“You didn’t tell us it was gay”

Publish Date: 14/12/2011

Liverpool based author Ian Bradley Marshall has just published his second anthology Meanderings. We catch up with him about his life, aspirations and enjoying being a gay writer.

Have you always been a writer, and have you ever experienced homophobia in your writing career?

My first Anthology Idle Thoughts was eight years in the making, and in 2009 I thought let’s put everything together. I sent it to Spiderwize, a publisher in Scotland who liked it and it started from there.

I write in the conversational style. The reader comes away from the page and thinks “I’m in this”. I start with the first line and let the pen roll. It’s almost like being detached – something else controlling the pen.

It wasn’t until the Idle Thoughts book launch that one of the launch team said “You didn’t tell us it was gay.”

They remonstrated, “you should have told us this...” and were worried that I was going to read a certain poem which they felt was overtly gay.

I hadn’t realised, but I suppose there is an underlying gay theme. When you are writing, you are psychologically revealing your innermost self. It was casual homophobia. The guys weren’t homophobic, but didn’t know how to deal with it. It was the first time they had been confronted with it.

I remember a time in a bookshop in Lytham enquiring if they’d stock Idle Thoughts. On reviewing the content I was politely told “No. You see, people in Lytham don’t read poetry.” But they had a poetry section!

It’s that subtle homophobia again. It’s intolerable and it’s in the UK, all because of an inability to understand what human nature is. And the smaller the community, the more likely one will find it.

Tell us about Meanderings?

There is some new writing and some has come from the past. Some sexual pieces, and others that are entirely asexual, to demonstrate to the general public we do talk about other things.

My writing is inspired by so many people, Matthew Shepard and Michael Causer included, and those taking action to challenge homophobia like The Lesbian & Gay Foundation and The Justin Campaign.

One piece, Comeuppance (The Justin Trilogy) is dedicated to the work of those two organisations. It’s about the protagonist in the FA’s anti-homophobia ad – a man full of hate and homophobia. It imagines this man’s son coming out to him as gay – it’s the flipside of the coin and what happens if this man does come around.

It reminds me of my gay friend in Russia – his mum and his sister are supportive, but he daren’t tell his father or his employer. He’s experiencing what I experienced in this country over 30 years ago. It goes to show how far we’ve come; overseas there is still so far to go.

You’ve told us that people inspire your writing. What else does?

People, places and personal experiences. I’ve served in the Police, the Air Force and the legal profession – I’ve seen so much going on.

I know what it’s like to get involved in pulling people apart in fights and, yes, I’ve been beaten up.
Over my lifetime I’ve built up knowledge and it’s just there. There is one piece about ball blacking.

I went through it. In the piece, a young soldier hiding in the toilet, hears the Sergeant Major’s boots; the RSM pushes open the door to find the soldier cowering, a tooth brush stuck inside him, his nipples and genitals covered in boot polish. In my own instance it took me 9 years to remove the last trace of polish.

So whilst I wasn’t in a position to come out, that experience did enable me to keep people’s sons and daughters safe with a zero tolerance policy on such antics.

I remember when the film Maurice premiered at the cinema, I had this battle with myself “I’m going”, “I’m not going”. I parked the car two blocks away from the cinema.

Being in a fundamentalist church at that time I told myself that being gay “is an abomination to the Lord”. I felt like dirt, and that was the start of a very long walk.

I even went as far as to write a paper about being gay and why it was wrong and taped it. I sent it to a preacher friend in LA. But guess what? Having listened to it with two other Christians, we all thought, ‘yeah, that’s spot on!’ But when the tape arrived 6,000 miles later it was blank! Thank goodness!!

I cannot believe that I wrote it. It shows what a turn around you can do. And I’ve always enjoyed the irony of it, taking the view that Someone was just touching the rudder!

Do you still have your faith?

Yes! You can see it in my writing. But if you look at the bible, it’s just a skeletal framework. There’s lots that has happened that they didn’t know about then – like man walking on the moon; our perception of the Universe is way beyond the universe that they could physically see.

What’s your hope for your future work?

I want to be more progressive, I want to be on the frontline making people sit up and take notice. If I didn’t write about these things like hate crime and Matthew Shepard it would be censorship.

I’m not going to shut up. I’m going to write openly and be supportive of our community and get involved in the issues that concern us.

My hallmark is to push boundaries. Why? Because we’ve kept it in so long.

Meanderings is available online now for more information visit: www.ianbradleymarshall.com/ or order through Amazon.co.uk or through Waterstones.