Wake

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Nanny and Granddads – Emelagh , Co Clare, Eire. 

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in
the hollow of His hand.

 

For Tina, Anthony, Sarah, Finbar and Ryan.

When you have been touched by the hand of death, your grief visits you in many ways and manifestations. It will come to us all, yet our culture and faith shape the way in which we process it in all its inevitability. It is my Family and my Faith that gives me strength in a time when you question everything that life throws at you and takes away from you.

A year has passed since I said farewell to my cousin Vanessa in Ireland. Steeped in family tradition we gave her a send off I will always remember until the day I die, in all its sadness and heavy mourning it is the deeply rooted tradition of an Irish Wake which affirms family love and the spiritual ritual of passing into the next life. A life, without them….

As the dreaded call incapacitates you, on the nervous energy you have to coordinate flights back home  in the smallest window. The helplessness of distance and the grief pulls you ‘Home’ instantly. Numbed by the news you have to reach back to family as soon as the news drops as the wake process and proceedings start immediately.

As Granddad used to say “Time and tide wait for no man”

 

My first experience of death was when my granddad died, a father of 13 and beloved lifelong husband. A pillar of the community who brought electricity to rural West Clare: Paddy Ryan. He passed away in his sleep next to my Nanny and in the morning her world changed forever and so did ours.

 

My Mothers pain was hard enough to watch yet when you arrive at Shannon it all becomes real. It’s not just news, its become a reality. The hugs welcome you home yet embrace the painful journey you are yet to undertake in the next few days together, you are never alone in the process – the family all pull and hold each other through.

Growing up in London, I have always fluctuated between Ireland and London being my spiritual homes, Nanny and Grandads will always be home. I may be second generation Irish but Emelagh and Quilty , Co Clare will always be ‘Home’. I have had the honour and privilege of being part of a huge loving family and spending every summer in Ireland and all the love and freedom it has given me, it has shaped me, it is me.

 

I was coming home in a context far removed from my childhood. Sheltered from death, I was unprepared for the grief and the heaviness in the house. The family together greeting in grief, is a mild comfort until you eventually make your way to the candlelit bedroom.

 

 

Granddad lying on his bed in a suit and polished shoes, with an audience of tears and clasped pale white hands squeezing the life of your neighbour to draw strength. In the candlelight flickers I imagined I saw his belly rise and fall in the confusion of it all. He was gone, yet here he was at home in his bed and we were all here to be with him. The chairs occupied by family and the monopoly of elders position themselves in close proximity to gaze upon my Grandad, their Father, relation, Husband and friend. It was all alien to me in a familar domestic setting, it warped my understanding of the home and positioning of death as being seperated by funeral dierctors who shrouded it all. Here I learnt not to cover grief but to display it. You have to face it, live it and go through it in order to step into the future carrying that burden with you.

 


The open casket or lying openly on the bed as disturbing as this may seem to some, is a way in which you can preserve the image of the departed in your memory. The very last emotionaly charged tangible physical contact with the person you loved. The touching of hands and stroking of hair and farewell kisses upon the body itself serves to embody the last acts of contact you will have in this life. There is a sense of normalising death in this presentation and last performance of the deceased. They cease to live yet continue in their last moments to breathe life into us in our selfish and selfless need to grieve and make sense of their existence all be it transformed. The death of the author.

As the wave of grief and shock breaks upon the shore of realisation , we share stories and laugh with guilt as we smiled and remembered what an incredible man he was/ IS. It’s a moment of celebration of a life lived and all the people who have been touched by that life coming together to acknowledge the fact.

Mary xxxx


The collective consciousness of grief and loss is cathartic in the old Irish tradition of the wake. It’s a twilight period of watching over the departed before they leave the house to be handed over to the Church and then the burial. It provides a lasting farewell in such a personal and spiritual way that I am so thankful to be part of a small community in Ireland. Living in a large city and its sheer population in London, the possibilities of a wake in comparison is something the state or individual could never provide. Its cultural and geographical positioning is centered upon the family and Catholic Faith itself. Regardless of practice of faith and attendance of church a cultural Catholicism runs deep within our family.

My First Holy Communion at Quex Rd , Kilburn.  

The period between the handover is one of prayer and reflection, the rosary is prayed upon the soul and the priest visits for blessing and mass at the house. As relations organise the service and bidding prayers it’s the last tangible time you have with them.

When the hearse arrived and the door closed as the coffin is brought into the room, pure silence muffled the tears and sobs that took the life out of the room in all its tragedy. I opened the door to assist in carrying the coffin, Granddads’s hands were missing rosary beads and I fixed them into his hands and realigned them between his fingers. The kiss on the forehead a lasting goodbye until you meet again, the notes we left in his jacket pocket all rituals of family love and testaments of faith. A kiss on the lips as my Granddad use to give me as a child and as man ascertaining a masculine certainty and devoid of ridicule he taught me to love regardless in all its purity.

When I think back to this moment and my first experience of an Irish wake and the death of my Granddad, I was young. It built me , prepared me to understand that death as painful as it is and can be, it’s the farewell that is crucial in your stations of grief. It is the most powerful thing I have or ever will experience, such as the birth of my niece. Hearing her cry behind the hospital doors, its a life affirming moment you carry in your heart and soul.

The Sacred Heart, always present in the hallway at Nanny and Granddads. 


When my Aunty Mary passed away I was aware of the etiquette of grief and the social etiquette and procedures of hosting the community and friends who pass through to say goodbye and send condolences and shake your hand. I have shaken many hands, not knowing who they were, or them knowing who I was …yet their whole-hearted respect and love is passed on to you and the family for strength.

The food and drink that is brought to the house as offerings of love and the smallest comfort is unfounded.

Its always sad to see those you love the most in pain and feel a part of your life and family destroyed and removed from you life. Yet I always drew strength on the nature of the wake to have my goodbye, our goodbye – together as a family.

There is a cathartic spiritual conversation you have between yourself and your loved one, I whispered to my granddad ‘I love you’ and thanked Mary for all her kindness. I kissed her on the lips as a farewell.

The hardest farewell was you Vanessa, because you looked like you was sleeping and it seemed so unfair. I felt for the first time that you was taken away from us too early. When we carried you through the village of Quilty I faltered but was adiment that we would take you home. your brother was right. You needed to come home. I whispered as I carried you ‘we are taking you home.’

The whole village turned up to walk in pride and bring you home. The community in all its smallness became greater in all its enormity of grief.

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Photographs and candles offered in gifts of hope and send light to the darkness surrounding the heavy blackness that veils the house, yet together we all as a family had the opportunity to say goodbye. Its difficult writing this a year on, yet I want to share in the comfort and strength that moment brought me and the whole family and community.

An Irish wake is more than tradition, its a collective goodbye, a send off in the beauty and nature of family love. We can never bring loved ones back but we can sure send them away knowing they were loved and give them everything they are due – our presence and love.

I never got to say goodbye to my English Nan, and it tortures me to know that moment was denied from me and my family. Sometimes in life we do not always have our goodbyes or it doesn’t always end the way we wish it did. One thing I have learnt though, grief is a journey. there are no rules. the only thing you have is the power to process it and take that journey as hard as it is. That road is forever winding and there is only one destination for us all.

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The Irish Wake has made my heart grow stronger, bigger and bolder. I love my family for all the hugs and tears we have shared together, for the roses shared out to offer our last goodbyes in the earth ,as ashes to ashes reach the dust to dust. In the rain umbrellas sheltered each other in the freezing cold. We gave each other love and warmth as songs burst from the lungs of uncles at the graveside. We were together and always will be, we had our farewell.

I miss you all and think about Vanessa everyday, you pop up on my facebook feed and I see you forever smiling. I am reminded I was there, we said goodbye and also said ‘see you later’ for I know we will meet again. This post is for you and our family – THANK YOU. x

 

Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time in a small village of Quilty

Lived a princess who never knew of her beauty

Her hair and skin as soft as silk

A flower that will never wilt

Perfumed and natural as a rose

The strongest spirit and soul you’ll ever know

Smiling through pain and years of strain

She loved so much that her heart became weak

No medicine could cure the answers you seek

until one day she fell asleep.
Ascend her up high to heaven on a bed of pink roses

Thorns and all for she bears no pain

Let us endure what she did

but have no pity on her

it was never in vain

A life lived to the fullest and to the brim

Weddings ,Christmas and New Years seen in
Her beauty behold for all to see

Vanessa Murihy

Sleep well our love

sleep peacefully now

For we will meet again

Anton your prince is waiting

a kiss upon your lips

We will all deliver you to him

and then you’ll awake in eternal bliss
you never knew just how perfect you were and forever young you’ll stay

In our hearts and memories each and every day.

The oceans tide will rise and fall and yes the sun will set

A community without you is hard but we will never forget and have to accept

Remember her smile and laughter in all its brightness for she feels no pain no more.

Yet
I would walk on broken glass with a smile just to see your face

I would swim in frozen waters to reach you for a tight embrace

I would chase a rainbow until my feet bleed to be with you again

I would walk through fire and not wince just to hear your laughter then

I would take away the grief you all feel just to bring you back

But that would be a fairytale and reality keeps us on track
carry on

Vanessa in our memories that will last happily ever after in the past

Forever young and true

Family

Friendship

Faith your virtues
How lucky we are to have known a girl as such

Your love is so powerful we were all touched.
We will always love you
When you see a pink rose or butterfly think of me

Vanessa Murihy

Star of the Sea

Our

Sleeping Beauty

vanessa

As I drew strength from your smiling face from the picture above your coffin , a spiritual force and strength I’ve never experienced before, something came over me. Vanessa you’ll never believe when I got WiFi at Cooneys I received a message on Grindr from anonymous that ‘the poem I read at your service was beautiful’ that would have made you laugh : I wasn’t the only gay in the village that day ‘ xxxx Playing Matchmaker up in Heaven eh !!! 
. A year on and everyday we wake to another day where we face a world without loved ones who have gone.

 

 

The Irish wake gave me the greatest gift of all, our farewell.

It doesn’t end at the graveside but you carry it by your side always. The journey back home from home leaving the ones you love in their grief is a painful process. An hour away by flight yet the miles delegate the realities of daily life.

————————————————————————–

Yet we must soldier on, what else’s can we do?

————————————————————————–

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in

the hollow of his hand.

I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote directly after Vanessa’s wake:

 

 

 Forget me knots

Wake me up from this nightmare

sleep escaping its grip

emptiness rising up in currents 

Meandering moods, 

quivering lips

Time slowing down the audible ticks

Tocking tugging heaviness to and throw 
Curtains drawn together keeping

Conversations in the darkened silence 

Downward eyes sympathise deposition of 

Of cloudy uncertainty 

They try … It won’t settle 

Broken hearts shattered pieces picked up from the floor fixed back together, never in the same position as before 
Sink sink below into darkness 

Catch me if I fall 

Slipping into cold disarray in a 

Moonlit dull muted Sky, 

the ocean is still

Candles lit and flickered light cries lapping shifty shadows on walls

Rosary beads caressing worried fingers 

Collective responses :Holy Mary Mother of

God at this time

of grief 
Time of Grief 

Time of Grief 

Time of Grief Grief Grief hear us  

And now at the hour of death give us strength in any belief 

Amen times ten 
Sorry for your loss 

Shook hands shaking heads 

Expressions of love as stories unfold in laughter wrapped in envelopes of memories tucked away inside suit pockets

And cigarette packets 

The air is smoky and heavy 

Photographs of you seem distant now

You’re gone some place other than here

Nothing will ever be the same 
Hang a stone around my neck 

Grief weigh me down 

Farrow deep lines in my brow 

Sorrowful tears drown 

Sowing seeds that won’t grow

Into tomorrow 

Damien Arness-Dalton

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Testicular Cancer

(20/04/16) GP informs me I am DISCHARGED form Mount Vernon Hopsital and no longer a cancer patient. A day to celebrate. 

(03/03/15)  marks 10 years from my diagnosis of Testicular Cancer.

I was 22 and in my second year of my degree at :Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
It feels an ancient distance away but I’m reminded through this life affirming experience that my life’s path can lead anywhere, equally that you need to fight and work to get to your destination. You may take a different route or path , it might take you longer than expected, parts rough and smooth, someone might even take your seat,  but eventually you’ll get there or most of the way. Nothing is ever assured and your health is one of the greatest blessings of all. I never and still to this day have been able to process how I actually felt during the time of my treatment and diagnosis. I was so caught up in managing how my family was coping that I never truly had time to listen to my own heart or fall into self loathing. I was numbed by it … The process was a blurry dream. An episode, a drama.

Valentine’s weekend I was having a bath and I had been ignoring the fact that one of my balls had been growing. I thought it might be a hernia but after researching I knew it was something else. When I dropped my boxers the GP looked and gasped audibly. I rolled my eyes and she sent me to hospital with a letter for an ultrasound scan.

In that beige room, the silence of the doctor performing my ultrasound scan told me I had Testicular cancer.
In that singular moment through his silence I was diagnosed. The power of silence can tell you a thousands words and deliver news that no vowels or consonants can ever begin to, through their ability to construct and shape a meaning from air and the movement of our chords and mouths. Silence – utter silence.

I was prodded , examined by numerous Doctors and nurses seeking second professional opinions. Again silence and concerned eyes shifting nervously between medical scribbles and notes out of view… I knew

I remember maintaining a level of calm for my Mum and family, they…understandably were hysterical . Never at any point did I think I was going to die or that my life would be dramatically altered. What I didn’t know is what I specifically had nor how I was going to get rid of it. I had an idea and lacked understanding and medical knowledge of what the impact of Testicular cancer would have on my body.

I was told I needed to stay overnight for further tests and observations. My Mum through being there gave me a strength that I actually held and resonated back to her. Having family take that journey with you can take off a load and make it a collective shared experience. One of security and love. We went through this together, every step of the way. To my Sister in Law, Amber driving me to Mount Vernon Hospital every year and my Mum sending me a text today on one of my final visits to complete my monitoring and surveillance period. Never alone…

As I prepared to stay overnight – a nights stay that lasted two weeks.

I woke up in the morning the matron welcomed me with a smile and pulled the curtain around my bed and held my hand. Her soft touch and lowered comforting tones explained I had a tumor. I nodded like I knew what that was. She never said the word cancer and I’m glad for it. Through her delivery she reassured me that I was extremely lucky to have caught it at such an early stage. It hasn’t spread and it needed to be removed. I was now a statistic

Testicular cancer statistics

Testicular Stats Doughnut

  • 2,207 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011.
  • There were 63 deaths from testicular cancer in the UK in 2012.
  • 98% of adult testicular cancer patients diagnosed in 2010-2011 in England and Wales are predicted to survive ten or more years.
  • Testicular cancer is not clearly linked to any preventable risk factors.

 

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/testis/

 

My masculinity wrapped in soft skin, my ability to procreate and produce Hormones. –
Testosterone – a measure of my manhood.

Masculinity is a biological and social construct as well as being performative. Biologically I was being denied a measure of my masculinity. The removal of one of my ‘symbollock’ icons and symbols would emasculate me and reduce me to become lesser of a man.  Those were my initial thoughts, I was worried my body image and manhood would somewhat be compromised and be altered to a negative effect.

The Orchiectomy operation was invasive and my recovery was one of the most painful and excruciating agonising- the most pain I have ever felt in my life. I had the best dreams on morphine yet it didn’t take away the pain .. not nearly enough. I remember whilst recovering my cousin Louise came to visit me,she walked in with a beaming smile and ….whack dropped her handbag on my one little remaining soldier of a testicle and on my scar tissue where they had removed it from above near my thigh.  Through the pain of that operation, all I remember the most and the memories I hold on to is the number of people, friends and family who came to visit me. Their faces gave the boost and love I needed for recovery… not drugs. I’m so greatful for that x

Once I had recovered from the whirlwind of an operation and was recovering at home,  I experienced the best and most rigid hard on’s and erections I have ever experienced. The removal of one testicle and my new internal workings had been tied up nicely…. This soon wore off and I was still able to function and produce sufficiently on one bad boy. I was grateful to be alive.

I had to learn to accept a new version of me –IMG_9466

As a precautionary measure I was treated with a single dose of  Carboplatin – My Mum took me to Mount Vernon Cancer Treatment Centre to have my Chemotherapy. Sitting in that chair, and being injected with a warming bleaching liquid … I experienced a deep profound relationship with mortality and realisation of the limitations of our bodies. I was surrounded by death. It was a medicinal yet spiritual experience, one that I embraced, accepted and was greatful for.  I was one of the lucky ones, I was having this as a precaution and not as a fighting chance to experience another month or few months. I felt like an impostor…. and I still feel guilty every time, once a year I enter that hospital. With the sure knowledge I am cured and I have beat cancer, when I queue up for my blood tests and I see Mums wearing headscarfs and old men in wheel chairs. When I have my x-rays and I sit next to those struggling with cancer, tired and exhausted, I feel guilt. It’s our bodies that imprison us, our life force , soul and spirit can be the strongest of all and yet we are limited by the cards of health that nature deals. We all have our path and the Universe throws things our way. It can also set us free.

Whether you believe in God or not, my faith was never tested but strengthened through this experience. My Mum gave me the best gift of all – hope and the knowledge that everything will be alright ‘It’s all in his plan’,  ‘he always provides’ and ‘leave your worries with him’. As a ‘cultural Catholic’ I prayed, and through prayer I gained strength. As I have grown and my relationship with the institution of the Catholic Church has departed . I am a Humanist and believe in the power of love from one human to another in acts of kindness and love, the very foundations and morals my own faith has given me and still gives me. I still hold on to my faith proudly.

Before my Chemotherapy I was asked by my Dr if I ever wanted children. My answer was … one day I would love to bring into this world my own flesh and blood and share my love and to have a legacy. Initially I felt it wasn’t something that was open to me as a gay man.  I had the opportunity to have my sperm put on ice before the chemo – to preserve any future chances of being able to procreate. As I entered the small wanking cubicle to spill out the contents of my one remaining testicle, I remember looking at the porn and wank mags thinking – what about me? what about gay men? why isn’t there gay porn?  Do we not have the ability or right to procreate? I folded up the mag and hid her flesh from view and concentrated on him —- crack … there ya go.

My sperm is still on ice and It will be there for another 10 years.

My decision to have a prosthesis after my operation, meant I would be able to balance the books, swing two snooker balls in that sock – fill those briefs. I was on a waiting list for months and finally on the day I arrived at St Mary’s hospital with my Mum and sat in the cubicle in my dressing gown;The surgeon came in and asked if I was ready? At this point I wasn’t aware they would reopen the initial wound and put in an ‘average plastic sized ball’ I took one look at my Mum and I looked deep within. Did I need this? was it even worth it? >all that pain for what? to have a plastic shaped object in my ball sack? just so I can mask and hide the fact that one was removed? what exactly was I replacing? or hiding?  nothing…

Why did I feel the need for this? because it was an option? or because it reconstructive?

There is no replacing what was taken. It was cancerous. The skin, scar and empty void serves to remind me of my story. It is my body as it is now and at that moment when I looked up at my Mum< I had won my fight – I was whole. I was Damien who had cancer and was comfortable in myself, body, mind and spirit. It’s our choices that define us and that was a life defining moment of self acceptance.

I didn’t need a fake ball to make me feel any more of a man – I am a man. I won this and I have my trophy and I love who I am.

“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

“We all came into this world naked. The rest is all drag.”
RuPaul

 

I dedicate this post to my Uncle Micheal, Amber’s Dad and my friend Peter.  To Yosra who wanted me to write and contribute to her project on sharing experiences with cancer. well here it is – I finally got around to it. I miss you all x  Not forgetting …you reading this – we all have family and friends who are touched and experience cancer. I have learnt to love more, smile more and shine positively so others can see the strength in your spirit and to inspire others through having a good heart.

 

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It was never a battle really but a conversation I had with cancer – I have one year left on my observation and this is a chapter of my life I will close but undoubtedly it has shaped me into who I am today. I finished my degree and I was adamant I wouldn’t let anything hold me back, I graduated with my dearest friends with a high  2:1 degree. I learnt the value of family and friendship and that we all carry stories and triumphs. When I smile at a stranger on the tube, or in acts of kindness you connect to humanity. When I make a child laugh and smile through my work in education and create positive learning experiences – its these moments that make me feel alive. When the sun hits my face in the morning and I feel rain on my fingertips and I shiver in the cold – I am greatful to feel and be here.

To all my friends and family , thank you x

To the NHS and staff , thank you x

Live Your Life

FAMILY FRIENDSHIP AND FAITH

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. We must do that which we think we cannot.” 

COMING OUT

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My Mum presented me with this book, a collection of poems and scribbles I made 15 years ago. I was 17 and discovering who I was. I wrote two poems that read in retrospection, as a deep profound silence and a sense of frustration and an understanding of me being gay and not yet having the ability or voice to communicate it.

poem

Incomplete

Incomplete is this song written
Tasteless is this apple bitten
Stiff and rythemless the dance I tread
The chapel empty as the couple wed
Odurless is the perfume you wear
A horror movie unable to scare
Faded are the petals of this rose
A model without a pose
A heated body without a sweat
My desire for you never kept
Big Ben without its chime
This poem without a ryhme

Damien Arness Dalton, 2000

Silent Scream

Yet another day my secret is kept
My heart weeps with the threat
Of exposure to the world of identity
Following the crowd I lag behind
My spirit my mentality I wish to find
This road I have taken is without choice
However discovery will be my voice
Yet another day my secret is kept

Damien Arness Dalton 2000

Reading these now as 32 year old man, I am essentially the same person yet I am complete. I love my life and the choices I have made. I find it fascinating that you can change so much in so little time. Working at The Houses of Parliament it feels like a self fulfilled prophecy, everyday when I walk into work I am greeted by Big Ben’s chimes. They remind me I am late, my achievements and that I am alive.. I hear its chime and its beautiful imperfect tone and it’s cracked bell makes me feel life is full of imperfections.  What makes me feel complete? – is love.

Discovery gave me a voice, I am no longer silent about my sexuality.. I never placed any value on these poems when my Mum presented them to me the other day. Teenage scribbles, however they represent who I was then and how much my Mum placed value on that experience and my writing, that part of my childhood and my memories was important to keep. I was a different person then, and to have kept a scrap book for prosperity fills me with the deepest gratitude and love that my Mum cherished these and saw their significance in my own social history and story. Its only until I read these back this morning through a different lens that I reached deep into my past through the eyes of gay man. Its a reflective experience in the knowledge that there is light through –  coming out, there is a world awaiting for you after all the anxiety, fear and silence.

Without Mum, I would’nt have been able to grow into who I am today. I am your creation, I am your boy who grew into a man. Your flesh and blood and through your love and understanding I came out. Forever connected in that moment.

Marching alongside you in Gay Pride was one of the proudest moments in my life. Not because I was celebrating or advocating my sexuality and freedom but because you were beside me.

I wasn’t marching for being proud to be gay that day, I was marching proud in the knowledge that I was your son.

I am proud of you Mum.

I love you forever and always.


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My coming out story

After waiting on the results of my HIV test in the days of your blood being sent away to a lab taking a whole week – (modern techniques and advances in medicine now reveal your status in 15 minutes) The lengthy wait created inner turmoil for me, that week was hell and resulted in me coming out. Equally those 15 minutes now seem like a lifetime and a short window into what effectively paves the rest of your life.

Somewhere in Kensal Green at my kitchen table – Aged 17

Mum: Damien you’ve been acting pretty strange and you’ve not been yourself this week- what’s wrong ?
Closet Damien: I can’t say, I can’t evan look at you.
Mum: You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong.
……
Have you killed someone?
Closet Damien: For Fuck sake Mum! (Laugh)
Gay Damien: …. I’M GAY
Mum: NO GRANDCHILDREN ;-( … I ALWAYS KNEW – WE LOVE YOU.

You can never forget the moment you ‘verbally came out’ I wasn’t outed or blackmailed. The words leaving your mouth feel so familiar yet foreign to family dialogues of sofa & table conversations. It felt empowering to say the words, though their intention was an omission of Catholic Guilt and confessional rather than affirmation or making a statement. The exchange between my mum and I, reads off like a script. It’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
WHY?
It’s the moment I felt whole and complete, accepted by the very people I loved the most. If my parents would accept me then I felt I had a chance others would too…

My Mums soft hands and gentle touch, her embrace and understanding of that momentous yet minuscule flow of words that erupted from within me, mark a moment in my life when I CAME OUT.

When did you come out? and to who? What was the experience like? 

From the ritual of breaking your secret, that dark deviant seal of guilt breaks and the chains drop as the weight you carry lifts it’s load. From the seconds you reveal your true self an epiphany occurs.

Did I become someone new? Or did I open up a part that always existed, another layer to my identity that peeled back.

I came out on numerous occasions, I just didn’t know it.

  1. The £130 itemised phone bill presented to me by my Mum with MALEFORCE the gay sex phone line numbers scattered throughout it.
  2. When I came home and discovered I had a new bed. I felt enraged as my stash of gay porn, a rubber gimp mask and my rubber vest and shorts were hidden under the Divan base were left in a bin bag in the garden. My Mum said ‘I put your stuff in the garden Damien’. I felt wounded by the invasion of privacy, yet that moment enabled me to ‘own’ the embarrassment. Hence the ability to embarrass me falls hard.
  3. When my ‘friends’ stayed over night from college and my Dad and Mum would wink at each other.
  4. My younger brother creating a desktop collage of gay porn on the family computer – That’s when he explained how to delete your internet history – what a cunt ! Those nights of creeping down stairs and dialing up into the world wide sticky web of porn and gaydar chats.. I had no idea my brother saw the snail trail I left.
  5. This photo…

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5. When I asked best friend out to dinner and she thought I was going to ask her out and I said I need to tell you something ….. ‘I am Gay’ and she froze and excused herself and went to the toilet for 15 minutes.

6. That time I wore a purple satin suit to my work Christmas party and everyone laughed and knew I was gay yet I did’nt.

The construction of my identity cannot be sourced from the action of me coming out. I did not become gay that singular moment nor did I feel I had to conform to an idea of what ‘gay’ was or meant.

What does being gay actually mean in real terms?

The attraction to the same sex?
Listening to Kylie?
Fucking hating Musicals with a passion? I mean Loving them – I am a gay….
I hate them – ‘What kind of gay are you?’ they say///

What kind of gay am I ?

EXACTLY – MY POINT 

Arguably some feel they have to perform their new found freedom of their sexuality within a language that exists, referencing the status quo – through music, fashion, and behaviors.

But is this performing what we THINK being GAY is and not what being GAY ACTUALLY IS….

Not only did I have to begin to understand that I was openly gay now, I had the challenge of learning to be gay within the gay community itself. Essentially coming out… to then come in – A coming IN ritual now took its place.

Living in a world of binaries – you cannot simply shift between the two without holding the residue – our experiences shape us and our environments also enable us to grow. i view my sexuality as being fluid. Not one then another – I always WAS.

My journey into my gayness was one of entering a particular landscape and experiencing….

THE SCENE

My first gay bar I ventured into was The Village in Soho and I hated and despised every single thing about it.
Skanky oiled men on the bars, Awkward bar shape and an uncomfortable claustrophobic atmosphere. Not only that, I felt I wasn’t represented… nor did I fit in here. After all the years of waiting – was this fucking it ? !! I put so much on this awakening to be let down….

No expectations, no disappointment.

I then discovered Ghetto and G-A-Y, these fueled with cheap drinks and alternative music and a demographic of men I could work with. I lived in Astoria, memories of barmen pulling £1.50 cans of Strongbow out of bins filled with ice. The room upstairs that played R&B and cheese.
Ghetto created a creative platform for Nu Rave and electronic alternative music. Drunk as a skunk I remember hearing Peaches ‘Fuck the pain away’ and I lost my mind. The fruit flies dancing around the toilets gave me a smile as I reveled in its skankness. A temple that was untouched – until cross-rail fucked that pain away.

Heaven under the arches with its characters – The colonel with his stick and cane full of naughty beans and sweets.

I know looking back my journey was one of discovery, I never particularly felt i was any of those boyz in the magazines – but on reflection I am glad I wasn’t and ironically I am now – snapped in East Bloc or in XXL on a blue moon. I have found my place within the scene- The Eagle, The RVT, Dalston Superstore, The Glory, The Duke of Wellington and Comptons…. I like what works for me not what I think I should want or need…

That’s the best advice I can give anyone ‘coming out’ or ‘coming in’ is explore what you like doing and what you want from it. Don’t let the scene or your prescribed ideas lead you to thinking you should be or act in a certain way. There is no right way to be gay – there is no tick-box or prescription you need fulfill.

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There is no right way to come out – there is only one way – YOUR WAY

I am forever indebted to my friend Steve Edwards who was the first gay man to ever friend me and my family for being so supportive. The person I loved and love dearly Michelle, my first love, my girlfriend – I have never expressed this before but you taught me what love and understanding was. We were young, I was young and you allowed me to discover myself and take my journeys path. I am fortunate that you are part of that journey, nothing is ever black and white and you prove that.

I’m very aware my experience was positive and that people live in constant fear of other people’s social attitudes towards their sexuality. I am fortunate enough to have a family of love and support. Not only that but to live in The United Kingdom where my love is recognised and protected. 

Thanks to lgbt legislation my rights are protected as a UK citizen. It was only in 1967 when The Sexual Offences Act was passed emanicapting acts of love between men ‘in private’. I came out in a time when my rights were protected. I can’t imagine how fabulous and equally challenging it must have been for those before me to ‘come out’. 

Thanks to those who protested and shaped that change I amongst many others can live a life without persecution from the state.

I pray one day we shall have a universal attitude and social and political shift towards acceptance so many more trapped in the closet will be free from the confines of fear.

In the past we were confined to urinals ,cruising publicity and hiding with secret codified languages as not to be persecuted in our deviency. Today in 2016 we hold the world and the cruise beneath our fingertips. Smart phones have created a landscape for younger generations to explore their sexuality online.  Sitting here in Ireland, the first country to hold a referendum on Marriage Equility the nearest gayer is miles away yet the collective consciousness of the country has shifted from the grasp of the Catholic Church and hopefully will smooth the coming out of many Irish lads. Being half Irish my coming out here at ‘home’ was a later one. I rang Nanny who is 93 and said thank you for voting YES for gay marriage and she replied ‘Go away with that… IT’s MY DUTY’. What a liberating experience and how fortunate to have such a loving family. 

One final thought, although I think you should all know this by now ….. 

‘I’m GAY ‘ 

Come out come out where ever you are 

Love yourself
Be who you are
Love others
Be your true self

‘Being gay doesn’t define me!’ Discuss ..

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http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_home/coming_out/

A stiletto to your head

Smear away the make up that hides
your homophobic smiles
Let the performance curtain rise, hot
red velvet against the blackness of your eyes;
To Reveal and expose the venomous Chorus of your lies.
Unrehearsed lines, improvised cries.
Tears are thicker than the blood splashing from the wounds you inflict with the sharpness of your tongue.
An audience of one.
Each word stabbing through the air with theatrical precision.
Equilibrium unresolved in this narrative of old.
The fear of the unknown.
( a stiletto is thrown )
exit stage end scene.

Damien Arness-Dalton

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STONEWALL RIOT in my kitchen – with my little brother.

In 2014 I attended the protest outside 10 Downing St about the Winter Olympics and the build up of LGBT tensions and treatment in Russia. The day after I saw a news article about it and had an argument with my younger brother about Putin and Russian Homophobic laws , he sympathised with Putin. We had a huge argument at the kitchen table in front of my Mum and we didn’t speak for two weeks. He sent a text (below) and this is my response – the only way to reason was to educate and inform. I wrote ‘A stiletto to your head’ poem after this experience.

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TEXT MESSAGE; Steven-

Hey damo,
Our conversation the other day came out all wrong; sorry I came off sounding like a dickhead. Please let me explain a few things. I have never had a problem with you being gay nor will I till the day I die nor do I think that god thinks of you any differently for being gay. Damo your my brother and I love you with all my heart, with you being gay all I focus on is your safety in this world because I know how the hetro community feels about gays and I hate it. With Putin and “gay propaganda” I support him in the fact that openly promoting gayness in the mass media of a 90% hetro population is dangerous for gay people. Damo I understand that being gay is not a choice and I understand the gay community has a rough time from cradle to grave; god has dealt you a hand that requires extreme patience, tolerance and acceptance. Most people now understand gay life but it is the open promotion of gay life that is causing hatred towards gay people. When the hetro population are shown gay life in movies, TV, music, magazines, schools, churches and are told that being homosexual is normal you create fear, hate, anxiety and violence towards gays from the hetro community. Should gay people hide who they are? No of course not but damo understand that in this world there are rules. The hetro population are 90%, I know its shit but they make the rules. If you push against them with mass gay media they will push back a million times harder. I think about you a lot damo but you need to understand what gay media is doing to hurt gays. Of course gay life should teach but there is a time and place for it in this hetro dominated world. Sorry for going on about god as well, my point about god, man and women was to show you the hetro mentality, man and women. That is why there will always be fear, hatred in the hetro world against gays if you openly promote the opposite. Just human nature damo doing its thing. If you need to talk anytime about anything let me know, love you bro

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Sent from my iPhone

EMAIL – RESPONSE

Hey bro,
Our conversation the other day was upsetting and you came across more like a homophobe than a dickhead. Let me explain a few things. I am writing this not to be argumentative or condescending, it’s because I love you. I have never had a problem with you being heterosexual or will I till the day I die (although having a gay brother may be competitive and equally fabulous) God, if you believe in Him, created me, so why would he think differently of his own creation? He/ She/It… is perfect right?
You are my brother and I love you with all my heart, I worry about your safety all the time being my little brother, being a man I can always defend myself. I can’t speak for the whole of the gay community but we feel the hetro community: some like us and some may not. I respect that. Hating someone for simply being who they are, I do not respect that. So you support this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-KfROu8AaU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWCmBAK1nGg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xac7t38iJDA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59WCKaKqjKY

I wouldn’t support anyone who would beat you up for being heterosexual. The open promotion of heterosexuality in the mass media, is it dangerous to you? Is it suffocating to gays? The debate continues on my gayness being a choice, with nature and nurture but if I had to choose I’d be gay every single time, why? Because it’s not an affliction nor do I see it as defining me as a person. It’s a part of my existence; I am Damien who happens to be gay. My sexuality doesn’t define me, it shapes me, it is me and we change all the time around our environment and by the culture and society we exist in. My lifestyle and gay friends and my gay family are the very core of my being, not only do they understand me but its love that binds us together under a colourful fabulous unified rainbow. Gay every time bro, I have the best life and the best people around me, gay and straight ,bit bent, young and old rich and broke. Homophobia and people hating us because of who we love ‘requires extreme patience, tolerance and acceptance’ Its not being gay that gives us a hard time like you mentioned it’s the hatred towards US for being gay. Seeing all those sexualised men and women together in the mass media, surely that’s confusing to gays? After all we are bombarded with these images everyday with Heterosexual promotion overload. Would you hide your sexuality or be happy to refrain from ‘promoting’ it. Visibility and representation in the media is a positive thing, without it, we cease to exist and do not have a voice. Imagine a world where you didn’t see yourself being represented, hear or read about others like you? Imagine a world where you knew about ‘others’ but had no information, or you are denied access to learn about them? And are taught that they are different and wrong. That would be a lonely, confusing dark place.

. .’Most people now understand gay life but it is the open promotion of gay life that is causing hatred towards gay people. When the hetro population are shown gay life in movies, TV, music, magazines, schools, churches and are told that being homosexual is normal you create fear, hate, anxiety and violence towards gays from the hetro community. Should gay people hide who they are? No of course not but damo understand that in this world there are rules. The hetro population are 90%,’

If most people understand gay life then why on earth would you want to support pushing me back into the shadows? Let me hide all the photos of me in the house, all the colourful jackets and hats out of sight because god forbid that’s a promotion of my sexuality to any one who comes to our home. My niece may see me in a photo with another man, that would confuse her. Gay representation in movies and the media can be seen in two lights, one the stereotyping and archetype of gays or the other positive representation and visibility of gays. We create our own movies, have our own subculture and to take that away would be like cutting off both my hands and the very tongue out of my mouth.
Margaret Thatcher created fear, hate, anxiety and violence towards gays when she in 1988 enacted Section 28.The amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. This act swept us under the carpet and gave birth to a generation of young people who couldn’t speak about gays or understood gays. Not only that but it enforces the idea that homosexuality was wrong and unaccepted. Therefore by placing these laws like Putin has, you create fear and homophobia and you TEACH people to hate us.

‘LGBT people living in the UK, particularly young people, continue to face homophobia in their everyday lives. Research has shown that two thirds of young gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying in Britain’s schools. 92 percent of 1,145 lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils reported being subject to verbal abuse,’ http://www.avert.org/homophobia.htm

.’Schools, churches and are told that being homosexual is normal you create fear, hate.’

That my brother is wrong. Define Normal for me because I would like to know. Homosexuality is the love for someone of the same sex, love is human and natural. Homosexual is as normal as the Victorian classification of defining it. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825–95) grouped us together in order to identify us. The word heterosexual was born from our classification, therefore we define you just as much as you define what you are not …. Hating, repression and oppression for me are not normal, liking men with hot beards, that’s normal. Love is normal and natural; you said it yourself at Lee and Sophie’s wedding.

‘All we want is love, to love and be loved’

Don’t you want to live in a country where your brother can be himself and find love without being beaten up because of it?

‘Should gay people hide who they are? No of course not but Damo understand that in this world there are rules. The hetro population are 90%, I know its shit but they make the rules’

So I should be free to express my sexuality and be open about it? Yet with these laws you support impose, that I shouldn’t be able to express my sexuality… because there are rules? Isn’t that a contradiction? Where did you get the 90% figure from? There is no figure on record of the number Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer people in this world. Sexuality is fluid and fluctuating, a figure is preposterous. Therefore the minority and majority, ‘us’ and ‘them’ does not justify treating each other with indifference and inequality.

‘I know its shit but they make the rules’

Adolf Hitler (17 million deaths): Concentration camps and civilians in WWII.
Jozef Stalin (23 million deaths): The great purges and Ukraine’s famine.
Vladimir Putin —————————————————————————————


Take a history lesson, Slavery, Women’s Rights, the Suffragette Movement, Workers Rights, Socialism, Civil Rights, Fascism the Holocaust and Communism… surely we can learn from these about equality and the struggle to find it. If our ancestors stayed quiet and accepted it because ‘they make the rules’ and ‘nature doing its thing’ then I wouldn’t want to live in this world. I am thankful for to those who struggled before me so I can have some of the freedoms I have today, yet you support taking us back to the times we had to fight for them. And even today in 2013 we are still fighting for our freedoms and to be treated equally.

It is society and culture that makes the rules in any democracy, politicians are gays too. On 14 May 2012, New Zealand, Labour Party MP Louisa Wall stated that she would introduce a private member’s bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, allowing same-sex couples to marry, she was a gay MP and passed a law, guess what? For… equality.

If you push against them with mass gay media they will push back a million times harder.

Push me and pin me down and I will push back just as hard, I will throw wigs and stilettos at you ‘Stonewall riots’ in New York, look it up.. It is widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States. That’s what happens you suppress people and ostracise them, they fight back also.

‘I think about you a lot damo but you need to understand what gay media is doing to hurt gays. Of course gay life should teach but there is a time and place for it in this hetro dominated world.’

It’s not the media that hurts gays. Its attitudes towards gay people that are ill informed and are bred from fear and lack of understanding. It’s a law like the one you support that teaches people that gay people are fringes in our society. You take away my existence and voice then you reinforce those laws and that hurts me.

From my heart I love you and we may never agree on this, but I want you to know that I do not support the idea of suppressing and violently oppressing anyone for their beliefs or for their choices in who they love. Just imagine it was illegal to be homosexual Until 1967 in the UK, imagine going to jail for kissing and loving a woman.

I am always here if you need to talk anytime and to learn more about the struggles of gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender and queers.

Love you bro

pro·mo·tion
[ prə mṓsh’n ]
Advancement in position: advancement to a more senior job or a higher rank, grade, or position
Encouragement for activity: encouragement of the growth or development of something
Something that promotes: something such as an advertising campaign that is designed to promote a product, cause, or organization

prop·a·gan·da
[ pròppə gándə ]
Publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause
Misleading publicity: deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread
Synonyms: slanted, distorted, one-sided, polemical, partisan, extremist, manipulative

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Offend

I wrote this poem after a work meeting where we discussed ideas to go on a graphic wall to display acts of protest in context of how people can work to create change. I suggested The Marriage Equality Act  as a public movement that pushed for a change in legislation and a colleague said ‘We need to be careful we do not offend anybody here’ ….

 

Offend

I’m sorry my fight and struggle for equality offends you.
My brothers and sisters footsteps and tears wept are a debt that needs to be kept
In my heart and on your conscience. You cannot smear their existence or words because your own values blur morality with a belief systematic to your own detriment.
Equality and fairness for you is easily spent yet we have to strive and earn it’s privilege. It’s a costly purchase and a timely transaction through action. A currency passed through many hands, a wealth you cannot quantify nor begin to understand.
Freedom is not free
I don’t need your validation yet I won’t accept your failure to recognise the protest and unrest.
I’ll always keep it close to my heart
I’ll be more quiet and subdued in my activism for you. Let’s start.
shhhhhhhhh
Don’t want people to see or hear
For fear
Of offence
Don’t sit on the fence
Stand up stand tall
Scream from your lungs and be proud and tell your stories LOUD
IF I offend you I’m glad
For there is change to be had.
Don’t be scared I’ll listen to your act of contrition. I have faith I never offended …it was you.
I accept your apology for those who came before me.
I’d hate to offend you, it was never my intention.

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Gay Pride Parade in London

Bootylicious

Bears, can you handle this?
Gay Scene, can you handle this?
Twinks can you handle this?
I don’t think you can handle this !!!!!!!

Who are you?
What scene are you in?

Who do you identify with?

How would you describe being a part of the gay scene? Where do you feel you fit in? or most identify with? I never felt I had a place in the scene when I came out. I was a spotty fat gay teenager. I lost weight and lost my acne – I then found R&B….my CD collection of Destiny’s Child, 702, Missy, Brownstone, Mariah, Whitney, Sisqo, and too many to mention gave me life. The rhythm that moved me and fed my ego and inner fire created me.

I have been fortunate to see in concert live
Michael Jackson
Janet Jackson
Mariah Carey
Puffy, 112, Lil Kim, Junior Mafia, Carl Thomas, Bad boy tour
Missy Elliot
Amerie
Destiny’s Child
Beyoncé x4
Erykah Badu
Brandy
Kelis
Stevie Wonder
Alexandra Oneil
Gill Scott
Jagged Edge
Gwen Mc Crae
Soul II Soul
So many more to mention – But music made me, and music undoubtedly influenced the way I dressed and my environment.

I found my vice, I found my choice and my voice.

Indicative of my love for music of Black origin it utterly shaped me and my desires.

I saw a window into a world I identified with. I may not be the same colour but my core related. My Irish side enabled me to be cheeky, free and gain a confidence through having a huge family.

I looked to the Black Gay Scene.

Arguably the gay scene is for everyone regardless of colour or creed or disability. The pack mentality and community will always limit us yet suffice to enable those to come together in commonality and in cultural understanding of each other’s journey and destination.

We all want to fit in- some of us like to think we are original but we always reference those who came before or who inspire us subconsciously.

The ‘Black Gay Scene’ not only welcomed me but shaped my character and gave me a family. As I’ve grown into my thirties I understand deeply ‘who I am’ and my circles shift and sway as the inevitable social subcultures of bears and beards congregate and mix together. The hair on my face and my waist size shouldn’t dictate my social circle or define me :yet it does – in an attempt to label and categorise do we limit ourselves to an identity or is it simply a way for us to exercise our desires?
I often question where do I fit? The overlap between our own communities may be somewhat blurred. My answer to that question is that ; I belong not to the scene or a particular section of it… But to my friends and my family I have made along the way.
One of my first boyfriends Sean opened up a world –
Wednesdays at Heaven – whining my waist to Missy Eliot and Beanie Man. The eternal guest lists that I now feel I have earned through loyalty and friendships but back then I felt fabulous on his arm. Walking through the club he would say hello to everyone one and his mother. Infamy comes with having a presence on the scene. The kiss of Jeffrey the DJ was always club etiquette and an integral part of the night.
Bootylicious was always a highlight for me, and a big part of the community having a space and a collective experience in their love for music but fundamentally serving to celebrate the ethnicity of their sexuality. Our sexuality. Here I was a white boy, thought I was the fucking bees knees – always wearing something new head to toe – fresh trainers and caps. Beneath all the drag of my urban ness I felt a part of the scene, I looked the part and danced the part. Essentially what made me feel a part of the ‘Black
Gay Scene’ was that I felt like family. My friends Sel, Wayne, Danny, Gene , Stewart and Michelle …we would meet by Vauxhall and carry on. Drinking vodka and orange cracking joke and ‘ki ki’ ing – cussing and reading each other for filth
and passers by. Selburn taught me to read and how to throw shade. My sister – GURL who through friendship taught me – loyalty and values that I hold dear.
Staggering to the door at booty I’d always be greeted with a huge smile and a kiss on cheek by Mark. That’s family , a warm welcome and a genuine happiness to see you.
Sugabear, Kaz, Tyrone and Calvin always a hello and a carry on.
The clubs were always fun but the Blues Parties, House Parties , all night raves were great memories. Rice and peas, empty dark rooms with people lining the walls. Rum punch and Guinness punch that creeps up on you and kicks you in your backside. You’d always find family and friends to say hello to. You’d always be on the look out for that cute one – or looking at crotches for MAPPA WOOD.
Sean threw a big big party for my 25th a marque tent and all my friends and family came and the noise protection bludkarts.
Kudos is gone, the velvet rooms gone, that short lived bar in Camden gone. Venues that gave a home to black gay men and women and their admirers. I’ve seen the scene shift and change. Maybe we are more integrated? In an internet online generation where segregated bars no longer need to exist. Or is it a case that we fail to acknowledge other cultures within our community ?
Bootylicious, Thomas and Patrick Lilly have created and maintain an existence and a space that I believe needs to be grown and remains.

Batty man chi chi
I will always have that ghetto white boy inside me. From cutting my eye or kissing my teeth. From being blunt and direct to warming and welcoming and introducing myself to people in the room I don’t know or who don’t know me. From going to blues parties and being a part of the family I have grown to be multifaceted.

I owe a lot to the black gay scene

My first experiences in New York was in the Black Gay Scene. I went over and stayed with Phill, who was kind enough to show me his world. Downtown Brooklyn he took me and gave me a small D gold letter chain. I still have it. That’ symbolised for me an exchange – love and friendship. I have so much to thank him for. Staying in Brooklyn at Aaron’s or with Chris in Crown Heights. I went to a Ball with Father Tommy La-beija. It was a lesson in life and an experience I will never forget. Vogueing, TENS ACROSS THE BOARD. Being gay and white in NYC in the black gay scene gave me an understanding of social history and the significance to American civil rights and the realities of multicultural Britain. Being half Irish in London and growing up with Carnival it was part of my existence and shaped my musical influences and the very way I dressed and acted.

I know my roots, I know who I was then – a young white boy ,
Polite and shady. The only thing that has changed is that I know who I am
now. Never be ashamed of an old photograph, let the initial flood of embarrassment grow into pride. That photo of me looking like a chav or a fat geek : THATS ME. Reclaim and own yourself and be free in the knowledge that that photograph is your past reaching out into the present. Be proud of your journey and where you have come from. My friendship is colourless, my love limitless and through the people I surround myself with- they help me grow.

I’d like to think the future will see a gay scene that celebrates and accommodates to all sections of our community. More mixture and more colours that celebrate the very flag that represents us and our freedom. My use of ‘Gay Black Scene’ may seem dated in the future – I hope so.

An open letter to the ‘Black Gay Scene’ I thank you for shaping me
I thank you for my memories and laughter
I thank you for welcoming me like family
And finally thanks for being my family.
Love Damien

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http://www.bootylicious-club.co.uk

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