“It’s a funny old world…” Supposedly the words of Margaret Thatcher to her cabinet on her resignation and, well, I suppose like many, I have found my thoughts turning more reflective points in the last month.

I’ll state here and now that I was a great admirer of the Iron Lady and, yes, I voted to keep her in back in 1987. We’ll none of us pretend that she was perfect and I’m sure someone will mention Section 28, but how many will recall that she was one of the last three surviving Tory MPs who voted to decriminalise us in the 1960s?

I think then, perhaps rather naively, that I was rather surprised to be on the receiving end of some really nasty homophobic abuse at a point when so much has changed since that vote almost 50 years ago. We know now that sexuality is innate, not chosen, as hard wired as the colour of one’s eyes. I firmly believe that, had such scientific proof been available when our only scientist Prime Minister was in office, Section 28 would never have been passed. Yet, although knowledge has changed, attitudes haven’t and thank brings me back to the abuse I received.

It was such a modern form. Not for me the cat-calling in the street, or sneers in the staff room (they wouldn’t dare!); it was over twitter of all places, about as public as one can be in the social media. Now I am no shrinking violet, but there are words one should never use, and that was used in the insult, as was an emoticon of a pile of poo – how erudite! His parents must have been so proud. Yes, I was somewhat shocked and felt “yucky” afterwards and it did make me wonder how it must feel, in this day and age to be confronted face-to-face. For those of you wondering, yes I did forward the tweet both to Stonewall and my local police, strangely though, it appears I would have to make a complaint over the telephone and that’s where I hit that barrier that stops so many from reporting hate crimes. I was embarrassed and too ashamed.

I realised that I did not want the interference and the intrusion into my world. What if they decided that I was in the wrong for sending a silly message to someone? What if my job came into play – I have to be very careful… What if the police simply did not believe me or thought I was wasting their time? It was, after all said and done, no more than an insult, something I had learned to deal with every day of my secondary school life in the 1980s. But I still felt the same shame I had felt then, somehow, my 44 year old self could no more confront the modern insult than the punch, the trip, the “accidental shove” and mutterings, or the cat-calls of “Are you a gay Christian?” (The “Not The Nine O’Clock News” sketch) bellowed from a common room window. And that was IT, the nub of the problem – fear.

Back at school, the fear was discovery, I didn’t come out until my late 30s, after a failed marriage and two children; but what was the fear now? The most peculiar part is that I do not actually know. I am always fearful of the impact upon my career, having seen a colleague be forced to fall on his sword because of online indiscretion. I think it was a fear of being judged by others. That is now the fear I must overcome.

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To my long-term shame, I did not go to the Police. I let the fear overcome me and for that I am sorry. I feel I have let-down those who have been subjected to face-to-face abuse. Were I to make a resolution, it would be not to allow my fearful, 1980s teenage self to overcome what I thought was my twenty-teens forty-something person. And to the writer of the abuse, while you may have deleted your tweet, it did go to the LAGLO, Stonewall and was reported by a friend, braver than I. Courage will overcome abuse.


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About the author: Peter Richards
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.