Mat and Jon Price, 30, are identical twins and both gay. Their childhood in a rural village near Birmingham was not filled with positive messages about homosexuality. This experience led them to set up the Proud 2 Be project in 2011, an online campaign supporting LGBT people to be proud of who they are. A year later they secured funding and started outreach support groups in rural Devon. They set up the first Totnes Pride in 2013 and have gained support from Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell to name a few. Mat and Jon talk to Hannah Latham about coming out and what drives the not-for-profit project.
What was it was like coming out to your identical twin?
Jon: “We came out to each other at 19 in a really passive way. Mat was like, ‘I’ve been to this gay club in Birmingham…’ And I was like ‘Oh, right…’ Then he said, ‘Have you been to that gay club in Birmingham?’ I suppose it was sweet. Being identical twins we sort of already knew, but admitting it to each other was voicing it.”
Mat: “When we’re open with each other it puts pressure on both of us. It was a small conversation but once we’d had it we had to tell our parents. When Jon phoned me and said he’d come out to Mum, my reaction wasn’t really sympathetic like it should have been. I was more like, ‘Oh I suppose I’m going to have to do it now!’”
Jon: “I found it very difficult to tell her but knew I had to. In my passive-aggressive way I made her guess. I said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you and it’s really hard for me to say.’ She was automatically saying, ‘are you dying?’ So I said ‘no, no, I’m fine.’ Her next question was, ‘Are you gay?’ We’re very close to our mum. We were really scared it would end that closeness.”
Mat: “After Jon phoned to tell me I went to see her. We sat in the living room and she switched Corrie on. She looked at me and said, ‘we’re really going to have to support Jon. It must be very hard for him to come out.’ I was thinking, ‘oh for f**** sake, really?’ I didn’t tell her then because I felt it was too much. I went on holiday and had a chat with my friend and when I came back I went to visit her again and said, ‘Mum, I’ve got something to tell you.’ She let me say it, she didn’t try and guess. So I said, ‘I’m gay as well.’ She said, ‘I didn’t even think about it.’ She wasn’t educated about gay people and gay issues. It took a few years but she’s been really supportive. She’s really jumped on board with the project.”
Mat: “I wanted mum to be a gay rights activist from that moment, but she wasn’t really there.”
Jon: “We weren’t either. We were still ashamed after years of crappy conditioning. We expected something of her that we didn’t know how to do ourselves. We had to learn how to be proud of being gay and mum had to go on her journey too. It made us stronger as a family [they also have an older brother].”
Jon: “Our dad was a different kettle of fish. He had always been very clear about his feelings about homosexuality. We knew it wouldn’t be a great response. We don’t really have a relationship anymore.”
Because of coming out?
Mat: “It was the cherry on the top. I think inside he has always known we are gay. It was never hidden and that was not a conscious thing.”
Jon: “It would have been easier if being gay was just a little part of ourselves that could be brought out on a Saturday night where we could go to a club and expel all our gayness and put it back away again.”
Mat: “People ask what drives us. There’s that spirituality, people think, ‘oh it’s so positive, it must be out of love’. The truth is a lot of it is driven by a real deep anger. The reason behind the Proud 2 Be project is that for years and years we were absolutely made to feel ashamed. It’s about transforming that shame into pride and not just doing that in a way that is, ‘oh just be out, it’ll be fine!’.”
Jon: “For many people it’s not fine. When you come out to someone you’re revealing something about yourself. That’s not about pride, it’s just about telling them something personal. When someone says, ‘have you got a girlfriend?’ I have to reveal something about myself to someone who doesn’t want me to reveal something about myself. It’s a really weird situation.”
Mat: “You end up doing a risk assessment and making a decision. You have to say, ‘I don’t like girls, I like boys,’ wondering ‘is it safe for me to do that here?’ None of us should have to feel like that. LGBT people make risk assessments all the time. I was walking down the street with my boyfriend yesterday and was asking myself, ‘Is it OK to hold his hand?’ I hate that! It’s not what I stand for. I’m so used to that I still do it.”
Jon: We’re not living in a world where we’re free from that yet.”
Mat: “It’s a really interesting time to be coming out. There’s still so much to be done and there’s an invisibility there. People are like, ‘Everything’s fine for you people now – stop talking about it!”
Mat: “Many people are living in an environment still where it’s not safe to be out.”
Jon: ‘We take our work seriously but we have a laugh too. We want it to be positive, to celebrate people. A lot of our service users want someone to say, ‘The way you were spoken to, spoken about was abuse.’ And you don’t just get over it when someone says, just be proud!’ How we get that balance is a mixture of different things like creative support networks, community, role models, positive messages.”
Mat: “Every part of the project comes from something we felt would have helped us. We thought, ‘oh wouldn’t it be good to have a rural Pride?’ or to have someone gay saying they’re proud of who they are with no apologies. It’s very much born from…”
Jon: “...Complete selfishness!”
FFI: To find out more about the Proud 2 Be project visit proud2beproject.org.uk
This article was originally published in issue 5 of We Are Family magazine. To buy a copy visit Issue 5