First of all my heartfelt thanks to the Kool Queer Litt blog for your hospitality.
In the spring of 1979 I decided that I was indeed a lesbian. I was a few months removed from my 18th birthday and naïve in a way that is probably hard to imagine for the 17 and 18 year olds of 2013. I didn’t know even a single other gay person and I still had to hear anyone saying the first friendly or even neutral word about gays. The silence was screamingly loud.
Two weeks later I told my mum, and she cried. She told my dad, and he told me to shut up about it to others. I flat out refused.
Due to my refusal to believe there was anything to be ashamed of, I was happy to tell anyone, and I do mean anyone, including total strangers while waiting for the bus, that “I don’t fall for boys, I’d rather have a girlfriend.”
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t brave, but simply naïve beyond words, and probably more lucky than I technically deserved. People didn’t believe me, because “you don’t look like one” and I doggedly insisted that yes, I was the genuine article. They probably also pitied me for being barking mad for announcing my new found truth just a little bit too loud for the time.
I could have easily hidden myself, but I was filled with a deep sense of duty. Being in the closet felt somehow morally wrong to me unless I was in immediate grave danger. Of course, I learned soon enough that I wasn’t the only gay person in the village and that many of us had excellent reasons to be more selective in their openness, unless they wanted to lose their jobs, homes or (for women) the custody over their children or get raped.
I had closed the door of the closet behind me and I never went back. So, when, many years later, I started to write Ravages, the story about a football (soccer) player who’s almost matter-of-factly closeted, it was with a long personal coming-out story already in my head.
Steve Gavan and his lover Daniël tell themselves that their relationship is a purely private thing, and what good would it do them as first team players in an English Premier League club to be known as the first openly gay couple? To hear hate chants? To make their team mates feel uncomfortable in the dressing room? To see their careers end with a cheap excuse from the manager?
Then something happens and everything changes. During a walk in a local park, Steve gets brutally attacked by a group of his fans, who recognise him, but misinterpret his reason to be at a spot that happens to be a known (but not to Steve) cruising spot. They are determined to save their beloved club from the queer…
Ravages is an intense story, a friend even called it claustrophobic, and I’m not holding back on the violence and its consequences. To me this is not about homophobia in professional sport, but about the illusion that closets are safe places, and that more often than we care to admit, we make our own prisons. But, when all is said and done, it is a story about loyalty, friendship and love.
Care for a taste?
Steve knows he looks like an idiot. A very, very happy idiot, with a smile that stretches from one ear to the other and eyes that probably shine much too brightly. There’s a spring in his step like he won a competition he doesn’t remember having entered. He thinks he even smells differently, like he’s two men at the same time. He wears the heady richness of Daniël’s scent like an exclusive fragrance.
People stare at him while he’s walking from the pub where he had shared a pint with a couple of mates, and that’s not because they recognise him from the matches on TV or because he’s one of the faces on the poster above the bed of their ten-year-old-son. No, the reason is that silly smile on his face. He’s absolutely certain of it.
To be past his thirtieth birthday and for the first time having felt a man inside him makes his head reel. There had been no rational reason for him to make such a fuss about it, more so because Daniël has been enjoying the experience several times a week for the past six months and it’s not like Steve has to beg for it, either. But what can you do?
Daniël hadn’t pressured him for it, reassuring him time and again that sex was great between them. And it is great, every aspect of it. Of course, they have to be careful when they’re in the public’s eye, the world of professional football and its fans not being known for its open and generous outlook towards gay men, but as soon as they’re alone, they shake off all restrains. On occasion they allow themselves a sleep-over and there’s no better way to start the day than having a sexy Dutchman to take care of Steve’s morning erection by using that talented mouth of his. Or to be invited to Dan’s apartment and have a quickie while dinner is keeping warm in the oven. Best of all are the long hours that seem so fleetingly short, they spend in bed doing just about anything that’s physically possible and wanted by the both of them. The sheer beauty of looking into Daniël’s eyes while fucking him with such intensity – it feels like he’s losing his self wholly, only to come back even more complete.
And yours truly? Last October my wife and I celebrated our 31th anniversary and the month before that both our sons entered university. I guess that naïve little girl, that insisted to never hide, did all right in the end.
Ravages is available here: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ravages-625407-145.html
My blog: http://rapadmos.wordpress.com/