These days young lads and lasses come out as early as ten! And bravo to them. But even though the world is way more accepting to LGBT folks than ever before, some fellas still fear uttering the life-changing words ‘I’m gay!’ Not because they’re ashamed of who they are, but just because they are nervous about how others react. After all, the last thing we want is to lose friends or be rejected by family. This sadly still happens, but it’s refreshing to know that more and more gay men are embraced by their nearest and dearest when they spit out the words they fear most. Here we chat to the very handsome Steve Wicks who opens up about how he finally came out to his family much later in life…
Steve, did you always know you were gay?
I can’t really remember there being a sudden realisation that happened overnight. It was more when I was a pre-teen that I started to realise that girls I thought I fancied were actually just mates and I really liked guys. When I look back though, I think I always knew I was different in some way.
In what way?
I can remember being at cubs and people thinking I wasn’t as laddy as the other boys. I even recall a few of the adults there laughed at me because as I was talking I did that limp wrist thing!
That’s terrible for them to do that!
I was about nine years old at the time, so I suppose I’ve always been an old gay at heart! I can also remember when I was in primary school I always suggested to the boys that as a game we could pick each other up – I guess I liked it when they picked me up, ha!
Did you keep being gay to yourself for a long time?
Years and years! When I was about 15, I hinted to this girl that one day I could end up being bisexual, as I thought I might be inclined to experiment and because there was a guy I started to have feelings for. I later found out this girl had told a couple of people about what I had said to her. I was furious and denied it straightaway and made her out to be this massive bitch, to keep my cover! I then tried my hardest to suppress my gayness and tried to become one of the lads, sort of.
Did you try to bury your feelings?
Absolutely – throughout my teens and very 20s! Cliched as it may sound, but If there was a pill that could make you straight I’d have overdosed on them in desperation. When I was a teenager I used to try and hypnotise myself when I went to bed by saying ‘I’m only attracted to women’ over and over again in my head. I would hope I would fall asleep saying it and over time I could train my brain to like women. I can laugh at it now but it’s also so sad to look back at those times and know that I was so desperate to be straight.
Did you have any gay role models?
I don’t think I really had any at that time. I was that classic closet gay who didn’t want any association with any gay men and even said god awful shit like ‘I don’t mind gays but don’t rub it in my face’. I was a bit if a c*nt!
Was there anyone you were most worried to tell?
Growing up I was definitely uncomfortable to tell my dad, but as I got into my twenties, it was more my mum.
So who was the first person you spoke to about it?
I told my friend Fi who I lived with at uni. I was in third year and had been on a night out but she’d stayed in. I came home with a Subway in hand and was eating on the sofa just having a general chat with her then I randomly came out with it. At first she thought I was joking and then I burst into tears. I think she got that it was the real then! She was really great with it. She was in a relationship with a girl so knew all about it. She said to me, ‘in the morning you’re gonna wake up and the first ten seconds you won’t remember you told me this, then you’ll remember and it’s gonna feel really fucking weird’. She was absolutely right. I woke up the next morning and panicked but she came in my room and was really helpful. I gradually told people the more comfortable (and drunk) I got over time. I told most of my friends between the ages 22-24 but my family didn’t find out until much later.
How much later?
I grew up in an environment that discouraged anything gay. My parents used to say lots of things that would make me very aware that they weren’t okay with it, but they weren’t the only ones. My dad used to give me this look whenever I did something like dye my hair or something not considered manly and that always stuck with me. I was a couple of months shy of 28 when I told them. I was in a relationship and we’d been out day drinking together, I decided I didn’t want him to be a secret so I text the Whastapp group I’m in with my parents a bunch of pictures of me and him and said he was my boyfriend.
Wow! Thats a bold move.
I admit this wasn’t the best way to do it but I was a bit of a wimp about telling them face to face. They read it straight away but didn’t reply for half an hour which was torture. They didn’t respond with a message I’d have liked but they both called me the next day and we talked it through.
Did they calm down?
It took them a while. We spoke a few weeks later which didn’t go too well. My dad admitted he’d had a ‘campaign’ nearly my whole life to discredit anything gay at every opportunity he got. He said this mainly stemmed from being at a party when I was about 12 where I was dancing and he overheard a woman who lived down my road say ‘that’s the little gayboy at the top of the hill’. Him admitting he’d spent my life doing this fucked me up a little bit, to be honest. But one good thing to come from it, if I ever write a book I already have the title: ‘The little gayboy at the top of the hill’.
Looking back, do you understand why they might have been a bit funny about you being gay? Have they changed over time?
I totally understood that they were from a different generation and had never really known any gay people before. So it was still a taboo for them. But I don’t think that excuses that. But they have changed a lot – we don’t really speak about me being gay and they still have views that piss me off but they are better. I’m not going to be written out the will for it, which when growing up they said any kid of theirs who was gay, would be. Progress I guess!
Looking back again… How was life for you at school?
School was a weird one. I was popular but also had a lot of shit thrown my way. So it’s strange because I have so many fond and nostalgic memories of it but also times that weren’t great at all. There were a few guys in my year that would take the piss out of me – once a website was made up about me and it was called I Hate Steven Wicks.
My house got egged too. In lower sixth form, the guys in upper sixth used to give me a hard time but I always shrugged it off. Like I said I was still quite popular and there were still a lot of guys that would be cool with me. I had a lot of girl friends, so I suppose the smart guys that wanted to get with them knew they had to be nice to me ha!
Sounds like a nightmare.
One of my biggest regrets from school is that I was that classic kid who had his own shit going on and took it out on others from time to time. I was overweight in year 7 and 8 so people would call me fat. But then I drastically lost weight and the fat jokes became gay jokes. I wouldn’t say I full on bullied anyone but there would be occasions where I would’ve made fun of someone else when it wasn’t me getting it and I really regret that. Kids can be c*nts!
Can you remember what your first gay experience was like?
I was 23, it was after a night out with some uni friends in Clapham and then we went back to my parents in Croydon (they were asleep). I was worried and nervous about the act itself I suppose. I had only ever had a few awkward encounters with girls prior to this and I had no sexual or body confidence – the thought of being naked in front of anyone terrified me and made me get that horrible feeling in my gut.
Did you throw yourself into the scene? Was it everything you expected?
I was in third year of uni when I had started to tell people that I was gay and at this point I was overweight, so I wasn’t confident enough to pull anyways. The first time I went to HB, a gay bar in Portsmouth where I went to uni, I was so uncomfortable I burst into tears when my friend Amie’s then girlfriend asked if I was gay. The next time I went, a guy walked up to me and was really handsy with me which I found really unattractive, clearly I was still having issues with it because I ended up kissing some 40 year old woman that night in the smoking area. I didn’t properly get into the gay scene until I was about 26 and had a lot more confidence.
Do you like the gay scene?
I go through stages with it. I still have some great nights out in London and have met some great people but it’s not always a good thing to be wrapped up in. The gay scene has a superficial reputation which is hardly surprising and when this is combined with the ‘ab’ gays on Instagram and the hilarious Twitter gays, it can leave some people feeling like they’re not good enough. It can definitely be toxic and play tricks with your mind. When I was living in Clapham, and me and my ex had a messy break up I was convinced everyone hated me and felt anxious the whole time that people were bad mouthing me or taking the piss out of me – I realise now nobody really cared enough it was just all in my head.
Well, Clapham is a particularly gay-centric area.
I don’t live in the scene anymore, but now I’m in a much better headspace I would love to move back to a more gay and young professional area like a lot of my friends. I’m not saying i’d be in Two Brewers every weekend but it would be great to have elements of my old life back.
Do you think the scene is very superficial
Some people have such big followings on social media and combined with the superficiality of the scene there does feel like a weird dynamic. Some of these people come across in an arrogant way but at the same time I can see how it’s weird for them to be on a night out and have someone they don’t know suddenly approach them and know stuff about them. I’ve witnessed someone to do this to someone I was with and I found it odd.
Social media has created some monsters.
I’d like to go back in time and see what the scene was like 20 years ago before social media. Obviously I don’t know every gay in London but it’s very common to go out and recognise someone because you’ve seen their Instagram or Twitter… It would be interesting for me to see what it was like before all that crap.
Have you had your heart broken?
No. Excluding guys I’ve just been seeing for a while I’ve only ever had one boyfriend. The break up was such a mess and I was all over the place at the time but looking back I don’t think it was that heart break everyone else seems to go through or how it’s described in songs. Me and the guy are all good now though which is great. He’s a good guy!
Have you had any dating disasters?
I went on a date with a guy a few years ago who I knew in the first five minutes I didn’t fancy. He was saying how he’d worked on a TV programme about paedophiles and hates when people say ‘they should just be shot’. Later in the date I said how I hadn’t told my parents I was gay yet and how my mum makes comments that make me not want to tell her. He then said ‘anyone who is homophobic should be shot’ which was a reference to my mum. At the end of the night he went to kiss me goodbye and I felt too awkward to pull away so kissed him back and it was the worst kiss ever. I’m sure he’s a good kisser with the right person but for the lack of chemistry between us it was awful. I know now if I don’t fancy someone on a date that I can leave and not to kiss them to avoid awkwardness.
You said that you struggled with your weight.
Growing up I was a classic yo-yo dieter. I lost two stone when I was thirteen or fourteen and became obsessed with it. I would weigh myself four times a day and get head rush from not eating enough. Then I’d lose all strictness, binge-eat and balloon. This was a constant cycle for me and particularly at uni where I went up to 17.5 stone. I can definitely still get down about my body or look in the mirror and obsess over things I’d like to change. My recent obsession is that I’ve aged a lot in the past two years and I’d love botox.
Oh don’t be silly. When you were larger – did that get you down?
Yes. I think when I got really big part of it was the uni lifestyle but a lot of it was also because I was closeted. I just didn’t see myself as ever being able to be with anyone so I didn’t even try to attract anyone – girls or guys. I guess I just really let myself go. When I look back I think it’s weird I let myself get a lot bigger because I was quite vain when I was younger but I just couldn’t get out of my lifestyle of eating and drinking badly.
What made you decide to transform yourself?
I remember trying on clothes in Topman and River Island and the biggest size didn’t fit. I couldn’t believe it, I knew I’d put on weight but hadn’t realised how out of control it had gotten. I then looked at a photo from one of my thin phases and got down about it. It was not long after this I decided something had to be done.
How did you do it?
I just gradually started changing habits and exercising more. Leaving uni massively helped this. I still didn’t really have any knowledge of what would really help. I would go to the gym, and just spend 30 minutes on the cross trainer and expect the body of my dreams from that. Over the years I got introduced to different exercise classes and then got a PT, which massively helped with food knowledge too. Since the end of last year I’ve been a lot more slack and have put on fat and lost muscle which sucks. I just started with a PT again and then a week later we were put on lockdown for the coronavirus, so that’s already a set back but i’m not going to cry about that when the world is going through what it is.
Do people treat you differently now?
I don’t know if it is just because of image but six years ago nobody would slide into my DMs whereas now people do from time to time. God that makes me sound like a cock.
Does it bother you that perhaps you get more attention now even though you were the same man you were then?
Well I don’t think I am the same person I was a few years ago. I barely recognise the person I was when I was in my early 20s. My views and opinions are so different. It would be interesting to see if I had the mind and personality I have now with the body I had then, whether I’d still get dates or any attention.
How are you dealing with isolation?
I recently trained as a barber and the shop I work in had to close so I’ve not been working at all. I moved back home last year and my sister, brother-in-aw and their three kids live here too so it’s pretty chaotic but beats being completely on my own. I’ve been trying to do home workouts but I keep baking and drinking which is not helping me get lean!
What have you learnt from this experience?
That we’re not invincible. We have no say in who catches this virus, so we need to respect that and follow the guidelines of staying indoors, which frustratingly some people are not doing. This is definitely making me appreciate having friends and a social life. There’s so many old people who have nobody which is heart-breaking and these times make you appreciate the people in your life.
How do you think we will change as a society after all this?
I’m not sure really. I hope people appreciate small businesses more and show some custom to those and I really hope people show more respect and gratitude towards people in retail/supermarket positions and of course the police/NHS/ fire brigade….
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