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Coming Out and Coming Out Again, and Again…

When asked to write about my ‘coming out story’ my immediate response is to ask which one. I have perhaps been lucky, I never needed a big coming out event. Being gay is something I have always taken for granted and accepted as being part of me. My parents never had any serious problems with it, and, while I did have a long conversation with Mum, my Dad simply adjusted to the fact that ‘Martin has a boyfriend’ and that was fine. I have never in that sense deliberately ‘come out’ and yet I have found, over the years, that coming out is a continual process, something that has to happen in some shape or form every time I meet new people and want to them to accept me for who I am.

This struck me particularly when I took up my present role as Pro-Vice Chancellor here at Swansea just over six months ago. I had been working in Birmingham University for over twenty years and most people who bothered to take an interest in these things knew that I was gay and had a partner. I taught on a module on ‘feminist, black and gay theologies’ for a number of years and, within the Department of Theology and Religion, gay and lesbian students felt comfortable approaching me to discuss issues relating to sexuality, whether personal or theological. I mentored a number of gay or lesbian staff and students as part of formal LGBT+ mentoring schemes, and David, my partner, was well known to immediate colleagues. Being gay was something that played no significant role as I increasingly took on management roles further up the University structure. I do remember the mild look of surprise on the Vice Chancellor’s face when, having been appointed to a senior management position, I introduced David to him at an event organised for senior management to which my ‘wife’ was included on the invite (the University did not make that mistake twice).

Having taken up this new role at Swansea then I am perhaps, for the first time, in a position where I have had to make a deliberate decision about when to ‘come out’ and how to do this. My standard response is to treat being gay as perfectly normal and wait for a conversations that reveal that normalcy. Many people have asked me ‘have you got a family?’ The answer is ‘yes, David, my partner, two dogs, however many tortoises and a couple of chickens’. Others ask ‘are you moving to Swansea?’ and I have to say that it is unlikely in the short term as ‘my partner, David, is a second hand bookdealer and it would be difficult to move the business’. Very occasionally somebody has apologised as if they have trodden on delicate ground, but for the vast majority the conversation simply continues, discussing the particular breed of dogs (otterhounds if you are interested) or specific issues around the antiquarian book trade. It is not a ‘big deal’ but I have perhaps been more conscious of it on this occasion simply because of the very large number of new people that I have met over the last six months. ‘Coming out’ never really stops. However, I do have to say that the openness and welcome that I have received here in Swansea has made the process so much more pleasurable. And, as I said at the start of this blog, I have undoubtedly been very lucky in this.

Martin Stringer
Pro-Vice Chancellor

October 15th, 2015

Posted In: Uncategorized

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