Comment: Growing up gay in rural Britain

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Teenager Justin Allen writes for PinkNews on the challenges of growing up gay in the countryside.

Trying to have a successful teenage fling living in a place where literally the greatest thing that’s happened in about a hundred years has been the opening of a community shop (which sells all manner of country fare – it’s rather lovely you should visit).

I was talking about this with a friend of mine from London. He was explaining the concept of a “f**k buddy”, someone who you can just call up and they’ll come over and have beautiful casual sex with you no strings attached.

Now there are several obstacles to this living in a rural county, the first being public transport. I live in a tiny village, so tiny people from the city don’t believe these places still exist. The nearest bus stop is about five miles away from me, and trains, well don’t even go there the nearest train station might as well be in Wolverhampton for all the use it is. So if I wanted a hook-up,  I’d have to get my Dad to drive me to the nearest bus stop, and if that f**k buddy didn’t live on the bus route probably walk two miles through a pile of cow manure before I actually reached their house. This is of course missing out the fact that buses in my county are totally bizarre. The last time I went on the bus, a man known in local folklore as the “bus king” was telling a girl from my school that she like Eve “was a temptress”.

I’m not saying we should look to improve transport in rural areas merely to help people have the odd casual fling – I’m sure it’d also really help small businesses have a wider pool of people to employ; but it’s an important reason. The formative experiences of sex are being denied to people in the countryside, particularly gay people and we need to change this.

As you can imagine the effort of simply getting to a place where I could have casual sex would probably leave me totally exhausted, and thus not in the mood for sex. The second obstacle to sex in the countryside is the complete lack of gay men in rural counties. Well I say lack, let me quantify this, there probably are lots, but most of them are not out or are way too old for me. Sixth formers where I live are plagued by a society that is ten years behind the cosmopolitan world. I was told by a friend the other day that I was literally “the most cultured person she knew”; as someone who owns every Britney album other than “Femme Fatale” and watches Glee religiously I found this deeply disturbing.

The problem isn’t that everybody is out and are homophobic; it’s that society is still deeply patriarchal, boys are boys and girls are girls. Another chat with my friends (during spin the bottle) revealed that none of the girls had ever masturbated (or unlike the boys didn’t feel confident enough to admit it). I wasn’t aware this was still the fifties. I wasn’t aware that the pill never left London. I wasn’t aware that girls were still afraid of what was in their own underwear. The patriarchy has plagued the provinces by making people afraid of sex, it’s not that people are homophobic (or more homophobic than other places I should add) but that sex is scary, so naturally gay sex and gay culture is scarier. Admitting to being gay and coming out is admitting to sexual thoughts outside the norm, it’s admitting to masturbation and fingering and that’s the hardest thing for a person in a society where sex is still taboo to do.

I’m not saying that people should just hook up with randomers for the sake of it. There’s a whole separate debate to be had about the internet and the dangers it poses to young people looking for sex, but equally relationships and sex should not be denied to someone whatever their sexuality based on where they live.

We need a culture change about sex to make people safer, simply denying its existence till people turn 18 does not help the young people, and nor does excluding them from having sex. What happens to people like me when we leave our rural idylls and go to university or to work somewhere else in the country, surely we’re at a disadvantage having not had the experience with sex or relationships to form bonds with other young people from other parts of the country? The difficulties caused by public transport and the patriarchy in rural area and the lack of suitable “f**k buddies” or serious partners are setting young LGB people from rural areas off with no real understanding of how to act in a relationship this is leaving them vulnerable to predatory and unequal relationships. Something needs to be done about this.

The abstinence line is old, and I would say outdated but as someone who loves history I doubt there was ever a time when it was good advice. We all need to go slightly off the rails in our teenage years so we don’t go majorly off the rails when it counts.