Welcome to our new website. We hope you like it and find it fun and informative. My name is Martin Gavet, I’m Liberate’s Honorary Chairperson and I’ve been asked to write a ‘blog’, which I’ve never done before. I hope you like it!
When I was approached about setting up a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning group here in the Channel Islands, I was hesitant. I knew one was needed, but previous experience had told me that trying to set up such a group would be difficult. Why? Let me tell you a story about a young boy from Guernsey……
He knew he was gay when he was 8 years old when he had a crush on his teacher. At that time he knew he was different to most of the other children at school, but he did not have a “label” for it until his early teens. He would hear words such as “fag” and “queer” used in the playground. He would be bullied and tried running away from school. He quickly became aware that what he felt was not “right” in the eyes of many of his contemporaries, it was not “normal”. To reinforce it, he would also hear the Church condemn it. He had faith in God and loved God. But did God love him?
The boy became afraid. He thought that if the truth ever got out about who he was, then he would be shamed by everyone. He also believed he was condemned to hellfire and brimstone when he died. He felt very alone, in a small island where most people know each other’s business, whether or not it was actually their business.
Throughout his teenage and early adult life he tried to form relationships with the opposite sex because it was “normal” and what was “expected”. Frequently he would hear conversations from parents about having grandchildren, he became more and more introverted, anxious and depressed.
The relationships would never work of course. He loved his girlfriends, but in a Platonic way. However, whenever the talk went to taking the next step, he couldn’t. He shied away because he knew it was not fair on them or him.
His faith grew stronger, but his relationship with God too was a troubled one. He would apologise to God for who he was, whenever he stepped into a place of worship. He did not feel worthy to be there.
Occasionally sometimes people would suspect he was gay, although he tried to hide it, and on one occasion a couple of work colleagues leant over his desk and tried to “out” him. He felt threatened, harassed and frightened.
It wasn’t until he was in his late thirties that he suddenly became seriously ill. He could not walk a hundred yards without getting out of breath. For someone who had been so active, this was even more difficult to understand and deal with. Then one day at a conference in London, his vision went temporarily and he went to see a GP as soon as he got home.
The GP quickly diagnosed a pituitary tumour, close to the carotid arteries and optic nerve. His blood pressure was sky high, and he was close to having a massive stroke and dying. He would wake up at 3 a.m. regularly in a cold sweat. It was then he faced his fear of dying, but a question remained at
the back of his mind. Would people really know who he was at his funeral? By then anyway, it would be too late.
After several MRI scans and treatment the tumour which had been the size of an apricot started to shrink. He managed to regain his fitness and having faced his fear of dying decided to speak to his local priest about his next biggest fear –being gay. He had read a very interesting book called “The Shack” by WM Paul Young, and realised that ironically he was judging God.
After gaining the confidence to speak to them, he found that his family were very understanding. Fears melted away like passing shadows. He started to feel a lot happier. He started to feel after almost 40 years of living that his life had just begun.
It was soon after that he truly fell in love for the first time. He is now married in a civil partnership to his husband Mark. Their children are two rescue cats called Jasmine and Jill, and a rather mischievious but equally adorable Jack Russell called Poppy.
You might have guessed by now that the person in the story is me.
The brain tumour was the best thing to have ever happened to me in my life, for it made me face my fears. Out of something overwhelming negative, came something breathtakingly life-changing. Yet for many other gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender people, life is still not easy. They are trapped by their fears and to a large extent held prisoner by them.
The reason I have chosen to share some of my life story with you, is that I wanted to show to you how difficult society can make it for people to be themselves. How deeply it affects their mental and physical health and wellbeing, and that as the saying goes, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived”.
It is true that society is becoming more “accepting” and cosmopolitan locally. I use that word carefully. I do not use the word tolerant, because tolerant implies that people still harbour prejudices deep down.
I truly believe though that the Channel Islands are beginning to value diversity and recognise its importance. After all, if we were all the same, life would be incredibly dull.
And so it seems that the time is right for LIBERATE to exist. Gradually LGBTQ people are coming out of the shadows and are facing their fears and standing up for who they are. Sadly, there are many more out there who find that difficult. That is the reason we at LIBERATE are here.
Society has a moral obligation towards the welfare of all its citizens, and discriminatory laws and policies will only serve to reinforce stereotypes and drive people like myself underground, living in fear. Such practice is incredibly damaging to the fabric of society. I know of LGBTQ people who have felt forced into marriages with people of the opposite sex, because that is what society and their families expect, and who cannot be their true selves to their family, children and friends.
I know of LGBTQ people who have self harmed, substance misused, and tried to commit suicide because of the societal pressures and demands on them to conform (the rate of self harm, substance misuse, depression, anxiety and suicide is twice as high in the LGBTQ community).
This is not only costly in financial terms with regards to our mental health services, but morally reprehensible as they are forced to hide the TRUTH.
It is that feeling of being a “second class” citizen and not being able to be true to yourself that makes it difficult for LGBTQ people to “come out”. For the older generation, they grew up in a time when being homosexual was a criminal offence and classed as a disease by the World Health Organisation until the early 1990’s.
Mark and I still find it hard to hold hands in public, let alone kiss, despite being married. Whilst more accepting of LGBTQ people, Guernsey and the other Channel Islands still have a long way to go before we reach true equality. One day we hope that people will not blink an eyelid seeing two people of the same sex showing affection for each other. Love is love after all.
Martin Luther King, the black civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate once said:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
Love and light to you all.