?
I had my first experience with a guy after I came out and he then became my first gay partner. I met him online and confided in him that I was gay before I actually came out. He was very supportive and we ended up having a great couple of years together. He taught me that my friends would have no problem with me coming out and they would not treat me any different. He was right
Was gay something you didn’t want to accept?
No, I didn’t want to accept it. Why? Because it was a daunting to delve into the unknown. I knew nothing about the scene, I knew no gay people. The one gay person I knew lived in a different country. I felt incredibly isolated. It’s all still new to me. I’m not long accepting of it as we speak. But, now I embrace it and I’m proud to be gay
Why did you not want to come to terms with it?
Possibly because of the environment I grew up in. It was a massive step into the unknown. I was lost and felt compelled to stick to what I knew.
How was life at school – were you part of the cool crew?
I was not part of the cool crew at all. I was a scrawny rebel and spent much of the time standing outside the headteachers office waiting for another lecture. I was always labelled an underachiever by teachers at school because they could see I was smart but I just didn’t care much for school at all. At 17 I started my own business and have never looked back.
Over time, you had girlfriends and then during your most recent relationship, your stifled feelings got the better of you and you plunged into a depression.
Roughly six months before I came out to my girlfriend I came down with depression. I knew I was living a lie. And I knew people were going to get hurt when the truth came out. That’s what I found hardest to deal with. I’d rather be miserable than see other people miserable. But it got to a point where it was getting too much.
How bad did it get?
It got pretty bad. I’d get blackout drunk on a regular basis. I developed insomnia. I’d never take heavy drugs but turned to valium to help with sleep. This turned into an addiction for which I sought help from the doctor. It was horrific but luckily I’m out of that hole now.
So how did you tackle the depression?
Last year, after three sleepless nights and a binge on alcohol I decided to reach out and get help. I rang the doctor and she arranged for me to come and see her. I sat in the waiting room, and was such a bag of nerves I was so close to just getting up and leaving. But I stayed. And it was that moment that changed my life. She sat me down and I talked through all that was happening in my life. She diagnosed me with depression and put me on Sertraline (an anti depressant), which I still take to this day. She also referred me to a counsellor which helped me massively come to terms with what I had been through not only recently, but throughout my whole life. It was that closure that really helped me deal with my depression. I still have the odd bout of depression here and there but nothing close to what it was. I can now honestly say I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt. And it all came from a phonecall to the doctor. Always reach out and get help if you’re in a bad place. Life is too precious.
How did you find the courage to tell your girlfriend that you were gay?
It was completely unplanned. We were lying in bed and she asked how my depression was feeling. I just broke down and told her I was confused about my sexuality. We both cuddled and cried for most of the night.
Wow, how did she react?
She was heartbroken but amazingly understanding. She’s a secondary school teacher and set up an LGBTQ support group, the first teacher to do so, at her school. The first few months after coming out were really rough, but mainly because of me and my refusal to accept it myself and the coping mechanisms I was using, which was drinking, mainly.
How did you get over the tough times?
My girlfriend acted as my rock during this coming out period. She really is an amazing human and I genuinely don’t know where I’d be without her. She was sat holding my hand when I came out to my Mum and brother. We’re now closer than ever.
How was telling your folks?
My mum was the hardest. Her first words were ‘you’re not’ followed by ‘you might not be’. She had had a marriage with a closet homosexual and is quite conservative. Her initial reaction was denial. But now she is fine and completely accepting of who I am. I guess, it was just a massive shock to the system for her. My brother just shrugged his shoulders and said ‘that’s fine mate, do what you gotta do’.
Did it come as a shock your other mates?
My friends were brilliant. I was so worried about telling them. Some friends I knew would be fine with it. Other friends who, honestly, I’ve heard some pretty bigoted comments from, who I was very worried about telling, took it incredibly well. I hope it was an eye opener for them.
You were on a football team – how did they deal with it?
I had actually quit the team shortly before coming out as I needed a while to come to terms with things. I was soon getting messages of love and support from the lads which made me so happy. It was a team I was a part of for ten years, and which I captained for two. I like to think my coming out has had an influence on people’s attitude towards sexuality.
Yes, it takes a moment like this to open people’s eyes. Have they been in touch since?
Some of my best mates played for the same team. I see them regularly and nothing has changed at all. When the conversation turns to tits I just jokingly join in. They take the mickey out of me being gay all the time and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very self deprecating and love to use humour in many situations.
When you came out did you feel free for the first time?
It took me a while to feel freedom because I couldn’t accept being gay to start with. It almost frustrated me that people didn’t react badly, like it was ‘no big deal’. But for me, it was. It’s amazing how much drama your own thoughts can cause.
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How did life change once you were okay about being gay?
I became accepting of it when I learned to be less co-dependent for my happiness. Isolation has actually been a blessing in disguise for me. There’s been no pressure to be a certain way or to go to certain places or have certain friends. They say to find yourself you have to get lost first. I’ve been lost, very lost, for a while now but have managed to find happiness from within since learning to love myself.
You’re a good looking guy – do you feel like gay guys see you for sex and nothing more?
No, not particularly. I’ve only been gay and single for six months. And now we are in lockdown so you’ll have to ask me that question again in the future
Have you enjoyed the gay scene?
I’ve been to a few prides since coming out which I have really enjoyed. Such a good vibe at a pride festival. Although I do think some of it is over sexualised. Leave the fetish stuff at home, it’s about celebrating love, not what you do to get off.
Was it a world that you enjoyed or did you ever feel like you didn’t belong?
It took me a while but now I know more about myself I love the gay scene. Initially it was delving into the unknown and feeling like I had to ‘fit in’. Now I know I don’t have to fit in at all I’m much more comfortable stepping into a gay bar and thinking ‘ok, this isn’t really my scene but let’s have fun anyway’.
Have you got someone in your life now?
No, I’m well and truly single
Is looking for love a priority?
I got straight into a relationship after coming out and now been single six months. I’m enjoying the single life now so waiting for someone to sweep me off my feet
What kind of boyfriend are you?
Loyal, sweet, committed, annoying and funny. I really want to settle down and have the big house with a husband and lots of dogs. That’s the dream.
What do you look for in a guy? Is it all about looks or do you see past that and look deeper?
Initial attraction has to be there. But if you have a pretty face and an ugly personality, it’s a big no.
Do you believe in monogamy?
Absolutely. If you love someone, why wouldn’t you? I understand that, in the gay world, it is common to have an open relationship because of reasons such as sexual incompatibility, long distance etc. But I absolutely believe in monogamy
Have you had many meaningful relationships in the past?
Yes, with my girlfriend who I came out to and my first boyfriend. Two amazing, beautiful humans inside and out who I’m so grateful to still be in touch with.
Do you think we can embrace relationships if we haven’t embraced ourselves?
Nope. Rupaul said it all: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else”
Do you think we search people out who we think will make us better people?
Yes, absolutely. You can learn a lot about yourself through your relationships with other people, be it good or bad. Either way you will grow to be better.
You’re a handsome guy. Do you think your looks have opened doors for you? Or do you feel like men have treated you like a slab of meat?
It’s definitely opened a lot of backdoors.
Jokes. It’s opened doors to the modelling world. Apart from that, I like to think anything of substance has come from my personality
Have you always been happy about the way you look?
I was very skinny as a teenager. I’d always wear longsleeves to hide my skinny arms. I started working out at age 18 and got addicted to the gym. The only pressure I felt was through my own insecurities
Do you think gay men are obsessed with the body beautiful?
Yes and I think I’m guilty of that too
A lot of gay men use instagram as a means to boost their self-esteem – do you have a healthy relationship with social media?
It’s on and off. Occasionally I need a break from social media to just switch off. It can become addictive and it’s not healthy to rely on strangers for validation.
What do you like most about your body?
My legs. I don’t like my feet – but who likes feet?!
Some people might look at your Insta feed and think you’re presenting most men with an unrealistic body image. What do you think about that?
The same as I would feel looking at someone who grew up in poverty showing off their flash car. I’ve worked hard for my body, it’s been a lifelong commitment. It’s only unrealistic if it’s not something you’ve worked hard to achieve.
What would you say to your 12 year old self about the future.
Don’t care about what people ‘might’ think. You do you.
How are you coping during this strange Covid-19 time?
Isolation has actually been a blessing in disguise for me. I’ve had some much needed me time. I’ve also been very lucky in that I can still work, still workout and, most importantly, my family are safe and well. I miss my friends but if that’s my biggest complaint then I’m a very lucky boy.