'Coming out is not a single-shot event – it goes on all the time'

Mike Blackmore, 43

Being brought up in the fifties was no help at all when it came to sorting out my sexuality. Social and family pressures required an almost complete suppression of it – people spoke in hushed tones and apologised if it became necessary to mention the subject.

I found it strange that my male classmates seemed attractive, and was horrified to learn that the characteristic was considered 'queer'. To add to my confusion my interest in girls seemed about the same as the other boys, but I felt that I had more respect for girls than they did. They treated them as objects and made remarks based on sexual innuendo in their hearing. Several gay relationships came and went, but by the time I reached my mid twenties my overwhelming need was to be a parent, and for this reason, as well as the fact that it was expected of you, I eventually married.

For ten years we struggled to make the marriage work, but the storms and tempest grew beyond our control and we divorced, not on an issue concerning sexual relationships, but simply because we had grown to dislike one another.

Two sons were born during our early years together, and for three years after the divorce I saw the boys about three or four times in each year – they had moved to Cornwall and I was still living in Bristol then.

During this time I had come to believe that I was gay – I told family and friends that I was gay and become involved in gay politics and activities. But the process of self-awareness – consciousness raising – went on from there. Acknowledging myself as gay was a big step, a tremendous step forward and brought me much happiness in having overcome what had seemed to be haunting shadows of sill-suppression of all those years, but somehow it didn't quite fit. It was rather like taking a much loved overcoat from the wardrobe after ,,simmer storage – it kept the wind from my bones but was somehow light across the shoulders.

On 28th April 1983, the Gay Community Organisation held its National Council in Hastings and I attended on behalf of Gaywest, the west country gay group. There I met Roger, who very soon became a central figure in my life and became a regular visitor to Bristol. He met the children in September of that year, by which time we had already planned that I would accept the offer of voluntary redundancy from my work, where I was unhappy anyway, and move to St. Leonards, near Hastings, to set up home with Roger.

The boys' mother had set up home with another man immediately after our divorce in what had been our home. They had another child and eventually married when his divorce was granted several years later.

The relationship between Roger and myself must have been more obvious than we thought, because on his return home the elder boy recounted all the details about 'Daddy's queer friends'. Unknown to us, he had taken it upon himself to search Roger's luggage and found his diary, and all this was recounted to a delighted mother and step-father – they had been looking for some way of preventing access since the divorce. Since then I have not been able to see either child or speak to them except once, when the elder, encouraged by his mother, made an abusive telephone call to me, and reversed the charges! Their adoption by their mother and step father has taken place and there is nothing that I can do that will make it possible to see them again, at least until they are old enough to make their own choices.

I was with Roger for over eighteen months and during this time I felt a need to identify as bisexual. Coming out is not a singleshot event – it goes on all the time. Corning out to oneself is the first step, followed by coming out to others if you need to. Self awareness and consciousness-raising about ourselves and others need to continue if we are to develop as individuals.

Roger and I made a decision very early in our relationship that we would be non-monogamous (or non-monotonous as we prefer to call it). I find that I relate to people as themselves, as individuals, not specifically as 'sex objects' and I feel that this has heightened my awareness of other people's needs and feelings. It is not just a matter of sex or physical attraction – it is an emotional and physical need to share parts of myself with various other people and for a time be part of their life.

Despite the sadness which hangs over me because of the loss of my children, coming to terms with bisexuality did bring me a sense of peace and tranquillity that was missing before. I value this sense of self-understanding as a hard won prize. I have been greatly helped by being involved in setting up and running the Married Gays Support Group, which sets out to help all bisexuals whether married or not, as well as married gays and lesbians and their spouses, and divorced gays. I have also been helped by the friendship I have received from the London Bisexual Group and by playing a part in CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and the Gay Humanist Group. I see as a priority the need to evolve an open society without the divisive and damaging polarisations which exist at present.

In my own life I see the change continuing. I now feel that my journey through the 'minority parts of my nature' came about as an emotional reaction to the shock and despair at the ending of my marriage. Bisexuality is in me all right but it would probably have gone unacknowledged if circumstances had been different. Although parted, Roger and I are still friends and, who knows, he might one day be best man at my second wedding. But I doubt if he would agree somehow!

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